Panama to the Galapagos Islands
18 April 2016 | Isabella, Galapagos
Jane, warm and sunny
Home alone after an incrediable five weeks. First Amy, with Kevin and Jason, joining us to go through the Panama canal to Galapagos, then Jamie and Frankie visiting us in Santa Cruz to go to Isabella. Wonderful memories and a ton of fun. The only downside was five days ago when we heard that we had lost Gypsy, Russell’s beloved Mum. Two weeks ago she was on top form, but a fall broke her pelvis and she did not recover. She will be dearly missed, she would have been 92 next month. Sadly we were unable to get Russell home in time for her funeral; which is in fact today as I write, she left behind beautiful memories for us. Bless her, she will now be happy with Eddie who she adored.
Onto a happier note. Tomorrow we leave the Galapagos for the Marquesas. There will be just the two of us on a passage of over 3,000 nm which hopefully will not take us more than 20 days. Obviously we have mixed emotions at the moment, excitement and slight apprehension. We have prepared ourselves as best as we can and we are looking forward to hopefully kind winds and seas. We can be followed on our InReach tracker https://share.delorme.com/JanePoulston
We can also post the odd message on Facebook; which we will do a couple of times on our way. Otherwise it is wonderful to get news from friends and family, especially when we are offshore as one can feel quite cut off so far away. My brother Jamie has kindly offered to forward messages to us via our Ham Radio so please email him a note or two via Jamie@pride.me.uk - thanks.
Last night we were on Tsunami watch, one was due after the large earthquake on the mainland at 6pm. In the end we hardly felt it and have still not heard the latest news, but we understand that it caused a lot of damage and death on the mainland. Thankfully Jamie and Frankie were still in Santa Cruz.
Back to Panama. After a crazy few weeks at Shelter Bay marina prepping the boat, and spending two days line handling (to get a bit of experience) for a friend’s boat, we set off. Amy with her friends on board made the trip a ton of fun and they got some great footage with their go-pros. They are going to edit all the footage they took onboard and make a film for us – we can’t wait. It was an amazing experience transiting the canal, made more special by sharing it with Amy, Jason and Kevin. Not often does one traverse between two seas and two major continents, with a huge tanker loaming down on you.
We spent four days at anchor at La Playita getting our rigging sorted (Mike the rigger was fantastic, a Kiwi of course), celebrating Kevin’s birthday, doing a final shop at Pricemart and getting some other odd jobs ticked off the list. We had two fantastic drivers one called Roger who loaded up his van and roof top with booze for us (don’t ask how much) and Carlos who spent our last morning taking us from shop to shop, $8-10 an hour was joke so they got decent tips from us.
We did manage a couple of days in Isla Taboga where we hiked up to the top of the island and had our first swim in the Pacific. However, we did not make Las Perlas as a weather window appeared and we had to grab it to cross to the Galapagos. There had not been much wind for weeks, so all the boats were ready to leave.
What a fantastic sail we had, full moon nights, perfect wind and slight seas it does not get better. Our six day sail was done in five and a half with everyone on board having a blast. We stopped a hundred miles out and had a swim off Ta-b in deepest water yet. It was crystal clear and we gave the hull a quick wipe as they send a diver down to make sure we have a clean hull when we enter the Galapagos. Jason helped us as King Neptune crossing the equator and we celebrated with Beer Bongs and Champagne, with Neptune of the sea getting a wee drop. The only blip was our …. Generator. Yes ongoing problems and the kids had to learn what it was like to be at sea with no water maker and only a camping stove. It has been a stressful problem, but as I write it is … working.
Our landfall was San Cristobal. Our agent Bolivar met us as we motored into the anchorage, we had let him know of our noon arrival, and our check in could not have been more efficient. We had about six officials on board and although we had a fumigation certificate from Panama we were asked to leave the boat for four hours as they smoked out Ta-b at a cost of $100. We were able to warn other boats behind us, as the grease left behind was horrible. We spent the extra $$ to be able to visit more than one island and stay longer, an excellent decision which we would highly recommend to other boats.
One has to check out of immigration in Santa Cruz as it is only possible get an international “clearing out Zarp” in Isabella. Sadly some boats arrived in Isabella thinking they could check in and had to leave within 24 hours. One left yesterday who had spent 12 days getting to Isabella and are now on their way to the Marquesas after only a night in the Galapagos. At least we gave them a good evening as we celebrated my birthday a few days early before Jamie and Frankie left. We had 26 on board for the evening including two musicians; it was a wonderful evening that I will always cherish.
We loved San Cristobal, even though we had to fortify the boat so that sea lions did not come into the cockpit. There have been stories of them even getting into the salon and one set of friends had them in their cockpit where they coughed, pooed and vomited all over the place. Love them, but not when they do that ☺
A wonderful week was spent there, getting to know other boats, enjoying the incredible wildlife with the highlight being a tour we managed to privately organize with Manuel of Sharksky to Kicker Rock and Punta Pitt. Hopefully the photos will tell their own story. We saw nesting and courting red footed and blue footed boobies along with hundreds of other birds, including male frigates with their red throats. Snorkeling through Kicker Rock and later off Punta Pitt we swam with more huge shoals of different fish then we have probably ever seen. These islands above and below water are exquisite.
It was time to move on and we lucked out with a fabulous days sail to Santa Cruz, the most touristy island, but a fun one nonetheless. One of the trips we did there was to a farm where the huge Tortoises roam free. There we saw one couple mating (they take up to three hours and it was obvious, with the noise and movement that the male made, that we were just in time) an amusing experience. We also went underground into some of the lave tunnels, another fascinating event. Then the kids (yes they are still kids to us) had to leave. Jamie and Frankie arrived the day before and so we were all able to spend some time together. Very special as Amy had not seen her English Aunt and Uncle for six years.
More guests, but this time sadly only for one week. More trips were enjoyed, but the highlight was certainly The Tunnels in Isabela. Sadly my “new” camera died on me and so I do not have many pictures. The surf ride over the lava reefs and into and around the tunnels was breathtaking. Snorkeling the nearby lagoon we saw tons of huge turtles, golden rays, lots of sharks especially white tipped and even a beautiful sea horse. Manta Rays were seen on the trip back – huge. It was a magic day.
Frankie said her aim was to swim and take pictures of the Sea Lions. Well two pups obliged and spent about an hour frolicking with her under our boat. She was certainly one happy camper and we got some great pictures for her. Here we have also seen the famous Galapagos penguins and have had to be careful not to upset all the sea lions and large iguanas that take over the dingy dock.
It will be difficult to leave these beautiful islands. We were hoping to stay a bit longer, who knows maybe we will return. However the Pacific is beckoning and we are dependent on the weather. We are full of fuel, water and food in the deep freeze and stores. We are ready to go. We look forward to hearing from some of you and will update our blog probably somewhere in the Marquesas. We are meeting Edwin, and his girlfriend Iva, on Nuku Hiva on the 23rd May, another event we are looking forward to.
Keep happy and healthy, with much love Jane and Russell
A special thanks for some of the photos from Amy, Jamie, Frankie, David and Russell