May 24 - July 3, 2006

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HIGHLIGHTS - Made It To The Galapagos

Our "quick" trip to the Galapagos through the "windless" doldrums turned into a long beat into strong headwinds. We averaged only about 100 miles per day "made good" toward our destination -- our slowest passage ever. But we finally made it to the "Enchanted Islands" -- land of the giant tortoises.

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May 24 - May 27, 2006

Provisioning for the Pacific

We spent our last days in Panama pursuing one of our favorate hobbies -- shopping. Ken never thought he'd see the day, but now he admits it -- he gets excited about a good grocery store. Of course it really concentrates your mind to know that you may not see a good meat (or candy) department for 7000 miles.

Carrots carrots everywhere!

We visited Panama City's famous produce market and bought lots of potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, eggs, and beans. Heavan knows where we'd store all this stuff on the boat -- it sure wasn't going to fit in the refrigerator.

 

JoAnne (left) and her mother, Reinna (which translates to "Queen") own one of the stalls at the market, and helped us select a wide variety of beans for our passage.

Reinna also asked our advice about a plan she was hatching -- she was hoping that if she booked a passage on a cruise ship she might find a rich man to marry! We tried not to sound too encouraging. (The whole conversation was in Spanish, so Ken can only hope that he got his meaning across.)

Ken with JoAnne and Reinna at Panama market

This is the first time we've had to purchase produce for an extended trip -- we'd always found supermarkets in the Caribbean, so we had just been buying what we needed along the way. But that won't work in the Pacific, so we came home loaded with stuff.

Beth stores her provisions We used the well-known cruiser trick of coating eggs with vaseline so they don't dry out. After this treatment the eggs should last for a month without refrigeration. (Provided that they had never been refrigerated before we bought them.)

 

With onions and cabbages hanging in the main saloon, we felt like real cruisers. Now if we could just stop hitting our heads on them. Vegetable storage

 

We also scoured Panama for another important staple -- Chocolate Chunk Chips Ahoy Cookies. Finally, after visiting 7 supermarkets in Panama, we located a limited stash. We annihiliated the inventory of the one store that had them in stock. Beth and friends

Driving around Panama City was an adventure. Many of the streets are unlabeled and the best map we found did not show all of the street names. (Or all of the streets, since the Panamians seem to find it easier to build new roads than to print new maps.) But somehow we always found our way.

Modern downtown Panama City The city has some very prosperous, modern sections (left), but the traffic was always a bit hairy (right). Busy Panama City

 

Mrs. Fields in Panama City All the comforts of home.

Other World Travelers

Just before we left Panama City, we met an Austrian couple (Heinz and Irene) who were traveling the world in their custom RV (using ships to get across the water). We found that we shared lots of common experiences.

Beth with Heinz and Irene

May 28 - May 30, 2006

Despite the great shopping we were glad to leave Panama. Basically the rainy season there isn't much fun -- steamy heat, torrential downpours and lots of big bugs.

Anchoring Adventures

Leaving Panama City behind Leaving Panama behind (left). But at least one Panamanian stowed away and came with us (right). Large insect hitching a ride

We headed for a nearby bay at Tobago Island where we could clean the bottom of our boat before making the long passage. Ken didn't feel like diving in the polluted harbor of Panama City. (Actually Balboa.)

Tobago Island didn't have much to recommend it. The anchorage was full of noisy weekend party boats and jet skis -- at one point a group of about 15 jet skis made repeated passes among the moored boats! Also, the light moorings couldn't hold Eagle's Wings' 44,000 pounds, and we dragged two of them across the bay. Finally we gave up and used our own anchor, despite the risk of fouling a mooring. Made for a worrisome night.

Ken with "snuba" breathing gear But we did get the bottom cleaned. Ken spent more than three hours in the water, using our powered "deck snorkel" for breathing. Air pump for deck snorkel

He estimates that we had around 1500 to 2000 barnacles -- each about the size of a nickle. What happens is that one comes to dinner, and then they invite their friends and family. And cousins, aunts uncles... So much for our expensive Micron 66 bottom paint!

Then Ken developed a fever and we decided to move to another nearby bay -- this one at Ensenada Island. We planned to hang out until Ken felt better -- we didn't want to start our long trip while he was under the weather. Several ugly looking squalls chased us to Ensenada.

We felt very secluded and protected tucked behind the little island of Ensenada. Other than a few fishing boats passing through, we had the entire bay to ourselves. Tranquil Ensenada Island

 

Stuck in the mud with the outgoing tide

We soon discovered why we were all by ourselves. The outgoing tide left us stuck in the mud! Fortunately we didn't tip over, but we got stressed out watching the water go away.

Eagle's Wings likes open ocean. Forget this mucky stuff!

 

With the next rising tide, we were able to break loose and move into the middle of the bay. Safe again

 

Mud clogging up sea strainer Starting the engine when you're stuck in the mud can be risky. We waited until we were just afloat to start the Yanmar, but we still sucked lots of muck up the intake. Fortunately, the strainer caught most of it before it got into the engine and plugged the heat exchangers.

 

We could see why the bay was popular with fishermen -- shrimp were jumping out of the water and onto our boat! Two shrimps on deck!

 

Spectacular Panama sunset

Mother nature treated us to a gorgeous last sunset before we headed off. Our last view of America!

 

 

May 31 - June 8, 2006

Galapagos Bound

We expected an easy, boring trip to the Galapagos, since we had to pass through the "doldrums" on the equator -- an area famous for having no wind. This spot is where the Ancient Mariner described his motionless boat as "a painted ship upon a painted ocean." Instead we got one of our toughest passages ever.

First we had to deal with the tremendous number of commercial ships that funnel into the Bay of Panama.

Can you find the sailboat in this picture? At left, can you find the sailboat being transported by this freighter? On the right a close up shows the racing boat on deck for the trip through the Panama Canal. Racing sailboat on deck

Deer in the Headlights at "Punta Mala"

After about 12 hours underway, we approached "Punta Mala" at the mouth of the Bay of Panama at about ten o'clock at night. Punta Mala means "bad point." Seems that all of the North and Northwest bound traffic has to round that point -- so all those ships headed for Japan and China and San Francisco have to funnel through a few square miles of water. We often had more than a dozen ships within ten miles of us, all going between 12 and 24 knots, and often changing course to round the point or avoid each other. We felt like a rabbit on an interstate highway!

We don't count on ships seeing us, since a sailboat makes a really small radar target (even with a radar reflector). And we doubt that big ships keep much of a visual watch. Normally we track ships on our radar (by putting a "bearing line" on them) and then call them up if they're on a collision course with us. But that strategy wouldn't have worked here.

We have to track a ship on radar for about ten minutes before we know if they are converging with us -- and our radar can only put bearing lines on two ships at a time. And to call them on the radio we have to estimate the position of the ship and then call "commercial ship at approximate position xxx latitude and yyy longitude." That works ok when you're in the middle of the ocean with one other ship, but good luck when you have ten ships coming at you within a few miles! Even if they answered, you'd have no idea if you were talking to the right ship. And what about all the other ships that you weren't tracking?

Technology to the Rescue

Traffic at the mouth of the Bay of Panama Intense traffic around Punta Mala, displayed on our brand-new "AIS" system.

Two years ago, in the control tower at Bermuda Harbor Radio, Ken had glimpsed the answer. And he had lusted after it ever since. Seems that commercial ships are required to carry a technology called AIS ("Automatic Identification System"). AIS automatically broadcasts a radio signal which shows the ship's name, its GPS position, course, speed, destination, cargo and all sorts of other good information.

Each ship's AIS system also receives all of the signals from other ships, and plots them all on a screen. It even tells you how close you will pass to each ship, and the number of minutes until you will reach that point. Wow!

The commercial systems cost a lot, but just before we left Curacao, we found a sailor who was distributing a cheaper Chinese-made version of the system that works on a laptop. It was still on the way from China when we left Curacao, but we had it shipped to Panama.

As you might expect with a bleeding edge product, it didn't work.

After opening it up, we discovered the circuit board had worked loose during shipping (see tilted board at top right). It worked better once we reattached the board!

Inside of AIS unit, showing unseated circuit board

And so, as we rounded the deadly Punta Mala, we were able to call ships by name. "Formosa Seven, this is sailing vessel Eagle's Wings three and a half miles from you, bearing 72 degrees. Do you have us on your AIS system? What are your intentions?" It worked every time. What a GREAT technology!

Beating In The Doldrums

We had expected dead calm motoring through the doldrums. Instead, we had headwinds (sometimes exceeding 20 knots) and adverse currents of about two knots. Often we were going 7 knots over the water, but only making good about three knots toward the Galapagos. (Because a sailboat that's "beating" has to zigzag back and forth -- never actually pointing at the destination. Plus that current!)

After several days of this, Ken was hoping for some doldrums.

This was our slowest passage ever -- over eight days to go about 950 straight line miles. Of course we didn't go in a straight line!

But it was ok. We got to sail, instead of motor -- and if we were in a hurry, we would have bought an airplane ticket!

Beating upwind through the doldrums

 

Snug inside pilothouse We got lots of rain and squalls. but the pilothouse kept us warm and dry.

 

With the boat pitching around, you always wish you had more hands. Beth discovered a new use for her head -- perfect for maintaining a three point stance while unpacking lunch.

Ken said to leave out the word "new" in the last sentence.

Beth discovers new use for her head

 

Slicing through the waves We saw some big waves on this trip -- probably the biggest we've encountered yet. The waves also seemed more like Lake Michigan waves -- short period and steep. But Beth was happy as a clam with her Chips Ahoy cookies and milk. Beth content with cookies -- comfort food underway

 

Squid on deck

The conditions at the beginning of the trip were not conducive for fishing. Plus, Ken still was running a low grade fever, so he didn't feel inspired to set up the lines.

We did "catch" lots of squid as we plowed through the water. Unfortunately we always discovered them hours after they had landed, so they weren't very appetizing.

 

Malpelo, a big rock island, lay right in the middle of our path. With our slow progress it took forever to get by this rock!

Several other boats who had made the passage to the Galapagos ahead of us ran into fishing nets in this area. At least three boats got entangled in lines or nets and had to dive under their boats to cut themselves free. Fortunately we only saw a few fishing boats and we were able to keep clear.

Malpelo looming for hours in the distance

 

Disposing of garbage underway

It's legal and normal to throw garbage overboard at sea, but it feels really weird. But better to bury it in 9000 feet of water than to cart it to a landfill on some tiny island!

We never throw plastic overboard, because it floats and it lasts forever.

We had been wanting to adjust our shrouds for months but you need to be close-hauled to do it. Well, we got our chance. You adjust the shrouds by tightening the leeward shrouds, tacking and doing the same thing on the other side.

Ken tightening shrouds

Ken braved the spray and seas to tighten the shrouds. The leeward side was very wet! Fortunately the water was nice and warm.

Ken didn't even drop any tools over the side.

Ken getting salt water bath

Crossing The Equator

Crossing the Equator is a famous rite of passage for sailors, and our anticipation grew as the latitude numbers slowly ticked their way toward zero. The winds had finally shifted to the southeast and we could sail a more comfortable course.

Beautiful sunset near the Equator The sky cleared enough to give us our first sunset of the trip the evening we crossed the Equator. We hoped that was a good omen. Approaching the Equator

 

The Skipjack was small, but we could get two meals out of it Just as the sun was setting, we snared our first fish (Skipjack Tuna) of the trip. Another good omen. (Sailors are aways superstitious.)

We made our Equator crossing at 0200 UTC on June 8 (equivalent to 9:02 p.m. CST on June 7).

The first line in the pop up box on the right of the screen shows our zero, zero, zero latitude. (We missed getting a picture of perfect zero by a split second.) You can also see our boat (red boat icon in upper left quandrant) crossing the line.

The chart software makes everything a lot more graphic than real life. In real life the Equator looked about like all the rest of the water.

Crossing the equator

As we crossed the Equator, we had a little ceremony. Some sailors douse each other in seawater or shaving cream, but we're not that crazy.

Ken playing the harmonica as we cross the Equator

Ken played "Mr. Tambourine Man" (the first song he'd ever learned to play), -- "Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship..." and he also recited from memory the beautiful poem "Sea Fever" -- "I must go down to the seas again, the lonely sea and the sky/And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by..."

Then he played "Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her" (a traditional end of passage song) "Oh the winds were foul and the work was hard/Leave her Johnny leave her/From Panama City to the Galapagos yard/And it's time for us to leave her..."

"Oh it was rotten meat and weevily bread/Leave her Johnny, leave her/Eat it or starve, the old lady said/And it's time for us to leave her..."

 

Beth made an offering to Poseidon, giving up some Balboas (from Panama) and some EC (East Caribbean) coins.

We figured that Poseidon would have more use for this stuff than we would.

Making an offering to Poseidon

Repairs Underway

The boat likes sailing off the wind more than beating. Upwind work strains the rig and bashes all the gear as we pound along. So it wasn't a big surprise when things started to break. But it got kind of old -- in the space of two days at the end of the passage we put a tear in our jib, broke the windvane line, broke the windvane rudder arm, blew out the genset impeller and broke the diaphram in the house water pump!

Beth began to suspect that our Equator offering (equivalent of $1.30) wasn't enough to satisfy Poseidon. But Ken insisted that Poseidon controls only sea conditions -- he doesn't have authority over mechanical and electrical systems!

First, we opened a large (12 foot) seam on our jib. We were so busy trying to save the sail that we didn't get a picture of the tear. But this picture after our repair in the Galapagos shows the size of the problem. We used the staysail for the remainder of the trip. Network of patches to repair jib

 

Control line chafed through inside the windvane mechanism Next, the control line for our windvane broke. Fortunately we got the boat back under control before the boat tacked or jibed. Chafe is a problem everywhere on sailboats.

 

Rough ride working with the windvane underway

Ken strung a new line through the windvane unit (left) and then retied it on board (right).

We were able to improvise with some spare line we had onboard -- but we plan to order 100 feet of spectra line in the Galapagos. Enough to fix this problem at least 20 times!

Ken restringing new line for Monitor windvane

 

Broken genset water pump impeller Then the genset stopped working. Ken checked the water pump and found a broken impeller (left). He was able to fix it pretty quickly (right) and we were back in business! Ken replacing impeller underway

Finally, the house fresh water pump stopped working. We noticed there was a bunch of water pooled on top of the pump but since this happened within hours of when we would arrive at the Galapagos, we decided to wait until got to port before fixing it.

Then the windvane pendulum arm broke. This failure we can explain -- operator error. Beth disengaged the windvane and started the hydraulic autopilot in order to tack the boat. After tacking, she re-engaged the windvane. Notice that we don't mention disengaging the autopilot. BIG mistake!

So these two very powerful steering systems got to fight over which way to turn the wheel. The picture at right shows the result-- the Monitor's "crush tube" did what it was supposed to do and acted as a weak link.

New and broken crush tubes for Monitor windvane

Fortunately we were carrying a spare and Ken made repairs after we got to port. Since Ken couldn't repair the operator, we also ordered two new crush tubes.

Magical Wildlife

As we got nearer to the Galapagos, we began to see a lot of bird activity.

Birds flying with boat We had several pairs of birds (probably boobies) flying with us for hours on end. The birds thrilled us with their acrobatic skills and dive bombing attacks on fish.

Even at night, we had birds flying with us. We believe the night birds were Swallow-tailed Gulls (found only in the Galapagos) -- the only nocturnal gull. They liked the squid and flying fish that we stirred up.

Red-footed booby hitching a ride

This Red-footed Booby found refuge for hours on our forward rail. He finally caught some needed sleep (right).

We were awed that he could sleep balanced on our lifeline with the boat pitching and pounding.

Booby having a snooze

In addition to the gulls and boobies, we saw Audubon Shearwaters, Hawaiian Petrels, and Storm Petrels.

Making landfall in the Galapagos Passing by Santa Fe Island in the Galapagos. We could tell right away that these islands were different. The topography was very strange -- they did kind of look like tortoises!

Our Galapagos experience was full of surprises -- including the weather. You'd think it would be hot at the Equator, but this time of year the Humboldt current brings cold water up from South America. We loved the cool temperatures but we actually hauled out our long underware for those cold 75 degree mornings on the boat. Guess we've lost our tolerance for colder temps!

June 9 - June 27, 2006

Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos

Most Galapagos tourists pass through Isla Santa Cruz on their way to and from the airport, so it's a bustling place. The anchorage at Academy Bay was busier than any other place we've visited. Excursion boats came and went constantly and new boats anchored very close to us every day.

 

This big steel cruise boat (right) swung to within about 10 feet of us. We were afraid his gunnels when take out our bimini if he got much closer.

He dropped back after Ken yelled at him in Spanish.

This guy swung to within ten feet

 

For some reason, most of the anchorages in the Galapagos lie on the exposed windward sides of the islands. In Academy Bay the swells came in from the Southeast, while swift tidal currents pushed the boats in all directions.

For the first time we used our stern anchor as well as the bow anchor. The stern anchor kept our bow pointed into the swell and kept us from swinging into the other boats stacked up next to us.

Not a comfortable place!

Eagles Wings lying with stern anchor in crowded Academy Bay

 

We heard lots of shouting as this bit of cargo went into the launch Puerto Ayora, in Academy Bay, lacks a proper wharf. So all the cargo has to be loaded and unloaded by launches. Here a truck gets off-loaded from a freighter.

Even with all of the boat activity in the harbor, we saw tons of wildlife. The Blue-footed Boobies startled us with loud "thunks" as they plunged into the water at high speed, like dive bombers. We hoped they wouldn't misjudge and land on our heads! We also saw pelicans, frigate birds, storm petrels, dolphins, and sea lions near our anchorage spot.

Black-tipped sharks circling the transom of our boat

A school of at least eight baby Black-tipped Sharks adopted our boat.

They were pretty small (18-24 inches long), but they still made Ken think twice about cleaning the bottom. Those barnacles coming loose would probably get them all excited!

Baby black-tipped shark trying to look fierce

 

Preventative fumigation

The Ecuadorians take great care to prevent invasive animals, insects, or plants from coming ashore, and all boats must be "fumigated" to kill cockroaches. The fumigation chemical is actually a jelly so it wasn't too bad -- not like a big smoke bomb.

There are already lots of cockroaches on shore, so maybe they are trying to protect the native roaches?

 

Feral goats, rats, cattle, cats, dogs and introduced plants pose a huge threat to the islands and the Ecuadorian government spends lots of money trying to kill them off.

But they can't keep the residents from raising goats, cattle, cats, dogs and lots of non-native plants!

A dangerous animal

 

Note the child's seat on the second bike.  Wouldn't see that in the States! Despite its bustle, the town of Puerto Ayora is crime free. Nobody locks their bikes. A nice change from Panama!

Soon after we arrived in Santa Cruz, we started to hear about the World Cup. For the first time ever, Ecuador had a chance to advance beyond the first round, and people were nuts about it.

Many of the locals wore their team's colors in honor of the games. We'd never seen a professional soccer game (everyone else in the world calls it "football") but we couldn't help but get caught up in their enthusiasm. Water taxi driver and his daughter in Ecuador's colors

 

Everybody gathered to watch the first soccer match The town practically shut down for the game. People gathered in their homes, at bars, restaurants, or any place that had a TV. Boys intent on the game

 

Celebrating a goal When Ecuador won its first two games, against Poland and Costa Rica, and advanced to the second round, the whole town went crazy. People were ecstatic when Ecuador won

 

Do it yourself parade Everyone with a car, bike, or motorcycle joined in a spontaneous parade after the second win. This was only the beginning of the very long path to the World Cup, but the Ecuadorians celebrated as if they had won the whole thing! Infectious enthusiasm

Unfortunately, Ecuador's next two opponents, Germany and England, had two of the best teams in the world. Ecuador lost badly to Germany but put up a good fight before losing to England, and people seemed satisfied with their team.

We watched the second game at a local bar and liked the action and rhythm. A game lasts 90 minutes with only one 15 minute halftime break. Otherwise there are no stops in the action -- no timeouts or breaks, and the only commercials we saw were periodic mini-commercials played at the bottom of the screen. People really concentrate while the game is playing -- no chitchatting during the action.

One of the Europeans here told us that the American networks had approached the Football governing body with a proposal to broadcast in the U.S. -- provided that the game was changed to include lots of timeouts for commercials. Needless to say that idea went nowhere.

Wonderous Wildlife

Of course people don't come to the Galapagos for the football. We come for the strange and unique wildlife of the islands. (Well, ok, we also come because the Galapagos are the only place to stop between Panama and the Marquesas.)

But we'd never experienced so much wildlife that close and personal in a natural environment. Many of the creatures and plants we saw are found only in the Galapagos. The manner in which Galapagos animals and plants seemed to have changed from similar species on the mainland of South America, and the manner in which they seemed to have developed differently across the different islands and environments of the Galapagos provided the inspiration for Darwin's famous insight that species are not fixed, but rather change under the pressures of their environments.

Tortoise taking a break from dinner to look us over The Galapagos' most famous resident is the Galapagos Giant Tortoise. These massive creatures can reach 500 to 600 pounds. We wondered how they could even move.

 

The answer seems to be -- slowly. We can see why tortoises have never been famous as sprinters. This guy was probably moving at a blazing three hours per mile. Tortoise  trying to break 20 minutes in the hundred yard dash

 

Close up of Galapagos tortoise As we got close they'd sit down and retreat into their shells, letting out a loud hissing sound as the air rushed out of the shell to make room for their body (it sounded like Darth Vadar's breathing!). Tortoise retreating into his shell

These magnificant animals were almost hunted to extinction by seafarers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Whalers liked them because the poor creatures could live for months stacked up in the hold of a ship. Now active breeding programs have restored the populations on several islands.

Booby Babies

While the tortoises were amazing, we were captivated by the Blue-footed Boobies, particularly booby bables. We couldn't believe how close we could get to these adorable creatures. (Actually that's why the original visiting sailors named them boobies -- because they weren't accustomed to fearing people.)

On Isla Seymour, just off Santa Cruz, we saw many babies just sitting alone on the ground. The naturalist told us that once the babies reach a certain age and were not in danger of being eaten by rats or frigate birds, both parents go to sea to hunt. They had to catch enough food to feed themselves as well as their large, voracious offspring.

Booby baby all by his lonesome Booby baby waiting for Mom or Dad Already the large wings were developing

 

Booby baby trying to balance on rock This booby was resting like this. Beth recognized the three-point stance.  

 

Booby parent feeding baby Not all booby babies were alone. We saw many parents feeding young (left) and even siblings waiting patiently for their next meal (right). Booby siblings hanging out

 

Can you find the chick under the parent? Isla Seymour also had colonies of two types of Magnificant (purplish sheen on back) and Great (greenish sheen on back) Frigate birds. The Magnificants have the largest wingspan to weight ratio of any type of bird. Feeding frigate chick

The male frigates try to attract females by inflating bright red throat pouches. One inflation episode can last for more than a day. Usually the males displayed alone, but sometimes a group of males with inflated pouches would huddle together, hoping to make a bigger splash with the females. Beth can think of lots of "stuffed shirt" and "over-inflated" comparisons, but we'll let them go unsaid!

Male frigate displaying enormous pouch Male frigate demonstrating aeronautical efficiency Single male with big pouch seeks female for long walks on the beach and other activities

 

Frigate birds flocking around tour boat, hoping for a handout On our trip to Isla Seymour, our tour boat was swarmed by a flocks of frigates, looking for food scraps. You could practically reach out and touch them. Beth lost some of her enthusiasm after a couple of near misses from guano bombs.

 

Henry making a particularly dramatic point about the wildlife in the Galapagos We met some enthusiastic visitors on some of the tours, including Henry (left), a young boy whose lifelong dream has been to visit the Galapagos. He was extremely knowledgeable and articulate as he expounded on the wonders of the place to our group on the tour boat. At the end of his lecture, he asked "Are there any questions?" He was dubbed a "GIT" (Guide In Training).

 

We also saw Galapagos Sea Lions everywhere we went. They even invaded the cockpits of some cruising boats anchored at Isla San Cristobol. That can be fun for a while, but when one relieved himself through an open hatch of a friend's boat, our friends decided that they'd gotten a little too close to nature! Sea lions enjoying the warm sun

Male sea lions defend small pieces of beach front property, on which the girls like to sun themselves. More property, more girls.

Female Sea lions catching rays

But the females are free to move around, and the one on the rock (at right) moved to a different territory despite the loud protests of the male in the water.

Hey baby... my beach is bigger!

 

Baby sea lion waiting for Mom

We saw several young sea lion pups all alone (left) on Isla South Plaza. Their mothers were at sea fishing. Our guide told us that sometimes their mothers never return, as they often fall prey to sharks.

The dead sea lion on the right has a huge shark bite out of his side. Somehow he managed to climb back up the cliff after the attack.

Sea lion showing deadly sharkbite in his hide

 

Melted remains of sea lion baby A lot of the babies don't make it -- it's just part of the process. All that remains of the baby sea lion (left) is the pelt. And the baby pelican (right) probably starved before he learned the complicated pelican fishing technique. Dead bird deteriorating in the sun

When we hike we normally look out for rocks and tricky trail features. In the Galapagos, you have to be careful not to step on the wildlife!

Land iguanas (below) thrived on Isla South Plaza (they certainly were underfoot alot!). We learned that Land Iguanas (endemic on other Galapagos islands) were a recent introduction to Isla South Plaza -- casually transplanted from another island by some scientists a few generations ago. That wouldn't happen today!.

Land iguana showing lots of energy Land iguana blends right into the landscape Land iguana smack in the middle of the trail

 

Sea lion resting in the shade of Prickly Pear Cactus tree

Land Iguanas love to eat Giant Prickly Pear Cacti -- a real tribute to their tough mouths.

But the iguanas are not great climbers, so they can only reach the pads near the ground.

Iguana having a cactus snack

Now the population of iguanas on South Plaza has gotten so large that virtually no new Prickly Pear plants can survive, because they get eaten before they get tall. So once all of the reachable pads on the existing cacti are eaten, the iguana population will have to crash.

Dead iguana frozen in place This iguana may have been one of the first to starve.

 

Lava lizards were everywhere. They come in all different colorations, depending on the environment. Lava lizard sunning himself on a rock

 

Marine Iguana up close and personal

Galapagos Marine Iguanas are the world's the only seagoing lizards. They eat algae that grows on the coastal rocks.

In the evening groups of the iguanas piled together (right) to preserve body warmth.

Marine Iguanas huddling for warmth as the afternoon temperatures fall

 

Beautiful tropicbird soaring near the cliffs of Isla Plaza

We stood at the edge of a cliff and watched Red-billed Tropicbirds (left) swooping back and forth to their nests on the cliff wall. Sometimes they needed four or five tries to make a successful landing.

The beautiful Swallow-tailed Gulls (right) were completely unafraid.

Affectionate gulls

 

Colorful Sally Lightfoot Crab Baby Sally Lightfoot Crabs are black to blend in with the lava rocks (right). But the adults (left) display bright reds and blues. Large numbers of Sally Lightfoot Crabs hiding in the rocks

 

Brown Pelicans found plentiful food supplies (crabs and fish) in the Galapagos waters. All of the birds we saw looked very plump.

But abundance didn't stop pelicans and boobies from stealing food from each other. We saw food fights where one bird would catch a fish and another would come along and swipe it away -- sometimes right out of the other bird's mouth! The birds never seemed to hold a grudge.

Pelican at rest

 

Bryde Whale blowing its spout We were fortunate to see two different types of whales (Bryde, left) and Orcas (right) within minutes of each other. Pod of killer whales

 

Smooth-billed Ani was introduced to control cattle ticks   Some cattle farmers introduced the Smooth-Billed Ani to the Galapagos in recent years. It was supposed to eat cattle ticks, but apparently found better things to eat.

 

We loved seeing Great Blue Herons up close. We were within 6 feet of this bird (right) and he wasn't in the least bit disturbed. We were more concerned about HIM -- particularly that long pointy knife sticking out of his face. Hopefully we didn't look too much like a Sally Lightfoot. Great Blue Heron is majestic as it gracefully travels along the shore

Thirteen species of finches (also known as "Darwin's Finches") inhabit the Galapagos. Small variations in the finches' bills inspired Charles Darwin's stunning work on evolution and natural selection during his visit to the Galapagos in 1835. We enjoyed seeing finches in the same setting as he would have observed over 170 years ago.

Medium Ground Finch munching away The Medium Ground Finch (left) has a chunkier and shorter beak than the Cactus Ground Finch (right), even though both are thought to have descended from a common ancestor that made the trip to the Galapagos from the mainland. Cactus Ground Finch displaying longer beak

 

Acacia blossoms were so perfectly round it was hard to believe they were real The varied climatic regions of the islands supported a variety of plants. Many occur only on the Galapagos. Graceful string-like bush

 

Multicolored Lantana Most of the colorful flowering plants were introduced to the Galapagos. Flowers didn't make it here on their own because they usually depended on a specific insect for pollination. Unless the insect and the plant both happened to cross from the mainland at the same time, neither could survive. Lovingly tended (but non-native) flowers

Lava Tubes

We took a taxi to a nearby town and walked to an area where a previous lava flow had cooled and left an enormous tunnel under the ground. These tunnels form when the outer shell of lava cools and hardens, while the molten interior keeps flowing. This tunnel was almost a mile long.

Steep climb down into the lava tunnel We climbed a steep path down into the mouth of the tunnel (left). Once inside and away from the entrance it was so totally pitch black that you couldn't tell the difference between open and shut eyes. We were alone and we spent some time just listening to the silence. This was probably the quietest, darkest place we'd ever been. It was VERY eerie. The inside of the lava tunnel was pitch black

Boat Repairs

Of course, we worked on the boat in between island explorations.

Network of patches to repair jib

We dreaded fixing the opened seams on the jib. We needed to find a large, clean flat place where we could lay out the jib for the repair. Johnny Romero, the agent we hired in the Galapagos, arranged for us to use a large playground downtown to do the repair.

We spent almost 7 hours to complete the job. Three seams had opened up and we put on six separate patches (three on each side). We also used super duper 5200 adhesive at the tops and bottoms of the patches. The sail doesn't look as pretty as before and the shape suffered as a result of the repair. We hope the repair holds up!

 

Ken reinforcing head of the jib

After the jib clew stitching failed due to UV damage last year we've been paranoid about the top of the sail, because it probably has the same problem.

If the head blew we could lose the whole sail. A little preventative maintenance can go a long way.

Ken demonstrating expert sewing technique

 

The completed job looked very professional.

Beth thought Ken did a great job. She has a list of new sewing projects for him.

 

  Head of jib reinforced with heavy stitching

Preventive Maintenance vs. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

While Ken was happily stitching away, Beth was immersed in head repairs of a different type. Toilet type head repairs. The heads need maintenance on a frequent basis. O-rings and valves deteriorate over time or get caked with "stuff" (no need to get specific here).

The forward head gave up the ghost after we arrived in the Galapagos. It absolutely stopped pumping. Beth disassembled the head and found a key valve had totally broken apart. Replacement was an easy (though smelly and messy) operation. But then she decided to fix something that wasn't broken, as long as she had it all apart.

Comparing new and old piston shaft seals  

Beth decided to replace the little plastic seal shown at the left. The old one was fine, but she damaged it (without realizing it) when it came off.

Then she put a new one on, and damaged that one the same way, by catching it on some screw threads as it slid down the piston shaft. The damage was really subtle -- the ring on the left is fine, the one on the right is hopelessly wrecked.

Unfortunately, the seal is a critical part -- the pump won't work without it. Even more unfortunately, most of our part kits were for an older version of the head and didn't have this part.

And there was just no way to jury rig this thing. We needed the right part.

Amazingly, many of the local tour boats use the same kind of head we do and the local marine store carried parts. Unfortunately you can't just buy the tiny little seal, you have to buy a whole parts kit. The kit costs $50 in the U.S., and $90 in the Galapagos! And for that you get exactly one seal. So we had to buy two kits just to have a spare!

Wow, that was an expensive mistake.

Pricey overhaul kit, along with a coin representing the value of the part we needed

But, Beth VERY CAREFULLY installed the new seal and now the head works like a champ. Beth is hoping her lack of handiness will inspire Ken to volunteer to take over head maintenance (maybe she could do the sewing).

Anchor Follies

After spending over 2 weeks in Santa Cruz, we knew it was time to move on. Several other sailboats had come and gone from the anchorage, setting out either directly for the Marquesas, or to Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos, lying at the western edge of the archipelago. Isla Isabela is a great staging spot for heading west and boats congregate there to make last minute repairs and preparations before starting the long passage to the South Pacific.

We got up bright and early to set off for Isabela, a 40 mile sail. The conditions were perfect for a quick trip. But, Santa Cruz didn't want to us to leave just yet. As we tried to haul up our 32 pound Fortress stern anchor, we found we were hopeless fouled on something. Ken tried to free dive but gave that up when he found our anchor chain disappearing under a huge concrete block. This looked bad!

So, we had to disassemble the stern locker yet again to get the deck snorkel equipment so that Ken could dive on the anchor.

Ken geared up for dive with deck snorkel   We may complain about the time and hassle to assemble the deck snorkel, but we were mightly glad to have it. We also have scuba tanks, but if we use those we have to find a place to refill them.

Ken dove on the anchor and found the chain had gotten lodged under a very large concrete block (probably the remains of an old mooring tackle). At first he thought the anchor had worked its way under the block, but on closer inspection, he found the anchor completely buried in the sand several yards away from the block.

Ken had to unshackle the anchor, pull it up with a separate line, and then slowly pull the chain out from under the block.

After more than an hour in the water, he was able to get our gear back on board. Retrieving the Fortress anchor at last

Our anchor retrieval episode turned our 8 a.m. departure into a noon departure. With 40 nautical miles to go in the six hours of remaining daylight, we knew it would be a push.

The wind was just a little light to get us there in daylight. So we motor-sailed for most of the trip, though we had a short period where we sailed with the Code 0 and main, flying along at 9 and 10 knots. If we had left 3 hours earlier, we could have sailed the entire way. Oh well -- we will get plenty of sailing soon enough.

Approaching Isabela in the late afternoon

We arrived at Puerto Villamil on Isabela just before 6 p.m. We had plenty of light, but it would have been tricky if we had been any later.

That evening we got together with the other boats in the anchorage for a great barbeque on shore, sponsored by the owner of the little beach bar at the dock. Pretty amazing to be in a crowd where EVERYBODY is planning to sail 3000 miles to their next port.

June 28 - July 3, 2006

Puerto Villamil is a sleepy little town that sees very few tourists (compared to Santa Cruz). It was nice to be in a quieter place for a change.

Also, it was great to be anchored with other cruisers, all of whom were headed for the Marquesas. We call ourselves "the stragglers", as we're one of the last groups to head to the Marquesas this year. We're hoping we'll be able to keep in touch with these other boats as they head west, either via email (over the SSB) or over SSB voice nets. Quiet anchorage at Puerto Villamil on Isla Isabela

We planned to spend about a week at Isabela before heading out. We had a few last minute preparations to make and we wanted to explore the island at least a little.

Sliced boat First we took a walk into town, where we found this used boat. We think you could buy it cheap.

 

This sign pretty much sums up what goes on at the Isabela Tortoise Center. Tortoises can live to at least 150 years, so the young tortoises we saw will be around a LONG time after we're gone! A sign that communicates in all languages!

 

Strange looking saddleback version of the Giant Tortoise The saddleback variety of the Giant Tortoise (left) looks very different from the dome shaped tortoises we saw on Santa Cruz. We saw hundreds of baby tortoises (right) at the very successful Isabela center. Baby tortoises everywhere

 

Greater Flamingo on the prowl for grub We were fortunate to see one Greater Flamingo on our hike to the Breeding Center. These birds are very strange dudes. They feed by stretching their necks out, twisting their heads upside down, and sweeping their heads back and forth just under the surface of the water to filter food from the water. It sure didn't look like a very comfortable position!

Sierra Negra -- "Black Mountain"

Deep below the earth's surface, in the vicinity of the Galapagos, lurk "hot spots" where molten rock can break through to the surface. The Galapagos Islands formed as the Pacific Plate moved slowly over these hotspots. Isabela currently sits over a hotspot and one its five active volcanos (Sierra Negra) erupted last October. By happy coincidence, Sierra Negra is very close to Villamil so we signed up for a trip to the volcano..

Harrowing truck ride up to the volcano

To visit the volcano you must first take a long, high speed ride on top of an open truck over muddy dirt roads. The truck ride was by far the most hair-raising part of the trip.

Ken, who always likes to have an emergency plan in mind, kept trying to figure out what to do if the truck rolled. His final plan: "Hope we get thrown far enough that the truck doesn't land on us."

Fortunately, we kept all four wheels in the mud.

 

We switched to horses at the foggy staging area a few miles below the rim. We went up in small groups -- we were the only sailors in our group of ten.

Horses waiting in the fog to take us to Volcano Negro

 

Beth with her horse Gooey

Beth's horse (name sounded like "Gooey") was very responsive and liked to trot if another horse tried to pass. Trotting is very hard on your thighs and butt.

And Beth had a particular problem because the stirrups couldn't be shortened enough to accomodate her short legs, so she was constantly trying to adjust her stirrups on the fly. Finally she tied the straps together over her saddle.

 

We rode for about an hour in the fog up to the rim. We hoped the weather would clear at the top, so we could see something. Riding in the fog up to the caldera of Volcano Negra

 

View of the caldera from the rim

We needn't have worried. We had stunningly clear skies and fierce wind at the top.

What an amazing sight! The Sierra Negra "caldera" is an elipse measuring 4.3 x 6.2 miles across the top. A caldera forms when the magna retreats and the top part of the volcano settles downward, leaving an outer cone. Sierra Negra has the second largest caldera in the world (largest is located in Tanzania).

Several vents had erupted last October and for 8 days, molten lava flowed into the caldera. The floor of the caldera is still smoldering (at about 570 degrees F).

Richard, our guide, explained how he visited the volcano when it erupted last fall. The lava flowed all the way around the floor of the caldera. Fortunately the flow was almost all confined to the inside of the caldera, so the town was spared.

Richard, our guide, describes features of the caldera

 

Arriving back to staging area following trip of volcano

The trip back was quicker because the horses knew they were heading home. The horses got pretty competitive and galloped along sections of the trail. We decided galloping was easier to take than trotting.

We both were pretty sore, but Ken showed the most abuse -- he had some pretty good blisters in some inconvenient places. Beth vetoed posting any pictures of the damage.

Pinguinos

We were lucky to see Galapagos Penguins (Pinguinos in Spanish) swimming right around our boat.

The Galapagos Penguins are really tiny (they stand about 14 inches tall). They are also incredibly cute and make a noise that sounds like a cheap fog horn.

We got to within inches of them with our snorkeling gear. They look silly on land, but they fly like the wind under water!

These penquins are the only ones found in the northern hemisphere (Isla Isabela actually straddles the Equator). And they are the only ones we're likely to see from our boat, since we have no desire to sail to Antarctica!

Galapagos Penquins perched on rocks bordering the anchorage

Passage Plans

Sunset over one of the volcanos on Isabela Gaps in the cloud cover over one of Isabela's volcanos makes a spectacular sunset. We loved the quiet and beauty of Isabela, but feel the call of the South Pacific.

 

No mistaking this vessel for a racing boat! We're ready for cruising! A sign of a true cruising boat -- bananas on the rail!

We expect to begin our long passage (over 3000 miles) within the next day or so. We're getting excited and hope the weather/current gods cooperate.