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November 2008

photos at bottom of page (text that refers to a photo is followed by o)  

November 3rd, we dropped our mooring lines that we had been attached to for the past seven months.  We first moved the boat closer to town, because on the day that you leave, the Port Captain has to come out and do a final inspection o.  So, at 6:00 am, there he was.  We pulled out of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador on the high tide at 6:30 am, bound for the Galapagos Islands.  The thing about passages is that you never can plan exactly how long it will take.  It could take five days, it could take two weeks.  You have to be well stocked up on all of your supplies and ready for the worst case scenario.  We had three trying situations going on as we pulled out; one was that Nancy's father was not doing well health wise, and then had a nasty fall and ended up in the hospital; two, our cat was very sick; and three, there was a complication with the city, a neighbor and our house in Santa Barbara.  All kinds of fun, especially when you are not reachable and it is not possible to just jump on a plane and get somewhere.  Included below are our underway entries from our blogspot, please excuse grammar and spelling etc... we were a bit punchy from lack of sleep!  Following the underway reports are our adventures once we arrived.

Day 1-  "Here we are, about 45 miles off the coast of Ecuador, at 00.17 South, 08.107 West. We headed out due west at about 6:30 am after being boarded and checked out by the Port Captain. Four boats left at same time. Two headed north and one south. We are the only ones going out to the Galapagos. We have had 10-12 knots out of the west southwest. We caught a four foot Wahoo o in the afternoon, and are currently putting it on the grill and looking forward to a delicious dinner. We just had our first dolphin sighting and it was special. There were several Risso's Dolphins mixed in with the common dolphins. They are very cute, with their rounded, light heads. Hopper was very excited. Sia is still very sick, but we are giving liquids every couple of hours and have to help her to relieve herself. This was challenging enough when we were in a calm anchorage, but we are managing. Nancy was laying down most of the day, and ended up getting a bladder infection as well as sea sick. So much fun. It was still a pretty nice day all in all."

Day 2-  "We are in the evening of our second day. As of 7pm, we are at 00.09 south, 082.48 west. Good winds and a bit confused seas. This makes for a little more uncomfortable ride. We started the morning about 100 miles off shore with a visit by a couple of long liners. You would picture these coming from bit factory ships or something similar, but it was just two guys to a panga (a small open boat), laying their line, which can be miles long with hundreds to thousands of hooks coming off it, and guarding their area. Pretty amazing to see them that far out in the ocean in such a small boat. Nancy first saw the panga and flag of the one to starboard, and then a couple of minutes later of the one to port. Mike was awakened to check out the situation. The panga on the port approached us first and asked for some water, which would have been fine, but we discovered that we do not have any extra water bottles on board. We gave them some of our expired water packs from our life raft (that we just had serviced). Then, the other panga approached about 15 minutes later to tell us where his net was. One of the fellows was rubbing his belly, so we gave him some crackers along with some more of the water packs. That was our excitement for the day. Oh yea, there was also Nancy getting sick after lunch. Now that was exciting! Anyway, things are good. It seems that the seas are calming down a bit. Yesterday we made 95 miles. It should take us 6 days at this rate."

Day 3/4-  "Here we are, past the point of no return. Our coordinates as of 1400 are: 00.22 south, 086.27 west. We are about 350 miles out from the coast of Ecuador, sailing along with some great winds. Today, it has been about 12-18 knots out of the south-southwest. That puts the wind right off our beam. We have been doing a steady 6-7 knots all night and day. That is pretty spectacular for this old, fat boat! The seas are about 6 feet with wind chop on top of that. Not bad, but we are not able to get much done either since we are heeled over pretty far. The only problems with all this, is that being heeled over so far, our generator output is too far under the water on one side and overheats because the exhaust can't push out, and then our water-maker is on the uphill side and is just sucking air instead of water. Yesterday, we were joined by two red footed Boobies. They are so cute and funny o. They kept us entertained for hours, especially on the night watch. Our watches have been going pretty smoothly, Dana has from 8-10 pm, Fletcher has 10-12, Mike comes on at midnight and goes as long as he can before he wakes Nancy to take us through the night and beyond the dawn. Usually, by 8:00 am everyone else is up and Nancy can go lie down.

"Dana is hoping that tonight is the last of our fresh fish for dinner. That Wahoo, that we caught the first day, is lasting a long time. Hopefully, all of the other meats that we had bought will still be good. It would be helpful to have a freezer, but, we don't. Breakfast most days has been cereal, lunch has been PBJ's, quesadillas, mac and cheese and other easy snack food. Dinner everyday has been that fish. It is delicious, but it will be nice to have something else for dinner tomorrow!

"On another note, yesterday, Sia (who has been sick with some kind of liver ailment) had some kind of convulsions, stroke, we are not sure. She was sort of paralyzed and contorted all day yesterday. Today, I did lots of massage and my version of kitty physical therapy and she seems to be responding. All of her legs push back against me now. Her head is still a bit tweaked to one side, but she does not seem to be in any pain. She still responds by wagging her tail and purring when she is pet. We still have not given up hope, although yesterday surely tested us.

"We are looking at getting to the Galapagos on Sunday morning. We can't wait to be anchored, although it has been a beautiful sail, it will be weird to have the boat sort of level under us and to be able to open cabinets without all of the contents spilling out and rolling all over the boat! Sometimes it takes all four of us to get one thing out of a cupboard. One person opens the door, one holds the person who is trying to get something out and hold everything else in, and the other person grabs whatever is meant to come out. Sort of a Laurel and Hardy routine, but it seems to be working and gets the whole family involved in even the simple tasks!"

Day 5-  "Sighted land at 1500 hrs o.  Had a really nice sail yesterday with sunshine and calm seas while going 6-7 kts. Sunset was accompanied by several young humpback whales. They were breaching and spy-hopping and tail slapping. They were halfway between near and far and quite the sight to see. We had a windy night and were sailing about 5-6 knots with all of the sails reefed down. A little more rolly than earlier in the day, but we were making good time. All is well on board, we are getting into the swing of being at sea. We just kind of hang out. It is too rolly to play cards, play games or do school. Everyone has been reading and reading, with eating in between. We will have a lot of work to do once we get to the islands, just cleaning up the boat and catching up on things that should have been done along the way. Sia, the cat, has had slight improvement. Hour by hour, we are hoping for the best, or planning for the worst. We shall see if she pulls through. Dana is very excited that the last of the Wahoo has been eaten. We had yummy fish sandwiches for lunch with the leftovers of the grilled fish from last night. We have a basil plant on board now, so there was even some diced up fresh basil in the mix. Really delicious, better by far than tuna! We should arrive at the anchorage on San Cristobal early morning Sunday."

Day 6-  "We are anchored safely at Isla San Cristobal o, Galapagos at 0830. It took us exactly five days. It would have been shorter, but we had to slow down to arrive at sun up in the anchorage. All in all, we had a great passage and sailed 95% of the time. Had a little rain on our way into the anchorage early this morning, but the sun is now coming out. There are only three other sailboats here and after breakfast we will start exploring the island. First, we will have to complete our check in procedure. We did get an agent to get us our permit, so hopefully, check in will be relatively painless. We may wait until tomorrow, since it is Sunday. We have gotten the boat straightened up from the passage. Everything gets a little crazy, dirty and salty underway. Now we are just relaxing and catching up on a couple of things and resting up from five days with minimum amounts of uninterrupted sleep."

As you can imagine, we were so excited to be in the Galapagos, and to get off the boat.  Poor Hopper, the dog, had to watch as we went off to shore without him!  This torture was to last for the whole time, from when we left Ecuador until we got to Mexico.  He is not allowed off the boat in the Galapagos.  He has a box on the back of the boat that he uses when we are underway, but he is not very pleased with the situation now that we are anchored.  We knew about this in advance, but what can you do?  The town itself is very clean and newly renovated for the influx of tourism. There are sea lions everywhere o!  We were there on the edge of high season, so there weren't too many people and we were able to still work some deals on tours. Food here is less expensive than we had expected. We went to the mercado and got two full bags of fruits and vegetables for $10.00. Lunch, (almeurzo), which includes soup, fresh juice, the days selection of meat, salad and rice is $2.50. We went out for dinner and had a shrimp plate for $4.00, and a lobster plate for $6.00. Of course there are the more expensive, tourist oriented restaurants, but we try to stay away from these. Our first day, we met with our agent, had a nice lunch in town, and then took off to do some exploring.  We first went to the National Park Interpretation center and learned more about the islands and their history.  Next, we went on a hike to some scenic spots and a great bay for snorkeling.  Boy were we surprised by the water temperature!  It is chilly.  Even though the islands are right on the equator, the current that runs through this area is from the cold waters off of southern South America, the Humboldt Current.  The water is very clear, and cooler than we expected, around 65-69 degrees F.  We had a nice snorkel, saw wildlife o, and then returned to the boat for dinner and a good nights sleep.

The first week, we explored close to town, did a couple of days of school, and got the boat cleaned up for visitors.  We were saving the big trips for our guests, Nancy's brother and nephew. We have had several close encounters with Sea Lions o which seem to be everywhere, and some neat experiences with Marine Iguanas o & Lava Lizards o. Everyday, we go for a walk to some nearby cove or beach. One day snorkeling, another day, swimming. Just looking around at all the birds and critters. Fletcher has surfed at Canons, and then we went to Tonga Reef o, which was a spectacular spot. This island is famous for its great surfing, so he was very excited to be there.  He also surfed Punta Carolla o.

After much anticipation, Nancy's brother, Randy, and nephew, Zach, arrived much to all of our excitement o.  We had a great time showing them the boat and how to use everything on it (like the toilets), and teaching Zach how to drive the dingy o.  Next, we took off to show them some of the spots on the island.  The following day, we hired a taxi to take us to some sites in the highlands.  We visited a volcanic lake o that is one of the few fresh water sources in the islands.  It was cool, drizzly, and therefore muddy up on top of the volcano.  We all sloshed and slid o our way to the top and then all along the perimeter of the crater.  Next, we stopped and tramped around a Galapagos tortoise refuge and breeding center o.  Many of the sub-species of tortoises are threatened, and captive breeding programs are hoping to increase the populations.  We saw many different types.  After our morning jaunts, we spent a few hours at a beach on the far eastern shore of San Cristobal.  We had a picnic lunch o and fun times playing in the surf.  It was a gorgeous beach with crystal clear blue water o.  The finches there were so tame.  They were landing right on us, they especially liked Randy's bottom o as he napped!  The drive back was rainy.  The three kids had a fun, silly, wet ride in the back of the pick up truck/taxi o.

Our next excursion was an all day dive trip o out to a spot called Kicker Rock.  Mike, Nancy, Fletcher and Dana did two SCUBA dives o, while Randy and Zach snorkeled the same areas.  We were hoping to see some Hammerhead sharks, but we had to settle for about twenty Galapagos sharks and some sea turtles o.  It was very cool.  The first dive we went down about 60 feet, and the second dive about 45 feet.  The kids are great divers, very confident and competent.  Mike partnered with Dana, and Fletcher and Nancy were a team.  We had lunch on board between the dives and also were visited by a pod of dolphins frolicking in front of the motor catamaran that we were on.  It was a very fun day.  That afternoon we also did a hike out to a beach with lots of sea lions and more marine iguanas. 

The next day we provisioned up and got ready for our 20 hour sail over to another island.  We left in the afternoon for a beautiful sail o, great winds, good sea conditions, beautiful sunset o... what more could you want.  Randy and Zach helped raise the sails and keep us on course o. We arrived in to the beautiful anchorage at Isla Isabella o with plenty of time to walk into town and look around a bit.  We even found the Flamingo Lagoon on the first day o.  The next day we had a local panga o take us out to the reef island that protects the anchorage.  We saw penguins o right away, lots of marine iguanas o, white tipped reef sharks o, sea lions o, lava lizards o and had lots of fun.  After our land sightings, we went to snorkel at one of the outer reefs.  Randy spotted a shark, we all saw lots of rays, and had a very frisky, friendly juvenile sea lion o play with us for about 20 minutes.  We had a lot of fun with him.  We also spotted a Galapagos Night Heron o.  Another day took us to the south end of Isla Isabella.  We had several good side hikes off the main road, including one into a lava tube o that went out into the sea.  We enjoyed the beach as we walked back, swimming, surfing o, playing o, and relaxing o.  We mostly ate on board, and played games and watched movies in the evenings.  Our last day on Isabella found us snorkeling a nearby lagoon.  We were the only ones there, and the sea lions were frolicking all around us. 

After a few days of enjoying Isabella, we headed out early in the morning to sail over to Isla Santa Cruz, where Randy and Zach would be flying out.  Again, we had a great sail with beautiful conditions.  We were a bit overwhelmed with the amount of humanity on this island after our time on the smaller, less visited islands.  It felt like being in a big city, although it was only a very small town in reality.  The anchorage was very crowded with all different sizes of boats.  Huge and small were all mixed up together.  After a nice breakfast out, we waved good bye to our guests, as they headed out across the island to the airport.  Nancy and Mike had a date night at a nice place out on the point where they enjoyed a sushi dinner.  On Santa Cruz Island we visited the Darwin Center o and saw many subspecies of the Galapagos Tortoises.  We went on some beautiful walks to pristine white beaches o; fissures in the lave bed that were filled with crystal clear, cold water for a long swim/snorkel o; up into the highlands to see the country; to hike through another lava tube o; and to try to spot a Vermillion Flycatcher o

We were surprised that we could not find anywhere that was doing a Thanksgiving dinner for the North Americans.  We had decided that on Thanksgiving we would rather be playing than hanging out on board all day while food cooked.  So, we were prepared to do something totally ridiculous like have pizza out for our Thanksgiving.  As we were laying on the beach, while Fletcher surfed still another spot o, Nancy got inspired with some ingredients that we had on board.  When we got back to the boat, we quickly pulled off a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.  There were smoked pork chops on the BBQ served with a Port Cranberry Glaze, a vegetable casserole, and a fresh pumpkin cranberry cobbler.  The next morning, we still had pumpkin left, so we had Pumpkin Cheesecake French Toast with Cranberry Syrup.  Not too bad for no real plan, and we had a nice relaxing day too!   The last couple of days in the Galapagos were spent provisioning for a two to three week crossing to Mexico.  We took care of all of our paperwork for checking out of Ecuador, made last minute phone calls, and got the boat ready for our big passage north.  This would be our longest passage and our farthest from shore.


Please click to enlarge!


Checking out of mainland Ecuador; first catch in many months; a hitch-hiker; and land ho!

San Cristobal, Galapagos anchorage; first couple of days explorations, more marine iguanas than you would ever need to see, and other critters.

Surfing safaris, Tonga Reef and Punta Carolla.


Randy and Zach arrive on San Cristobal; the first day's excursion and adventures.  Nature hike, statue of Mr. Darwin, cousins hanging out, and snorkeling.  A yellow warbler.


Hiking a highland crater lake; giant tortoises; picnic lunch on the beach; a rainy ride back to the west side of the island.


The Berenson/McConnell day boat trip to Kicker Rock; McConnell family Christmas present dive.

Overnight sail from San Cristobal to Isla Isabella, everyone was put to work.  Beautiful sunset along the way.  Anchorage at Isabella.  Flamingo Lagoon.

Excursion to reef island. We saw penguins, sharks, iguanas, lava lizards, and spent about an hour snorkeling with this adorable juvenile sea lion.


  Another day excursion, lava tube exterior, lava tube interior; beach play.

The Darwin Center on Isla Santa Cruz, lots of tortoises!  Hiking into a very large lave tube, Galapagos Owl sighting, hiking to look for the Vermillion Flycatcher.

Another surf spot, marine iguana out and in the water.  Las Grietas (the fissure), a very cool swimming/snorkeling spot.  One of our favorite foods, fried plantains.

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