April 6th, 2016 (-6 on UTC)
Dear Friends and Family,
First, I’d like to share this cover photo taken by the aerial drone of Joel Penaloza on the island of Providencia, Columbia!
Beach House Completes the Circle:
36, 617 nautical miles.
This is the distance “Beach House” has sailed since the last time we were here on May 9th, 2009. We arrived on April 2nd, 2016. Six years, 10 months and 24 days from our last time here. We’ve sailed a total of 46,183 nautical miles since “Beach House” was launched ion April 15th, 2004.
Circumnavigation complete – finally, a life’s dream achieved. Needless to say, it’s been bittersweet. We drank a toast of lovely Veuve Clicquot Champagne (Remember, “Beach House” was born in France!) to the most wonderful person I’d ever known – Cindy Stolnitz for getting me here and the most wonderful person today in my life – Nikki Woodrow for getting me back.
I may write a Ship’s Blog on “Reflections on a Life’s Dream”. A post that comes to me in the hours of not quite awake and often when gazing at the stars on watch on a clear night sailing across the ocean. Stand by for that one.
The divers hit the water as all the other officials stepped aboard. So much for the “not too worry” factor.
The two big deals here were the Agriculture official and the Divers.
First, divers go under your boat to see if it’s clean. Yes this is ridiculous as commercial vessels arriving here clearly are rarely clean. What they are hoping to keep out of the islands that aren’t here, I’m not sure and they didn’t say. Fortunately, I’d been warned about this and had cleaned the bottom of the boat very well two days before we’d left the Las Perlas in Panama. As such, the diver gave us the “all clean” and that hurdle had been jumped. The Agriculture guy went through the boat with a fine tooth comb. He wanted to know everything about our rubbish and rubbish policies! (how we handled it) and was particularly interested to see if he could find any bugs. He finally found a small dead moth under our toaster oven where upon he vacuumed it up in a tube to be taken off to the lab and be examined. Yes folks, this is what it’s come too here!
After a half an hour of going through every door, cabinet the refrigerator and freezer (he missed a freezer btw!), he said we were fine, but he couldn’t approve our fumigation permit from Panama. They then pulled out what looked like the gun from “Ghost Busters”.
He said that the materials used in Panama were not sufficient for what they needed here (never told me why btw!) and they’d have to fumigate.
Well, by this time, the Port Captain/Customs/Immigration/Divers and Park People were getting in the shore boat to leave, but I was left with Captain Ghost Buster, his gun and his assistant who turned out to be the diver.
They allowed all windows, hatches and doors to remain open, but shot the big smoke into the saloon and we all coughed our way aboard the shore boat being told not to return for at least 2 ½ hours.
Neither Nikki or I were too pleased about this.
When we returned, there was an oily film all over the couch cushions, the galley counters and the floors. Nikki went on a cleaning tirade. She would have none of this. After about an hour, all was back in order. The next day we spoke to the boat next door who told us they did not pass the bottom inspection. Why? They had some “slime coat” (meaningless) but it showed up particularly well on their white anti-fouling paint.
They were told they had to go 20 miles outside the Park and clean their bottom or not stop in the Galapagos. As we had entered the area, we had seen them sailing off for the supposed bottom cleaning. I will not tell you in the blog how this was resolved. If you want to know, email me…..:-)
Long story short, we’d passed the “Third Degree” and were admitted.
The next day was Sunday and Nikki and I had a good sleep and got “Beach House” all cleaned up from the trip. I still had two boating concerns: Our possible oil leak on both engines, a truly potential “issue”.
Despite our having the engines rebuilt in Shelter Bay, we seemed to have developed an oil leak (which we’d never had) on both engines. The oil seemed to be coming out of the bell housing where the transmission mounts to the power take off (crankshaft). We can’t see it of course, but this sounded a bit ominous. We suspect that when the compression from the rebuild was increased, it may have stressed the crankshaft seals, which were not replaced. This could be for several reasons, in any event, the next truly qualified mechanic is 4000 miles West of here in Tahiti! As such, we’ll invest in oil futures and keep an eye on it. I’m going through about 1 qt. of oil on the port engine every 20 hours of so of operation. We’ll keep you posted on this.
The other issue was fairly minor with our back up water maker. After a few emails and such, I was able to determine (yet again!) another electrical connection was the culprit; it’s now fixed and we’re making freshwater like crazy. We can actually make almost 50 gallons an hour of beautiful great tasting water. This is the first time both units have worked at the same time since we left Guatemala.
Yesterday, we had our agent Bolivar arrange for a tour taxi for us and topped off the fuel. He overcharges greatly for his fuel service. Word to the wise following in our wake – find another method. I just got lazy, but that’s life.
There is only so much to do on San Cristobal. 85% of the island is essentially off limits –a UNESCO DOUBLE World Heritage Site. Double as in – land and underwater. (All of the 18 Galapagos Islands fall into this category). There is one road, very well maintained as the islands get all sorts of funding from the UN and the outside world.
We took the hike up the extinct volcano here, saw the three windmills that add to their diesel power grid. Normally, wind power is essentially useless, but in remote areas with consistent wind they have some value. Hopefully, the local birds aren’t endangered – normally a huge problem with wind power.
We went to a lovely beach and the big deal here is the Tortoise Breeding center for the San Cristobal Tortoise. There were apparently at one time 100,000 of these animals in the Galapagos and they were nearly hunted to extinction by the original sailing ships that came here. There are only 150 tortoises in the breeding center though there is a large population on the northeast side of the island completely inaccessible to people.
When the ships of old arrived, they first introduced rats and cats, both of which predate the tortoise’s eggs. Next, the sailors of old would literally store the tortoise’s upside down on the decks of their ships and keep them that way for up to one year as a source of fresh meat. They have no defenses against simply being carted away.
Of the original 11 species, 3 are indeed extinct.
Lastly, for this first of three islands (the only three that private boats are allowed to visit are San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela), we have experienced the close cousins of the California Sea Lion.
The Sea Lions here, (known in Spanish as Sea Wolves), are genetically related to the California Sea Lion. No one knows exactly how they got here; but what characters. They of course, like in many places seek to take over your boat! Especially catamarans, which have easy, access steps. Believe me, they are cute, but can bite and smell mostly like dead fish – not my favorite smell.
We have to create elaborate ways to keep them out and the various boats have similar variations on the theme. When first here, in 2009, I used heavy water jugs. That didn’t work so well. Now we’re using our boat fenders and boogy boards – still having mixed reviews. It’s amazing how they can jump up and do so – so quietly, we don’t often realize they’re aboard.
For now, we’ll sign off and tomorrow or the next day be off to the awful anchorage at Santa Cruz Island about 45 miles away.
KIT (Keep in touch),
Scott and Nikki – San Cristobal Island, The Galapagos Islands.