3 weeks in the Galapagos! Week 2: Isla Isabela

3 weeks in the Galapagos! Week 2: Isla Isabela Week 2 of Three weeks in the Galápagos Islands; a life long dream come true.
***This post has been posted using our Iridium Sat phone from somewhere in the middle of the ocean. I will add pictures when we reach French Polynesia and get sufficient wifi.April 4th, 2018
We arrived to Isabela after a full day of motor sailing ~80 miles. We left at 4 am and arrived by 5:30 pm. I’m glad we arrived at daylight, as there were many reefs surrounding the anchorage and many that are not on our Navionics charts. As we were coming in, our agent for Isabela, James, haled us in the radio. He gave clear instructions for us to stay on the boat until we had been checked in by authorities in the morning. Wow! We had no idea we would have to be checked at every port we went to in the Galapagos. Good thing it was only going to be three ports.
So, first thing the next morning, we got cleared in. James, the port captain and immigrations came aboard for questions and a quick inspection. They were super nice, but it always feels weird having authorities come aboard to inspect your boat. There is that something in the back of your mind “what if they find something and make us leave after spending all of this money and effort to visit?” . Thankfully all was good to go.On Isabela you are allowed to use your own dinghy to go ashore instead of the mandatory water taxi service that is on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. The other kid boats (Pelizeno, Raftkin and Dol Selene) left San Cristobal on Wednesday night making their voyage an overnighter, therefor arrived in the early morning on Thursday as we were getting checked in. We waited for all to get checked in and went to shore as a group just after lunch. The dinghy dock is new and built more for the pangas to use but suitable for a few sailing tenders. (Bring a stern anchor for your dinghy if you sail here). Oh and it’s $10/person to use it for the duration of your stay ($5/child).The feel for Isla Isabela was different. The island itself is much dryer, with green mangroves only near the water and some green farmland in the highlands. The rest of island was mostly dirt roads (except for a few new paved roads) and lava rock and formations. Again, tons of Sea Lions and tons of Marine Iguanas. The town of Puerto Villamil itself is pretty small and a bit of a walk from the dinghy dock. Toward the end of our stay on Isabela the walk seemed further, especially heading home after a long day. That first day we just wandered up the main drag getting ideas for activities to do over the next few days.We quickly discovered that most of the highlighted sight seeing activities that “everyone” recommends, cost a fair bit of money. We’d been told by many people to do the “los tuneles” snorkeling tour, but after finding out that it would cost ~$100 / person ($500 for our family) we opted out. To help justify not doing it was the poor water clarity reported recently. There were other activities, but most require a hired guide or tour due to the National Park regulations. Hmm, our options became limited with our budget.After talking with some locals we found free and cheap sight seeing activities! The next few days were spent walking along paths to see birds, including flamingos and finches, iguanas and tortoise breeding facilities. We had a few beach days with time drinking coffee while the kids played in the sand and iguanas walked over our feet (literally)! Our most epic day there was when we (Pelizeno, Raftkin, Dol Selene and us on Shawnigan) rented bikes and hired taxis to drive us 1/2 way up the crater and drop us off to ride down.We started up past Cueva Sucre lava tubes, so that we could ride down through some of the highland’s farmlands. The locals grow banana, papaya, and many other fruits along with raising chicken, cattle, and horses. Pesticides are not permitted on the Galapagos, so everything there was pretty much “organic”. Guava trees littered the roadside and were encourage by the taxi drivers to pick due to their introduced and invasive nature. The bike ride down was amazing ! We started on fairly loose gravel road. There was a few of us who took it slower along with some of the kids. We stopped along the way at Cueva Sucre lava tubes, then again for lunch at a lookout called Mango Vista. The ride was about 20K and pretty much all downhill back to town.After an Ice Cream break we hopped back on the bikes to ride another 7K to the Wall of Tears. Not all downhill and quite a bit sandy terrain, we trudged through the additional 14K more. Totally worth it! We saw tortoises along the trail, beautiful look outs and the “Wall of Tears”. The wall was built as a punishment or rather a way for the 200 relocated prisoners to “work off” their sentence by piling heavy lava rocks up and along as a huge wall. It turned into a brutal and hostile project that cost the lives of many in the process. The day ended with our now routine coffee at the beach and later Pizza with the whole group including SV La Cigale (who has joined us, anchored in Isabela, but couldn’t join us for the bike ride).The next morning, April 10th, we woke up early for a 5 am departure for Isla Santa Cruz. We were the only boat in our little kid boat group to leave that day. The rest would join us in a few days.our friendly immigration checkScreenshot (153)IMG_2905IMG_2904IMG_2902Screenshot (156)Screenshot (157)Screenshot (158)Screenshot (159)Screenshot (161)Screenshot (162)Screenshot (163)Screenshot (165)Screenshot (185)IMG_2826IMG_2828IMG_2831IMG_2832

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SV RaftkinSV Pelizeno

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3 weeks in the Galapagos! Week 1: Isla San Cristóbal

Three weeks in the Galápagos Islands; a life long dream come true.
This post has been posted using our Iridium Sat phone from somewhere in the middle of the ocean. I will add pictures when we reach French Polynesia and get sufficient wifi.Week 1: Isla San Cristóbal – Puerto Baquerizo
*apologies in advance for not being able to post pictures. Wifi on the Galápagos Islands is very limited and posting from our iridium is even more limited. I will have to back post when we reach somewhere with better wifi.On the 8th night at sea, our passage from Panama to Galapagos was near an end. The sweet damp aroma of earth filled the air. Shawnigan was sailing upwind, as high up into the wind as possible making a west south west track toward Isla San Cristobal, Galápagos Islands. The smell of the earth could be sensed before sight. Based on our track we would round the north end of San Cristobal early in the dark morning hours. We would have liked to have rounded from the south, but could not make that high of an angle. When dawn broke, the sight was unbelievable.There is something so magical about making landfall after many days at sea just in itself. Making landfall in the Galapagos after 8 days at sea was beyond magical. The landscape was green, the air was clean and so blue in contrast. Steep jagged volcanic cliffs and bluffs lined some of the coastline. Everywhere we looked in the water sea turtles were surfacing. The wind had steadily declined and the seas flattened. Birds circled around us, sea lions did as well. We sat staring, with amazement, we had reached The Galápagos Islands!Christian took this time to hop in the water and make sure the bottom of our boat was completely free of barnacles or any other growth. We packed away the boat in preparation for our check-in process. Wed heard many a different experiences as far as the check-in process goes. Some people had been inspected and sent back out 40 miles to clean their bottoms better, some people had food confiscated, while others had no problems at all. We didn’t want to take any risk for being sent away from the Galapagos, so we spent a good hour drifting, getting everything in order*** and raising our yellow quarantine flag before motoring into port.We made it into port by 9 am. Our agent had the local group of people responsible for clearing us in out to our boat in no time. 8 people piled on to our boat for what turned out to be less than an hour long process. Much easier than we expected. Phew. Then we were kicked off out boat for a mandatory fumigation. Without that part planned, we took a mandatory $1/person water taxi to shore with snacks and water and eyes wide open, trying to decompress from the sail and take it all in.We were greeted by sea lions all over the docks and beaches. Huge, black iguanas walking around accustomed to people walking close in proximity. Without needing to explore much further, it was clear that our time hear would be filled with the animal sightings we hoped for.The town in Puerto Baquerizo is quaint with a beautiful Malecon and little tourist shops, hostels and cafes scattered about. The price of food and coffee was similar to that of the US, a little pricey for our taste, but manageable. We had heard about the other kid boats that we’re in the anchorage, and it didn’t take long to spot them out. SV Pelizeno, Raftkin, La Cigale all had kids aboard and were buddy boating with another Kiwi couple on Dol Selene. Meeting them was like meeting up with old friends. Quickly, we all connected and started to plan out activities to do together.From the second day and on we were busy every day with on shore sightseeing activities. Christian found surf at the local reef called Tonga. We went snorkeling in a few different locations. A taxi trip across the island to the Crater, Tortoise exhibit, and another snorkeling beach was organized. We had 4 taxis between all of our boats. The island was green, but not wet either. One of the fresh water sources for the island was from the crater we visited . Apparently this is normally the wet season, but this year hasn’t yielded much rain at all. We also went to the Interpretation Center, a information center. This was neat, as it was free and it gave a good representation of the history of the Galapagos and some of the founding people and organizations that help keep the Galapagos protected and sustainable.During our visit on San Cristobal, we mostly saw sea lions. They were everywhere and not the least bit shy! They were supper friendly, but have been known to bite when provoked. We kept to the 2 meter away suggestion as much as possible. Birds were plentiful. I’m not an expert birder, but thoroughly enjoyed hearing and seeing the different birds. I wish we had hired a guide to point out all of the different species. I do know we saw a few different finches. The frigates were larger and more colorful than the ones we saw in Mexico. We saw the red footed Boobie on our boat, but after that we didn’t see too many more. There were more Blue footed Boobies as well. The iguanas were around, but we didn’t see any in the water. While Christian was surfing he was surrounded by sea turtles! I got to touch one too!After about a week on San Cristobal, we pulled up anchor and headed to Isla Isabela. (Post to come soon).***what is required for checking in:
-Autographo: letter stating approval to enter the Galapagos from your hired agent. We went through Ricardo with Super Yacht Galapagos http://www.superyachtgalapagos.live/.
-Black Water certificate stating you have a proper holding tank for your bathroom waste. We made sure our forward head was not in use and our aft head valve was turned to our holding tank.
-All trash, recycling, and compost needed to be separated and labeled accordingly.
-Certain foods are not allowed (seeds, whole coffee beans etc). We didn’t know about the coffee beans and we just provisioned with 12 pounds of it! (Thankfully we didn’t have it confiscated).
-Fumigation certificate: we heard they would fumigate regardless of whether you had it done in Panama or not, so we waited to have it done on our check-in.

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Galapagos crossing from Panama City

Our crossing from Panama to the Galápagos Islands was pretty uneventful. We estimated anywhere from 7-10 days and it took just over 8 full days (8 days and 4 hrs). Logging in nearly 1,000 miles to make the crossing, most of it was downwind, but surprisingly, a lot of which was upwind as well.
March 17th, 2018: We sailed from Panama City to Las Perlas Islands to decompress from the city life as well as set ourselves up further south for our departure to the Galapagos. We made two stops in Las Perlas. The first was Isla Contadora. After sailing off the hook in Las Brisas anchorage and a full day sail there with one hour of motoring in the middle, we sailed in and anchored near another kid boat, SV Moody Finn. We spent the next day there, doing school, cleaning the bottom of the boat (Christian was in the water for 2.75 hours scrubbing away), and later exploring shore with SV Moody Finn crew.
The next day, we sailed off the hook and to an island further south called Isla Del Rey. We had read about this river call Mosquito River, in which you can take your dinghy up at high tide and explore the mangroves and get some fresh water swimming in. We were able to sail all day and, again, anchor under sail next to our friends on Moody Finn. Mid morning, the next day, we hopped in our dinghies and motored them over to the river. Our timing with tides was wrong for getting up the river that early in the day, so we spent the first few hours on the beach, just inside the outlet of the river, playing, drinking coconuts and letting off fireworks that we needed to get off board before making landfall in the Galapagos. When the tide came in, it came it QUICK! With a 15 ft tidal range on a new moon, the water was rising fast. We made it up to the “waterfall” (not so much an actual fall) and played around in the fresh water pool above it. Fun times! That evening we said our farewells to SV Moody Finn and prepped for our morning departure for the Galapagos.
Wednesday morning at 7:10 we set sail for the Galápagos Islands. There was a light breeze, but not enough to keep us from getting set on the rocks by the current. After 20 minutes of attempting to sail away, we started the engine and motored out for 30 minutes to get our wind and away from the rocks. By mid afternoon, full wind had kicked in and we were screaming downwind. That night we saw gusts up to 35, but comfortably reefed and various furled in rib points throughout the first night. We did 160 miles in 24 hours. We’re pretty sure that’s the most mileage we’ve done in a 24hr period on Shawnigan.
The second day’s wind backed off a bit but kept us moving strong. Then the wind died off to almost nothing. Based on the weather files, wind was just ahead and if we caught up to it, hopefully we could keep it all the way through. Well, that plan didn’t work completely. We did motor for about 4.5 hours and did catch some wind, but it didn’t hold for long. Our 4th day out, we lost all wind. We literally drifted, bobbing back and fourth for a good 12 hours. During that time we managed to make it 6 miles, thanks to the NNW current. We did keep a westerly track, but it also took us back north a bit. We took this lag time to clean up the boat, inside and out. Christian hopped in again and cleaned the bottom in preparation for the clean bottom requirements of the Galapagos.
By nightfall the wind started to fill in slowly and steadily. It held up for the rest of our sail. Surprisingly though from day 6 on, our friend “Windy” was on the nose, we were on a close reach until we were 12 miles off of Isla San Cristobal.
Shawnigan crossed the Equator, into the Southern Hemisphere about 90 miles Northeast of Isla San Cristobal. We had all our celebratory items and our offerings to Neptune ready to go. At 11:57 am, on our eighth day out at sea, we crossed the Equator. We had a count down using our GPS until it read “00°00.000’S, 88°14.378’W ” ! Taj tossed a pancake into the water for Neptune. Each kid blew the conch shell. The girls dressed up like mermaids, make-up and all. Taj had his crown and cape on. Both Christian and I wore our homemade paper crowns, pulled out our bag of Equator Coffee, made a cup of bulletproof coffee style and shared it with Neptune. Ellamae ended our ceremony with a poem by John Masefield: “One road leads to London, One road runs to Wales, my road leads me seawards to white dipping sails.”
Our last night out at sea before making Puerto Baquerizo, San Cristobal Island hosted a beautiful sunset. Winds remained light, forward of the beam until we rounded the north side of the island. We were in a groove, sleep became easy between watches, daily routine was established. Now we will spend a few weeks soaking in as much of the Galápagos Islands as possible. Since I was a young girl, I’ve always wanted to visit the Galápagos… now here I am, with my family via sailboat.
***I apologize for the lack of photos. Uploading anything with limited wifi has proven very difficult. I will have to back log the photos when wifi is better. Watch our Equator Crossing on our YouTube channel!https://youtu.be/RGuYkGe04KA

Our time in Panama

Our time in Panama City was a whirlwind of a month. The first week zoomed by with 3 days of checking into the country and getting to know the city layout. The rest feels like a blur, a bit of a twilight zone feeling. To give you a taste for what it was, I have added mostly pictures. Cost of living there is not cheap. Food is comparable to American prices and not quite like Mexican food. There is a mix of Caribbean, Creole, Mexican, Colombia and Peruvian influence, but mostly its rice and beans with a meat plate.

Panama is a melting pot for different cultures in addition to the many Natives that have inhabited these lands long before. As it was started as an early settlement from the age of explorers, and later a hub for “shipping advancement”, the addition of Spaniards, people of European Jewish descent and hired Chinese for building the Panama Canal, created a large multicultural country. The people are overall very friendly, especially for a big city. It is more like Mexico, where people say “hola” or “buenas” when you walk by.

We ended up measuring our time there by the number of “cruisers pizza nights”. Every Wednesday a local pizza place near the popular anchorages and marinas offers 20% of pizza for the cruisers. Our first pizza night was a few days after arriving. What a great way to meet up with other sailors. 5 pizza nights later we were finally leaving Panama City. Not complaining one bit though. We had a great time meeting sailors from all over the world, attending the Puddle Jump Party (x2), reuniting with cruising families that we had met in the past, and getting our fill of the big city life. Panama felt a lot safer than people have made it out to be, granted we weren’t staying in Colón. There are places to avoid, but overall, we felt comfortable exploring the beautiful country.

Here are some picture of our time there:

bus rides and cruiser’s pizza nights

dinghy didficulties…provisioning fun!

Boat teens!

Shipshape!!!

out of town surf trip…

good times…

Taj getting a pediatric dental cleaning..$40

Please leave a comment for us to look forward to reading when we get wifi again in French Polynesia!

Culture shock: from remote Panama to City life…

Two months ago we checked out of Manzanillo , Mexico and sailed south to Costa Rica and later, Panama. Manzanillo was a big port for ships, and was busy with cars and people, but not too overwhelming. After experiencing mostly small villages in Mexico over the past 2 years, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo were the among the largest cities that we visited. From the day we checked out of Mexico, the next 2 months we would make a our 19 day crossing without seeing a single other soul and again only see small villages along the coast of the pacific side Costa Rica And Panama.

Bright lights, big city: Feb 11th, we sailed into Panama City after a 37 hour upwind and up current from Playa Venao. About 10 miles from making our anchorage we could smell the crude oil from all of the ships coming in and out of the Panama Canal. As we neared Panama City, the air got thicker and thicker with pollution, so much so that we could hardly see the skyline of the city itself until we were only a few miles away. Regardless of that, the air was filled with excitement and buzz. We were wide eyed with amazement as we entered the huge port after so many days of quiet seclusion.

We anchored in the anchorage known as Las Brisas just before sunset. We made dinner and ate outside, taking in the view of Panama City’s skyline. We all agreed that it is by far the largest cityscape that we’ve ever seen. As the day set and the darkness of night filled in, the city’s lights shown brilliant across the bay in our direction. This has now been our view for the last four weeks. Yep, four weeks already!

It took about a full week to get our bearings straight. We made friends quickly with a few other sailors who helped show us the lay of the land. I don’t honestly know how we would have figured it out without them. The very first full day we were there happened to be Carnival. Yes, to add chaos to our already overwhelmed feelings, it was Carnival. Places were closed that were normally open and places were packed that were normally not. Our new friends on Brisas 302 and Arc en Ciel showed us how to get into the city and use the bus system. We explored the mall and a few grocery stores, ate out for lunch and returned home for dinner. We avoided the nighttime Carnival scene, we were exhausted from our overnight sail and not quite ready for that kind of excitement.

We spent the next 3 days checking into the country and going to the city exploring. Yes, it took 3 days to check in. Ugh! Yikes! Over the next few weeks we met more sailors from all over the world, took the bus to town for entertainment, arranged for and completed much needed dental work, had family visit, friends visit, and slowly continued to prepare for crossing the Pacific Ocean. We quickly discovered that Panama City is just as expensive as the United States.

So here we are, four weeks later and still a few more to go before we head to the Galapagos and then French Polynesia. Why are we still here? Why did we get here so early just to hang out? We sailors always have our reasons. Ours being, much needed dental work that would take at least 3 weeks to complete. Taj needed is passport renewed, which we did at the US embassy. The turn around for that is two weeks. And most importantly we were waiting for our middle daughter to return from her time with her Papa on March 9th (today!) . She also needs her passport renewed, so we tack on a few more weeks before we can actually go…weather dependent.

I will post more pictures of our small Panama excursions in later posts. But here is this short video for now and a few pics.

Also, don’t forget to check out our videos (part 1 and part 2) of our passage from Mexico to Costa Rica.