We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.
We have been here in the Galapagos for only ten days and yet when we contemplate the amount of wildlife we have seen, and the adventures we have had it is almost overwhelming! We are definitely very happy with our decision to get an “autografo” permit which allows us extra time here in the islands. I won’t describe each day that we’ve been here, but some of the highlights so far…
We shared a taxi/guide with some folks from “Pipistrelle” and spent a day touring the highlands of San Cristobal Island. We visited the “Galapaguera” or the Tortoise breeding centre, where hatchlings are raised and returned to the wild. We also hiked around the old volcanic crater of “El Junco” which is now lush and green after recent rain and had lots of Frigatebirds (both species: Magnificent and Great) splashing in the water to clean their feathers.
We’ve spent several mornings walking the trails near the visitor centre, trying to decipher the different Darwin Finches, not easy without calipers for some species! We’ve also spent a few days with a picnic lunch on a beach called “La Loberia” (sealion beach) where we snorkeled in a natural pool, sheltered from the swell by lava rocks. This pool was filled with fishes and we’ve patiently managed to identify most of them. But the real highlight here was four very relaxed Green Turtles. They rested on the bottom while several wrasse cleaned their shells or they grazed the algae on the rocks while we hovered near them taking photos.
Stephen and Green Turtle in La Loberia
Yesterday we splurged on a scuba diving tour and visited the infamous “Kicker Rock” which is an interesting vertical rock formation, with a small channel running through it. We did two dives here and lost count of the Galapagos Sharks and we saw a few Hammerheads!
Now we are heading off to Isabel, the largest island in the Galapagos, where we hope to see some penguins!!!
I am a hands-on kind of person and not a voracious reader like Heidi, so when it comes to filling the few spare hours a day Heidi is far more attuned than I. That said I have chewed my way through “Beak of the Finch” at an evolutionary rate. It was a fascinating read but the concepts a little sleep provoking. Depending on the day, the motion of the boat, the heat, decides how much we rest. On a rough day just lying down to relax the muscles is a welcome relief at the end of a four hour watch. Thanks to Deborah and Rolf on “Northern Light” we have changed our watch rotation which is working well. For example one day Stephen does 0200-0400, 1000-1400, 1800-2000 (dog watch to alter the rotation each day) and 2200- 0200. This day he is also responsible for cooking. So that gives us each a day rest from the galley, and we look after ourselves for breakfast.
Narama´s Airconditioning System
To occupy time otherwise there is sailing, this can be a full time occupation in light air when Ernest (he’s our steering vane) can’t cope or if sail changes are required. At other times we may not touch anything for four hours. A curiosity with wildlife, trying to pull apart the different shearwaters is a little more difficult than the obvious red footed boobies. One night we sported a booby as a figure head on the pulpit. At least that was until I lost concentration and gibed the blooper sending him into the water. He was not too pleased considering the squawk I received, but took to the air and resettled on the solar panels aft where they usually take up residence after several fly bys and where they leave a pile of feathers and shit for me to clean up in the morning. Fortunately for Heidi, she can’t reach the solar panels. But we don’t shoo them away as they keep us company on our night watches.
Learning about the heavens above and how to derive our position from them is also a hobby and keeps the grey matter ticking. After much deliberation over pilot charts and recent ocean current information from fellow cruisers, our plan was to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec in a reasonable weather window cutting across from Salinas toward Puerta Madero and veering offshore once we got past around 94W, then head for 90W 5N to make our easting before dropping down to Galapagos at 89.5W 1S.
This went to plan fairly well, and as expected we had calms, and adverse currents. In hindsight we may have done better to gain more easting before crossing the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The ITCZ is an area where one can expect calms, increased convection causing thunderclouds, hence squalls and rain. It was quite wide and active as we passed so we had an exciting two days. The smaller clouds producing just a bit of wind and lots of rain were great, the first we have seen in over a year of cruising and we made the most of it, rinsing everything including our naked bodies. The more intense squalls came through at around 30-40kns with the wind waves calmed just a little by the associated downpour. It was quite the experience. We motored in calms as we dared to burn part of the 200L of diesel we carry and sat out others. Sitting out one of these calms only a couple of hundred miles off the coast of Guatemala we had two visits. One, by some shark fisherman who actually came over and asked if everything was OK, how nice! The other was a US Navy surveillance plane with one of those big domes on top. They actually did a low fly by on two consecutive days. Would be great to get the photos that I am sure they took!?
Our last day was the best sail with the wind filling from the east and we sailed right in close past Genovesa one of Galapagos outlying islands, how tempting the cove of its caldera looked to stop in, but rules are rules and we sailed on to San Cristobal for a friendly entry with agent Bolivar. We also crossed in to the southern hemisphere this day and paid our due respects to Neptune.
Few stats for the trip
Total Distance: 1187nm noon to noon as crow flies 1253nm by GPS
Number of Days: 15
Average Miles/Day: 79.4
Best Day: 107
Worst Day: 47
Number of sail changes: 55
Engine run time during calms: 72hrs
Water used: 140L
Hottest/coolest temp: 25/30.5 C
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
We are glad we made it down to Huatulco and sad we did not have more time. Definitely a nicer place to spend time than the rolly La Cruz anchorage in Banderas Bay.
Here the water is clear, the snorkeling great and lots of coves to explore. Best for us though was a reunion with “Misty Michael” and “ Paesano”, two boats that we shared a marina with many years ago in Nanaimo BC Canada. Gerry, Chris, Margarita and Goyo looked after us well. It was great to catch up over meals drinks and outings about the area. Even “Goof” the street dog that adopted Chris was adorable.
We had one night in the marina to facilitate the simple departure procedures. Though we tried the canal (moorage without services at a slightly cheaper rate), we found it was not 20ft deep as they said, but slightly less than 6ft! Mud I think but will dive on the keel soon.
So we had lots of hands to untie our lines and wave goodbyes. We left on a Thursday evening along with several other boats to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, a notorious high wind area blowing from the Gulf of Mexico across the break in mountain ranges. But also to avoid leaving on a Friday.