20 April 2018
I'm not proud of this one but I promised to write about the good and the bad. Galapagos is reputed to be the pristine environment preserved for its unique species and the birthplace of Darwin's “Origin of the Species.” Cruisers are committed to leaving a clean wake and in the Galapagos, we become quite fanatical about it. That's why I'm not proud of dumping partially cured Urethane foam into the bay at Isla Isabele.
We bought a used Avon RIB (rigid bottom inflatable) dinghy in Michigan on our way out of the Great Lakes. Avon makes a high end dinghy and we love ours. It has a “V” shaped bottom but a flat floor inside. There is a void between the flat floor and the “V” bottom that is supposed to be watertight. Would be great if it was. Occasionally that space fills up with water making the dinghy quite heavy. We can tell we are carrying the extra weight, especially when dragging it up a sandy beach.
I have tried and tried to find out where that water is coming in and have not pinpointed the leak. When we pull the dinghy on a beach, I remove the plug and water pours out. Several days later it is full again. Arggghh! I have read about two part Urethane foam kits. You mix it together and it expands like a cream colored volcano. I happened to ask about the stuff in a shop in Panama. The owner said, I have some of that stuff I will never use, He gave me two gallon jugs of the stuff, half full.
Lisa and I decided to do a science experiment before committing it to our Avon. I poured just a drip from each jug into a can. With a Bamboo skewer I stirred the two chemicals. Voila! Within a minute it started erupting. It was the perfect muffin shape. Just a teaspoon of the stuff filled the can to overflowing. And it hardened within 10 minutes. We weighted the can, foam and all in a bucket overnight to see if it absorbed any water. It was light as a feather the next morning.
This brings us to a flat calm morning in the Isabela anchorage. We hoisted the dinghy bow down beside Uproar. Lisa and I mixed a batch thoroughly and began to pour it through a funnel to fill that void under the dinghy floor. Oh no! The volcano erupted just as I started pouring. Here I had a funnel clogged and overflowing and a can erupting with hot, creamy goo all over my hand and into the water. My instinct was to keep it over the water so we didn't foul Uproar's deck with the mess.
Lisa and I looked in horror at the moulten mess floating beside Uproar. She quickly retrieved our trout landing net. Glyn and Laura bought it for us when we were fishing for Blue Crab in the Chesapeake. I dove in and netted the offending lumps. The fine mesh net was the perfect tool for the job. There was no wind or current so I was easily able to coral the stuff. I'm pretty sure I retrieved 95% of it. Sure, there were some small bits that got away. We dumped the mess into a garbage bag.
Ten more batches were mixed but for only 10 seconds. We got it all in the dinghy before the eruption. With just a bit left in the jugs, the cavity in the dinghy was full. Project completed and dinghy back on deck, Lisa and I hung our heads in shame. We had bespoiled the Galapagos. We were satisfied with our clean-up efforts but knew the port captain had cameras trained on the anchorage.
An hour later a panga approached with two women in uniform. Gulp! They asked if we spoke Espanol. Poquito. They explained in broken English that there was an epidemic of a disease on the island and mimed it as a skin disorder. They even had large posters they showed us. We believe it was Chicken Pox or Measles. Lisa and I explained that we did not have the affliction and they were satisfied. Strangely, we were the only boat out of eight in the anchorage approached. I'm writing this as a free man, sailing from Isabela to Santa Cruz, another Galapagos island. Guess we and the waters of Galapagos made a clean getaway.