Panama City to Galapagos Islands
26 May 2010
Log reading 14,420 nautical miles
From Isla de Coco, Costa Rica
We had a good sail to Las Perlas and anchored between Islas Chapera and Mogo Mogo. The former island I was told is used for the Survivor TV series. There was a police base here and a few stink boats enjoying a Sunday arvo. It was very enjoyable but there was a strong current running between the islands. Shirley swam to the beach, some way off and had trouble with the last five metres making it back to the boat. First one line and then another joined to it snaked astern. Edo jumped in to help and she was soon back on board. We all had a swim around the boat but agreed the current was exceptionally strong and nobody else ventured far. A sobering thought when parking between islands. We were also aware that the Pacific has significant tides unlike the Med and the Caribbean.
We motored and sailed past other islands in the group and decided to drop in on a small village on the shore of Ensenada Honda. We had only just set foot on the sandy but rubbish strewn beach when we were greeted by a couple of locals that offered us marijuana. The guide book did say that this island was noted for its herbs.
Everyone was very friendly. We bought some mangoes and bananas from someone who rushed off into the bush to get them. This open community sheltered from the heat in their basic concrete homes. The paint had faded and an ornate balustrade along the front overlooking the sea was from another era.
Outside one house they were filleting large iguanas and outside another a man was relieving himself. You couldn't miss the mangy dogs skulking around and feel sorry for the scrawny chooks tethered to concrete blocks outside every house. Cockfighting was the big game here and the village store had the trophies lined up on the top shelf. A few things were purchased from this fascinating store (a bit like the old Aussie outback tin shed stores before the bitumen went through) including some very cold beers at USD 0.75.
When we got back to Fandango, perhaps because this was Honda Bay, Edo suddenly decided that our Honda dinghy needed a good scrub and now she was looking much more salubrious.
Our final stop in Las Perlas was Ensenada Playa Grande on a private island. What a magnificent spot. The pilot guide told us that the small building perched on a cliff was for the owner to drop a line down to a cave below for a bit of fishing. We saw the house from the water. Edo and I swam to the beach. No current here. Quite a bit of flotsam and jetsam on the beach.
On the maintenance front, the autopilot needed a loose bolt fixing and the engine tacho and hour meter no longer work. Good timing Murphy, right when fuel management is crucial in this huge area with fluky winds.
After a quiet morning we set sail for the Galapagos Islands via Isla de Coco. This was a last minute change based to some extent on the weather and to some extent on information archived on Fab's computer. We had a good sail the first day but then, as expected, it was mostly motoring during the day and a slow sail at night. At least sleeping was very comfortable. At times the current was faster than our speed through the water!
The cloud formations in this part of the world are staggering. Towering cumulonimbus with sunset colours splashed all about. Plenty of sheet lightening too along the horizon all around us. The VHF antenna was unplugged and various things turned off. Probably wouldn't make much difference if we were hit but at least we thought about it.
During the day there were dolphins and manta rays leaping out of the water. A sailfish was sighted. Also in the water was a huge tree and lots of plastic and other rubbish. We reduced speed at night in case we hit something.
The fishing line has been in and one lure lost. A shark fin was seen. Fish were also spotted feeding off the floating wood. However no sashimi for us.
We didn't have a Costa Rican courtesy flag but the "C" flag is exactly the same. The head ranger was impressed that we had the correct flag and not the US one and even asked where we got it. A chandlery of course! For our following stop in the Galapagos Islands, the Ecuadorian courtesy flag would be the same as that for Colombia. At five to 10 USD each, I now have enough courtesy flags to make a bed cover.
Isla de Coco loomed up early in the morning and several fishing boats passed us heading out of range of the park authorities. Their holds full of tuna no doubt and the rangers powerless, unless they actually catch them hauling in a fish from this UNESCO world heritage site.
The plotters (the boat's and two on computers) were out of alignment by about two hundred metres (C Map had much more detail than Navionics) so we tippee-toed very carefully using the depth sounder and mark 1 eyeball to get through the coral.
There were only three anchorages and we tried them all. The place was stunning. Dense lush vegetation sliding down steep slopes to the sea, fed by rain most days but sun was our reward for the effort to get here. Frigate birds, pelicans and all the usual suspects. Even a sea eagle wave hopping with a large leaf in its mouth, very odd.
By one bay, a small ranger's hut and by the other a park "office" with facilities and a volunteer ranger's compound. There was a rainforest walk to a spectacular waterfall and a good swim. A suspension bridge had been artistically created out of confiscated fishing lines and floats. On the next day a walk to a hill top gave a magnificent view. No snakes to bite us and no stinging nettles or vines.
Everyone was very friendly but the two dive boats that had come from the mainland hundreds of miles away were unable to take casual bookings. Thirty metres of visibility, fish everywhere and we are the only yacht. The snorkelling was very good but there were currents about so I decided not to solo dive to see the hammerheads I was promised at 30 metres. I snorkelled over to where I might just be able to see the sharks if they were there but they were not at home. However, no sooner aboard than heaps of commotion not far away. Fish were being rounded up by predators and the water boiled.
On our second night we dinghied to the lonely ranger's hut and cooked them some pasta to go with a couple of our bottles of wine. Idyllic. A bush hut by the water's edge and candles that flickered shadows on the vegetation draped about the place. I should also say that they had satellite TV, a hissing VHF scanning the airwaves and a blind cat that was at odds with park policy.
The island was used by pirates to hide their treasure. The government even mounted a special expedition to check for themselves. Manuel and Walter gave us heaps of information and earlier in the day had showed us big river rocks inscribed with boats names going back to 1842, probably earlier where legibility made it hard to read. All except me spoke fluent Spanish and translated, so it was an excellent evening.
Being so taken by this magic spot we circumnavigated the small island and gasped at the beauty of the many waterfalls, one we thought a hundred metres, that cascaded over ledges and splashed into the sea. Please don't tell anyone else about this special place.
On our way again, it was a bit of a slog over the next five days with two to three metre seas and a 15 to 18 knot wind on the nose. Both side cabin port holes leaked a little so it will be yet another bit of paperwork to Jeanneau for me to do when we get in. We Fandangoed our way south and then needed Matilda for the last day to make sure we arrived in daylight.
On the morning of May 22nd, we crossed the equator and did the Neptune thing to Edo and Shirley. Soon the first island appeared. A small whale and a shipwreck greeted us as we rounded into Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
Off to dinner in the small town and a good sleep to follow.