04/08/2012, Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Halleluiah! Two days ago, we finally left San Cristobal & motorsailed 44 miles to Santa Cruz, Galapagos. It is the tourist center, the largest settled island and another hub for cruising boats. Sailing among the islands is really picturesque, and we saw a manta ray on the way over. It felt so good to be underway again. We also snagged a tuna when we were about mid-way, but it got off. Bummer! This is becoming a pattern!
On our last day in Wreck Bay, we joined 2 other boats for a day of bike riding back up into the highlands. They hadn't visited the tortoises or beautiful El Chino beach yet and we'd only been once so we were fine seeing that again and covering the distance on bikes. We all piled into a cab truck that took us to the highest point of the island to the freshwater lake that Jon & I biked to previously, then we worked our way all the way down to the other side of the island to the beach. Then we biked all the way back up to the top, then back down into town. It was really nice to get to know Phil & Jen on Sea Monkey and Carl & Cristina on Bamboleiro & to get a good workout at the same time.
When we arrived at Academy Bay, we tucked in as far west into the harbor as we could to get out of the swell (hoping to actually get some sleep for a change). The last day in Wreck Bay, we came home to a new creak in the galley where a grab post is mounted between the ceiling & the counter top. The glue has come loose from all the intense rocking recently and the fact that our boat is getting on in years I guess. Anyway, there is now play in the post & the noise from that slight movement is annoying and needs to be fixed. But we'll need a quiet anchorage to allow the glue to dry properly.
We anchored close to friends we met in Panama on Gudrun & we put out a stern anchor to hold us into the swell. Everything seemed pretty good and for once the boat wasn't rocking. It was a full moon though, so the tides would be extreme; it was on it's way out. We were watching the depth to see how much water we still had under the keel. We sat in the cockpit and caught up with Axel on Gudrun while his wife Liz was ashore. At sunset, he went back to his boat and we were cleaning things up on deck when we noticed he was messing with his anchor. Jon called over to see if he needed help & he said he did- from this point on everything got really ugly & became a blur. Basically, a long story short is that he noticed the astronomical low tide coupled with the angle of wind & the swell had put him into less water than he wanted to be in but when he went to move the anchor, it was caught in the rock rubble on the bottom. The swell was moving him fore & aft and the tide was rushing out. He couldn't motor forward or back without bumping rocks. Nothing Jon could do with our dinghy at that point made a difference. I called for help and suddenly the navy, port captain, all the water taxi's and other cruisers were out to help. In the end, there was nothing to do but hover & wait it out until around 1030p, when the tide had come in enough to pull him off. In the midst of it all, we moved Evergreen, in the dark, to be on the safe side. It was a sickening 4 hours watching Gudrun rolling and crashing and everyone felt so helpless & heartsick. But, it is aluminum and for this reason, the damage is manageable & they can keep cruising. The response from the local officials was so prompt and concerned and overall, we have such a good feeling about the people in the Galapagos. They seem so happy, peaceful and helpful.
So yesterday, we were pretty tired physically & emotionally. We took a nice walk in town, went to the Darwin tortoise museum, scoped out the dive shops since we'd like to do some scuba here and bought a chicken in preparation for Easter dinner (they just didn't have any Easter hams here!) and then we helped Axel & Liz recover their anchor from the night before. We cleaned our waterline which has become a full time job recently since the growth is pretty intense here. Then we went out with Gudrun for the best dinner we've had this whole trip! Today, we're headed to Tortuga Bay, a popular beach with a pretty trail & hopefully great swimming. It is HOT, HOT here!
By now, all the kids back in the US are high on sugar from their Easter baskets but we have no chocolate bunnies here! Boo hoo! But we're so glad to have been able to move over here to a fresh spot to explore and so far, the boat seems happier in this anchorage. We really like Academy Bay! When I get a chance, I'll tell you more about what it's like here. Happy Easter!
I don't have much for news except we did get the autografo today- yahooey!
We've moved into a new weather pattern- frequent rain showers. Supposedly it does this in April, however today, we have rain, wind & waves coming from the west, rolling right into this area they call an anchorage which clearly is NOT! It wasn't exactly predicted on the weather forecast but you sure can see it on the satellite image. It makes for a slow day on the activity side and a lot of wondering about whether it will get worse, better and if so, when? Plus we have this big dive boat anchored right in front of us which makes us nervous but it is also over our anchor so we couldn't leave even if we wanted to. I can think of a lot of other things I'd like to be doing now! Our agent says it would be better to sit it out one more day and then head to Santa Cruz on Friday since that anchorage can be worse than this one! So I guess that is what we're going to do.
Yesterday, Jon & I took a taxi up to El Progreso, the farming area of the island, to go for a walk. We've had to get creative at dreaming up what else we can do here! Because it's higher, it is a lot cooler, but it still gets plenty of rain so is very lush & green. We walked up to El Mirador where there was a great view next to a dilapidated church. I can't figure out why so many places have this feeling like there was once a great idea, a lot of work put into building whatever it was that they had in mind and then some years later, it all falls to ruin. Or it was never finished. We started seeing it in the Bahamas and it hasn't stopped. Anyway, we had a great walk on a long, dirt farm road and then on the main paved road which was equally quiet. But then it started to pour and so we hailed a pick-up truck cab that happened to go by and rode down into town in the back since we were all wet and couldn't ride inside. The cabbie took pity on us and it was gratis, plus Jon found $10 on the ground in town so there was another bonus! That makes Jon ahead of us Charlie! When we got back into town, we were scanning the streets near the park looking for the lady we bought delicious mangos from a few days ago but she wasn't there. Instead there was another lady & her son setting up for what looked like an evening of BBQ & fried food. The son was fanning the coals using an electric hairdryer (this was a first) and the lady had just finished cooking fried dough pockets stuffed with chicken so we had to try those! They were really good and by the time we finished we had 2 new dog friends. Jon kept telling one to "sit" and then I remembered these dogs are Spanish so I said "siente te" and she sat down!
On Monday, we walked over a swimming hole that has a nice wooden dock platform and several resident sea lions. After going for a swim, we sat on the dock for a long while just studying them. Basically, they have puppy dog eyes, they pick & rub their fur just like a dog, they're very fidgety, constantly twitching and moving even when asleep & they spend a lot of time rubbing themselves with their fins or on rocks. They're fairly ungainly on shore but they get around just the same; they just make it look painfully hard. They remind me of what I feel like on a passage- I have to think a long while about what I need to do and then muster up the ambition to finally get up & get it done as if it's a big project.
I tried to do some drawing last night since that is one of the things I'd like to make time for on this trip but there was just too much motion on the boat to do it. Even on a good day there's swell. So I made some brownies & we watched a movie. We also made a stir fry with some local beef. Not the most tender meat I've ever eaten! But definitely edible and the fresh green beans we had with it were really good. I can't wait to get underway again and hopefully catch a fish. I also did some interior varnishing recently. There's just too much humidity here I guess. The table turned out just so-so and the trimwood in the head just won't dry- it is still tacky. Now I'm not sure what to do with it in order to recoat it. Meanwhile, I did the whole toerail outside and it turned out great. For me, varnish is a big puzzle. You never know what it's really going to look like after it dries.. or maybe it just won't ever dry! And on this boat, you're never done; there's always more that needs doing. It's hard to keep it all looking nice.
Today we noticed an octopus has crawled into our cockpit up through the scupper. We've certainly never had this happen before; usually it is just little crabs that come up.
Well, that's the exciting news from here. Tons of fun every day! It's time to crack an Old Milwaukie beer and say: " It just doesn't get any better than this!"
The autographo is supposed to show up either today or Monday- we're hoping today. But we still need to fill up with diesel. This is a bit of a project here in the Galapagos! You need to specify exactly how much you need (which needs to match up with how much you can carry & how much you have left per your report). Then the port captain comes to the boat to complete the paperwork. Then you take a cab with your jerry cans to the station and present your papers, get the fuel, cab back, water taxi back out to the boat and then try to transfer these jugs onto a heaving boat. I couldn't sleep last night again because of the ocean swell rolling into the anchorage from some faraway storm so I had time to troubleshoot how this project might work but I didn't come up with much except to just try it. Fuel is subsidized in Ecuador although not for yachts, which is the reason for all the government involvement in us getting some. This swell is the worst we've ever experienced and it makes living on the boat difficult let alone transferring fuel, but we need to get this done. You might not know it, but San Cristobal is a hot spot for surfing. These swells are breaking on the beaches making large waves and right now, I think they're even too big for most of the surfers here.
A couple of days ago we got the first significant rain since we started this trip back in October. To date, we've never had more than an infrequent, short shower. But this rain lasted for about 2 hours and after the decks were all cleaned off, we collected a couple hundred gallons of water. Our watermaker makes 8.5 gph and we need to run it about 2 hours a day to meet our needs so sometimes we fall behind. It's nice to get an occasional rain shower to top off the tanks- and we sure did! Tim & Nathan don't have a watermaker, so they arranged to buy water from the Casa de Aqua at 64 cents/gallon. It was delivered minutes before the rain began- what great timing! Most boats in the anchorage had someone out on deck messing around in the rain cleaning something or collecting- too funny. In the afternoon, we went into town to take a walk and grab a few groceries. The harbor was filled with debris & silt from the runoff and I think the sea lions were disturbed by it. We witnessed a pup dying, was probably sick long before, sad. We've really enjoyed having them all around the boat. You hear them splashing, breathing, coughing, bellowing and snorting whether you're down below or topsides and at times, they play under the boat and blow bubbles which burble up the hull and make me smile. It sure makes getting in the water to clean the bottom an easy chore since they will inevitably come swimming past at close range, looking like a torpedo.
One day we took a walk out to some cliffs and noticed these swallowtail gulls nesting. I read that they are mainly pelagic except when they come to nest along the cliffs in the Galapagos. When we finally get over to Isla Isabela, there are 2 more birds to see- the flightless cormorant (evolved to have non-functional wings since apparently they don't need them here) and the penguins. There are also active volcanoes to climb. I don't imagine we'll be hiking up BBQ coals like we did in Guatemala, but supposedly it's a popular sight to see.
We thought of a couple more funny things we've noticed here. One is that when we were in a little hardware store looking for a temperature sensor, we had to watch where we walked because over half the floor, there was salted fish drying! Jon accidentally backed up onto some and the lady said "Cuidado!"- careful of the fish! I mean, why not? The other is that we've noticed over the past couple months that lots of people carry backpacks, especially men. I think they come from the US perhaps as overstocks but they are invariably very feminine. They're often pink or purple in Hello Kitty brand or similar. Why we can't ship more masculine packs down here I'm not sure, but when you need a pack, you get what you can get so...
Yesterday we went to lunch with Tim & Nathan to a local's restaurant where you get a 2 course meal for $3- no gringo food here! It's slightly air conditioned, which gives you a break from the heat until you start eating course one- a big, hot bowl of soup! Then the main dish is seasoned rice, a token piece of meat and either plantains or potato (we've eaten there twice) and a glass of juice. It's really pretty good & you're plenty full when you leave. The place is filled with locals along with some backpackers and we even met our agent Bolivar in there. Jon & I took a walk afterward on some park trails and wished we'd brought the camera. We could have gotten a great picture of a big marine iguana and a pelican sitting on the same small rock, looking out to sea, side by side as if they were buddies.
As I sit here in the cockpit this morning, 3 more sailboats have pulled in. Some friends we met from the slip adjacent to ours at Shelter Bay on Twice Eleven pulled in yesterday and Andy on Impiana is on his way. When you're on shore looking out into the harbor, there are all these masts swaying back & forth. It's kindof funny when I think about it. But the day is starting to heat up & it's time to get out of the sun or at least goober up with sunscreen before being out in it more.