|Motu visitor in Galapagos - NOTE:|
Wildlife management not very effective!!
We departed Robinson Crusoe Island on Jan. 26, 2018 headed for Mexico non-stop or so thought one half of the crew. The winds were fairly light at about 6 to 8 knots behind us once we cleared the the beautiful roadstead anchorage. The seas were another issue since they were running at 2 to 3 meters with a mighty short period. This, of course, equals slamming and banging. There is always the tradeoff when ocean voyaging when the winds are enough to sail but the seas toss you around. The tradeoff being that Mexico was a long ways from Robinson Crusoe so the engine stayed off, but the sailing gear was under stress.
The seas continued to plague us but the wind did pick up and we made sometimes slow progress north and didn't go insane. The third day proved challenging as the end fitting on the boom pulled out so I climbed up the jungle jim and jury-rigged a line affair with a block for the outhaul. That was lots of fun in the now three meter seas. This worked well until the clew pulled out of the main a day later. We took down the main, hauled out the faithful Sailrite, which Marja thought wouldn't sew through the clew, but the machine just thumped through the layers of material. Part of the sun protective stripe on the sail was also coming off so that too was repaired, and soon the sail was back up, Motu back under full canvas.
|Sail repair at sea|
|A big blue-footed Booby!!|
You need to have an autographo, which is a PRIOR permission to visit the islands. Note word "prior". You must go through an agent. We used Bolivar Pesantes (Bolivar.firstname.lastname@example.org). He somehow arranged the autographo while we were at sea but no matter which agent you use, you are much better to arrange everything before you leave for sea since you must send them copies of your vessel documentation and passports for all crew. If you are thinking of going to the Galapagos, Bolivar, will send you a breakdown of all the ridiculous costs----about $1500 for us for visits to three islands, then another $125 in fees along the way (each time you enter and leave an island it is $15, Isabela has a $10/person landing fee, and $25 to immigration to check out in Pro Ayora). I suspect other agents do the same. Ecuador uses the US dollar.
The problem with visiting the Galapagos from the officialdom point-of-view is that the rules keep changing. You cannot simply talk to someone who was previously there by boat and know the current rules or interpretation of the rules. We fired off some emails via the Iridium to cruising friends to get more information. Alan Nebauer, our dear Australian friend, who frequently goes through the islands, sent us some information from an agent he uses. The bottom line is the old scam of the "breakdown" of some piece of gear doesn't allow one to visit a single island at a cheap price. O yes, you can stop but the repairs will be verified by officials and you will still spend a lot of money on paperwork and end up very restricted in what you can do.
Please note you can only go to "inhabited" islands without paying additional and hefty sums to visit the uninhabited islands with an onboard guide.
Another couple of things of note: the bottom of your boat must be spotless. The captain spent two days cleaning the bottom in 1700 to 1800 feet of water (how I dream of having a hookah setup). Secondly, you need to pay the $120 for the fumigation since there was a scam going on in Panama where yachts could get the certificate for $50. That was included in our $1500 initial fee.
|Captain cleaning the bottom - Admiral on shark watch|
|Entering Wreck Bay|
Concerning fuel, it was excellent and 72 cents a liter. I suspect fuel prices are all over the place depending upon when you are there. Fuel is delivered via panga. Propane was $35 for a US five gallon 20 lb tank, We did all shore trips via the water taxi for about $1 each way per person. The exception was Isabela Island, where the cost is about double.
Here is what we found on the three islands we visited:
We made landfall on San Cristobal. Sailing in there was quite an experience since we saw what we first thought could be an uncharted reef, that was in fact hundreds of sea turtles. Never seen anything like it.
|all together now! - Seal, Iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crab|
San Cristobal (Wreck Bay or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno) is a busy place, anchorage wise, but of course, it didn't help to have an ARC Rally armada in the anchorage when we arrived. This island has some lovely walks one can take. (Please note---any kind of an excursion is very expensive so everything we did on the islands involved taking no tours). We enjoyed going to Interpretation Center and taking nice walks from there to several beautiful view spots and a good look at the desert terrain alongside crystal clear blue water. It did rain like crazy. We also walked to La Loberia, with lots of surfers but few lobos. Once again, we got drenched on trip back with rain pouring along the streets like rivers. Guiseppe Pizza was fun.
|Cerro Tijeretas view|
|Sleeping on the benches, everywhere|
San Cristobal is also the sea lion capital of the world---there are seals everywhere, and we mean everywhere! The marine iguanas look like something out of a mad max movie and the sally lightfoot crabs create a colorful backdrop. The seals are a very good reason why to use the water taxis.
|Mom, wait, I'm hungry!!|
|Protected anchorage behind lava islets|
We next went to Isabela Island, which was our favorite of the three. The main town and anchorage is at Puerto Villamil. If you are careful, you can work your way in past the metal moorings (not yacht friendly) and find a good anchorage behind the volcanic rocky islets of the Tintoreras. Do NOT try to get too far into the bay if you do not know where the rock reefs are located. Visibility was very good and we could see the reefs and dropped the anchor in about 15 feet, sand.
|Nursery for baby land tortoises|
|Walking with the Tortugas|
|Pretty scary dude|
Once again we grabbed the Keens and took some great walks out of town along marshes with pink flamingos and finally on to a turtle breeding spot. There is another site worth visiting to see the big land turtles in the wild, called the Lagrimas Wall of Tears (built by prisoners in the penal colony as a make work project (1945 to 1959). Many died. The road is called the Camino de Tortguas. The turtles are everywhere. Do not make the mistake we did and walk there from town. Rent a bike. A couple of boats took the tour to the Volcano and enjoyed it, and also took the Tunnels Tour, which most found disappointing since at that time there was large surf and access to these volcanic rock tunnels was limited, but they had paid so had to go. Yachties are not allowed to swim, row, whatever from their boats to the Tintoreras, which we were anchored behind. That also is a tour and you have to pay to do that. Saw boobies on the islets.
After a lovely week at Isabela, we set off for the about 48 mile trip to Santa Cruz, going east again! About half way there a wind kicked up a little chop, had to motorsail and got into Puerto Ayora, known as Academy Bay, in the afternoon. Some ARC boats were still there. Wind was blowing right into the anchorage making it a bit lumpy bumpy. No vessels around us had stern hooks set so we went with the flow. Our agent's representative came out and checked us in (another $15) and we arranged to have fuel jugs and propane bottle picked up. Pto Ayora is in a beautiful setting, but the anchorage can get pretty wild if wind from E/SE/S . Had one of those days, remainder not too bad.
We loved taking the water taxi over to the drop off for Finch Bay/Angermayer Water Front Inn, and walked along the Playa de los Alemanes to the Las Grietas, which are fissures in the lava rock forming two giant arms towering over a magnificent pool of very clear water that runs into the sea. Great swimming and snorkeling spot . But a very hot walk. It was beginning to get hotter and hotter in the Galapagos, which made some of the hikes a challenge. The town of Pto Ayora is very nice, with some great restaurants and coffee shops, and the Darwin Research Station there is definitely worth a visit. For those who like Farmer's Markets, don't miss the one on Saturday Morning, not located in the daily Municipal Market area but further east on Isla Duncan Road. It was fantastic. And also not to be missed is the Fish Market right in the harbor, where pelicans and seals compete with humans for the wonderful tuna and wahoo. Our last big hike we took was to Tortuga Bay. The Bay is a large white sand beach, with a protected swimming hole at the far west end. Lots of birds and sea turtles in this area.
|I'll have some of that tuna, please.|
Definitely worth visiting this amazing, scenic, historic, environmentally important - and challenged - place in the world. However, if on a tight budget, you might think twice.
March 13, 2018 anchor up and underway. Here we come Mexico!!