05/23/2008, San Cristobal
We hiked all of the trails around the Interpretation Center today. The trails are really well done and have several wonderful vistas to look out from. There is a particularly enchanting little bay at the end of one of the paths with sea lions playing and rocky caves beneath steep cliffs peppered with sea bird nests. There´s also a great view of Wreck Bay (pictured).
There are two lovely beaches in this area as well. One is just east of the anchorage in the main Wreck Bay area. The other is just around the point to the north on one of the trails. Nice sand and gentle or no surf most of the time. Keep the 9 foot spring tide in mind however when you leave your stuff on the beach.
Another beautiful day in paradise.
05/22/2008, San Cristobal
Projects. We have some projects. When you live on a boat, something is always broken. You just can't fix things fast enough. The sea is a tough environment for anything but I think many marine venders just don't have a clue how tough. If you wanted to you could create things that would last much longer than most marine products do. In particular electrical components often are not properly protected against corrosion.
Our largest immediate concern is that our Spectra water maker (1.5 years new) has just gone on the fritz. This is an important piece of gear for folks getting ready to leave for the South Pacific! We have 360 gallons of water tankage and will go regardless but it sure would be more convenient with the use of the water maker that we paid $15,000 to have installed. From what I can tell there is an electrical problem within the pressure pump assembly. So I will be tearing that apart shortly. We have a list of other things to attend to but these are more routine and can be easily dealt with given local resources. If we need parts for the Spectra it will probably have to wait until we reach Tahiti.
We visited the Interpretation Center today. It is basically a visitors center for San Cristobal. The buildings are beautiful and set back into a park area with very natural surroundings. It provides a nice historic overview of the islands. There is a collage along the way set right on a beautiful beach. Local folks can take courses here and many international students come to take a 3 month program.
We have yet to find a place that is what I would actually call "good", to eat. The Mockingbird café has good brownies, great fresh juices and yummy fresh home made French Fries (papas fritas) but no real main courses other than a mediocre burger. I have been enjoying their grilled cheeses but the rest of the crew doesn't consider this a proper meal. It is still our favorite hang out.
05/21/2008, Under the Boat
Today we spent the morning working on dive training. Ed is getting close to completing his Dive Master certification but we still have some work to do. The water here in the Galapagos is getting colder as the Humbolt current from Peru begins to take control so everyone wore wet suits.
Dives in the park require a local guide but we simply did a dive under the boat to work on skills which the local dive shop said we could do without concern. The visibility was moderate, perhaps 20 feet or so. The bottom under the boat was perfect sand and made a nice training spot.
Within five minutes of our decent a playful young sea lion showed to see if he could incite us to run off and chase him. We would diligently try to practice scuba skills and he would spin around us, bump us with his nose, nip at our fins and anything else he could think of to get us to play. After a fun dive with our sea lion friend we returned to the boat to clean up and head ashore.
We have divided the boat into a sea lion napping area and a humans only area. By the second day, left uncontrolled, the sea lions we all over the boat. They were on the fore deck, in the cockpit and perhaps only because of Roq, not quite in the cabin. Our concern for old Roq's odds against a large sea lion and our desire to keep the sea lions from getting into a dangerous spot caused us to segregate the boat. Everyone we asked informed us that barbed wire was the only means to keep them out of a place they would otherwise like to go. So we now have a coiling barbed wire fence between the lower two steps on our boat and the upper swim platform. The sea lions can still hop up on the lower steps and sun themselves or sleep at night (we had a mama and a suckling baby last night) and yet if they try to go higher on the boat they are stopped by the wire barrier. They seem quite smart enough to avoid the barbed wire and we now have a peaceful coexistence. That said they do make some rather loud gargling and burping type noises at all hours. They also seem to enjoy playing between the hulls. They are pretty carefree critters.
05/20/2008, San Cristobal
We took a nice tour of San Cristobal island today. We paid Fernando $50 per person for the tour. Fernando doesn't actually accompany you (at least he didn't with us) but he does cook you a nice traditional meal at his house at the end of the tour. You can see the same sights with a taxi for about $25 per person but you don't get things organized for you and you miss out on the lunch.
We left Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by pickup truck and headed up into the mountains. There is a single primary road spanning the south of the island leaving the northern 2/3s of the island closer to natural. Most people live in the main town of Baquerizo Moreno but there are several small villages along the road that leads up into the highlands. The soil in the highland area is very rich and has been largely cultivated in the southern part of the island where rains are frequent. The once extensive scalesia forest has now been choked out by guava orchards and other farming. The scalesia trees look like something from Horton Hears a Who, tall and skinny with symmetrical rounded umbrella like canopies. The most bizarre thing about them is that they are members of the dandelion family.
The first stop on the tour was El Junco, the only fresh water lake in the Galapagos. The lake lies in the mouth of an old volcano high in the hills with a spectacular view all around. From time to time you will find yourself in the middle of a cloud as you hike around the perimeter. The walk around the caldera is easy and provides wonderful views of the surrounding area. Many birds, including frigates, frequent the area around the El Junco lake. At the far end of the trail you can see where the cataract runs down the hill in the rainy season to form the waterfall in Agua Dulce bay far below.
The largest peak on the island, Cero San Joaquin, is just across the way from El Junco. A recent "green" power project is situated here. It involves three large windmills which supply 50% of the power for the town when operating.
We visited the giant tortoise habitat next. Wild Galapagos tortoises live in the north of the island but the park has a habitat that you can visit in the south where they are attempting to increase the population through managed breeding. You get to see tortoises at all stages of development here. The eggs and babies are protected in cages that keep the alien rat species and cats from destroying them. The large tortoises live in a natural setting at the park and wander freely through the brush, munching leaves and grass.
As we travelled on we saw several beautiful vistas providing panoramas of the coastline and surrounding areas. The highlands are surprisingly lush, cool and ferny, while the lowlands can be rather arid.
Our last stop was at the coast where we crossed tracks with the marine iguanas. These guys are big. My friend Kevin (aka the lizard man) had a pretty amazing lizard habitat at his house and one of his pets was a large green iguana. These marine guys are even larger then the green fellas we're used to in the states. If you watch the ocean you will see one pop its head up to take a breath between grazing sessions on the bottom.
We wrapped up the tour with a wonderful lunch at Fernando's. Fernando has continued the tradition of having visiting yachts sign in on a log book that his mother started when she ran a restaurant on the wharf years ago. It was interesting to see who was here last week and last year and last decade.
After wrapping up the tour we spent the afternoon and evening at our new favorite Internet cafe, The Mocking Bird. They make burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, brownies and have good coffee and ice cream. What else could you want?
05/19/2008, San Cristobal
Fernando came by today to fuel us up. We purchased fuel from him at $2.30 a gallon which isn't Venezuela prices but is still cheap. The locals pay $1 and change at the station but the port captain indicated that we were not allowed to fuel up at the quay or at the stations in town. Don't want to end up in jail in Ecuador so $2.30 it is.
The water taxis here are great. They are always around and they charge $0.50 per person one way by day and twice that at night. If there aren't any taxis around late at night you can get a ride with one of the tour boat launches that are always going back and forth (often they won't take your money even if you offer). The Taxis monitor VHF14.
We spent another day relaxing and exploring town. We chatted with some of the other cruising yachts in the anchorage as well. Presently there are four of us including Blizzard, Blew Moon and one that I can't recall the name of.
The anchorage has been calm and peaceful with a nice cool breeze at night. We´re liking the Galápagos.
05/18/2008, San Cristobal
We took a water taxi into down today to have a little look around. There are about 5,000 folks in Baquirezo Marina, the capital of the Galapagos. Santa Cruz island has a population of about 10,000 and is more of the economic center.
San Cristobal is quiet and pleasant. The people are very friendly and most everyone is very curteous. I have no worries about having Hideko wander around here at night by herself.
The water front represents a large investment and is complete with several little cafes and restaurants, lots of touristy shops, some excursion tour outfits and a nice park on the water.
The grocery stores and hardware/auto parts shops are very basic but have most general things you´d need at high, but not crazy, prices.
The water front at night is fun to hang around. They have lots of green lights illuminating the municipal pier and the water below. You can see many sea lions swimming about or relaxing on the pier. In fact I would say that the sea lions are the dominant natural feature of the harbor.
We had a wonderful day looking around and are looking forward to our island tour in two days.
05/17/2008, Pacific Ocean
We arrived in Wreck Bay at 14:00 local time (6-UTC NoDST). Everyone was very excited to be in the Galapagos. It is kind of a magical place. On the way in it seemed the creatures were coming out to welcome us. Some small dolphins began jumping out of the water doing tricks in front of our bow as we came down the west side of the island. As we motored into the bay sea lions swam around the boat to see if we had any good sleeping spots on our transom (unfortunately we do), and a sea turtle swam by to say hello after our anchor was down.
We sailed all last night and as providence would have it the GRIB files came true and the wind backed to the south allowing us to fetch San Cristobal. At just about 1AM we crossed the equator. As expected King Neptune Ed (Ed being the only one to previously cross the equator) showed up on deck and indoctrinated everyone. Hideko made a yummy cake and we all shared a champagne toast. It was a bumpy night thereafter with Swingin' on a Star making 7 knots even after we reefed the main and jib.
The sail down the coast was going nicely this morning but the closer we got the more the wind began to blow from the anchorage. We furled the jib and began to motor sail. By the time we reached the anchorage we were motoring into 25 knots with gusts to 30 (which we later heard was rather unusual).
The Navionics electronic charts we have for Central America don't cover the Galapagos and neither do the South Pacific electronic charts. We discovered that we would have had to buy the South American Chart chip (another $250) to get the Galapagos. We have paper charts of everything on our route plan so we used the British Admiralty chart of the area for our approach.
Wreck Bay has a big reef in front of it to the south side and there are various hazards to watch out for along the coast to the north. That said if you come in from the northwest at mid day you should have no problem entering the harbor and getting to the yacht anchorage. There is an East Cardinal Mark that you leave to starboard marking the northeast end of the reef. On the opposite point at the north end of the bay there is a light and a shoal extending which you should leave well to port. We sailed straight for the cardinal in deep water and then turned to port just before reaching it, heading straight into the yacht anchorage. After doing this once in the daylight it would be easy eoungh to do at night but it would be dangerous to make your first enterance in the dark.
Once anchored Hideko made us huge bowls of Tekka-don (fresh marinated tuna over rice with seaweed). We had our first cold beers in a week as well. A nap was called for immediately thereafter.
I hailed Blew Moon, a boat near us in the anchorage, on the radio after we arrived and they gave us the clear in low down. There is only one agent at this time and the port captain wants you to use an agent. Carmella Romero runs a small grocery store and from this vantage also clears yachts. She speaks no English but her bother Johnny Romero does and is usually only a phone call away. Fees are around $150. Then you need to pay the port captain (who will come to your boat M-F, so we wont get their visit until Monday) another $150ish for anchoring fees and what not. Basically $300 for 20 days, at $15 per day it is about the same as the mooring fees in the British Virgin Islands.
Fernando, the local yacht services guy, took a water Taxi out to our boat at 6PM. Apparently everything shuts down from 1-4PM for siesta. The town is open for business again at 4 until eight or nine. Fernando is a nice guy with very little English and a lot of determination. He will take you to Carmella (the claim is that you must get a cruising permit started within the first 24 hours of your arrival). He will also arrange for fueling (current quote is $2.50 per gallon but under pressure he agreed to $2.30) at your boat, tours, and other things boats need.
Most yachts use the water taxis here because if you put your dinghy down you may find sea lions in it when you get back. Our dinghy also acts as a barricade keeping them out of the cockpit.
So far the Galapagos is a pretty wonderful and very different place. We are looking forward to exploring in the days ahead.
Nobu says: "I'm impressed by the boldness of these sea lions"
Ed says: "zzz (sleeping, it's hard work serving as Neptune's minion)"
Hideko says: "I could have kept going all the way to the Marquisas"
Anchored in Wreck Bay, San Cristobal Island, The Galapagos