05/24/2008, Kicker Rock
We went for a dive today on kicker rock (aka Leon Dormido - Sleeping Lion). It is a big vertical hunk of rock sticking out of the ocean a ways off of the west coast of San Cristobal. There is a cut in between some of the chunks that you can SCUBA through. Ed led a dive for his dive master cert which was fun. We saw lots of fish and some sharks, a turtle or two and a lot of neat rock structure under water.
The water is pretty cold when the Humbolt current kicks in from Chile. It starts coming this time of year. We were getting temps around 75 which is 5mm full suit water for me. Vis was not great but it was a must dive for us.
We also snorkeled at Los Lobos, some rocky little islands just off shore that the sea lions own. As soon as you jump in the water several of the little ones come to play. The little guys are so cute and energetic. They are very curios and love to chase and be chased. The big cows pretty much ignore people and the big bulls ignore folks most of the time but if they feel you are intruding you better look out because they will defend their turf.
We went with Chalo tours (Fernando´s brother´s outfit). They used a nice size power cat for the trip and it was comfortable and a great time.
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.