Land Ho! Galapagos…..with an unplanned trip

Dear F&F,
May 9, 2009

Scott was scanning the horizon & spotted 2 islands about half an hour ago. Always very exciting. The sea calmed down dramatically & we had a smooth day of sailing. We rolled up the genny & main sails a while ago as the wind lightened. It was nice that we were both up & it was daytime when we crossed the equator. Neptune seemed to enjoy the Tender Bits, I\’m sure he gets tired of eating fish… We are heading for the barn. It will be after dark when we enter the bay at Santa Cruz Island but with the night scope & good charts we are going to go for it. We are both looking forward to have a good night\’s sleep at anchor. We may see up to a couple of boats we met at Coco Island already anchored at Puerto Ayora.

We will be in these islands 20 days as is allowed cruisers. Our live aboard dive week with \”Sky Dancer\” is May 17-24.

Besides trying to figure out if the red or yellow stripe of the Ecuador flag goes on top, we are doing great. I\’ve got taquitos in the toaster oven & Abba on the Ipod. We are very excited to get here. It is amazing how one can trot across the globe at only 6 knots (7 mph)!

May 10, 2009
So Close & Yet So Far�
We pulled into Academy Bay of Santa Cruz Island – the most populated of all the Galapagos Islands at about 9:00 pm. Santa Cruz island is one of the two Galapagos Islands where private yachts are allowed to go without obtaining a more extensive (& expensive) visa. What a disappointment! It seemed more like we were entering Long Beach than any vision of a nature preserve that you can imagine.

Scott had been trying to hail \”any vessel\”, including the Port Captain, for an hour as we made our approach. No one responded, which struck us as odd for such a busy port. There were many shore lights, so the night scope was not as helpful as other places. We cautiously made our entry. The place was so crowded. There were many many large boats anchored with assorted lights. Cargo vessels, dive boats, Declasse – Class cruise ships. The harbor had an industrial & unwelcoming feel.
There were just a handful of small sailboats anchored that mostly looked neglected with nobody home.

It was very shallow with a big swell coming right in – no protection. None of the bay has protection from the south swell. There was no \”swinging room\” & we did not feel safe to anchor there. Especially since once we choose an island, we cannot move for our 20 day allotted stay. And for 1 week, we will leave our boat will be at anchor unattended. No bueno aqui!

Another boater had referred us to an agent on Santa Cruz. All entering boats are required to check in to the country with the service of an agent. But the referring folks had not actually yet been there & used him. We had been in frequent email contact with this agent who is either clueless about boaters needs or deliberately misrepresented the place in order to collect his fee. Scott used our last satellite minutes to call the guy at home to express our concern & disappointment.

Scott spotted the boat \”Sky Dancer\” that we will join for diving next week. How the poor passengers onboard were tolerating the boats motion at anchor I don\’t know! Scott got the attention of a crew member (later we learned he is the head dive master). Edwin was nice enough to talk to us by VHF radio. He advised us to proceed to San Cristobal Island which he guaranteed has a MUCH calmer anchorage. It is on the north side, so it made sense that it would be more protected from the southerly wind and swell. We would have gone there direct & not wasted our time at Santa Cruz, but we took the recommendation of the agent instead of finding out for ourselves where all the cruisers go. Our bad & now we are paying the price by having to travel all night to San Cristobal. We will go slowly to travel the next 45 miles to arrive about day break. It is ALWAYS a better to enter an unknown place with daylight.

Meanwhile we are flat out of satellite phone minutes. We did not realize how fast we burned through them. It was very difficult to connect to a Winlink station from Coco Island plus you can never get out on Winlink (HF EMAIL) at night which is when I do most of my writing. We will be able to order more minutes when we can get a Winlink connection during the day, but it is bad that we ran out of satellite time. It is our link to the world for urgent weather info or any emergencies. This is a short trip with not much traffic. I napped for the first 2 hours, while Scott negotiated around Santa Fe Island. Then Scott will rest for 3 hours & then we will there. Yet again, we are slamming into a 20 knot headwind. Oh joy! Scott promises me that the wind & sea will be at our back for the trip to the Marquesas. I am starting to wonder if this is just a sailors dream…

I pray this next island is calmer & more of a cruisers desired destination than industrial port like the last place. I was so looking forward to a good night\’s sleep, but we would not have gotten it if we\’d tried to stay at that first place. There was no safe place for us to put down our hook, too crowded & 4-5 foot swell rolling in. No thanks. It is one thing to roll around a bit with the wind & current, but an anchorage is supposed to be protected from the swell. It is a mystery to us why it got so developed as a port. But most of the population is not sleeping on a boat, they are in houses on the land.

Report on San Cristobal to follow

Scott & Cindy