05/19/2013, Western Pacific Ocean
¾ the way around the world.
A couple of days ago we passed the ¾ mark. Not ¾ the way to the Marqueses but ¾ of the way around the world. We still have a long way to go on this passage although we are doing good daily miles, 187 miles in the last 24 hours. We had to take our big gennaker down in the night, with the wind gusting up to 20 knots it was time for the genoa. We still sailed on through the night at a respectable 8.5 to 9 knots which is fast for us.
On starry nights such as last night we enjoy looking out to port to see the familiar Southern Cross keeping us company as we cross the Pacific. Today is only our second day of clear sunny blue sky since we left Port Villamil. Another first today we had enough small squid on deck this morning for a tasty appetiser for lunch.
The day before we left Isla Isabella a small group of cruisers went up to a farm on the volcanic slopes of Sierra Negra. The mountain is a live volcano , it last erupted in 2005. The warm rich soil on its slopes grow luscious fruit and crisp vegetables. We were able to pick or get the young farm worker to cut down and dig up the produce we wanted. This is the end of the season for the farm but there were still enough things to fill our bags. We picked green tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, aubergine, melons and much more. The young lad cut down large branches of bananas, and pineapples. He reached up high to get some of the last limes for us. He went off with his wheel barrow to get the papaya and came back with it laden down with very big papaya. I thought I would get 4 until I saw their massive size. Two is enough for us I just hope they both don't ripen at the same time.
While our produce was being priced we were entertained by a gaggle of fluffy ducklings and chirpy chickens enjoying pecking at old bananas and melons. Two young ducklings were getting tired of being chased away by their older cousins so they hopped right into an empty half melon and finished up what was left.
We like to get unrefrigerated produce especially for passages as it keeps longer. Picking our own vegetables was a different way for we usually go to the local markets. Asking for a kilo of this and four of these or a pot of this is a good way to learn the basics of a foreign language. When people have asked us about pirates I always say that the only pirates we have encountered were the market vendors who saw us coming and doubled the prices. Not in all countries of course. I like going to markets where we can people watch take photos and buy fresh food. At the Massawa in Eritrea the weekly market spreads out over a dusty piece of ground. People from the mountains come every week to buy, sell and chat. The woman wear gold nose rings and dress in bright colours, lime greens, bright reds and gorgeous oranges. The men somehow keep their white turbans clean in the dusty atmosphere.
In Turkey the Finike Saturday market is well organised, streets are shut down and people come from miles around to buy and sell the local produce. After many weeks sailing up the Red Sea where, the variety of produce is limited, the Finike market was a sensory overload. The market smelt of strawberries and cherries, juicy oranges and fresh greens, tomatoes, olives, purple aubergine , cheeses in goat skins, dried apricots, honey , fresh trout, we didn't know what to taste or buy first. I always looked forward to Saturday when we wintered over at the Finike marina.
Maurole in Indonesia had one of the most interesting settings for a market. When we went through Indonesia in Talitha with the Darwin/Indonesian rally we had an official stop in Maurole on the north coast of Flores Island. The people there had gone to a lot of trouble for our stop. A new round thatch covered open sided building had been built right by the sandy beach. Next to that was a temporary produce market selling a wide array of produce grown in the rich volcanic soil. Each vendor had much the same produce to sell, carrots, potatoes, cabbages and beans as well as all the fruit you would expect in a tropical market. My favourite was the large juicy passion fruit on just a few stalls. It was here at Maurole that the Kiwi contingent thought that the warm welcome warranted a haka at the official dinner. Our version of the Haka was wildly applauded and an encore was requested but the team wisely decided once was enough.
The Sale souk in Morocco was full of winding lanes. There did not seem to be one area for produce. Vendors sold from hand carts and boxes in doorways straggling along the streets. Some produce stalls were in the same street as shops selling goats heads, naked turkeys and cows feet and of all things handbags and shoes!
Across the river the extensive Rabat souk had everything from cows heads, horse steaks, souvenirs, headscarves, pyramids of fried eggs ready to eat and high fashion. The trouble was remembering where everything was, each time we went we discovered something new and often couldn't find the shop we wanted to return too. Although I could always find my way to the carpet souk....funny that!
We are now going to be at sea for 20 days, hopefully less, and Alan is happy no shops, no ATMs nothing to buy. Out here the only market we are involved in is the fish market and they come on a hook just in time for dinner. Tonight, mahimahi..
05/16/2013, Western Pacific Ocean
16th May 2013
We are on our way. Galapagos to Marqueses, the biggest step yet, 3000 miles.
We left Isabella on Tuesday afternoon in a very light breeze and motored for the first 24 hours. As we went along the south coast of Isabella we saw lots of turtles and Manta rays. I saw a huge manta jump out of the water and flip onto its back before it slammed back into the blue sea.. It did this three times and amazing sight seeing the huge manta flip over doing a dolphin impersonation.
Late afternoon we caught a 8 kg yellow fin tuna, our first fish in a long time, lovely to have fish for dinner again.
Just after lunch today the wind filled in and we have been sailing on a nice beam reach, assisted by a favorable current which has been with us since leaving. We crossed tacks with the Australian catamaran, Hestia, we must have bought them luck as they caught a fish just as they drew level with us. This is a big ocean, I guess that will be the last boat we see before the Marqueses. Although we talk every morning with about 11 boats on our SSB Net. A great way to keep in touch with everyone.
On night watch now, the moon has already set, clouds hide the stars a black night.
05/13/2013, Isla Isabella
12th May 2013
Isla Isabella, Galapagos Islands.
We have been anchored here in Puerto Villamil for a week now and every day we are amazed and delighted by the wildlife in and around the bay. Our introduction to the Galapagos started 2 days out when a Red Footed Booby landed on our pulpit and stayed for the afternoon. The next afternoon another landed on the railing and stayed the night. Its tail nicely poked out over the sea�... or so we thought. A nights hospitality had left us with a rather messy bow to clean up. Not quite as bad as the mess left after the boobies visited us on the way to Australia from Chesterfield reef, but still an unpleasant calling card! Here the birds have plenty of rocks to mess up so leave the yachts alone
Around the anchorage sea lions glide effortlessly under the yachts and flip themselves onto the fishing boats for an afternoon snooze. Boobies and frigates dine on schools of sardines. The frigates circle before diving down to scoop up the fish with their hooked beaks. When the sardines venture out from under the protective shade of the jetty, boobies dive bomb in well organized squadrons. They hurtle towards the water, at the last moment they tuck in their wings to dive into the water a moment later popping up like a cork, catch swallowed they take off and join the queue to have another go at the sardines . Turtles, rays and penguins also keep us interested. Pelicans swoop low across the water, wingtips brushing the water before they crash ungracefully into the sardines. Small terns flit around ready to pick up the small fish that escape out the side of the pelican's bucket of a beak. Small fish dart out from under Tuatara as soon as a crumb of bread hits the water.
One night I was rudely awakened with a dollop of water on my face flowed by another dollop. I was then fully awake so went outside to investigate and saw a sea lion playing with a fish right by our boat. I can only presume it had got a bit carried away and sent the water in through our hatch. I was lucky the fish didn't come as well. If we get tired of the wildlife we can watch the tourists going in and out from the small passenger boats that call in for a day or two on their Galapagos circuit. But of course we haven't stayed on board all the time. There are things to see and places to go. The David Attenborough Galapagos TV series is showing in NZ at present and for those who have seen it you probably know more about the islands, wildlife and history than I do. So I won't bore you with those details just what we have seen and done.
We decided to just visit one island, when arriving by yacht we can pay to go to three islands or just go to one. We decided the cost was too much for three islands, around $900US for us whereas one island has "only" cost us just over $600US. That includes park fees, agent fees, port fees etc. We chose Isabella as many yachts had given good accounts of the island and activities available. The sea horse shaped Isabella is the largest island in the group but seems to the least amount of facilities. Although everything we needed, laundry, restaurants with wifi, hairdresser for a much needed haircut and a small but adequate supermarket.
Get a group of cruisers in a bay and there are always tours and activities to join in to. One afternoon a group of us got a taxi out to the Wall of Tears and walked the 8 kms back to town. The Wall of Tears is a large stone wall built by prisoners in the late 1940s , as the name suggest it didnt turn out well. They were meant to be building their own prison but prisoners and keepers died, prisoners revolted and the project ceased in tears. " the weak died and the strong cried".
The steps lead up to a great view of the island, the surrounding trees and cacti provide shelter for the Galapagos tortoises and a myriad of native birds. We were able to pat several wild tortoises although none as big as those we had seen at the breeding sanctuary behind town. By the time we got to the beach part of the walk it was virtually dark so we didn't see any iquanas or sea birds before we collapsed gratefully in front of a cold beer at Café Rosario. Conveniently the first building we came to after the beach!
The next day was the trip to Los Tunnelos. We skimmed across the water at 25knots, the fastest we had all been for a while, in an open boat to visit the tunnels, bridges and pools of an old lava flow. On the way we stopped at a pile of rock jutting out of the sea, a perch for blue footed boobys and sea lions. On the leeward side protected from the swell a female sea lion reclined on a soft bed of seaweed, snoozing in the sun while her baby fed. Both took no notice of the clicking cameras and noisy motor. We spotted huge manta rays as we speed towards the coast. The boat took us in through a gap in the surf and we motored quietly through narrow blue passages of black lava rocks. Mangroves and cacti grow on the rocks with no visible soil to nurture them. After a time of wandering around on the rocks spotting seals and rays in the huge pools we went off for a couple of snorkels amongst the rocks. I don't snorkel but Alan enjoyed himself, spotting white tip reef sharks, turtles and lots of fish. To get from one snorkel site to the other we had to go out into the sea again and there we saw more Manta Ray, this time the boat stopped and those who were keen jumped out and if they could catch them swam with the Manta. For Alan this was the high light, swimming above a huge Manta Ray, probably about 3 metres from wing tip to wing tip. The Mantas were so close to the surface we had a great view from the boat. Alan has just come back from a scuba dive at the nearby island of Tortuga, he has seen hammer head sharks and a big school of golden rays among other things.
As David Attenborough will have told you documentary watchers the cold current is a reason for all this out of place wildlife, penguins and sea lions in the tropics. We have felt quite cold ourselves, 2 or 3 nights out from the Galapagos we got out warm clothes for night watch. The last night was so cold I hunted out a scarf to wrap around my head. Being right on the equator we expected to have a warmer time for our third crossing.
We,ve nearly done all the things we came to do and see, the Marqueses are beckoning albeit from a long way away. Our cash reserves have dwindled, no banks or ATMs here on Isabella, no business takes credit cards so it must be time to go. Yachts are still trickling into the bay although I suspect we are the tail end bunch of the Pacific voyagers this year. A number of yachts left Isabella a few days before we arrived which is just as well, the anchorage is quite small. Most of the eleven presently here will start west over the next week. We plan to leave on Tuesday to undertake our longest passage hopefully no more than 3 weeks at sea. Our fellow cruisers on the Southern Cross SSB Net, will keep us company and we of course have sailmail to connect us to the world. I will update the blog every few days or if I get really bored everyday!!