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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some pics, click to enlarge

A sailing fisherman at Bahia de Caraquez

Blue Bottle crossing the bar at Bahia de Caraquez

A blue footed booby (how can you tell?) on Isla de la Plata.

A masked booby and its chick on Isla de la Plata

Sailing on the equator, in the tropics, this is what you need to wear to get through the night. The cold water of the Humbolt current keeps it pretty cool at night.

Supply day at Isla San Cristobal

Linda hangs out with one of the locals.

A sea lion playing with a sand dollar.

A sea turtle hanging out under our tour boat.

Monday, June 29, 2009

First week in the Galapagos

We arrived at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (which is a mouthful, so it's more commonly called Wreck Bay in honor of a cargo ship sunken on the bottom), here on San Cristobal (accent over the "o") a week ago today so it must be time for me to submit a report. Last Monday, after a visit from our agent (Bolivar) and an official from the navy/port captain, we stayed on the boat resting and tidying up from the passage. Tuesday we joined Bolivar for a visit to Migracion and joined our friends on Wind Weaver for lunch on the brand new malecon before returning to the boat. Wednesday it rained and we stayed on the boat. Thursday we took a boat tour to Isla Lobos and Leon Dormido. Friday we visited the interpretive center and walked its trails. Saturday we snorkeled at La Loberia and Playa Mann. Sunday we hired a taxi guide to tour the Galapaguera Semi-Natural with a stop at the beach at Puerto Chino. Except for our arrival on Monday and our beach day on Saturday the weather has been mostly windy, gray and cloudy with some occasional drizzle interspersed by short periods of sunshine. The dreary weather coupled with the fact that we have to pinch ourselves to remember that we are in the fabled Galapagos (because, really, we are just living on our boat in yet another anchorage), may be what's dampening my enthusiasm, but here are some of the highlights.

The best thing that makes it feel like it's not just another anchorage is the baby sea lion who is often joined by friends to play around and underneath Nakia. This is an absolute blast to experience because they swim under the hull blowing bubbles which you hear exploding, and you can feel the vibration in your feet through the cabin sole. They like to rub on the rudder and splash around the waterline as they chase each other around. One early morning I watched a dozen of the little ones porpoising across the bay, and it looked like one of them bonked right into the side of a yellow catamaran. Maybe they were going too fast for it to see the anchored boat in time. Then they played for a minute in the space between the two hulls of the cat. Ziggy watches their activities with wide eyes, and looks at us as if to say, "What the heck is that?"

Part of my problem with some of our travels is that I attempt to duplicate the experiences that friends arriving before us have raved about. I need to learn instead that we have to go off on our own adventures in order to create the best memories. That's how Oaxaca, Mexico ended up being mostly not so fun, while the Quilatoa loop in Ecuador was an outstanding trip. I had tons of detailed info from a friend for the former, and we mostly winged it for the latter. So where Carina raved about their all day boat trip to the NE tip of the San Cristobal, we had an okay time on a shorter version. We didn't have the experienced guide that they had (which added nothing special to our tour), and they went with a larger group of cruisers while we went with one couple and their two small children. Our weather was cloudy so the snorkeling wasn't ideal especially for Kicker Rock where you snorkel over a deep chasm making it difficult to clearly see the Galapagos sharks swimming far below you. It was our second snorkel of the day and I was too cold to stay in the water for long, but John spent some time enjoying the variety of fish hanging around the sheer sea walls. The better snorkel was at Isla Lobos where a large sea turtle stayed near the boat munching on "grass" on the shallow bottom. John found a marine iguana just under the surface of the water eating algae off the lava rocks. I had a curious young sea lion come by for a close up look at me before I had to get out of the freezing water (maybe 72-74 F), and then I watched from the boat as John engaged a group of 3-4 little ones by throwing a large sand dollar like a frisbee. It was delightful to see them chasing it down and pushing it with their noses or grabbing it in their mouths before dropping it for John to throw again.

Our land tour yesterday was nothing spectacular, again maybe because it was a mostly drizzly, gray day. The Galapaguera, where they keep some giant land tortoises in captivity for a breeding program, was lovely and interesting. The trails were excellent and we saw several tortoises of varying sizes. We had enough of a break in the weather for a visit to the beautiful white sand beach at Puerto Chino where the tourists were doing a little body surfing. We were running short on time and had to choose between lunch and a visit to El Junco Lagoon. Since it had started to rain in earnest we opted for food over the muddy trail and poor visibility at the lake. In retrospect we should have just gone straight back to the boats for lunch and saved ourselves the cost of the meal. Jorge, our guide, spoke excellent English, was extremely knowledgeable about plants and animals, and took great care of us. I would highly recommend him to anyone willing to pay $20 per person for this tour (a shorter version can be had for half the cost from the Spanish speaking taxi drivers); he can be contacted through Sharsky Tours on Espanola street just off the Malecon (through which we also booked our boat tour).

By far the best time we've had here was one we almost missed out on. We hired a $3 taxi to run us out to La Loberia past the airport and just on the southern side of the westernmost tip of the island. It was a clear sunny morning but the wind was really blasting and waves were breaking on the lava rocks as we walked the trail to the steep sandy beach. After the freezing cold snorkeling of our boat tour I wasn't looking forward to getting into the water again. The tide was low and there was good protection from the surf in the shallow water but it still didn't look very inviting. John mused that it would take something very interesting like a sea turtle or a reef shark to convince him to get in the water. We stood there in indecision, ready to bail out on our snorkeling adventure, when we spotted a sea turtle coming up for a breath of air. Thus committed, we donned our gear and waded into an underwater Disneyland that has made the trip completely worthwhile. I still get excited just thinking about it! There were lots of fish, and the mixed lava rock and sand sea bottom was littered with mossy green spiny "decorator" urchins which had covered themselves with pencil urchin spines, shells, and other debris for camouflage. I could have spent hours examining their unique decorating choices. We spotted two free-swimming octopi (one very small one, and the other medium sized), and a long Tiger Snake eel hunting in the rocks. John dug the largest shell we've ever found out of the sand, which he discovered was intact because it still had the animal living in it (it goes without saying that we always return these where we find them). A couple of larger sea lions (one definitely a young male) came over to check us out without getting too close. But the highlight of the day was the sight of six sea turtles dozing over a patch of sand in the relatively warm shallow water. They hung motionless just over the sand or wedged next to a rock with their flippers extended in a completely relaxed position, and appeared to be snoozing with their eyes open in the calm water. At regular intervals they swam to the surface for a few breaths and then dropped to the bottom again to rest. It was magical! We hope to pay a return visit if we can get another sunny day with a relatively low tide.

They take siesta very seriously here and everything but the restaurants and a few gift shops are closed anywhere from 12-1 until 3-4 so I haven't done a bit of shopping yet. We also haven't visited either of the two largest grocery stores because we're still well provisioned from Panama and Bahia. But we'll be sure to check those out, along with the local produce mercado, before we leave for the Marquesas around July 12.

Linda and John

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 6, Plata to Galapagos - Arrival!

Land Ho! at 6:20 PM yesterday, and I watched the sun set just to the left of Isla San Cristobal. We switched the watch schedule around so that John would be awake as we made our final approach. After sailing as slowly as possible we finally hove to for four hours. It was incredibly frustrating to have to put on the brakes just as our destination came into view. We had an uneventful night drifting slowly northwest until we could sail again at midnight. Finally we said, the heck with the record, and we fired up the engine just before dawn. So we still have not sailed entirely anchor to anchor yet (other than on day sails or short passages), but we sure achieved our longest continuous sailing passage to date. John figures we actually traveled a total distance of 534 nm.

We exchanged greetings with Windweaver, Mudskipper, and Spica, and set the anchor in the clear blue water of this well protected harbor. Our agent, Bolivar, and the naval inspector visited us shortly thereafter for coffee and formalities, and then we were free to lower our yellow quarantine flag. We're permitted to wait until tomorrow to visit Migracion, after a return visit from Bolivar and the Health/Agriculture inspector in the morning. Today we'll put the boat back together as a living space, catch up on our rest, and commune with the baby sea lion that has already paid a visit to rub on our rudder and check out Ziggy's rescue ropes. We don't use our dinghy here to get back and forth from shore (because of the damage the sea lions can do when they haul themselves out on the dinghies), but we may take a ride around if the breeze calms down later. The shore "pangas" are very nice large inflatables that look like tenders for small cruise ships, and which only cost .50 per person one way ($1 after dark). Along with assorted tour boats and fishing vessels, there are seven other cruising sailboats in the harbor with us, which is way down from the season high of 25 or so. The water temp is only in the mid-70s but it seems very clean for getting in and scrubbing the gooseneck barnacles off the waterline. We've been told the sea lions take a great interest in this activity so we're actually looking forward to it!

Linda and John



Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 5, Plata to Galapgos

You know you're getting close to land when you start seeing other boats again. Last night we had a bit of a close encounter with a fishing boat. After midnight I saw what I hoped was only a star setting on the western horizon. Unfortunately it continued to get brighter and bigger so I hopped below to turn on the radar. When the target showed up within eight miles of us, and I couldn't tell for sure which way it was headed, I got John up to take a look. After we changed course a couple of times to try to avoid it with no improvement, we turned on all the deck lights and John sent off a DSC All Ships call on the VHF, followed by a hail to the fishing boat in Spanish. That got an immediate response and the fishing boat agreed to change course to avoid us. We think the crew must have been asleep after they didn't respond to John's initial VHF call in English, and didn't appear to see us until we were so close we could see their fishing net on deck. We're guessing that the DSC alarm must have gotten the captain out of bed!

And at dawn this morning I barely caught something like, "Capitania passe port to port" on the VHF which alerted me to the presence of a large motor boat (like one of the 16 passenger tour boats) passing about five miles off our port bow. I wonder if he'd heard the alarm earlier in the night and decided to be pro-active with us!

Other than that bit of excitement we've had another 24 hours of slow sailing to cover 95 nm towards our destination, with about another 56 to the anchorage. We don't know what our rate of drift will be when we heave to to wait for sunrise, but we should arrive sometime Monday morning.

Here's Ziggy's underway watch schedule:

0500-0600 Get out of bed to pester Linda for breakfast by twining around and head-butting her legs, eventually meowing if clear signals continue to be ignored.

0600-0900/1000 Eat, get unharnessed (Yay!), take care of business if any, get personal drink of water from bowl held by Linda/John, patrol the decks if calm enough, sit in grass, chase toys thrown by Linda/John; occasional rest periods in between AM activities.

1000-1600 Sleep; may break for lunch if anything interesting is being prepared.

1600-1700 Get up to pester Linda for dinner; same routine as breakfast but significantly more urgent with many "love" bites to get message across.

1700-1900 Take care of business followed by extreme kitty crazies; release pent up energy by chasing phantom toys and anything that anyone will throw.

1900 Harnessed! Why don't you just throw me in a straight-jacket?! Have to take mincing little hobbled steps to move around and refuse to play any games. Rest of the night is spent either in bed pretending to be asleep (but really listening for flying fish to hit the deck), or in cockpit in John's lap, or sometimes up under dodger in grass or on my towel (depending on which tack we're on).

Can't wait to get to the Galapagos!

Linda and John



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 4, Plata to Galapagos

"Ssuwweeet!" as my nephew would say. Day 4 gets a gold star. For me it started out with a nice slow night sail, some shooting stars, the Big Dipper poised vertically and setting with the leading edge of its cup ready to scoop up some of the sea, the Southern Cross slowly laying over on its side to the southwest, followed this morning by a rising Venus, then a sliver of a moon, and finally, - ta dah! - "Sunrise, The Extended Cut." This was the first sunrise I've been able to see through all the overcast sky we've had. There was the perfect blend of cloud and blue sky to make it one of the longest and most colorful dawns I've seen on the ocean. I stayed up to breakfast with John (yogurt and granola; not the bagel and cream cheese I fantasized about all night, but still good), and he spotted a waved albatross again. When I woke up at Noon he was starting to cook the pinto beans that he soaked over night, AND he was getting ready to take a shower on deck! Now that's how you win a woman's heart. I have never mastered the art of the spit bath, and only feel really clean after total immersion in soap and water, so a real shower sounded great. We were on a slow more downwind point of sail so we used the salt water wash down pump on the side deck to get wet and soapy and rinsed, and then got under the sun shower in the cockpit for a fresh water rinse. That had the added bonus of rinsing away some of the salt from the cockpit teak on the port side. We dried in the sun; John added onions, peppers, garlic, and rice to the beans and we ate that for our meal of the day; and the clouds moved in again to keep things cool. We even opened some hatches and portholes since it was so nice out today.

I don't think I've mentioned our revised watch schedule which goes like this:

0800-1300 John
1300-1800 Linda
1800-2200 John
2200-0100 Linda
0100-0400 John
0400-0800 Linda

This better accommodates the HF radio skeds John participates in at 0900 and 1800 on 8143 USB. The evening net (Pacific Passage Net) is one he got going again after it began to die when the first wave of boats headed to the Marquesas got out of hearing range. It mostly follows boats headed from Panama to Ecuador/Galapagos/Marquesas/Hawaii, and from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. We are at the tail end of "season" for this run, but there are still a few boats making the same trip, and it's nice to be able to keep track of each other via the radio.

In the last 24 hours we did 95 nm DMG, sailed the entire distance, and have about 140 nm to go (that could be a little higher since I'm not sure what the last few waypoints are, but it's close). We are keeping well south of our destination so that we can heave to and drift north if we need to kill some time Sunday night before going into the harbor at first light Monday morning.

Linda and John



Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 3, Plata to Galapagos

At the risk of jinxing it, we can't believe this has been such an easy passage so far - and we're still sailing! In the past 24 hours we covered another 91.5 miles towards our destination, with about 276 to go!

Just realized that I messed up the entry for Day 2's position - longitude should have been 84 degrees, not 824. Bet that looked pretty weird. And you should also know that John generally sends the Yotreps position out in the morning, but the blog entry is our 4 PM 24-hour position.

Here are some random passage notes I made on our way from Bahia to Isla de la Plata when it was too rough to get the computer out. We had all the Bahia dirt washed off the boat in our very first day, which made for very salty decks. We got some of that wiped off at Plata but things are still salty (the worst part is that it gets tracked below, including salty paw prints on the salon table). We had beautiful clear skies off of Manta, but it's been mostly overcast the rest of the time. Our last day at Plata the overcast burned off in time to take a swim before we left. We hoped the sea turtles would come investigate John scraping barnacles off the bottom, but no such luck even though I spotted several from the boat. The rangers were netting and tagging turtles as we left the bay.

Since it was too rough to juice the oranges (and they aren't eating oranges) we took advantage of nature's original juice box instead. The street vendors peel off the outer rind, leaving the white pith intact, but we just peel the area around one end of the orange, cut a small hole in the top, place mouth over hole, and begin to squeeze orange. Works great on Ecuadorian oranges, and the "box" gets tossed over the side when all the juice is gone.

When we're sailing hard and heeling to one side the faucet water "bends," which makes it tough to locate with your hands when your eyes are closed because you're washing your face with soap. On top of that we don't use pressure water (to conserve), so one foot is dedicated to pushing the foot pump and the other one is braced to keep from falling. Which makes it hard to do anything requiring both hands because then you have nothing to hang on with! And trying to move slowly and quietly so the off watch person can get some sleep is like going in slow motion through one of those old fun house rooms tilting in every direction (although at least the boat has lots of hand holds).

Here's how the wheel lock works to steer Nakia: Get boat and sail plan mostly ballanced, though a little lee-helm is best(lee-helm is when you have to turn the wheel up into the wind to keep the boat going straight), and lock the wheel. The boat then generally sails through 20-30 degrees; it drives the course for a few minutes, gradually luffs up 10-15 degrees (usually just a little bit without actually luffing the jib), then it slows down and the affect of the rudder diminishes, causing the boat to all back off the wind and back to the course. It will continue to fall off 10-15 degrees, and then it speeds up increasing the affect of the rudder causing the boat to come back up to the desired course. Repeat. Which is basically what the wind vane does, although ideally without the extremes at either end. John put the wind vane on yesterday afternoon and it's been steering ever since. It's much nicer than the wheel lock because it won't back wind the jib like the wheel lock sometimes does, so you don't have to baby sit it all the time. Now if only sailing to the Marquesas could be this easy!

News flash; we just saw an albatross. Given where we are that would make it a Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata). It can have a wing span of 2.3 meters. That's seven and a half feet. Yes, they look that big.

Linda and John



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 2, Plata to Galapagos

Linda writes: And we continue to sail on with only adjustments now and then to the jib! Had a lovely night last night in light wind, but moving right along without even having to touch the wheel lock to adjust our course. Was so much nicer than our first night when we had more wind and the seas were a bit rough. Still mostly overcast, and last night was cold, but today we finally have some sun peeking through the clouds to warm things up a bit. Because we were sailing slowly last night Ziggy was cheated out of his usual quota of flying fish. They manage to miss the boat when we aren't going fast. During the day we've seen flocks of flying fish (they aren't schools once they take to the air, are they?), often two dozen bolting out of the water all at once.

I forgot to note in the rice bowl recipe that you should be sure to add bouillon or some kind of seasoning to the mix. And I also forgot to mention that we aren't drinking real coffee on passages since it's too hard to balance everything when we're in motion. We normally use a Melitta #4 plastic filter which fits on top of a regular coffee cup. But we use Nissan insulated cups which have a much narrower top. So the cup has to stay on the counter while I hold the filter over it with one hand and pour hot water out of the tea kettle into the filter with the other hand. Tricky enough to do in a bouncy anchorage, let alone underway at sea. John got the bright idea to buy instant coffee (in our case it's Colcafe from Columbia) for passages since he swears he doesn't mind the taste. After two mornings of that dreck I've decided to switch to tea during passages; I don't want to waste my hard-to-find instant hot chocolate mix on lousy coffee (which I normally drink with two tablespoons of hot chocolate mix for a sort of mocha coffee - yummy).

It's finally calm enough, and John has the more reliable (than the wheel lock) wind vane steering, so I can get some reading done. Which makes a nice change from staring out at grey sky and sea! In the last 24 hour period our DMG was 92.5, we sailed all of it, and we have about 330 nm left to go (out of a total distance of about 517 nm). A smaller pod of dolphins than yesterday's just went whizzing by to who knows where, and the sun is really shining for a change. Maybe we'll have a nice sunset tonight.

John writes: Linda mentioned that I set the wind vane to steer the boat this morning. She was asleep, so she doesn't know how much of a pain it was. We dismantled this machine (a Rube Goldberb thing that uses feedback from a little sail to twist a rod, that lifts a bar, that turns a shaft, that rotates a paddle, that turns a shaft, that pulls on a rope, that turns the steering wheel, that turns the boat) back in Bahia to make sure it was clean, lubricated and properly adjusted. Five minutes after I set it working this morning I heard a clunk and it stopped steering the boat. I emptied the after compartment that holds all the important stuff (no small feat, considering the amount of junk stored there) to find three bolts had completely come out of the thing and the part that pulls on the rope was just dangling. I had to climb in there and search to retrieve the missing nuts and bolts. I could only find two of the three bolts but I found all the missing nuts, then reassembled it all while the boat is merrily sailing along. I had to sit on top of the rudder to do all this, thank goodness the boat was steering itself and the rudder was locked in one position. Anyway, I bolted the thing back together using lock-tite so hopefully it won't come apart again.

Linda and John



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 1, Plata to Galapagos

We have sailed the entire first 24 hours of this particular attempt at reaching the Galapagos which is always nice. Mostly too much or not enough wind from the wrong direction, but it's nice not to have to motor. We realized today (Wednesday) that if we continue our relatively good pace, we might arrive in San Cristobal on Sunday. But we heard from another boat that apparently the officials want to come out to your boat as soon as you arrive, and the costs associated with checking in might be double for overtime after 5 PM and on the weekend. So we have tried to put the brakes on to make landfall on Monday instead. Sometimes the officials will let you confine yourselves to the boat if you arrive late in the day, and then take care of the check-in process the next morning. We'll try to find out if they will let us do that there.

One of the drawbacks of sailing more slowly is that our heading is almost due west, but if we go too slow, the strong northbound current makes us drift too far north. In less than 24 hours we are already north of our destination! But we sailed 95 nm DMG (distance made good) and are no longer tracking the actual miles sailed because we're keeping the fish finder turned off for now.

The sky has been mostly overcast and as the water temperature goes, so goes the cabin temps. It's been a chilly 73-76 degrees and very cold at night when it seems to be windiest. John is wearing his fleece pants and jacket and I had to get a sweatshirt for last night. I let Ziggy eat one flying fish and then I think John let him "catch" 2-3 more. By the last fish, he wasn't much interested in eating anymore! Two more came on board and I sent them back to the sea out the scupper.

We have two reefs in the mainsail and usually have the jib also reefed. Started out with the staysail up as well, but it got to be too much last night and we haven't put it up again yet. We had to stop last night to let two ships cross our bow, but haven't seen anything today except for a pod of dolphins that were eastbound on a mission and didn't stop to play with Nakia.

Thanks to everyone for all the well wishes and encouragement!

Linda and John



Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Onward to the Galapagos

We decided that a hike without baby boobies would probably be a let-down after the terrific memories (and photos) that we got yesterday, plus we're antsy to get going again, so we're departing this afternoon instead of waiting another day to get our $85 worth. The plan is to depart around 4 PM, get away from the island while it's still daylight, and let the sea breezes die down around sunset as usual. We'll sail with the lighter land breeze all night to get as far away from the coast as we can before the heavier sea breeze builds again tomorrow afternoon. We will put the first reef in the mainsail and even if the wind goes light we'll let it stay there so as not to put too much stress on the sail by shaking it out and putting it back in repeatedly.

To prepare for the 5-7 days we hope it will take us to get to the Galapagos from here I've made four PBJ sandwiches, juiced 10 oranges (before they have a chance to go bad), hard-boiled eight eggs, sliced some cheese to eat with crackers, and John is baking the oldest batch of potatoes to eat cold along the way. We still have lots of apples and veggies. That should get us over the hump of the first couple of days when we don't feel much like fixing meals. I'll probably take a Stugeron since we don't know what the sea state is going to be like, and that's usually effective for keeping me from getting sea sick. In fact I'm beginning to think it gives me the munchies since I always seem to be ravenous the first day out, which is usually the only time I have to take the drug.

For you gourmet cooks out there, we have made two cooking discoveries. The first is that you can make Kraft macaroni and cheese by cooking the pasta in two cups of water, stirring often until the water is absorbed by the pasta, then add the rest of the ingredients as usual. We like to throw in a can of pigeon peas (which we discovered in Panama) or green peas to make a complete meal. It may be a little gummier than normal but it's nice to know we can make it without wasting a drop of fresh water! The second is something we picked up from Lanikai, called a rice bowl. Chop up whatever veggies and anything else you have on hand (we don't eat much meat), saute in a sauce pan, add two cups of water, bring to a boil, add one cup of rice, and cook until done. It's a one pan, one bowl meal, and is great for something hot to eat when you're on passage.

Linda and John

Monday, June 15, 2009

Baby Boobies

Today we went ashore and took the advertised, two and a half hour, "easy" hike around the east end of the island where the boobies nest. Sure enough the blue-footed boobies were just beginning to get it together with a few sitting on eggs, and the masked boobies had chicks of all sizes. We've seen the latter out on the ocean before and it was thrilling to be able to see them up close and personal on land. They are an impressive size with beautiful black markings on otherwise white bodies. Both kinds were nesting right next to, or sometimes in the middle of, the walking trail and we had to carefully make our way around them. As John says, they're not fearless, just dumb as posts. There are also supposed to be albatross at that end of the island, but we saw no sign of those. John saw two rats and there were lots of empty small bird nests in the low trees. It was nice to get off the boat and stretch our legs.

We got back to the ranger building right after the four daily tour boats had disgorged their passengers, and the ranger was upset with us for letting the tour guides see us returning from the hike by ourselves. She wants us to go in to hike at 7 AM so that we're finished and on the boat before the tourists arrive. I may go in tomorrow to hike the west end where the frigates and tropic birds nest, but John said his legs were noodles and he will probably pass up that longer, more difficult trail. Plus the ranger said no one is taking that hike at the moment because there aren't any babies yet (and everyone wants to see blue-footed boobies!).

Oh, we put the mainsail up today to take a look at the patch and when we were flaking it John pulled back on it too hard and put another tear in it! It's the pulling from mast to the aft edge that we can't do - the sail is too UV damaged to take stress in that direction. But the normal stress from sailing is vertical not horizontal, so we'll see how it holds up getting to the Galapagos. If there's any failure on that passage, we can still get back to Bahia. Once we get into the downwind sailing to the Marquesas John feels the sail will be fine, and we'll have a new one shipped to us there before we leave for Hawaii. At least that's the plan today!

Water temperature has dropped again, down to 76 degrees, and the sky is 95% overcast with a cool breeze so I'm not sure we'll get any snorkeling with the sea turtles in before we have to leave. They continue to make regular passes by Nakia and we can see them well in the clear water. There's a young woman from Paraguay here for a week to study their numbers and then she's off to Uruguay for more of the same. She asked me how much we had to pay and concurred that even she was getting charged double for things because the locals viewed her as a tourist. She agreed that it was too bad that the money was going into people's pockets instead of going to the parks.

Ziggy has been ecstatic by our unscheduled stop, running around and acting like a crazy kitty yesterday. I'm sure he had a lot of pent up energy to expend, but I keep telling him he's going to love watching the sea lions in the Galapagos. (What I don't tell him is the month at sea that comes after that!)

Linda and John

Sunday, June 14, 2009


25 feet of 4" sail repair tape
One piece of sail cloth 10 ft long by 18 inches wide
One pint of contact cement
A little bit of sweat and some bug repellant.

We have a mainsail in one piece again. Now to see if it will hold air and not rip itself to shreds.

We took everything ashore this afternoon and as soon as the last tourists left the island (three boatloads came in about 1100) we started working on the sail. We set everything up on the big tiled floor below the park administration building and it looks like we did a strong, if not pretty, repair. We finished right at dark, and had to walk down to the dinghy carrying the _running_ generator and a work light so we could get back to NAKIA.

Wish us luck!

John and Linda

Isla de la Plata

As most of you know by now we are currently at Isla de la Plata to fix a huge tear in the main sail which happened less than two days out of Bahia on our way to the Galapagos. We decided to divert here to see if it's repairable, and to see a part of Ecuador that we missed last year. If John can fix the sail to his satisfaction, we will continue on. If he's not confident the repair can make the trip to the Marquesas (where we can have a new sail shipped in for the rest of the more upwind trip to Hawaii), we will return to Bahia for another season and put our plans on hold until next year. But after being shaken down for $85 (bargained down from a total of $165 originally requested!) to stay at Plata for three measly nights, we are determined to make the repair and get going again.

We are still burning over the high cost to visit the "poor man's Galapagos." The original asking price was $40 per person park fee, plus $15/night for the boat, plus $20 per person to walk on shore. After some hard bargaining John got the price almost cut in half, and they threw in our late arrival last night for free. John thinks the amount requested would normally have been smaller but there was a shift change - it's Sunday - and we had to cover "tips" to two rangers. Keep in mind that though these charges may be "official," no one is ever willing to give you a receipt to show you paid them. So in effect, all of the money paid goes into the pocket of the particular individual it's paid to. Later in the day the park boat operator tried to hit us up for fees until John made it clear to him that we had already paid the guy on shore. Which is hard to do when you don't have a receipt to show the next guy down the line with his hand out.

John asked and they are also going to let us use part of the patio at the large building on shore to work on the sail but we have to wait until the tourists leave. The tourists arrived at Noon and went off on their choice of 2 1/2 or 3 hour hikes, so we won't get much done before dark tonight. We are straightening up from our salty two day sail, and John is prepping the mainsail. A couple of sea turtles have cruised by the boat but we haven't been in the (77 degree!) water to swim with any yet. We'll play after we get the job finished.

(this is John writing now...) I wanted to make an observation about this sail thing. The tear happened at about 7pm Friday. I have never had a sail blow up on my boat before so we made the decision to turn around. When we reported the next morning on the radio that we had decided to return to the mainland to make repairs, a couple of boats seemed a little surprised at our decision. Then after we said we'd scrub our plans for the Marquesas there was a little more talk about just repairing it and carrying on. Or just carrying on without the sail. The fact that we may have to sail 4,000 miles without a mainsail didn't seem to make much difference to these particular people. These boats, three or four in total, are completing circumnavigations. My observation is that these guys know that you do the best you can and you carry on. As long as you have a sound hull and a mast standing, you'll eventually get where you're going.

Linda and John

Saturday, June 13, 2009

anchor down

We got in about an hour after dark. I can't remember the last time we went into an unfamiliar anchorage in the dark, not fun. Isla de la Plata is not a hard place to get into, but it's very deep right up to shore so it's a little nerve wracking finding a place that isn't right on the rocks and/or 100 ft deep.

We found one though, and right after we had the anchor down about 20 sea turtles came over to inspect us. Swimming right up to the boat at the surface they didn't seem to be afraid of the flashlights we used to watch them with.

Now to fix that sail...



So much for the Galapagos...and the Marquesas...

(One of) the weak links in our plan to go to the Marquesas has always been Nakia's mainsail. It's 12 years old and I've never been very happy with it. It had started developing small rips when we reef, the lines that take in the sail catch it and cause it to rip, so I put a large patch on it to help protect against this.

Our feeling was that the trip to the Marquesas should be mostly down wind, and the main wouldn't have much pressure on it. Of course I completely ignored the fact that the trip to the Galapagos is entirely up-wind where the mainsail has a lot of pressure on it.

Well Friday night the weak link broke. I had just put in the second reef and was adjusting the trim of the sail when it blew out, causing a 6 ft vertical tear above the second reef and out to the back edge. There's no way to repair it on NAKIA, we're 400 miles from the Galapagos and only 150 miles from Bahia, so it's back to Bahia. It takes 2 months for delivery of a sail, so we'll be well past our time frame to get to the Marquesas. Looks like we're spending the wet season in Bahia again...


Update Saturday AM: Instead of returning directly to Bahia we've decided to head south along the Ecuadorian coast to "the poor man's Galapagos," Isla de la Plata. It comes highly recommended so we will enjoy some play time there. John can take a closer look at the sail, and we can plan a strategy for it's repair/replacement. We should make landfall some time Saturday evening, and we're having a pleasant sail reaching with staysail and reefed jib.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Underway to Galapagos

We left Bahia yesterday morning at dawn, no problems getting over the bar except a lot of fishing boats in the entrance. Strong sea breazes from the west sent us way south, then winds from the southwest sent us back north. That's sailing.

78 miles made good, 460 miles left to go.



Monday, June 08, 2009

Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

Here we are back in cool, grey Bahia again, but this time we elected to stay on a mooring at Saiananda instead of at Puerto Amistad. There's been little progress on the bridge over the Rio Chone, and boats are being allowed up river to Saiananda this year so we thought we'd take advantage of our brief detour to stay in this more remote setting. I had no idea the difference between the two places would be so significant! Life on the boat is peaceful and tranquil with none of the rolling from tidal changes, fishing boats, or ferry wakes, and with only eight moorings (bow and stern, all in one row) there's no jockeying for position or swinging at anchor. We never notice anything but the snapping shrimp through the hull and the gentle slapping of a little wind chop in the afternoons. There is the occasional rumble of a truck or bus on the nearby road but it's nothing like the traffic and accumulated noise of the city. And while the bridge pile driver isn't running 24/7 at the moment, when it does start up we can hear it carry all the way up to Saiananda, and we thank our lucky stars we aren't anchored right next to it at Amistad.

We had an uneventful crossing of the river bar at the entrance to Bahia, though it's always tense when you start to see depths of 8' and no visibility at all through murky water. We had barely dropped the anchor in front of the Port Captain's office when we were boarded by a "health inspector," complete with a surgical face mask, who checked us out for swine flu ($5). This entailed nothing but a brief interview, and then the rest of the welcoming committee (Immigration - $20, though the receipt says $15, Customs, Port Captain's office - $35, and Navy; also $5 for the panga to bring them to Nakia, which the Navy used to provide for free; plus $60 for the round trip taxi fare to bring the Immigration and Customs officials from Manta, a trip we used to be able to make ourselves) squeezed into Nakia's tiny cabin. We literally had no time to get fenders over the side, or change into our "meet and greet officials" outfits (we were still in our slightly grungy underway clothes), and it was a bit overwhelming having everyone asking for papers and firing questions in Spanish all at once. But it was late in the day and they were all anxious to get it over with so they could go home, and once they had what they needed we were underway again for the short trip up river to Saiananda. Dave, from Revenir, met us in his dinghy and picked up the mooring line for us. All I had to do was reach down, pull it through the hawse pipe, and put the loop over the bits on the samson post (how nautical does that sound!?).

Right away the next day John got to work on all the minor boat projects he had thought of during the passage. During our stay here he disassembled the Cape Horn wind vane (self-steering) to clean and adjust it, moved the AIS antenna to get it out of the way of the wind vane, went up the mast to inspect the rig, changed the engine oil, fixed a small tear in the main sail and reinforced the most vulnerable area (near the reef points), disassembled the dinghy to clean and patch it, and even sewed the soles of my old Tevas which won't hold together with rubber cement anymore. I stood by to assist for some of the projects, did my usual household chores and the shopping, washed the boat, scrubbed the green waterline and the black tire marks left on the hull by the welcoming panga, polished a little stainless, and defrosted the fridge.

When we took the bus into Bahia (.35 for the two of us and about a 20 minute ride to town from Saiananda) we noticed that the town seems to be doing well. The gas station is under new ownership with bright new signage, both Columbiu's and Cafe Gal have new signs, there's a new Chinese restaurant called Chifa Canton, and the park out in front of Coco Bongo is being spruced up with new walk ways, grass, and curbs. Above the town up on the hill by the Cross is a large new tower reminiscent of a lighthouse which is a new cell tower for Movistar phone service. At Puerto Amistad there's a new, round, thatched palapa in the garden with a nicely finished concrete counter lining the inside and plenty of electrical outlets for a new wireless computing area. The table we were using in the bar gets pretty crowded and is in the way of bar traffic so this will be a nice addition for the cruisers staying at PA.

In local news (for all our cruiser friends out there): Suzy was held up at gunpoint on a bus in Guayaquil. It was a city bus full of University students, at 9:30 PM, she was with a male friend, and fortunately no one was hurt. But they got her purse with all her ID, cell phone, and cash so she had to spend days going back and forth between Manta and Portoviejo redoing her papers. She also told us that Hotel Bambu in Canoa was robbed by people who came and left by boat. Gary has Archie's Way up on the "haul out" beach and is doing lots of work to get it ready to sail again; he hasn't developed the property he cleared on the waterfront. Dan is renting an apartment and has bought ocean view property above the malecon. He's continuing his Spanish lessons with Ampara. ;-)

Here at Saiananda, Michael and Suzanne of Namaste are volunteering at Alfredo's school. They are teaching English to 8th and 9th graders, two classes, three mornings a week. Our hats are off to them for tackling this huge commitment! We on the other hand (now that most of the boat chores are complete) are selfishly kicking back and enjoying the sights and sounds of Saiananda: peacocks, macaws, assorted parrots, pigeons, chickens, pheasant, small birds, geese, turtles, huge wild iguanas, dogs, a cat, a donkey, horses, and goats round out this miniature farm. Alfredo breeds birds, fish, and animals, and grows plants and cacti, for sale to earn money to support his school (which is free for the children attending). Each year as the original class of children grows he adds another grade to the school so they can continue their education. He recently held a weekend seminar here for one of the grades, and they seemed to be having a wonderful time. I happily collect our kitchen refuse to feed my favorite, Shanti the donkey, and I use Ziggy's hated curry comb to brush anything that will let me (mostly the four dogs and the cat, but once the ram seemed to enjoy it!). There's a two month old filly to cajole (the horses were rescued from an abusive situation so they're extremely people shy), and one morning I went ashore early to discover the ewe had recently give birth to her adorable wobbly baby. After mentioning it to staff, I appear to have been the first one to notice it!

Last week we had a nice overnight getaway on the Canoa side of the river, visiting our friends from M/V Illahee at their gorgeous "mansion," Casa Mora. At least that's what we call it because it's painted a deep pink like blackberry juice (and it sounds more dignified than "the pink house"). We had lunch in Canoa, walked the beach, played with their Siamese, Wayne took John to the lumber yard, and Cher fed us homemade lasagna to die for. It's always nice to have a vacation from our "vacation," and it was great to catch up with friends we first met way back in '96.

We are happy to have had the break in our trip, but we are looking forward to resuming our passage to the Galapagos early this Thursday. Ideally it's a five day trip, but we're planning on 7-10 days to set our expectations low.

Apologies for playing the role of proud Auntie, but here's a photo of my niece, 2009 Pendleton Round Up Princess Mackenzie Beard, at the Rose Parade in Portland, Oregon:


Oh, and check out this web site (click on the Activities link) for a nice photo of Nakia in Bahia last year:


Linda and John