Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and our OVNI 395.

07 April 2020
05 April 2020
05 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
04 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
03 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
02 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
01 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
30 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
28 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
27 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
26 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands. Ecuador
25 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands. Ecuador
24 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
22 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
20 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
18 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
17 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
16 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
14 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
10 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos

Puerto Ayora

07 April 2020
Graham Walker
Not too many words today but a stunning photo of the anchorage at Santa Cruz - credit to Lloydy on Stay Calm for this one.

Bonus Photo

05 April 2020
Graham Walker
Today's Nature Watch: a flock of delicate storm petrels hovering, legs down, just above the water around the boat.

Responding to some questions from our readers

05 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Graham Walker
Q - Just wondered if you are allowed to go out for day sails, or if you move are you not allowed to return?
A - Unfortunately, we are not allowed out for day sails. Boat movements here are strictly controlled by the port captain. The only reason you might be allowed to go out would be to empty your holding tank - with official permission - you need to give a day's notice and then sail/motor 3 miles offshore to do this. One boat did this yesterday and the park rangers, in hazmat, were sent out to check on them (or perhaps they don't have enough to do). Doubtless they were also tracked on AIS. There is a risk that if you leave your nice spot in the anchorage another boat moves into it.

Q - How is the water maker powered?
A - The water maker is a 12v energy recovery unit that makes 30-35 litres per hour. It just runs off the 12v batteries and draws about 14 amps. It is very quiet and is very efficient in terms of amp hours per litre. In harbour we are using about 50 litres a day of water between the four of us (we would use less offshore). On current usage we need to run the water maker for up to a couple of hours per day. Our tank holds 450 litres but we make water every day to keep the tank full in case we have to leave in a hurry or in case we develop a problem with the water maker. There is a lot of marine growth in the water here so we need to change our intake filters regularly.

Q - Do you have to run the engine every day and if so how long will the diesel last for?
A - We run the engine every three days for 2-3 hours to top up the batteries. This also makes warm water for anyone who would like a nice hot shower. Barracuda has a D-400 wind generator and 220 w of solar panels but the winds are fairly light here so this is not quite enough to keep the batteries topped up, hence the need to use the engine. If we were sitting in a trade-wind anchorage, the extra wind power would be sufficient. We will probably add another 200w of solar power during our next refit. If we are only charging the batteries (as opposed to motoring along) the engine is using about 1.5 litres per hour. We are carrying over 400 litres of diesel so we have enough diesel on board for a year of this cycle. Thankfully, diesel is fairly easy to get here in jerry cans, so this should not become a problem.

Q - Is it possible to have more photos? We all love photos. For example can you do a pano of where you are anchored?
A - Yes of course. We will see what we can do.

Q - Why didn't Kate pick up the watermelons?
A - Graham just beat her to it.

Welcome Flexisail Readers

04 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Graham Walker
We are starting today's blog with a big welcome for all our Flexisail readers. Dave and Lesley who are on board with us here are past Flexisail members, and Sue and Richard of Flexisail have shared our blog information, should you wish to follow our progress.

Early in the blog there is some history of Barracuda. We have had the boat for about 10 years and in that time have sailed around the UK, northern France, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the US east coast, and are now in the Pacific. A fun journey of many parts and with much more to come, we hope. We have documented the journey along the way in the blog and we hope this provides some interest, and maybe some inspiration for other journeys. We like to interact with our readers and will be very happy to see comments or questions. Just for absolute clarity, what we do is totally non-commercial - we just do it for fun. Thanks for joining us on the journey. We hope it is not too long before we can all get back to proper sailing again.

It's been a quiet day. The highlight was Dave and Graham's backgammon tournament - or it was, until Dave produced watermelon daiquiris, with fresh watermelon juice (today's photo of lovely local fruit), accompanied by plantain chips. Lesley has learned to say 'I am a deer' in Irish, and Kate has learned 'money is not important' in Spanish. Naturewatch produced a large ray wafting past the boat. Lots of interboat discussions about where and what next, as well as when and how - but it's all rather academic at this point.

Thank you Jill for the limerick! Here is last night's contribution from fellow quarantinee Exit Only - three generations on a US catamaran:

There once were six sailors afloat
Who stopped in the Galapagos
Now their family dream
Has been quarantined
And they each wish they had their own boat.

Friday Night - Scavenger Hunt

03 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Graham Walker
Another trip to the Puerto Ayora market yielded lots of yummy fruit and veg. This place is not going to run out of food any time soon. Pretty much everything that we are seeing at the market is being grown on the island. There is no growing season here – they can plant and harvest all year long. So we guess that means the food supply should be pretty much constant, and there are far fewer people on the island than there would normally be. The best prices were from small trucks stopped at the side of the road selling direct from the farm. There is also a lot of fresh local cheese for sale. We are completely vegetarian on Barracuda at the moment so this all works really well for us.

D & G had a late afternoon non-swim to check everything underneath was OK. As they were wrapping up G noticed a small black tip reef shark doing circles round D. It swam off and a few minutes later came back with its brother and mummy, which was quite a bit bigger. Non-swimming definitely ends at 5pm!

Some other good wildlife today, with a big turtle at the dinghy dock and our friendly local sealion coming by for a chat.

Tonight Barracuda ran the Friday Night Scavenger Hunt. We had four other boats join in. Five rounds – three tasks per round. Answers sent in as photos, recordings or text as needed. Very simple, and massively funny. We have some really witty people on the other boats and the answers to the questions or tasks are rarely straightforward – always a good twist and a laugh – many going back to previous events. This time we had art made from vegetables, people dressed as pirates, favourite sailing books, morse code translation, knot tying, haikus and origami amongst other things.

We ended with a limerick contest – Here’s Barracuda’s entry:

A boat that was called Barracuda
Would have left Santa Cruz if it could’a
But Tahiti was closed
And the trip it was hosed
So they stayed and told jokes that got cruder

Lord of the Flies

02 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Graham Walker
So we have this lovely friendly group of boats, here and in Isabela. There are six of us and we have had so much fun. We communicate using WhatsApp. We share jokes. We share information - for example, about what has just come into the supermarket or the latest news. We have quizzes and countdown events. Tomorrow we will try a scavenger hunt - we will report back on how that goes. Yes, we would all far rather be sailing, but we are actually making the best of it and having a fun time, recognising that we are lucky to be safe in harbour and supporting each other during a bit of a sticky wicket.

Contrast that with another WhatsApp group we are members of, in another cruising area 3,000 miles to the west of here that shall remain nameless. There are about 150 members. We joined, thinking that we would get access to factual information on how things are going there for when (and if) we get there. I can only hope when this is all said and done someone who understands human dynamics get a chance to analyse the traffic from this group. As the days have gone by we have seen less fact and more internal feuding, name-calling, rumour-mongering and toxic finger-pointing amongst a few of the members - all out there in the open. Doubtless, nearly all the members are really great people but a few have somehow hijacked the thing to the point where it is no longer functional for its original purpose, and a new group is being created to try to make a fresh start. Watching it made me think back to Lord of the Flies - one of the few books I read at school. These are not ordinary times and there are people all thrown together who would probably rather be away on their own in an isolated bay; but thrown together they are. Surely what defines people in such times are the choices they make on what they do and how they show up each day. Anyway...

Back on Barracuda:
- Irish Gaelic and Spanish lessons continue - focusing on language for social distancing.
- Preparations are underway for our next inter-boat game night (report to follow).
- Lockdown has been extended until the 12th April.
- No news on swimming.
- The boat has lost most of its green beard. Cleaning, not swimming you understand.
- Bread, yoghurt and banana muffins made today.
- We shone a bright search light over the back of the boat last night and found a bit of a shark fest in our non-swimming pool.

A Day in the life…

01 April 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Kate Walker
Graham woke Kate up this morning with shocking news: the Galapagos government has announced that all foreign yachts are to leave the islands, within the next 24 hours.

Ha de ha. Spot the date. There will be revenge, though.

Well, the last blog post dealt with the big picture of our major planning issues but our lives are really dominated, in practice, with much smaller decisions and micro routines. So what does a day in the life of Barracuda look like?

It doesn’t start early. Generally there’s a bit of lazing around – checking emails, analysing the plague data, doing a gentle sudoku - before we gradually meet up on deck for breakfast. As I write, it’s 10.30 and we’ve just finished. Yesterday the garbage boat came by and took away our trash and recycling – great relief. Then Dave and Graham, in gloves and masks, went into town to collect our canasta – the veg box – and managed to get to the market as well. While they were gone Kate did laundry (it’s Lesley’s turn today), in buckets on the sugarscoop, while catching up on Archers podcasts. The fruit and veg had to be processed (washing it in Milton, drying and storing) and then guess what – it’s lunch time. Home made hummus (no tahini – peanut butter), Dave’s sourdough bread and salad.

After lunch, a wee bit of cleaning and a little Duolingo (Spanish for Kate, Irish for Lesley). We’ve discovered that you can get addicted, BTW. Deciding what to have for supper takes time (the last of the tuna, with peanut sauce, fried plantains and veg box salad). G set the watermaker going. Some office admin. A bit of chat. Tea. Exercise time. Then we played a couple of rounds of Exploding Kittens (thanks to Angus and Sarah for this new game). Then more Duolingo. Showers on the back of the boat. Running the engine for a couple of hours to recharge the boat batteries. Checking the various Pacific and Caribbean cruiser Facebook sites and WhatsApp groups for news – though some are just down to rumour, speculation and backbiting now.

To celebrate 14 days of isolation another of the boats in the anchorage suggested a round of Countdown, so at 6pm we settled down with pen and paper, fortified by Cubanos (rum, tonic and fresh mint from the veg box). (Annoyingly, we won, so have to arrange the next event, due on Friday.) At 8pm it’s time to take our temperatures and enter the results in the log. Then supper on deck. Check virus data again. Play a couple of rounds of rummy. A bit more Duolingo. Bed… The challenge is to make sure you get to the end of the day knowing that you’ve DONE something, even if it’s just laundry or a bit of hull cleaning.

Highlights of the day: a) the three tiny fish swimming around inside the water intake filter were released back to the wild, b) a fabulous sunset and bright crescent moon (lying on its back down here), c) the veg box, full of lovely green leaves, herbs, lemon grass, aubergines (yay!), coffee, kombucha (!), beetroot, potatoes, yucca, bananas – too many lovely things to mention.

Dreaming of an exit strategy

30 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Graham Walker
Bit of a long one today – it might be worth putting the kettle on.

So, the tuna man arrived with this enormous chunk of fish, which has now served us two meals with another two or three to come. For the first night we had pepper-seared tuna steaks and the second night we had stir-fried veg with tuna chunks marinated in soy sauce. Both delicious. Tomorrow we will take delivery of our Green Veg Box. One of the local farmers is putting these together and we will see what they come up with; a bit pricey (as is everything) but it might be quite a good service. It’s a bit tricky to get up to the fruit and veg market at the moment and we really welcome variety.

There’s still no progress on swimming, but we will make an appeal at some point. What is really painful is that we are the only boat that seem to have been told this. Annoying! However, we heard today that Ecuador will review the current lockdown conditions on the 5th April and we may start to see some changes if the data is good.

In our more lucid moments we have been contemplating how we might eventually move on from here and where we would go (and why). Just to be clear, we are in no rush - but we thought it might be interesting to explain the conundrum.

Our original objective was to sail to French Polynesia, with the dream of drifting through all those lovely South Pacific islands. That dream is almost certainly gone for this year. Quite apart from the health issues, there is some anti-cruiser sentiment building up in the islands, which may take time to subside. There are a fair number of yachts there already in lockdown, and it seems to be getting increasingly difficult for them. It is going to be some time before French Polynesia is anything like it was in the brochure. So the original objective this year is not looking good. Now, do we preserve it for a future year or wave it goodbye for this pass?

Alternative end point destinations for the journey would be places where we could ultimately haul the boat out and travel home once flights are restored. This could include New Zealand (the original destination), Australia or Panama. These are all closed now BTW, so this is just hypothetical at this stage.

Panama is the closest and would in due course allow a transit back through the Canal to the Caribbean and into the Atlantic, where one could start a passage home or ship the boat home. However, this would all be a hard slog against wind and current and then there are other issues with getting across the Caribbean Sea. Not impossible, but not something that would be high on our wish list. Another variation on the theme would be to pass through the Canal and store the boat at Shelter Bay or see if there was an option to ship home from there. That would all depend on when Panama opens.

If we were to opt for a route across and through French Polynesia they would (under current rules) let us pass through providing food and fuel, but there would be precious little opportunity to enjoy what we came to see. If we were to stop there for a while it would most likely be in Tahiti, which is crowded and, by all accounts, not the best place to spend much time. Under current rules we would not be allowed to visit any of the islands. We are in a much, much better place for now in the Galapagos.

New Zealand and Australia are the furthest away - say three months of sailing. The ideal time to arrive there would be October/November so we would need a couple of stops along the way for fuel and provisions – say French Polynesia or maybe Fiji, if it is open. The trade winds are not yet fully developed all the way across, so no rush; we are several months away from needing to make a call on this. Australia and NZ would still provide access to some great cruising in the western Pacific in future years, so all would not be lost.

Hawaii lies 4,000 miles to the north west of us. Several of the American boats recently arriving in French Polynesia have headed up there, hoping to find somewhere to leave the boat and a flight home. However, the anchorages are deep and exposed and there is a hurricane season from June to November. There are visa issues with getting into the USA on foreign-flagged yachts, which may or may not be an issue. At the end of the day it is still an island in the middle of the Pacific, and our current location is likely better. What we lack here are transport routes in and out at present – but that may change.

Then there’s the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, about 2,000 miles to the north of us. By all accounts it’s a great cruising ground. It does have hurricanes but there are places to lift out where you could probably get ‘Named Storm Cover’ on the insurance. It is currently closed to cruisers (we think). It does have the advantage of being on the east side of the Pacific, preserving the Pacific as a future trip as things get back to normal. We would then be trying to find a route out from there. More to understand there.

Any passage of several thousand miles is not trivial. We have a saying on board: ‘better safe in harbour wishing you were out at sea, than out at sea wishing you were safe in harbour’. You really don’t want to undertake such a journey and get to the other end only to discover that entry rules have changed or that the border is literally closed. Countries are feeling their way through all this at present as the Covid-19 data emerges and the world determines how to respond. Whatever our deliberations, it’s too early to decide which way to jump.

So as you can see there is no obvious way forward just now. We have a friend who departed from the Galapagos 10 days ago – he is out in the Pacific and is seeing his arrival world tighten by the day, unsure of what he is sailing towards.

So for now we will go back to our day to day life in the lovely Galapagos and see how the world turns.

Thank you for all your messages

28 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Graham Walker
We want to start this blog by thanking everyone who has been sending in comments. We love to receive them and it feels like our friends and family are not far away. We also know many of you are keen followers of the comments from others - it all embellishes the story of our journey (or non-journey as it is at the moment). We have had ideas submitted for new inter-boat games and ways to entertain ourselves. Still trying to work out how to play Sex, Snog or Marry on a boat with two married couples. Will let you know how that goes. Please keep them coming.

We were still giggling this morning at the memories of last night’s What’sApp inter-boat Countdown. Doug, who is in our What’sApp group, decided to set off for French Polynesia a week ago. We are wondering what he will do on arrival with thousands of messages from the group, all on playing inter-boat games. We wondered about removing him from the group, but we think he will need something to occupy himself when he gets to French Polynesia and finds the whole place ‘Fermé’! Ah – brings back memories of crossing mainland France through the canals, when the whole place was also ‘Fermé’.

No progress on the swimming front today, but we will keep you posted. We have a lovely agent in town who is working on this for us and hopefully she will get a result soon. We are obviously very much at the beck and call of the authorities here, so we don’t want to fall on the wrong side of this.

Today’s wildlife moment: two rays thrashing about in the water beside the boat. We gathered on the side deck to see what was happening, then realised they were mating, so crept away to give them their privacy.

We took a trip ashore and into the shop today, decked out in our home-made masks and rubber gloves. It gets increasingly strict; this time we were not allowed to keep the dinghy on the dock, so G sat off in Guppy whilst Dave and Lesley joined queues at separate shops to stock up with groceries, all standing 2m apart under the supervision of the authorities. So whilst it’s all a bit restrictive, the good news is that the Ecuadorian government are taking this really seriously and are being rigorous in their enforcement of lockdown and curfew for everyone’s safety. Let’s hear it for Ecuador!

Last night’s sourdough pizza (a la Dave) was amazing!

We are currently waiting for someone to arrive with fresh fish for tonight’s supper. And a plan has been hatched for Key Lime Cheesecake with yesterday’s lime surplus – sounding good. Will let you know.

Countdown!

27 March 2020 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Graham Walker
No, we’re not on a countdown to departure. Following on from last week’s successful pub quiz night, one of the other boats hosted a version of the popular TV show ‘Countdown’, using a WhatsApp group to communicate between the boats. Broadly, the hosts announced nine random letters; we all had two minutes to make as many words as possible out of them; and then we had to report in with a) the longest word found and b) the total number of words found. Our vocabularies have been broadened, with words including koan and preknob. Lots of banter, lots of fun and the winner gets to host next week’s entertainment. We came a very creditable second place (phew), after some quite intensive practice with Bananagrams.

Quite an eventful day, even apart from that. Dave and Graham saw a frigate bird stealing food from the beak of a fairly pissed-off booby. The day also featured banana muffins, Graham’s bread, home-made hummus and sourdough pizza. Not surprisingly, we need our exercise, but while swimming laps round Barracuda this afternoon, shortly before shark o’clock, we were visited by an official-looking boat who told us that swimming is now banned. Bit of a disaster, but we are appealing. As if to make up for it, not long after this a second boat arrived, with a masked man selling limes – 15 for $1. Somehow we ended up with 30, and a promise to return tomorrow with fresh tuna. Very excited! Yes, food does take centre stage at the moment.
Vessel Name: Barracuda
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go....
Extra: Look to this day for it is life...
Barracuda's Photos - Main
81 Photos
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a pre-retirement holiday
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some shots from our lovely trip around the Aegean with Ailie
8 Photos
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2 great weeks with Steve and Bibi Rainey.
11 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
A long weekend with Catherine and David.
4 Photos
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4 Photos
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14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda, K & G head south to a new home.
14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda does the Western Isles of Scotland.
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Kate and Graham Chillin'
7 Photos
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