This was it, the big passage, the scariest, most impressive 3000 miles I have ever travelled. How can I begin to explain the challenge of leaving, the fear of not having enough fuel, food and water and the realization that we had so much more than we needed it was ridiculous! Leaving Galapagos was hard, as it always is for me to leave a place I have come to love. The last few days we went to provision, unfortunately the supply ship hadn’t been in for a while, and the bakery with the delicious croissants was closed so we didn’t have any packaged bread, only 2 packs of crumbly tortillas and had to head to the market the morning we were leaving for our fresh fruits and vegetables. It was a fun shop, and ended with a fresh donut, the first I’ve had in ages, a most delicious treat.
We managed to get packed up by lunch time, Bamboleiro heading out about 30 minutes before we left. And with a grey cloud moving in we took the sail cover off, fired up the engine, had a lovely last visit from “happy guy” our favourite water taxi man who spent 5 minutes explaining lots of things in Spanish, asked if I had Facebook and sent us off with hugs and handshakes, a lovely send off. We cleared the harbour and but our sails up, the wind picked up and we were off, Bamboleiro in the distance and with that goal we hoisted first our little spinnaker and then our big one and set out to catch up. We sailed quite close and then we were off, into the sunset.
That first night the sun set around 6 pm, and with the setting sun, Phil went down for his first sleep of the night and I set out to do my first watch. 7-10 or 11 pm, then Phil was on until 3 am, and then I was up until he woke again usually between 7 and 10 am. The sun rose around 6 am and it was a beautiful day at sea. The first few days had a bit of wind, and so it took a while (but no medicine) for my stomach to settle in. We talked briefly about putting out the lines but really our fridge was so stuffed we focussed mostly on eating our way through our supplies. The first day and a bit we sailed through the Galapagos, looking at Isabella a huge mountainous island covered in rain clouds, followed by Galapagos petrels and boobies, even visited by a family of sea lions about 4 miles away from shore. The Galapagos petrels were beautiful, tiny little birds that would flit right over the waves. When it was calm they would dangle their long spindly legs down and wiggle their toes in the water (to attract fish?) it looked like they were dancing.
We lost sight of land by the third day and that was it, we were out in the pacific. The days drifted into a regular rhythm and within a few days the seas had calmed down enough that I felt pretty good and was actually managing to do things around the boat, cook lunch, do dishes, tidy up, just bits and pieces but more than I had managed on past passages. We had so much food we could barely see into the fridge and getting what you wanted out became a cross between a mission and a joke. Sunscreen every day and I still managed to get burned. Gave up on exercises the rolling was a trial enough. Our typical day felt like it started in the evening when we both had dinner, then we just rolled into the events of the day, setting sails, checking sail trim and making sure we didn’t run into anyone. Some boats didn’t use a watch system, terrifying because we knew they were out there somewhere and we managed to spot two large fishing boats that didn’t appear on our AIS about 1100 miles away from Galapagos and 1800 to go to Marquesas, literally in the middle of nowhere. We were often surrounded by mother carey’s chickens otherwise known as Galapagos storm petrels, really cool little birds that would dangle their feet in the water so they looked like they were dancing on it. We also took great pride in our boat pets, drosophila (fruit flies) that mainly lived in the bathroom and started to mutate (lots of albino ones) and our crab, which lives in the drain in the back of the cockpit, he has molted at least 2 times and I just saw him looking gloriously happy. He would always come out when we caught a fish to check out what was happening.
Our water maker didn’t work for the duration of the passage (we figure the airlocks in the system just weren’t budging) so we were on a pretty tight water restriction while still drinking absolutely as much as we wanted, we ended up using about 30 gallons over 22 days (not including the rain water I collected for “showering”). Pretty good, used it mostly for drinking, teeth and rinsing the glasses, for some reason salty plates and bowls weren’t so bad (because of washing them in salt water) but salty glasses were terrible). Of course our fresh water washes were a highlight of the trip, to feel less salty and sticky and sunscreening, and to finally get to wash my hair which was feeling way too long! Phil had the same problem, but in 25 kts of wind I managed to give him a haircut on the back of the boat! (only went too short once and it has mostly grown out now!).
The first few days were tough to get up to do my watch but as the days turned to weeks we stopped needing alarm clocks and started to just wake up after about 3 ½ hours. Of course some days were harder than others, on those whoevers was feeling stronger would manage to do a longer watch, much to the relief of the sleepy one.
This was such an incredibly different passage compared to the Caribbean, we only had a few waves that managed to slop into the boat (as opposed to the majority of waves finding a way of getting us wet) and the winds were more variable. The nice treat was the boat was way less salty than usual, although because we had the hatches closed it got really humid inside and the mold won more than one battle.
I wish we had been able to say (as some of the boats did) that we never turned on our engine. But, when it was too calm to move and the swell was slamming our boom (or just our sail) back and forth shuddering the whole rig we both decided that our incredibly expensive diesel from Galapagos was worth it (especially when we got to the Marquesas and realized that diesel is in such short supply that some boats were waiting at least 2 weeks before they could get enough fuel to move on, I’m glad that we actually manage to sail our sail boat!).
How did we pass the time? I had all of these visions of writing and drawing and reading. I did manage to do some of those things, and also to sleep, lots of sleeping. Watch at night was a cross between trying to do things by flashlight and managing to just watch the stars and the ocean, the fish jumping, the phosphorescence, the moon. The nights were magical and I wish I knew my constellations better. During the day our watch system was less set out, have breakfast, try to sleep (that was my hardest thing, trying to fall asleep after the sun came up for my second 4 hour sleep of the night I often didn’t manage which led to some very sleepy days). Then it was lunch time, do the dishes, sit, daydream, and maybe after we had eaten enough out of the fridge put the fishing line over.
We managed to catch 3 fish (and 1 that got away). The first was a small Dorado/mahi-mahi or dolphin fish whichever you like, DELICIOUS! We landed it at sunset and Phil decided he wanted second dinner at 9 pm, a ludicrously late time at night for some reason when you are at sea! It was the most delicious and freshest pan fried fish in the world. The second night we had fish sticks! A few days later we saw another sailboat on the horizon, Robin who had sailed directly from Panama to Marquesas; he was on day 40 of his passage (yikes) and told us about a radio net we could listen to with some good info on the latest formalities. We were contemplating making landfall at Fatu Hiva, the southernmost island which wasn’t exactly a port of entry. We decided that neither of us would be comfortable watching to make sure people didn’t ask for our papers so we ended up heading straight for Hiva Oa. BUT the point of this was for the next 3 days every time Phil hooked up the radio to listen to his net about 15 minutes in we would catch a fish. The first one was a seamonster that landed on our tiny spinning reel with the smallest lure available. Phil fought with it for a solid 15 minutes before it escaped; it was like a fishing show on tv! The next night we caught another fish on that reel. I only found out because as I went outside to chop vegetables for dinner I saw that all the line was gone and the reel was bending over. That time it was a skipjack tuna (for about 3 blissful seconds we thought it was a Bluefin, oh well! The sucker was about 25 lbs and after making dinner with him the first night Phil and I decided that from now on that kind of fish would be known as the chicken of the sea. The next afternoon I decided to try my luck one more time and this time I landed a 3 foot dorado!!! He was so big that we couldn’t even lay him out in our cockpit for filleting and had to do it in stages instead! Little did we know those two fish would feed us for the next 2 weeks (every night, day in day out over and over and over, how many ways to cook a fish!).
To make the most of the wind Racer Phil took advantage of all of the sails we had, changing them up and down and hoisting our spinnaker at regular intervals. We flew our big symmetrical spinnaker for over 48 hours and our smaller a sail for 56 hours, they both suffered a bit, our small asymmetrical spinnaker chafing through its stitching and tearing a bit (we have yet to fix it). It was so good to be flying along though, and at night, ghosting through the water with the spinnaker happily catching as much wind as it could.
As the trip drew to a close we seriously considered turning around for 100 Nm just to have another few days at sea. The lifestyle, the simplicity, the joy of seeing dolphins playing around the boat was incredible. I forgot to tell you about the dolphins, we were surrounded by 50 or more! Playing in the waves, playing with the boat, I didn’t hear them squeaking but the most incredible thing was watching a mother and a tiny copy, her baby mirroring each other exactly as they flew through the waves. It was a moment I will never forget.
Finally as we came in ever closer to land we started to see other boats, Mawari who we had crossed a few days earlier at sea complimenting us on our spinnaker flying, Vulcan Spirit, Calusa. We managed to go from a second place spot to a first place by manoeuvring and as we came through one of the showers to the sun rising, a rainbow and the green beyond green of the land. And that was it, the end of our passage and the beginning of the south pacific. That is all I can remember now, not bad for finally getting around to writing this nearly 2 weeks after the fact. Stay tuned, heading off to write about the Marquesas now!
Still 50 miles from San Cristobal and the bird life was already incredible. We arrived in Galapagos at sunrise, to wreck bay, full of cruising boats. Saw some familiar boats already, our new friends for the rest of the voyage??? Within minutes of dropping our anchor Pedro an agent came to arrange the port captain’s visit. Within an hour we had 4 people on board, checking our supplies (had to give up a lime and 2 remaining oranges), filling in paperwork and getting organized, and without quite knowing how it happened we were in a water taxi heading to land. I was so exhausted, as happens after a long passage, but we made it to shore with our brains still almost working and managed to get through the formalities. The strangest part was paying our parks fees/agent fees/immigration fees/ quarantine fees all at Pedro’s “office” in the back of a tiny shop on the big chest freezer, so strange! Then we were left to our own devices until 3 pm when we had to go back to collect our paperwork. We hadn’t planned on being ashore all day but thankfully I packed sunscreen; the equatorial sun here is crazy bright! We wandered through town, checking out the sights. It is a great little place, the front street has a bunch of shops and restaurants, beer at the local places is $1.50/bottle (or 2.50 for a big bottle) sea lions lounging about all over the boardwalk. They have really done a lovely job developing the walkway, lots of benches to check out and some sketchy things to (following the Latin American “if they are stupid enough to try it isn’t our fault they got hurt) including 2 children’s slides that go from the boardwalk into about 10 inches of water at low tide in a sea lion infested pool! The board walk is fabulous, my favourite are the people that walk along the narrow waterfront bit just far enough to run into a sea lion then have to turn back and walk the rest of the way to get around them!
We found a great place for lunch, run by the happiest people in the world, they sold hamburgers (fairly sure it wasn’t at any point in its life beef) and milkshakes with tonnes of fruit hanging all over the shop, a really fun and friendly place and just what the doctor ordered after 8 days at sea. We wandered around town, found Pablo and got our paperwork and were just sitting in a little park when we ran into Doug and Zulaica from La Luz who we had met before when we were in Panama city. They took us for our first fabulous beer, it was delicious, and then I slept!
We are anchored near a few rafts that during the day are covered in sea lions, such funny noises, kind of a cross between a sneeze, a bark and an old man coughing. Watching them swim under the boat is incredible! The second day here I jumped in the crystal water and took a look at our poor little seamonkey. She was covered in brown slime on the topsides just above the water line and below the water was absolutely COVERED in these cool little stubborn little pain in the tucas little gooseneck barnacles. They were pink and flowery and you could see them floating their little tentacles into the current catching dinner. Then I took a scraper and without a second thought I scraped the poor little things right off! Felt good to have our boat a bit cleaner but it was amazing how much stuff managed to grow in 8 days at sea. Poor Phil, it pains him to have a not clean boat bottom. He is counting down to Tahiti when we might actually have a chance to get some more antifouling on there.
The sea lions really love sitting out of the water so dinghies are at a high risk of sinking. There is also nowhere to leave the dinghy on shore so they have water taxis that head over to the boats and take us to shore. It costs a dollar each way which can get expensive when you want to go in more than once a day, but it is an easy way to get around. Don and Phyllis took us for a delicious lunch, 3.50 for soup, rice, meat, potatoes and juice, a great deal! Wednesday we were possibly going out for a tour but decided we were still too tired, a good thing to because the rain came! I was going to go and buy water with Zulaica and luckily we waited because between our new bucket/roof water catcher design and me sitting with a pot outside collecting water off our sunshades we managed to fill up our tanks with at least 20 gallons of water! I think Bermuda and drinking roof water made it an easier transition for drinking rain water off the roof (although we still couldn’t bring ourselves to drinking water off of the foredeck, too much panama dirt still ground into the decks). It was incredible to watch the water go from so clear you could count the fish and watch the sea lions to brown with run off and plants floating past. Water is a hot commodity here, not a lot and when it rains like this they can have contamination in the drinking water. This is a place where it is worth buying bottled water.
Finally headed off the boat into town, to check out the sea lions and have a bit of a walk, once again found Doug and Zulaica and had dinner out. It has been really lovely eating in restaurants, especially since we aren’t allowed to throw our organic waste away. They were really insistent on no organic waste from boats heading to shore. Makes you not want to have a lot of organic trash!
Thursday, the swell rolled in, I hadn’t realized what a lovely happy, comfortable princess I had become, watching the swell and trying to get anything done on the boat was impossible. We decided to get off and head to shore (thank heavens) and walked over to the interpretation centre. We also went past GAIAS a satellite campus of University San Francisco in Quito (on Friday I headed in and am going to check out a class on Monday!). Then up to the nature reserve and interpretation centre. It was so well done, lots of history on the island and some stuff about the future of Galapagos. They are huge into their sustainable development here, developing tourism to be sustainable, renewable energy, the water crisis and immigration. Really interesting, and very cool to learn that this hasn’t been a deserted island just found by Darwin but has had a thriving community for centuries. There was a really beautiful hike around the nature reserve and we saw our first marine iguanas while watching a bunch of guys surfing at Carola. Finches, a smooth billed ani, frigate birds, pelicans, snakes, lizards, it really was wildlife central and I wish I had an ID book to use. There is an amazing bay for snorkelling and when you stand above it there is a perfect view down to watch the sea lions playing. I think it is only with that perspective that you can begin to understand how fast these guys can move. So cool to watch them play. We saw a booby fly overhead. I had seen a bluefooted booby flying around the anchorage the day before, in the driving rain; hope we’ll see another one! Climbed all the way up frigate bird hill and it was an incredible view. So many living things, so unafraid, it is like I imagined. On the way back down it started to rain, that’s when I realized my flipflops were past their useful life. They were so slippery Phil had to hold my arm like a little old lady all the way into town! Again, ran into Doug and Zulaica and another lovely dinner with them and with Don and Phyllis, no one wanted to be on the boats as they were flopping around in the swell, it was impossible to do anything on them, and difficult to sleep. The next morning though Phil woke up and took advantage of it and went for a 3 hour surf with Doug. I had a surf of my own, trying to use the internet in the town. It is incredible what you get used to. I miss having internet that works. Even in an internet café there was not a lot of connection. Did the best I could but that is why I haven’t managed to post anything in a while.
That afternoon I needed some nature so we went back to Frigate bird hill for another little walk over the volcanic rock. It is a great area, lots of locals swimming, jogging on the paths it was really good to see so many people out and about. I jumped into the bay and had a sea lion swim right under me. I thought it was the most amazing thing until I watched a couple of German tourists with no fear of the barking sea lions have a little pup come right over and swim around them, doing circles and floating on its back. Really want to try getting in the water there again. Saturday morning I was up bright and early to head to the market. It wasn’t the most fabulous market in the world. Not a lot of different produce than we have seen at the grocery store, peppers, mangoes, a peach, and some pears. Bought some meat, so different than the sterile grocery stores of north America. A chunk of meat hanging or on the counter, no washing hands, cutting off a chunk and putting it into a scale that just held a piece of fish or some chicken. I had the option of fresh chicken, still with feathers and clucking, feet bound together, couldn’t even imagine what to do with it! The fish was a challenge enough! After shopping I wandered through the town and had a really lovely look around. They had closed off the street the market was on and a tonne of information booths were set up. I learned about the sea lions which seem to be everywhere but are in fact endangered, some of the local plants, pest control… a bit of everything! Came home with so much Spanish literature Phil just laughed! That afternoon we headed to Lobaria, the sea lion sanctuary. It was a long sweltering walk on pavement, started to understand why people pay for a taxi! It was a beautiful beach, the surf was still breaking. We saw more marine iguanas and sea lions. A little bird tried to flit under my hat which was the only shade in a long way. Phil had a lizard crawl on his shorts which were the colour of a rock, very nature time! The path seemed to go a long distance, yet another hike I would like to do. The longer we stay the more adventures there seem to be! On the way home we decided to jump in the water, the visibility wasn’t fabulous because of the surf, but what a snorkel. So many cool fish that I have never seen before. Angel fish with really different colours, black fish with yellow lips, parrot fish not like normal. Then the amazing things, a sea snake (or an eel) yellow with black spots, slithering past beneath me and two HUGE rays, the big one (with no spots) had at least a 5 foot wingspan and it glided not 3 feet underneath of me, followed by a slightly smaller one with spots. Unfortunately they were out of sight before Phil could stop to take a look. The currents were pretty big there, so you couldn’t go too far out, but I’m looking forward to getting back in the water there. Apparently there are often big turtles which would be great to see! After our adventure we caught up with Bombelero (who had just arrived from panama city) and La Luz, starting to get to know the other boats and so strange to think this will be our caravan community for the next long time! Then brought Doug and Zulaica over for dinner, it was nice to cook on the boat again and to have company.
Yesterday (Sunday) was rain, collected another 10 gallons of water, like mana from the heavens. Phil got a few jobs done and I managed to launch to Beagle (our inflatable kayak) making it much easier to hop around the anchorage to have a few little visits with people. It is funny for 50 cents you can get to another boat, but it is so much more fun to go on my own. I pulled up to Solstice and had a bit of a visit and came out to an “oh dear” I had left the kayak alongside solstice and a sea lion as big as me was lounging in it! In response to my oh dear, he looked at me, barked and then flopped back over the side!
So here we are this morning, I am off to head to class, interested in what they teach here and how they teach so I’m going to sit in on a few lectures. Phil is going to paddle me over and I will probably swim home, how funny is that! We still want to head out for a dive/snorkel in the offshore waters and are looking forward to our land tour. Then there are all the hikes around. We have been here a week today and it has gone fast! Hope to post this soon
The first of our big passages hello pacific. I think I’ve been waiting my whole life for you. Here we are on day 5 of the passage and I now understand why people would actually want to travel by sail boat. Flat seas, 10 knot winds from behind, blue skies, amazing. We set off on the afternoon of St. Patrick day. I unfortunately took a seasickness pill that made me loopier than just being at sea, it has so much calmer than our anchorage in Panama city It was heaven to finally be on our way again. Like a weight had been lifted off of us. The first day we each saw a few ships, and then nothing until yesterday. It is sweltering hot in the day but at night time, especially the first few nights it was beyond freezing. T-shirt, long sleeved shirt, fleece, foul weather coat, long pants and rain pants, wrapped in a fleece blanket and still chilly. We are doing watches now. Finally starting to get into the rhythm of it and feeling less of a zombie than those first few days. Phil is on watch from 7-11, I’m on till 2 am, He’s back on until 6 or so, then I’m on till 11 am, then we nap as needed until the next night. Those first few days you feel like the night of the living dead. But we are more into a routine now and feeling better. WE have been away from shops for nearly 2 weeks and still have enough food for an army. Actually worried about eating all the fresh stuff before Galapagos in case they quarantine it and try to take it away. Day one was a lovely sail, day 2 we put up our big spinnaker and flew before the wind, day 3 we put fishing gear over board, Phil caught our first fish ever, a skipjack tuna (about 6 lbs.) within 30 minutes of putting the hook over. With our trusting fishing guide in hand we managed to kill and fillet it and have some for lunch, pretty incredible. I decided I didn’t want to miss out on the fun so I put the line back over, by 6 pm I was reeling in my first catch a 5 lb. yellow fin tuna, delicious. Tried a recipe for ceviche (lemon onion, tom, pepper and raw tuna) delicious, and had the rest marinated in chili sauce the next day with coconut rice from my hand collected and grated coconut, talk about eating local!. Realised we are going to need to work out more fish recipes soon. Yesterday was a day of rest. Our big spinnaker had some pre-existing love wounds on it including a patch that featured duct tape. So we have been relying on the little on. The wind typically fails a least 2 times a day and we’ve used nearly half a tank of diesel so far, with the doldrums left to come. Still have lots on board though. Later that same day we had a pod of dolphins come and ply, there were 5 of them, playing in the bow waves, going from the front of the boat to the back, playing with each other, hey staid with us for 20 minutes at least and it was such an incredible experience, it really felt like a privilege to be out here and see them. That night as I was trying to sleep at 7 pm (a hard thing to do even when exhausted Phil shouted for me to come up. The nights have been so dark, not a star in the sky because of the clouds and no moon so it is hard to tell the horizon from the water, but the phosphorescence has been amazing. Our friends were back, leaping around the boat, we could only see the; bioluminescent splashes where they landed, One of them came like a bullet under the boat; the only thing giving him away was the trail of green. Yesterday was the long liners, from out of nowhere, haven’t seen another person for 4 days this little 25 foot outboard boat comes up to us and tells us in Spanish they have a long line out for fishing. I have never woken up so fast from a nap hearing Phil talking to another boat. That was the first of 5 separate fishing teams, some asked for food, others just escorted us through and past their lines so we wouldn’t snag it or break it and one guy looked really angry when we told him we had no cigarettes on board. My favourite boat was Devino nino jesus. I couldn’t’ imagine being stuck out on the water 100 miles from shore with no shelter, it is hard work. Whatever they were doing with those long lines it was more wildlife than we had seen in ages, big game fish jumping, our first potential shark spotting (just saw a fin from a distance), a school of big fish leaping out of the water like dolphins, incredible. Today is a day for recouping, Spinnaker has been taped, Dishes washed from last nights feast of vegetable stir-fry and homemade apple crumble (which Phil has declared to be his new favourite boat thing), a fried breakfast this morning. It is so much better than just hanging on. I’m typing on the computer in the shade of our sunshade, trying to keep the spinnaker flying as we head ever closer (currently 58 Nm from the equator. We have bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but not sure how that I’ll go with our current eta of 5:30 am. Another night watch ahead, a blackness, broken by the kitchen timer ringing every 10 minutes, sometimes a sail change, often watching the birds that pluck things from our wake, the bioluminescence of the waves, or our wake behind us, sheet lightening last night, stars if we are lucky. A quiet, peaceful, happy time. Looking out for boats, but knowing you are probably not going to see them. I love it here, I told Phil I hope that this will be sailing from now on. I know we won’t be that lucky but it has been heaven. Off of the computer, time to check the weather and see where the intertropical convergence zone is, how many more days will we be able to sail before we hit the doldrums? Will try to type again soon.