Passage Note #74 - Sailing from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos islands
On April 8 we finally escaped our mooring in Bahia de Caraquez (mainland Ecuador) after nearly 10 months here!! We enjoyed having Bahia be our home for so long, getting familiar with the locals, making many friends and doing a lot of land travel around South America while Jacaranda was safe and protected at Puerto Amistad.
We are inbound to the Galapagos Islands where we will stay for a few weeks, on the way west to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Besides being a destination in itself, the Galapagos Islands are almost directly on the rhumb line and will break up our 3,000+ mile journey to the South Pacific. Distance from Bahia to Galapagos: 545 miles.
We are all set with our paperwork and understanding of the legal requirements for being cruisers in the Galapagos. We have our national zarpe (exit document from Bahia). We have hired the mandatory agent (there are several but we are using Bolivar Pesantos) and have received our autografio (part of Bolivar’s fee), the official entry document which allows us to go to three ports within the Islands and stay for up to 2 months. We have our fumigation certificate (be sure it lists the chemical they used since the officials will want to know) which we paid $5 for in Bahia (we heard they charge $100 in the Galapagos if you arrive and need one). We will make sure our boat bottom is squeaky clean of barnacles since the officials will inspect it and have levied fines of $200 and required boats to go back out 60 miles to remove any barnacles. We will use all our fruits with seeds before we arrive since they are prohibited (apples, limes, oranges).
We are also carrying a good amount of cash for the hefty Galapagos check-in fees (see the end of this write-up) since we have heard it is may be difficult to get money from limited ATM’s in the Islands. It is expensive to come here!
After a passage of 5 days and 3 hours we arrived in San Cristobal Island (the most easterly and closest landfall) in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the official capital of the Galapagos. We sailed almost all of the 545 miles and had an enjoyable and comfortable run for most of the way. Below is our daily passage report.
Wed., April 8
Departure: Adios Bahia!
It’s a drizzly grey day but the sea state is calm. We departed Bahia de Caraquez guided out over the bar by Pedro the Pilot at 06:00 and had a good exit. As we left the Bay, we were escorted by a group of dolphins....always a great omen! We motor-sailed north to Cabo Pasado to clean the boat bottom and spend the night. By 10:30 a.m. we were anchored and in the afternoon were in the water for our first swim in as many months!!!!!! It is exhilarating to be back in clean clear water again instead of in the muddy brown water of the River Chone. It feels good to be on our own hook again even though it is VERY rolly (we have the flopper stopper out) with swells from the NW coming right into the open roadstead.
Thurs., April 9
Galapagos Run Start Day 1: Yahoo Yippee!! We're AT SEA!!!!!
wind S 10kts
boat speed 4.9kts
442M to go
We left Cabo Pasado yesterday about 10:00 a.m. and had wind out of the west about 10 knots. So we were close hauled and not able to lay the Galapagos. About 6 p.m. it started to swing more southerly and we could finally lay San Cristobal but were 16 miles north of the rhumb line.
We made 110 towards our destination and during the night put a couple of reefs in the main as we saw winds in the 18kt range. Lots of lightning and thunder but none close to us.
Forecast will bring lighter winds to none for the next 48 hours. Hoping we can keep moving
The sailing has been great even if we are not laying the rhumb line.
Linda’s Report: I had a glorious late night watch - there was a stellar lightning show (far away enough to enjoy) and just as the moon rose with Scorpio (my favorite constellation) high in the sky, a bright shooting star streaked across the milky way. Two "ghost" birds have been following us all evening - they are like apparitions as they come into view and disappear. (Later I learn they are nocturnal swallow-tailed gulls)
Friday, April 10
Galapagos Run Start Day 2
Wind SSW < 10
Speed 6 kts
Miles sailed to destination 242
Miles to go 303
Water Temp 81
Last 24 was glorious light air sailing. Able to steer course to San Cristobal with 8-10 kts of breeze from SSW. Speed between 4-7kts with wind about 55 degrees. Last night we sped along doing 6-7 kts with clear skies, no convection and one tuna boat sighted headed in same direction.
Last night I had my preferred watch schedule from midnight until 6. This is terrific for a night owl like me! And Chuck gets a good chunk of uninterrupted sleep. The night was as gorgeous as last night (but sans any lightning) - more shooting stars and a satellite passing overhead. I entertained myself with a customized music concert of some of my favorite folk, rock, pop, and the soundtrack from the movie Moulin Rouge. I also watched a PBS video a friend gave me about the change in the music industry - have to send it on to son Joe who was also in my evening's listening lineup of course!!
The start to today is luscious sunshine enhancing the beauty of the vista of clear blue water surrounding us in all directions. No more land in sight - goodbye to mainland Ecuador. I rejoice that we've only seen two pieces of plastic trash the water - isn't it sad that I have to get excited about something like that rather than have it be the norm? No animal life to be seen except a few of those nocturnal gulls, some small storm petrels walking along the water surface, and some small flying fish threading their way through wave tops. Chuck said 6 huge dolphins - about 8 footers - came by the boat earlier when I was asleep off watch. We are dragging a fishing lure from the stern of the boat ---we have some room in the fridge now in case a fish jumps on the line because we've eaten my precooked lasagna, garlic chicken, Argentinian sausages, Chilean apples, and one third of the head of broccoli.
Winds are keeping up right now with the boat speed at 6.3! We were anticipating no wind out here according to most of the weather forecasts so we are very pleased with the journey's progress so far.
Gotta go - time for our morning shower on deck - kind of our version of the ice bucket challenge with sea water followed by a fresh water rinse!
Saturday, April 11
Galapagos Run Start Day 3
Wind SE < 6
Speed 3.8kts motoring
Miles sailed to destination 355
Miles to go 190
Water Temp 79 WTF supposed to be Humbolt current and water in the 60's? El Nino?
Air 88-90 day
Air 82 night
It doesn't get much better than this! Light winds, sailing rhumb line, warm, hatches open and no spray on deck. From 7am yesterday to 7am today we did 135 miles. Continued forecast is for lighter or no wind and we are enjoying one more day of sailing. Hooked something big yesterday afternoon and it stretched the bungee out to max and blew up the 100lb test line.... All is good but fishless. Wind dropped off about 9am so motoring.
Chuck and I look at each other and say how we can't recall having such a comfortable sail in years!!! (Knock on teak). Although we are having to motor now. But it's ok - we don't carry enough fuel to get us the full distance from the Ecuador mainland to the Galapagos by motoring but now, after sailing for 3 days, we are nicely in range of Isla San Cristobol to use the engine with ease. Two-thirds of the way there today!!
We speculate the fish that got away might have been a big tuna since we ironically had just passed a commercial long-line tuna vessel. Catching up on some of my writing today. Chuck is working on our watermaker since it has been decommissioned for the last 10 months while we were in Bahia.
Sunday, April 12
Galapagos Run Start Day 4
Speed 3.8kts motoring
Miles sailed to destination 442
Miles to go 103
Water Temp 79-81
Air 88-90 day
Air 82 night
Yesterday was a struggle to keep the boat moving under sail due to the wind speed dropping. We ended up motoring off and on yesterday but by 9pm there was not a breath of wind. Still a S swell that caused us some discomfort especially when we dropped the main to try and save wear and tear with it slatting back and forth as the swells passed by. Some convection to the west of us last night. 4 ships passing with 5 miles so we must have crossed a shipping route. Love the AIS telling us how close the ships will pass.
This morning is more of the same. We should arrive tomorrow afternoon. Need to stop and dive the bottom once again to check for growth and barnacles. Having friends fined $200 and sent back out 60 miles with a park service diver has gotten everyone's attention.
Quite rolly last night without the sails up so it was hard to do any writing on the computer. Got my Stellarium star program up and spent a good amount of time identifying constellations and finding planets. The southern hemisphere has a lot of new things to look at.
Today I will do a little work in the galley using up my apples, papaya and squeezing the limes for juice for limonadas (lemonades) since we can't bring any fruit with seeds into the Galapagos. When I am off watch in the morning, Chuck routinely checks into two radio nets to report our position and conditions and speak to friends. We connect the computer to the radio to send/receive any sailmail for the day since propagation seems much better in the morning. Watermaker is working fine (weren’t sure it would be since it hasn’t be used for 10 months) so we have full water tanks again.
Monday, April 13
Galapagos Run Start Day 5
Speed 3.8kts motoring
Miles sailed to destination 535
Miles to go 10
Water Temp 79-81
Air 88-90 day
Air 82 night
A mixed bag 24 hours. Mostly motoring or motor sailing with 5-6kts of close hauled sailing. We should be into Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by early afternoon. Stopped the boat for half an hour to clean the bottom one last time of gooseneck barnacles in the hopes of passing inspection. Thanks for riding along with us.
Land Ho!! The island, the island, I see the island!!!!! (spotting Isla San Cristobal with 26 miles to go at 3 a.m.)
Tuesday, April 14
Galapagos Run Start Day 6: Arrival in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal
We anchored at 1 p.m. There are quite a number of sailing boats and large tour boats.
We contacted Bolivar and he arranged for the check in to be done at 4 p.m. Six people were crammed into our cockpit.
Check in: The fees total $1175 and consist of 9 items:
Bolivar’s fee: $500
Garbage collection and transportation: $30
Reception and Arrival Fee: $140
Inspection and Quarantine: $100
National Park Fee: $200 ($100 per person)
Consejo from the Galapagos Government: $40 ($10 per person)
Copies and transport of documents: $30
Inspection of the Boat Bottom: $25
National Park Inspection: $100
(Originally there was an additional $40 for immigration but after questioning this fee since we were coming in from mainland Ecuador, not a foreign country, Bolivar relented and took this off the bill.