Swimming with the sharks...16-Mar-2012, Anchored off Cristobal, Galapagos
We had two very nice days here yesterday and today, finally exploring a bit of the plant and wild life that the Galapagos are famous for. After some school and boat work in the morning we went up to Cristobal's Interpretative Center yesterday afternoon. The center has a good exihibit on the history of the Galapagos Islands, with a focus on the development over the last ~300 years. One striking exhibit was about how little of all the money spent on high-end tourism in the Galapagos actually stays in the islands (we'll get a photo one of these days). Little mention though of the tremendous population growth (influx from mainland Ecuador) over the past 30 years...
Anchor Excitement14-Mar-2012, Anchored off Cristobal, Galapagos
Our fifth day in the Galapagos - an interesting one as it turned out... The bottom here here is a mix of sand, some small gravel and patches of bigger rocks in about 6 meters of depth at low tide, 8 meters at high tide. Our anchor is well set in a sandy patch (which we found on Saturday after a few attempts that ended on rock). However, with 40m of chain out and boats turning in all directions with wind and tides it seems almost inevitable that part of the chain ends up on top of some rocks. It appears that between yesterday morning and today Namani has swung around and wrapped our chain around some bigger rock which then tipped over and solidly jammed the chain. We had been trying unsuccessfully to free the chain with snorkel and fins for some time when our very helpful neighbors joined. Ultimately it took Manfred and Thoralf with full scuba gear and a big bolt cutter as a crow bar to move the rock of our chain. We had previously tried to disconnect the chain from the boat and slide it out under the rock (with Namani temporarily hanging off the stern of our French neighbors, Alain and Veronique's boat) but to no avail - so it took two divers and bolt cutters to do the job. We've now tied three fenders spaced at 7.5m intervals along the chain to float it above the rocks. All in all a 4 1/2 hour operation - many thanks to all who helped! Other news from Namani: Bill left on Monday morning to meet Bonnie and their tour in St. Cruz. Thanks Bill for joining us again! Nana went with Bill to St. Cruz to scope out options for last minute tours from there. We got lucky and Nana and Nicky are now booked on a 4-day tour of the central islands from next Monday to Thursday. Papi will then do another day tour with Nicky (we're doing this in sequence in order not to leave the boat unattended for too long). Tomorrow we'll do a hike on St. Cristobal which we had originally planned for this afternoon - but the anchor intervened... ;-)
Arrival!09-Mar-2012, Anchored in Puerto Moreno off Cristobal, Galapagos
We dropped the hook off Cristobal in the Galapagos at 1500 local time (UTC-6) yesterday (Fri, 09MAR) after a beautiful 9 1/4 day passage from Panama City. We had a little excitement on the way in when the wind died 15 nm out from Cristobal and we wanted to start the engine. After doing its usual faithful start-up it shut off again 30 sec. later with all symptoms of getting no fuel. With the tank still more than half full we started investigating from the tank downstream for any blockage in the fuel system. Unfortunately, this requires complete excavation of the cockpit locker for access to the primary fuel filter and of the quarter berth for access to the tank - always a "fun" exercise... Luckily though, we found the culprit quickly in the pipe from the tank to the primary fuel filter, which was clogged with some gunk that probably came aboard with fuel we took on in Jamaice (the last stop where we fueled up directly from a pump). Just in case, we also changed both fuel filters and two hours little everything was running fine again. By that time also the wind had set in again and we got another two hours of nice close reach sailing. As soon as we had dropped the anchor, Bolivar approached us on a water taxi and offered his agent services. We had heard good things about him from other boats, so we agreed and an hour later he showed up again with five officals in tow (customs, immigration, agriculture and two more with an undefined portfolio for good measure). They all were nice, helpful and professional, and another hour later we were officially cleared into the Galapagos and allowed to go ashore. Thus we went for a dinner in town, which very nice if a bit more built up and developed than we had expected. Sea lions are abound everywhere, lazily hanging out on the benches in the local playground and lots of other places along the shore. We returned to Namani around 9pm local time, with just enough energy to happily sink into our bunks for a good night's sleep uninterrupted by the watch schedule. On this passage we sailed a total of just about 1000nm (including the initial 40nm hop to Las Parlas). We had 50 hours under engine, covering 232 nm of the 1000nm "under steam". The rest was absolutely delightful slow but steady sailing over calm seas. Very different from our passages before but certainly very enjoyable and relaxing. Now we will do a little bit of clean up on Namani, sort through a few hundred pictures and come up with a game plan for the 20 days we plan to stay here in the Galapagos. Bill will leave us on Monday to join Bonnie (flying in from LGA) on a Galapagos tour. Hopefully, we can have a little reunion with both of them on Namani after their tour. Stay tuned...
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Namani at Sea Impression