Galapagos – San Christobal

16 April 2018
Photo: Seal at home on Dol’s stern
We departed the anchorage in Las Perlas at 06:00 Friday 23rd March for the 850+nm passage to the Galapagos Islands, a dream destination for us. We traveled in company with Raftkin and had email update skeds with Pelizeno, Badjca, Raftkin and La Cigale. The passage can be notorious for fickle winds so we had plenty of diesel on board, however the weather gods were kind to us and over the next 6 days we motored for less than 12 hrs. Our first waypoint was south at Malepo Island which we passed on Sunday morning, from here we hoped to start picking up the trade winds to take us west to the Galapagos Islands. Overall on the passage we had some awesome gennaker rides, the gennaker up all day doing 8-9 knots, plenty of dolphins playing in our bow wake, leaping Manta Rays and giant sea turtles. We crossed the Equator north to south at 12:32 on Wednesday 28th March, five and a half years since we crossed going south to north. All the kids on the other boats had been doing preparation for the Equator crossing celebrations and it was good to hear all their stories.
We arrived in Wreck Bay, San Christobal and had the anchor down at 07:30 the following day, to be greeted by the seals. They are everywhere, Pelizeno radioed to warn us to put fenders on our stern or the seals would take up residence very quickly. We emailed our agent, Bolivar Pesantes, with no reply so found a phone number for him, gave him a call and he promptly came out to the boat. He took our paperwork and informed us the officials would be out to the boat at 15:00 for the inspection, he took our garbage away with him. We had done preparation the day before and all our garbage was separated into the required recycle bins with signs stating not to throw garbage overboard. At 15:00, 7 officials arrived and the process began. A diver went under the boat to inspect the hull, it was given a big tick as being very clean. One guy went below with Brian to inspect the engine and equipment on board, one lady filled in all the immigration documentation, the Public Health doctor asked the health questions and the Bio Security guy looked at the fridge and freezer. Our fumigation certificate from Panama was accepted so we did not need to be fumigated. Within 25mins all was complete and we were legal and free to explore the island. All very easy.
It was then time to go ashore. You do not use your dinghy here as the seals will commandeer it, so it is water taxis at US$1 per person per trip. We shared a water taxi with Xavier, Lucy, Francis, Isabel and Katherine from La Cigale and met the others off Pelizeno and Raftkin ashore for dinner and drinks. Getting on and off the water taxis is interesting as the seals bask on the pontoon and there are plenty of them. To get them to move out of the way, clapping seems to work.
The following day, after dropping the laundry off, we all walked around to Punta Carola a sandy beach, along with Christian, Josie, Nina, Ella May and Taj from Shawnigan. The rest of the day was spent snorkeling with sea turtles and fish and walks around the beach to see the rock Iguanas.
Saturday we all piled into 4 taxi Utes to explore some of the island. Our first stop was the volcano, El Junco. The fresh water lake at the top is San Christobal’s water source, the only island in the Galapagos Archipelago that has a fresh water supply, all the other islands rely on desalination plants. At the crater top there are plenty of frigate birds who dip into the fresh water to remove the salt from their wings, it was amazing to watch. We walked around the rim of the crater taking in the great views of the island out to the coast on all sides.
From El Junco we continued onto the Jacinto Gordillo Tortoise Centre, the breeding centre for the giant land tortoises. The tortoises are bred at the centre and then released into the wild in the north of San Christobal at the age of about 5 years and only if they become ill or aged are they returned to Jacinto Gordillo. The centre also has older tortoises which are its breeding stock, these tortoises were huge, but apparently the really big tortoises are on Santa Cruz, can’t wait to see them. The island is trying to protect the giant land tortoises and entry to the north of the island is strictly controlled.
Next it was off to Porto Chino beach for a chance to cool off with a swim in the surf along with the seals. The beach is white sand with the black volcanic cliffs and rocks and the surf was great fun. It was then time for lunch before returning to town after a great day. It is hard to believe we have only been here 2 days.
Back at the boat a seal had managed to break through our anti seal barrier and was happily sunning him or herself on the back steps of Dol. Brian managed to persuade the seal back into the water and then reinforced the anti-seal barrier.
It is interesting to note how little humidity there is here even though we are near the equator, unlike Asia. It must have something to do with the lack of a big land mass nearby, the evenings and nights are also quite cool, great for sleeping. The cooling coming from the very cool current which flows west through the islands and is one of the major reasons for much of the wild life here, especially the cooler south equatorial current which has commenced way down in the southern ocean and come up the west coast of South America turning to the west at the Galapagos Islands.
Sunday we went for a walk to another of the beaches, or rather a bay surrounded by volcanic rock, but we had an awesome swim with the seals and sea turtles. At one point. Christian from Shawnigan took off his snorkel and a seal swam past and took it, the seal thought it was a great game as the guys tried to retrieve the snorkel, which did eventually happen. Back at the anchorage we noticed an increase in the number of organised tour boats, it must have something to do with Easter and the spring break for American schools as there were several school group tour parties snorkeling out at the beaches.
Monday, along with Pelizeno, Raftkin and La Cigale, we hired bikes and took taxis to El Junco and cycled back down to town. On the way down we stopped in El Progresso at the Tree House. This is a 300 year old tree that has a tree house at the top, accessed by a swing bridge and a ladder down to a room within the roots. The owners have placed rope swings, climbing walls, rope bridges and other adventure playground items around the area which the children and adults alike all enjoyed.
It was time to see San Christobal via the coastline. Along with Pelizeno and Tracey off Raftkin we took a 360 tour of the island. We left the bay at 07:30 and started with a snorkel at Kicker Rock. The rock is 3 rocks with one split off from the other two, we snorkeled with the current through the gap. Mark and Ken who were first in saw a school of Hammerhead sharks, quite happy to have missed that. We saw eagle rays, seals, one white tipped shark, huge schools of fish and sea turtles, amazing. Then it was around the side of the rock along the cliff face watching the fish feed and seeing the amazing coloured algae’s and plants on the rock. We swam through the second gap between the rocks and had a seal pup join us, playing in the swell. It was then back to the boat and around to a beach for a walk and snorkel.
On the way around we firstly encountered a huge gathering of sea turtles, hundreds of them congregating in an area of several hundred meters. Next it was a large pod of 100 or more dolphins coming alongside to play in the wake of the boat for 15 mins, wonderful to watch. On the beach a seal came into the bay and played in the shallow water, happily rolling around in the surf. The rocks had iguana, and in the sand dunes were tracks of turtles that had come ashore to lay their eggs, assumedly the sea turtles we had seen on our approach. From the beach we motored around to Punta Pitt, via some lava caves. Punta Pitt is a breeding area for the red and blue footed boobies. We also saw a frigate bird that must have been looking for a mate as it had its red chest blown out and on display. The lunch stop was at a beach that had a short walk to an inland lagoon. The lagoon is partially open to the sea. At high tide sharks, sea turtles, rays and fish get into the lagoon and are then trapped as the tide drops until the next high tide. From the shore we could see the sharks, rays and sea turtles, so it was on with the snorkel gear and off we went. Luckily we did not see any sharks, they are quite shy, but something did swim past quite fast in Gail’s peripheral vision, who knows it could have been a shark. We then came across the biggest sea turtle we have seen, it must have been over one and half metres in diameter. She was quite happy with us swimming along beside her, the large sea turtles are all female. It was then time to head back to the boats. This place continues to amaze us, something different everywhere you look.
Once back at Dol, we got everything ready, lifted the anchor and did a night sail in company with Raftkin and Pelizeno, across to Isla Isabela, 82nm away.
Vessel Name: Dol'Selene
Vessel Make/Model: Warwick 47 cutter, built in three skins of New Zealand heart kauri timber, glassed over.
Hailing Port: Auckland, New Zealand
Crew: Brian & Gail Jolliffe
About: Brian and Gail have retired, at least for now, to enjoy the opportunity to cruise further afield than has been possible in recent years.
Current cruising plans are not too well advanced but we are inspired by Mark Twain’s quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your [...]
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