Thursday afternoon the wind stayed steady around 12 knots until six when it started to weaken. Come nine it was more easterly with only nine knots of breeze. We adapted our course to suit and enjoyed the steadier more relaxed movement of the boat as the seas flattened off. Yes we were now going less than five knots but the leisurely wallowing was definitely a refreshing change. During the night nothing happened – except we had a beautiful sunset followed by a spectacular show of stars – and we both slept well in the easier conditions. Friday morning (Day 7) and the wind started filling in again with another small shift in direction so we were able to pick up speed and move back slowly towards the rhumb line. Again the sun was late – almost 7 o’clock – but we had an amazing sunrise. The first on this trip! By 9 am we had covered another 122 miles, slower than before, but still above our target of 120 a day. The wind eased off again so we anticipated a low wind slow day ahead. Captain Bird’s Eye decided that these were good fishing conditions….we’ll have to see what that brings. At 10 we had a visit from a pod of pilot whales and dolphins who played around the boat for about 15 minutes – more smiles from the crew. It is not really very sunny but at least the skies are blue. We do need more sun and wind for battery maintenance though as we are having to charge them each day. But, so far so good, we have only used 10 gallons of diesel (out of 125). The wind remained light and variable coming from behind us so we returned to a fully extended poled out genoa….but the going was slow…..and stayed that way for the rest of the day and night. Saturday (Day 8) and we thought you might like to know how we typically fill our days at sea. The most important thing is that we have to be alert 24/7 so a day looks like this: 12 midnight – Jan on watch, Richard sleeping 3 am – Richard on watch, Jan sleeping 6 am – Jan on watch, Richard sleeping 8 am – Richard on watch, Jan sleeping 10 am – both up and about Until 1 pm we do a variety of things – showering, washing clothes, eating breakfast, preparing food for dinner, making water, replenishing water bottles in the fridge, downloading weather, checking lines and fittings for chafe, collecting and disposing of dead squid / flying fish, discuss routing strategy for next 24 hours, engine checks etc. We also listen out for creaks and groans and check instruments are operational. Lots of reading including researching our next port of call for customs / immigration and Richard fishes. Plus we also answer satellite emails from family and friends and play general knowledge games on the iPad. Oh yes and I’m a bit partial to the odd Suduko puzzle. 1 pm – Jan on watch. Richard usually sleeps but doesn’t always. 3 pm – Richard on watch. Jan usually sleeps but doesn’t always. 5 pm – both up. Jan cooks dinner, we eat and Richard washes up. 6 pm – Jan on watch – Richard sleeps 9 pm – Richard on watch – Jan sleeps. So we have up to 10 hours each a day allocated to sleep but it is split into two and three hour chunks – and three hours really isn’t three hours as you have to get ready for bed / ready for watch during the allocated time. So actual sleeping time is probably max 2 1/2 hours in one continuous session. And sometimes sleeping is interrupted – both of us are capable of single handling Morphie through most sail changes – but if we deploy the pole it takes two of us. So what are we up to while we are on watch? The main thing is to provide a look out for other vessels however we haven’t seen a single ship or yacht since we left the Galápagos last Saturday. The next job is to keep the boat moving and on course so we have to watch out for wind changes in speed or direction or adverse currents and alter the sails to suit. Between these jobs there is time for a bit of star gazing, dolphin/whale watching, reading or playing games to while away the hours. Final thought for the day….did you know this area is renowned for whales attacking boats? So we have swapped ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ for ‘Attack Whales of the Pacific’ LOL. Think I’ll take my chances with whales any time! Seriously, though, we will treat each large whale with suspicion and give it a wide berth. It is now Sunday morning (Day 9) and I’m pleased to report that we broke through the 1,000 mile barrier during the early hours. Woo hoo – we are a third of the way there! The sun came up this morning around 7ish and, although pretty cloudy, it is trying to break through. We are running parallel with the rhumb line again now – having gybed back towards it last night as we had been pushed away by the current. We also gull-winged for the first time on Morphie yesterday and that worked well. You’ll have to see the photo update on our arrival to find out what that means! The wind is staying steady around 12 knots and we are doing well….certainly we have enough boat speed to keep ploughing through the waves….so the movement of the boat isn’t that bad at the minute although we are rolling with the Pacific swell. We have just put forward our boat clocks to reflect the sunrise / sunset times which makes more sense for our shift patterns. So we are now working on UTC-7 / GMT-8 – our very own time zone LOL. Bye for now Jan
Monday afternoon we worked hard to cross the rhumb line motoring into the sizeable waves and it took a lot of time, effort and fuel….which gave us a bit of a wobble….. We talked, and thought about it, and realised that we were being daft and had to remind ourselves we’re in a marathon not a sprint! And we need to adapt to the weather better. If the wind comes from the wrong direction – deal with it.
So, in a more relaxed frame of mind, once we were five miles south of the rhumb line we found the wind and ceased the fight. We hoisted the sails and took off beating into the wind which was exhilarating and lumpy….and we continued to run slightly south but at least we were moving generally in the right direction again.
We were surrounded by rain clouds and lightning by the time we had dinner and we were bashing into the weather hard with winds now up to 20 knots. Thankfully the storms passed behind us and the wind started to moderate and backed off…so we eased the sails to reflect that we were now reaching. Ironically, though the decision to motor across the rhumb line was made for the wrong reasons, the strategy did actually work!
By midnight the wind was on a broad reach and sticking around the 10-15 knot range….although the seas were quite large. But we were making good way and running parallel with our rhumb line.
By Tuesday morning (Day 4) the wind had continued to clock and we were on a downwind run under poled out genoa only. Come 9am we had covered another 124 miles despite our setbacks the day before.
There was no sunrise again due to 100% cloud cover but the clouds did eventually break to give us a short-lived sight of the sun at around noon. Then the clouds filled in again and the batteries started to decline so we motor sailed for a while, using low revs to conserve fuel. The wind picked up and we had squalls all around – with a massive system to our starboard side – and the wind got up to 22 knots so we reefed down.
By midnight the wind had returned to the south east and moderated down to 10 knots again so we shook the reefs out and amended our course trying to run parallel with the rhumb line. We continue to average more than 5 knots boat speed per hour so going well. The boat movement remains annoying with the constant rolling from side to side and the odd rogue wave making life onboard a little tough – particularly sleeping and cooking.
By 6am on Wednesday (Day 5) the wind remained in the 8-12 knot range and we continued to run south of the rhumb line by about 12 miles which, in the scheme of things, isn’t too bad. The clouds are heavy again and the seas are grey too – and then by 7am the heavens opened and we had a very heavy downpour which continued most of the morning. By 9am we had covered another 137 miles – our best 24 hours to date.
The rain continued and the sea was blackish and neither of us were particularly happy. I didn’t go to bed as normal because I wanted to try another radio net – Richard hand steered and we shut everything down that could cause interference – but still no luck. I did check the radio and listened to a 24 hour broadcast channel and that was working – so not sure what is going on.
Richard was having so much fun hand steering he decided to give Colin (our autopilot) a rest and continued. When I resurfaced after a couple of hours kip the sun was out and the skies and sea were blue….and we both had smiles on our faces. Isn’t it a lovely day? But the movement is the same – the wind is the same – the direction is the same – in fact everything is the same other than the sun! Think we must both have been suffering from sun deficit LOL.
After dinner we enjoyed a reasonable sunset, the first in a while, the night was cloud free and we even saw stars. For the first time it was possible to differentiate between the sky and the horizon despite the lack of any moon. So it all felt that much better.
By 6am this morning (Thursday Day 6) the skies are heavy again and it remained particularly dark so we think we may be getting close to a different time zone. We are now in an area noted for dodgy weather – we are trying to skirt the top of the zone rather than plough through the middle – hopefully this strategy will pay off too.
At 9am we had covered another 131 miles. The sun came up, eventually, and the wind picked up too. Morphie was getting pounded running downwind with the pole up so we put away the pole, pulled out a reefed main and reefed gib, and steered closer to the wind. The seas are large (3m/10ft) and we are still rolling but not as madly as before.
Detox continues with no alcohol and lots of vegetables before they turn bad….. We are also taking rehydration powders every few days as the water we are drinking – from the water maker – is, in many ways, too pure. Dehydration is the main worry so we are doing this as a preventative measure to ensure good health.
We are both feeling tired but happy. Morphie is loving her time at sea although she’s not so keen on the kamikaze squid and flying fish that jump on her to die each night LOL.
Bye for now Jan
Friday night I decided to use the last $5 of our (tortoise slow) SIM credit to attempt to download the offshore weather app that had given us huge problems since an update caused it to get stuck (unusable) almost a month ago. So I connected the iPad and the phone on the chart table and left them there overnight and amazingly, it actually downloaded! So we can access satellite weather and routing on the iPad again. Woo hoo.
After final checks, we picked up anchor at 9.00 am on Saturday 22 April and enjoyed the sight of a huge square rigger as we left the harbour of Santa Cruz bound for the Marquesas. We had mixed feelings – sadness at leaving the Galapagos; excitement at returning to sea; combined with some trepidation over what we might face during this passage. Our longest by far – period. To put it into context for our UK sailing friends this is the equivalent of five Fastnet races back-to-back!
We motored beyond the harbour and we pulled out the main. We turned towards our first waypoint and set the genoa. The forecast had been for no wind at all for the first few days….but we had 10 knots….on a beam reach. We turned the engine off and thoroughly enjoyed the sensation of sailing again while we ate breakfast.
We continued sailing well throughout the day with only minor tweaks to the sail configuration…including poling out the genoa as the wind dropped and installing a preventer to stop the boom from accidentally gybing as the wind moved behind us. As we sailed between the islands of Isabela and Santa Maria we had a huge pod of dolphins come to visit and play. They were jumping and frolicking and taking it in turns to play at the bow. We had so much fun. And about an hour later we had a visit from another huge pod…. Was a lovely farewell from the Galapagos. Unusually there were no seal or turtle sightings but that was probably because of the lumpy seas.
The sailing was going much better than anticipated as we were boosted by a strong current and were managing 6-7 knots of boat speed in only 9 knots of breeze! We had dinner together before settling into our shift pattern and, as the wind was now very light, we furled the main away relying on the poled-out genoa only overnight. The wind dropped to 5-6 knots and our speed suffered but overall we were pretty happy with our first day at sea. After a lovely sunset we experienced a very dark moonless night but there was lots of phosphorescent activity in the water to captivate us.
By Sunday morning (Day 2) we had rain in the air, grey gloomy skies laden with threatening clouds which came with an increase in wind speed too, hovering around the 12 knot mark. The sea was building and we started rolling around a bit with the sails snatching as we surfed off the top of waves in different directions – so we put a reef in the genoa and pulled out a reefed main too. We were not wallowing so much as a result and had 7-8 knot boat speeds. Fantastic!
By 9am we had covered 131 miles on our first 24 hours at sea and the weather had deteriorated…..it was grey and raining with a swelly sea. The wind stabilised around 10 knots and our speed was 6 knots. To start with we didn’t mind the rain as it cleaned the salt off of Morphie. But it rained all day….the seas became more confused….and it was difficult to do anything because of the movement of the boat…it was all a bit tedious. There was no sunset either. The highlight of the day was seeing two seals relaxing on their backs, riding the current, 160 miles offshore from the Galapagos….. Didn’t realise they ventured this far from land!
For the first time I tried to take part in the Pacific Puddle Jump radio net. The timing of this net – at 7 / 7.30 pm local time – isn’t great for us as it always falls when Richard is off watch and he needs to sleep. But that’s fine as I’m the long-range radio operator on board anyway. However when I tried to connect there was lots of interference which was caused by the autopilot. I can’t hand steer and talk on the radio at the same time as the SSB is located down below at the chart table. So I gave up and returned to the cockpit to continue my watch. Will have to ponder alternatives.
During the night the rain persisted but the wind died so much we had to motor sail for a while. Finally at 4am this morning, Monday (Day 3) we were able to turn the engine off and get sailing again. By 6am the wind had filled in enough to get the main out and, although it looks like another gloomy rainy day ahead at least the seas are flatter, so the movement isn’t as bad as the uncomfortable conditions of the day before.
The significant downside to low wind and cloudy conditions is that the batteries start struggling without the input from the solar panels or the wind generator so we have been running the Honda generator intermittently to boost them.
At 9am we had completed another 128 miles in the second 24 hours – so still doing quite well overall. However, the wind direction has shifted southerly so, with the current as well, we are being pushed away from the rhumb line and the position of the wind according to the latest weather download. So we have just furled the genoa in and put the pole away – we are motor sailing with main alone towards our rhumb line directly into the light winds and we intend to cross the line and get back into the wind zone. Hopefully we’ll then see a switch back to the normal easterly trade winds to give us more reaching / downwind sailing going forward.
Bye for now Jan
Monday afternoon, as planned, Richard and I went ashore to enjoy our favourite beach for our last day on Isabela. We were very lucky as, almost immediately, we managed to get a ride in one of the local safari buses so avoided the long and hot walk.
On arrival we were delighted to find that ‘our’ tower was free so we quickly took up residence and admired the amazing view. We just chilled lying on bean bags, chatting, and drinking cold ones. And, for the first time, we got bar service to our perch so we didn’t even have to get up to get refills. We had a lovely time.
This is a 50 mile passage and we just took it slowly conserving fuel – spotted lots of turtles and seals – and then suddenly ‘splash’ this big dolphin jumped out of the water alongside us. He quickly moved to the bow – followed rapidly by both of us – and we watched him frolicking in the water turning sideways so that he could look at us as we looked at him. Always makes us smile when we have a dolphin encounter.
We managed to get a good anchor set so waited in the cockpit for our agent, Ronnie, to arrive. When he did come to collect our arrival zarpe – another $15 – he took away with him a few of our diesel cans for refilling. We are not allowed to purchase fuel here in the Galapagos. We had a quiet night on board and took ourselves off to bed early.
Wednesday morning we were up early and went into town. We hit all the hardware stores as Richard still wanted to buy some more bits and pieces. This day’s mission was silicone, glue and fan belts….just to top up the amount we have already of course! Here are a couple of pictures of Richard’s favourite stores.
We then got some more cash from the ATM. All transactions here in the Galapagos are in cash as they charge 19% on top of the bill if you want to use a credit card (most places do not take them) and as there were no banks / ATMs in Isabela our funds were a little low. Wallet refreshed, we hit the supermarket for another provisioning run.
This was mainly for household goods and to replace food products that we had eaten. Heading back to Morphie heavily laden we were forced back from the water taxi pier by some aggressive sea lions who decided our bags were a bit threatening….so ended up having to wait around for a little while. It seems they have priority LOL. Back on board by 4pm and Ronnie came by with our fuel – so we are fully laden again now. We had a quiet night in the cockpit before turning in.
During the night the swell made the anchorage hell on earth. We rolled side to side…we bounced up and down…and rolled again….and again….. Neither of us could sleep and suddenly the noise from the bow was horrendous – we went up to check at 2 am – to find that our snubber had come off and we think our anchor was caught around a rock beneath us as the chain was snatching so bad. This anchorage gets busy overnight with all the tour / cruise boats coming in and we swing 180 degrees at each tidal change. So picking up and re-anchoring in the middle of the very dark rainy night in a crowded space wasn’t really something we fancied. So we reset the snubber and toughed it out. At 6am we picked up and moved closer to the centre of the anchorage hoping for a less rolly experience – and went back to bed for a little while to try and recoup some sleep. The anchorage certainly looks much more attractive on a sunny day.
Mid-morning Thursday and we were back in town having dropped off our big laundry items. We headed out to do some more shopping and I bought a new cotton top and Richard got a souvenir tee shirt. We then both treated ourselves to a new tilly hat…you can guess who purchased which one by the logo LOL.
After shopping we headed to Café Hernan for lunch and shared some meat and chicken empanadas. They are really lovely – think Cornish pasty type snacks – but sadly we can’t find anywhere that sells / makes them or we’d pop some in the freezer for passage food! We then took advantage of their free wifi, despite its slow speed, and downloaded loads of books in preparation for our long passage.
We then hit the supermarket again….this time it was a beer and cold cabinet run. We headed back to Morphie and I got on with clothes washing while Richard did full engine checks and cleaned out the engine bay. He also made up another 12V power socket for the stern cabin. We then planned our passage for Saturday’s departure and programmed waypoints into our chartplotter, the iPad and the OpenCPN programme on the computer. Confident we are ready we sat in the cockpit and enjoyed a quiet evening with noticeably less rolling around than the night before. Was definitely time for an early night!
This morning, Friday, and we were upset to see that the freezer was playing up again. This happened just before we did the passage to the Galapagos too – so I guess it suffers from pre-passage nerves?!? Anyway….pressure checked….more gas inserted….defrosted and repacked….and thankfully it is now working properly again. In the middle of all this we also did the final batch of washing.
We headed into town and visited the fresh fruit and vegetable market. We also had a look at the butchers – didn’t fancy cows feet or sweetmeats LOL. The street vendors were also selling fresh fish but Richard is confident we will catch enough fish to top up the freezer so refused to be tempted. And final shop of the day was the bakers for some fresh bread rolls.
Back on board we unpacked and stowed everything away.
I started the blog while Richard chilled for a while. Later on we headed back into town to meet Ronnie to sort out our exit paperwork – and I had to say hi to the sea lion sitting on the pier’s bench. We also enjoyed the view out to the anchorage from the pier while we waited.
We got a taxi, first stop was Ronnie’s house as he’d forgotten to bring our international zarpe with him, and then drove to the immigration office. All fees paid and we were free to go having been relieved of another $41 – so we are now legally ready to depart from the Galapagos.
We came back to Morphie and I’m finishing the blog while Richard has just jumped into the water to clean the waterline again of the Galapagos grime – it is amazing how quickly the boat picks up a dirty waterline here in Santa Cruz.
We’ve had a great time in the Galapagos. The costs of bringing a private yacht here and the restrictions that the authorities place on us are pretty onerous, frustrating and time consuming. Not to mention the actual logistics of getting here as it is pretty remote. But was it worth it?!? Absolutely! The wildlife, the sea life, and the scenery have all been amazing. We will be leaving with some very special memories.
The passage to the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, is 2971 miles long in a straight line. So we expect to do more than 3,000 miles and anticipate some low wind days as well as anything else that the weather decides to throw at us. There are currents heading in the direction we are travelling but just a few degrees below there are adverse currents and we might have to stray into that territory to find the wind. So, overall, we expect this passage to take up to 5 weeks but could be even longer if the wind is light as we don’t have the capacity to carry enough fuel to motor all the way. While we are on passage we will be able to blog (text only) and download weather via the satellite system but will be offline otherwise. Please follow the tracker (on the Where are we now? tab) to keep an eye on us.
Friday morning we did a few boat jobs before getting a water taxi into the pier.
We then managed to get a land taxi to take us to the other end of the town saving us the 30 minute walk to the Booby Trap as we wanted to speak to James the agent. We had asked him to get our exit Zarpe organised earlier in the week to try to avoid double fees because of the Easter holiday. Amazingly he had it in hand ready for us and no overtime charged. Very pleased about that.
We had lunch at his café before following the sand road towards the wetlands trail. We started off walking on wooden bridges across the deep orange/red coloured water presumably caused by metal deposits. We quickly came across some ducks, some flamingos and other birds. So we enjoyed watching them for a while.
We continued walking and quickly the path turned to an ash one crossing over lava flows which were adorned with the usual cactus.
We meandered up and down for a while until finally we reached our destination which was the tortoise breeding centre. There are two different species found here on the volcanic slopes on Isabela and they are breeding them to ensure their survival. The original tortoises in this centre were rescued from a volcanic eruption and have managed to increase their population ten fold in just a few years. The most noticeable difference is the shape of their shells….with some of them looking like they have been squished LOL. Oh yes…and did you know that giant tortoises yawn?!?
Leaving the breeding centre we walked the dusty road back rather than following the trail again…and it was much quicker. We arrived on the deserted beach and just took in the spectacular views. Suddenly there were birds everywhere – frigates, boobies and pelicans alike – and a feeding frenzy was underway. There were hundreds of them and lots of synchronised diving with the male boobies calling the shots with their loud whistles. Amazing sight!
We continued walking until we arrived at our favourite beach bar and said hi to the marine iguanas on the beach – even catching a shot of one of them swimming – and made camp in hammocks having a cold restorative beer. Just watching the surf coming in on this deserted coastline is a sight to treasure. We loved watching the pelican taking time out on the beach too away from his friends.
Fully refreshed we headed back but not before stopping off at the local beach to check out the sea lions – who were being mischievous and sleeping on towels left by unsuspecting tourists who had gone into the sea. And they weren’t giving them back any time soon! The baby seal was there again too striking another cute pose.
Back to Morphie for another quiet night in the cockpit.
Saturday morning and it was time for boat jobs. Richard did some varnish keepers while I cleaned all the stainless steel. It was hard to stay focused because every now and again the baby seal would swim under Morphie and look up at me….. Not to mention the pelican who sits on the big buoy behind us….and the big fish that just swim by. It’s a good job this isn’t penguin season – apparently they are off breeding elsewhere – as I’m not sure the stainless would have got done if they were swimming around the boat too LOL. Richard then did engine checks and routine maintenance in preparation for our departure from Isabela on Tuesday morning. Around lunchtime we headed into town via water taxi and got another land taxi – we’ve been very lucky the last few days.
The purpose of going into town was to pay for our diving on Sunday – but the office was closed. Lots of places close here for a few hours in the afternoon. So we wandered the beach promenade and found a local restaurant for lunch which was very nice.
We then went back and paid for our diving….hopped another taxi back to the pier….and got a water taxi back to Morphie. We had a quiet evening on board. Oh yes…and a big ship had come into the anchorage…and was overloading loads of cargo onto barges to be taken ashore. We expected fridges / freezers and fresh produce but not trucks….
Sunday morning we were up early and got our gear ready…and the dive boat Gaby came by and collected us. We sped across the channel towards Tortuga – which is another volcanic island with a sunken crater rim which was the destination for our dive.
We jumped in and went down into the nutrient-rich waters which makes for limited visibility . We enjoyed both dives and particularly the sights of the sharks (including hammerheads woo hoo), seals, turtles, huge numbers of fish and much more. Favourite fish of the day was the yellow puffer fish which we’ve never seen before. Was spectacular diving but, again, with the murky water it was difficult to get good photos but here are the best of the bunch.
This morning, Monday, and we awoke to a fantastic sunrise.
I’m blogging while Richard is keeping busy checking the football scores LOL. We are planning a final beach afternoon today before heading out of here early tomorrow – Tuesday – to return to Santa Cruz to do the clearing out process and final provisioning. We are hoping to start our passage to the Marquesas on Saturday but will keep you posted.
Bye for now
Sunday morning we were up early, got a water taxi ashore, and then waited on the dock for our tour boat. Lots of other tourists came and went…and we sat there…wondering what was going on. Finally, about 45 minutes later, some tourists turned up with a tour guide for our trip. Clearly the 8 am rendezvous time must have been at the office in town which is a 20 minute walk away rather than on the dock.
We piled into the boat with the other tourists which were another international group with two Germans, four British (including us), one Australian and two Ecuadorians. We enjoyed the view of Morphie at anchor on our way through before the captain opened the throttles and we took off down the coast at speed.
Moving on we turned towards the reef and suddenly the captain is gunning it and we are surfing the large waves through a narrow gap in the rocks. This trip is definitely not for anybody with a nervous disposition!
And we entered a world of lava tunnels and bridges dotted with cactus. It has absolutely spectacular scenery and was very quiet and sedate after our dramatic entrance. We motored through this area quietly just taking it all in…
The lava is not thick in places and is full of cracks and crevices – with nothing to hold on to – unless you fancy a fistful of needles from a cactus! We found a breeding boobie pair and quite a few single males looking for a lifetime of love as they only ever have one partner. These birds are amazing and they really didn’t mind us getting up close and personal.
Back into the boat and we meandered around for a little while longer between the rock formations before the captain gunned the engine again to get over the breaking waves beyond the reef. These guys know what they are doing! Finally we were outside and motoring along the coastline again and we came across a manta ray in the water. Sadly he didn’t hang around long enough for a photo but was lovely to see him – he had about a 12 foot wingspan so probably only a juvenile.
We then headed back through the crashing surf into another area behind the reef. The water was pretty murky but this was our snorkelling destination so we jumped in. Before we had even got ten yards we came across a huge – I mean small car size – turtle. Amazing! Then another…and another….and another. At one point there were three turtles in sight at one time. Sadly the gloomy conditions meant that photos aren’t great – but here are a few anyway.
Moving away from the turtle area and we came across a shark swimming around. The guide then took us to a rock and told us to approach one by one…and dive down…and have a look. Well the cave is full of sharks resting. Wow! Shame we weren’t kitted out with scuba tanks as a snorkel dive wasn’t just long enough to watch them properly.
Once everyone had seen the sharks we then headed closer to the mangroves – through some very shallow water – to another area. The guide was looking for a seahorse. And, in all that gloom, he actually found one! It was much bigger than any we had seen before…and glad that we managed to get a picture of him.
Back on board Morphie we enjoyed the views from the cockpit before the heavens opened and we had another downpour. At least Morphie is getting a clean LOL. We had a very stormy sunset before an early night.
Monday morning and we were up early. We still had problems with the iPad weather app so wanted to go to the internet café to see if we could resolve it. So we hailed a water taxi and headed into town. The 15 minute walk into the centre of town is hot and has no shade but, so far, we have failed to hail a truck taxi which costs only $1-2 apparently. We dropped our laundry off first and then found the internet place and logged on – and we managed to delete the frozen app to start again. So that’s a great start. But then someone else came in and logged on….and a women started skyping on the phone….so we were unable to reload it. But at least we know it is just a slow connection speed issue rather than the iPad going wrong. On the long way back to the boat we tried to find fresh produce and bread but failed on both counts.
We got a water taxi back to Morphie. The tide was low so we could see rocks appearing throughout the anchorage….and the driver had to take a very long circuitous route to get us back.
We weren’t back for very long just enough time to get changed and drop off computers etc. Then we got into beach wear and headed back into town. I chatted to the iguanas near the beach and, again, no taxis available.
We walked into and through town to the beach at the far end and settled into the bar. We had a lovely time chatting with Remy (our Australian buddy from the day before) and had a bob in the water – Richard even tried out the hammocks. Oh yes and I negotiated two free large beers for us as my sun dress got ruined when I sat at the bar on a seat which had just been cleaned with bleach!
Tuesday morning and I was struggling with my dodgy legs. All the walking, snorkelling and the climbing on and off water taxis and boats had taken its toll. So we both had a lazy day although Richard did go into town to collect our laundry. Oh yes….and some excitement.….when a large catamaran was declined entry into the harbour. They had had their international zarpe issued and had checked out in Santa Cruz – and used the excuse that their daughter was ill to gain a couple of days grace in Isabela. The answer was a strict no from both the agent and the port authorities so they were forced to start their long passage to the Marquesas….that’s what you get when you try to find a way around the rules!
Wednesday morning and I felt a bit better. I did the clothes washing – we only take our sheets and towels to the laundry – and Richard cleaned the Galapagos grime from the waterline of Morphie. The growth sure builds up here in this nutrient-rich environment. Later on we got ready to go to the beach again and hailed a water taxi. We enjoyed watching the seals playing in the surf as we arrived and check out the baby posing on the beach. What a cutie!!!
We got to the beach bar and were delighted to find the little private tower unoccupied. So we took up residence, enjoyed the spectacular views and just chilled over a couple of cold ones. We had a lovely time.
Afterwards we wandered town again and this time found potatoes and tomatoes – woo hoo!!! And the bakers was open….so we finally have bread again…. We walked back to Morphie slightly laden as we had found a shop selling canned beers and sodas much cheaper than in Santa Cruz so we thought we might as well replenish our stocks while we are here.
This morning, Thursday, and we were just getting ready to go into town when a huge pontoon boat picked up the giant mooring behind us. When we anchored this was a fair way away from us but as the wind has swung more easterly it is a bit closer. So Richard stayed on board while I went into town for my hair appointment….and I finally got a taxi….woo hoo! Had a nice experience at the hairdressers although was a bit surprised that they didn’t have running water so my hair was rinsed using a jug from a bucket. Back to Morphie and Richard had cleaned up down below, swapped out a faulty pressure gauge on the water maker and had tested it by making some more drinking water. He’s now reading while I’m blogging – we’ll probably just stay put for the rest of the day.
We have decided to stay here for Easter and chill on the beach. The volcano rim trip, sadly, isn’t going to work as they leave at silly o’clock in the morning and there is no way the water taxis will be working that early to get Richard ashore. So that’s off the list but we have found out that that there is an inland lagoon that is full of flamingos so we hope to explore that instead.
Bye for now
Wednesday morning we headed into town in preparation for our full-day snorkelling trip to Pinzon Island. We got the water taxi and turned up in the guy’s office at 7.45 am as arranged. And…he then tells us…that the operator got it wrong and had booked us on the boat for Thursday instead. Not impressed! We said OK we’ll go tomorrow but, if that trip doesn’t happen, we want a full refund.
Disappointed we are now in town very early in the morning in swimsuits carrying snorkelling gear and nowhere to go. We decided to follow the signs to Tortuga Beach. Well….we found the entrance to the national park….and walked along this path through the brush.
It went up and down and up and down and over a hill and, after about 50 minutes, we finally arrived at this beautiful beach. The surf was raging and the flags were red as there are strong currents here. We admired the view and paddled in the water. There is another beach further around the headland which apparently is good for swimming, but I certainly didn’t fancy the additional 30 minutes’ walk on the softest sand you could image with my dodgy legs.
So after a recuperative bottle of water we made the very hot, long and sweaty walk back towards town. We stopped for a cold soda on the way and debated returning to Morphie. But although pretty tired we wanted to carry on… so took a water taxi across the bay… and did another hike towards the grottos. This was up and down an earth and rock path so was pretty hard going at times particularly on top of the exertions of the morning.
But we were delighted when we arrived that, although we had to share it with quite a few tourists, the grottos were really pretty and we enjoyed swimming and snorkelling around. Thankfully we had the proper footwear this time to get into and between the pools. We were surprised to see quite big parrot fish in the 10m depths which meant that it was salt water.
We trekked back to town revived by our cooling dip and got a water taxi back to Morphie. And that is where we stayed for the rest of the day and evening.
Thursday morning and, again, up very early for our snorkelling tour. The guide was late and we had an international group made up of two Ecuadorians, two Chinese (but living in the US), four South Koreans and us. Finally – around 8.45 am – we boarded our small boat and took off at very high speed along the rocky shoreline of Santa Cruz. We enjoyed the trip out and the first stop was Sugarloaf Rock.
We enjoyed watching the seals sleeping along the fissures of the rock obviously waiting for the tide to come back in. Sadly with all the movement of the boat it was not possible to capture them snoozing on the ledges. Leaving the rock behind us at speed we arrived at Pinzon Island.
We dropped anchor and jumped into the water. Immediately we were met by huge angel fish looking to feed on the growth on the bottom of the boat…and then we saw a shark….and then a turtle….and then we played with a baby seal….and another turtle….and schools of huge fish….and puffers…..and another shark….and the list goes on. We did two snorkels in this area and loved it – despite it being rock with no colourful coral – the fish life was just amazing. Woo hoo….fantastic!
As we neared Santa Cruz and motored down the coastline we worked our way behind a reef to a place called Se Fe which is wild, rugged with cactus and shallow water. Here we were treated to a chicken curry lunch and sodas…. then they all went back in for another snorkel. Both Richard and I felt pretty tired so we didn’t go back into the water and just enjoyed spending time bobbing around on the boat.
The gang all returned and the captain started counting up his fins….and one of the Korean girls had to own up to losing one of them. Seriously…..this was frustrating. If she had told someone at the time there was a chance of recovery but now with the tide going out that was unlikely – although our guide Lenny did jump back in have a look around. But by now the depth is becoming critical and there are standing waves as the tide meets the surf….and the captain was getting anxious. So they had to give up and we were very impressed by the captain’s skill in getting us out of there. Stupid girl – oh yes and she couldn’t even swim! Seriously who books a snorkelling trip when you can’t swim?!? Her mother, her sister and her were kitted out in life jackets and kicked themselves around by holding onto a life ring. We headed back towards town and Lenny forced the girl to pay up for the gear she had lost – didn’t blame them at all!
Back in the harbour we transferred to a water taxi which, kindly, took us straight back to Morphie. Had been another long and tiring day but it had been pretty special. We had a quiet night on board.
The navigation towards Isabela was pretty straight forward once we had cleared the rocky headland but then things got a bit tougher as some of the rocks and islands were completely missing from some of the charts!!! Between our Garmin chartplotter, the Navionics on the iPad and the OpenCPN on the computer we worked it out but it wasn’t the easiest passage. The rock below rose from the sea bed which was 143 feet deep.
Finally we had a little bit of wind and we motor sailed the last few miles before the wind died again as the skies darkened and threatened bad weather.
We picked our way into the anchorage and dropped the hook. We got a good set straight away and called the agent on the VHF. He gave us permission to anchor (oops we were supposed to do this first!?!) and then the heavens opened. It rained cats and dogs…
At around 3.30 pm a small dinghy came alongside with three officials on board who did our inspection. They were only young lads and completely soaked through to the skin – so the offer of a towel to dry off went down well – and despite their no English and my limited Spanish we made ourselves understood and were cleared to go ashore. We radioed the agent again and told him we had passed inspection – he asked if we were coming ashore – and we said no we thought we’d sit it out (in the rain) and we were also feeling pretty tired after our 50 mile passage. Was that OK? He said fine bring me all the paperwork in the morning. So we settled down to watch a lovely sunset before we turned in having celebrated our arrival with a couple of cold beers.
This morning, Saturday, and we got a water taxi into town (double the price of Santa Cruz) and were charged a tourist tax of $10 per head to set foot ashore. Luckily it is only a one off so I’m keeping those receipts handy to avoid paying it again. First locals we met were a sea lion hanging out and the largest marine iguana we have ever seen….
We walked down the road towards Puerto Villamil – the main town – and were delighted by the look and feel of the place. Laid back…less busy…unpaved roads in places…and this feels much more like the Galapagos we were expecting to see.
We walked through town to the agent’s café – the Booby Trap – and he wants copies of loads of documents that were issued to us in San Cristobal. Bolivar said that they shouldn’t need anything other than what he had given us – seems Isabela are doing things differently these days. And, of course, the agent doesn’t have a copier….. He could have warned us of his requirements before we left the boat as we would have got them ready. So we headed into town and found a shop that did photocopies – got them made – and returned them to him. Oh yes – because he is processing the papers today on a Saturday – he doubled the $15 fee for overtime. So that’s why he didn’t care if we came ashore yesterday. Not impressed!!! Not sure he should be an agent really when he told us, quite candidly, that he was very happy with the huge fees being levied against private boats as it kept people away. He really shot himself in the foot though as we won’t be spending our hard-earned savings in his establishment now.
On the way through town we talked to a few tour agents and managed to get a snorkelling trip to the ‘tunnels’ booked for tomorrow, Sunday, at a reduced ‘last minute’ price. So we are looking forward to that, especially as the area is famous for manta rays, boobies and beautiful scenery. And we hope to see penguins too. Richard is thinking of doing a volcano rim hike but, at five hours on foot, I know that is beyond my ankle on rough terrain so think I’ll sit that one out! So lots to do here and we look forward to doing more exploring. On the way back to the dock we had to avoid the families of huge marine iguanas….
Oh yes… we’ve just had a baby seal come by looking lovingly at our transom and a heron actually sat on Morphie to shelter from the rain. It will be interesting to find out if we have a friend in the morning LOL.
We are actively now debating our departure. We have to return to Santa Cruz to check out of the Galapagos Islands for our passage to the Marquesas. And we hadn’t factored Easter into this at all. We think much will be shut on Santa Cruz and, if we stayed here, at least we have a beach to play on and chill. Then back to Santa Cruz for a very short time – shopping for fresh produce and drinks supplies – before heading off out. Decisions, decisions, decisions…
Bye for now
Thursday morning we were up very early as we planned to leave San Cristobal around 6am as the sun came up. We got ourselves ready and then we realised that the autopilot was not working. And the windlass was slipping again…that just needed a tighten up…but the autopilot refused to play despite swapping out fuses etc. So we decided to go without and hand steered out into a beautiful glassy flat day – just shame there was no wind.
We arrived just after 4pm after our 44 mile passage having passed the island of Santa Fe to starboard.
The anchorage is rocky and not well charted so we felt our way in gingerly and anchored off to one side. The set we got was so good that I thought I was going to be catapulted off the bow when the anchor caught LOL. Anyway….we called the agent….and he came by around 5pm. No officials otherwise just another $15 and a passing over of papers from Bolivar in San Cristobal. Great…we are legit again.
We didn’t want to go ashore and leave Morphie until we were sure she was safe so we just had a couple of beers in the cockpit and had an early night after watching a spectacular sunset. On both our minds was the autopilot issue….we can’t continue without an autopilot as it would be impossible for us both to hand steer for the next 3k miles… What would we do?!?
First thing Friday morning we changed fuses – blew some more up – and by a process of elimination we worked out where the cable was routed through the boat into the binnacle. We also knew that the master computer and the autopilot head were both operational otherwise they wouldn’t be blowing fuses. So we checked the cable….and pulled and pushed in some very tight hot sweaty spots….and couldn’t find anything untoward. So we took the plotter out of the binnacle and found a join in the autopilot cable which looked suspect. Richard stripped it…rejoined it….and phew the autopilot came back to life!!! We were very very happy….and greatly relieved.
We decided to go ashore in the afternoon, wander the town and get some internet. Well…we were shocked to find that no alcohol was being sold between Friday and Monday lunchtime because of the Ecuadorian elections. So bars were shut, restaurants were empty, supermarkets and shops had padlocks and tourists were not impressed LOL. We got our internet fix and headed back to Morphie for a couple of cold ones in the cockpit – but not before we had found at least two hardware stores and a large supermarket with fantastic bread!!! Woo hoo….
Saturday morning we were up early and were relieved to find the autopilot was still working LOL. The anchorage started to fill up with Oyster boats which are on an around-the-world Rally and lots of stern anchors are being deployed. We couldn’t deploy one ourselves because of the boats surrounding us – and, anyway, the rolling wasn’t that bad. But it does cut down space for others as there are all these little anchor balls to avoid – and the water taxis are clearly not impressed!!!
We headed into town with our gas bottle – armed with the name of the company who could fill it – to find that the owners are Seventh Day Adventists so do not open on Saturdays. Never mind we found a nice café and had coffee before heading back to Morphie for the rest of the day.
Sunday morning we were up early again and headed into town with the gas bottle. We took a taxi to the store and they confirmed that they could fill it – happy days – so we left it with them to collect it on Monday. We then decided to continue to explore the town and admired the street art…the restaurants…the bars….the fish market….and the views of the rocky anchorage. It is really pretty here.
At the fish market there were birds looking for handouts and we enjoyed watching their antics for a while – not to mention the skills of the people working there filleting the fish.
We also spotted a crazy tortoise buggy and another strange looking vehicle. Oh yes and we came across a nice iguana (land version) and our first bit of education around the headhunting past of the locals..
The heavens then decided to open and the streets were a bit treacherous for us wearing flip flops so we found a nice café and ate ice cream while we sat it out. Then we carried on walking towards the Charles Darwin Research Station and enjoyed the sights and sounds along the way. Behind the scenes of the waterfront though, the housing is pretty poor and the strict rubbish laws appear to be ignored in the residential areas.
Arriving at the Darwin Centre we enjoyed following the tortoise path and entered the giant tortoise breeding centre….
It was very informative and neither of us knew that the temperature of the eggs during incubation determined the sex. Anyway…we checked out little tortoises…middle-sized tortoises….giant tortoises…and one making a run for freedom. And, of course, as this is a breeding centre we also came across a couple having sex. The noises and grunts were not attractive and apparently it goes on for two to three hours….the female did not look like she was having fun!!!
At the end of the tortoise breeding centre walk we were ushered into an air-conditioned waiting area – not sure why. So we just followed the crowd and were surprised to find ourselves looking at the late Lonesome George… What a sad end to an amazing creature.
We continued on and enjoyed the iguana exhibit particularly as this type is unique here. Also we learnt how the scientists are actively trying to eradicate an invasion of foreign egg-killing flies which are threatening the extinction of the mangrove finch population. And, of course, let’s not forget that we met up with a young version of Darwin.
Moving back towards the town we stopped at a local hotel and had a couple of waters. We loved the sea lion snoozing area and lost count of the number of marine iguanas we saw. Sea lions are not so prolific here as in San Cristobal….which seems a bit strange really.
Leaving the hotel we came across some land iguanas and did a bit of shopping – of course Richard had to get a new baseball cap. We also arranged to go on a highland tour on Monday afternoon.
We also received the sad news that Richard’s brother-in-law Peter had passed away which took the wind out of our sails a bit. We knew he was ill before we left so had visited whilst at home but the news was still a shock. Our hearts go out to the Culpan family – we are sorry not to be there with you at this difficult time.
Monday morning we were up really early and got a water taxi into town. We hired a taxi and, first stop, was the propane shop. And it was filled – yay – that’s a relief. Then we headed to another store for more fuses…and another for some more. I think Richard has cleared out the island but he feels happier now that we have a larger supply just in case we experience more difficulties with the cable. We also managed to find 20m of data cable in case he has to rewire it completely.
Back to Morphie for a quick lunch and to drop off our gas bottle and purchases….and then back into town for our tour. We had a private taxi with an English speaking guide. We admired the scenery driving through the towns on the way to the highlands and were amazed by the huge well-maintained cycle lanes. The explanation is that they hold international cycling races here.
We eventually turned into a dirt road which was framed by trees making a tunnel-like effect.
We arrived at the privately-owned ranch and had to pay $3 each to get in. We wandered the grounds and came across loads of wild roaming giant tortoises – some asleep, some in the bushes, some in the mud and most of them eating fresh fruit. They were either chilled and ignored us or they grunted their displeasure so we moved on. It was amazing to see these fascinating tortoises in their own environment – and some of the boys are huge!!!
We then entered the lava tunnels which were scored out by lava flows beneath the surface and, unusually, some of the tunnels had multiple layers indicating more than one volcanic event. It was absolutely fascinating.
And, finally, we drove off to visit a huge crater. This was created by a lava flow stopping at the top of the crater – the top section cooled and created a crust – and then when the lava when back into the earth the crust collapsed leaving behind this sinkhole. Shame it was raining at this point as we would have liked to have lingered a little longer. I think you would need a drone to get the full effect of it though.
Back to town we realised that there were more people about – the locals particularly like their crushed ice drinks.
The bars were selling beer again so we went for a wander, had a couple of drinks and a bite to eat, before coming back to Morphie for the night.
Today, Tuesday, and I’m suffering the effects from the local food last night. We didn’t really consider the hygiene standards of the place we ate. Richard, of course, with his iron constitution is completely fine despite us eating the same meal! So we are having a lazy day – we have to sort out the bank as our card got refused in the ATM yesterday – and the iPad decided to freeze our most important weather app. Luckily there is a PC version so we have still have access to the data just not in such a good format. So it looks like we need to ‘chat’ with Apple too….. And we moved from bar / café / bar to get strong internet but it was rubbish today. We are actually getting a better service from the mobile hotspot using our phone with a local SIM card. I’m glad there is such a great water taxi service here.
We had planned to go to a nice restaurant tonight but that’s definitely not on the cards now LOL. Tomorrow we are heading out on a full-day snorkelling trip to another island – which we are not allowed to visit in Morphie – so looking forward to that. Apparently this is another shark opportunity but I’ll not believe it until I see it!
Oh yes… and officialdom is driving us nuts…. We have a local Zarpe to go to our third island Isabela but there is no immigration there to check us out. So the information we had was that you check out here with immigration…go to Isabela…and leave from there towards the Marquesas. But that is no longer possible so they want us either to bring Morphie back to Santa Cruz to check out or we pay another $215 and they’ll send an immigration official to Isabela to stamp our passports. As the ferry only costs $60 return trip we think that is a rip-off so we are going to come back here for our international departure papers.
Bye for now