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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 of sailing heaven!

A 3 week intermission from refilling the kitty was all it took to feel like I was back in sailing heaven again. I decided to extend my travel nurse contract in San Francisco for one more month under the stipulation that I get 3 weeks off to go back to my family and sail with them down the Sea of Cortez. It was just what we all needed; to be back together in warm weather, warm clear water and good family sailing time.

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Free diving mamma.

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Nina’s triumphant pose as she completes a 40 foot deep fin-less dive.

I met up with the family in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. I got there by driving 11 hours in a rental car to Phoenix and then taking an 11 hour Tufesa Bus ride across the border from Phoenix to San Carlos all in a matter of 30 hours. Upon arriving to Mexico, my spirit was lifted. I was so excited to spend this time with my family after 3.5 months of working in San Francisco and only seeing them a handful of days during that time. It was time to get some family lovin’.img_7613

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Free-Diving Daddy

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Ellamae’s touch down at 20 feet.

After a few days in San Carlos, we were stocked up and ready to head out.  The weather window looked great for heading across the Sea of Cortez, so we opted to leave while we could get good wind.  On Sunday, Oct 15th, after our morning in the anchorage and grocery re-load, we sailed off the hook and out of the anchorage. We quickly realized that sailing under jib alone was going to work just fine.  We set our course  on a nice downwind reach toward Isla Carmen, just off of Loreto on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. See our short post of pictures and videos here. 2 hours into our sail we hooked 2 Dorado (Mahi Mahi),one male and one female!

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Male Dorado, 2 hours south of San Carlos, Mexico.

The rest of the sail was relatively peaceful, with winds up to 30 kts and a furled jib. The wind maintained strength overnight and had us make landfall by 8 am the next morning. We dropped the anchor under sail at Perico anchorage on the east side of the area known as Bahia Salinas on Isla Carmen. With a few hours of rest after not sleeping so well over the night, we found energy in just having the excitement of being out on a deserted island with no one else around. We had the anchorage to ourselves and we were all together as one family unit!

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A little home-school art.

Screenshot (105)After a few days at Perico, we decided to head a few miles north to an anchorage called Painted Cliffs. Again, we had the anchorage to ourselves. Christian and I started to get in a morning routine of waking up at 4:30 am, drinking our bulletproof coffee and conversed under the stars and into the sunrise. I would then go for a 40-50 minute swim and Christian would go for a 5-10 mile stand-up paddle board excursion. The kids would wake up, start school and by lunch time we were all ready for a free-diving / fishing break.  Painted Cliffs had this amazing ledge to dive on. The visibility  was about 55 feet and the water was 84 F, even at 65 feet deep! After spearing a decent size grouper, we played around with going deep. Nina made it to 59 feet! I was surprised at how much easier it was for me to make it down to the bottom (65 feet) and stay down there for a little bit.  I thought for sure that it would take me a while to re-acclimate to diving since I had been on land for so long. I guess there’s muscle memory for that sport too. Having the water temp so warm and the visibility so clear, made a huge difference as well.

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Isla Carmen

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Nina’s fantastic effort at SUP handstand.

The weather forecast wasn’t looking so good for wind taking us anywhere, so we decided to head for the more southern anchorage on Isla Carmen known as Punta Colorado.  The view from there was stunning.

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Punta Colorado, Isla Carmen. East of Loreto, Baja California, Mexico.

The next day, after our morning routine, we were able to sail off the hook and head toward Isla Monserrate. Another sail onto the hook, and a swim in the water. Unfortunately, one hour after we fell asleep, we woke to our swim step clanking around. Christian went on deck to take a look and noticed the wind had switched onshore and was blowing 15 kts and quickly picking up speed to 20. It was pitch black and we had to get out of there fast. If you’re reading this and wondering what the heck I’m talking about… it’s not safe to be anchored on a lee-shore. Meaning, that you don’t want to be anchored where the wind is blowing toward shore, due to the chance of dragging anchor and having your boat end up crashed on the reef or on shore. There were submerged rocks and reefs on the chart that we had to make sure we stayed clear of.  Instead of sailing off the hook this time, we could not take any chances at being blown toward shore or the reef,  we used our engine to help motor us into the wind while Christian brought up the anchor.   With our RPM well above 2,300, we were able to make a clear path just out enough past the rocks to unfurl the jib and turned the engine off.  We made a quick 7 mile reach to Agua Verde, a familiar anchorage to come in to at O-Dark-30. All of this while the kids slept peacefully. We woke up to the familiar, lovely bay of Agua Verde having the northwestern anchorage to ourselves and our kids asking how we got there.

Agua Verde always holds a special place in our memories. There is just something about it we can’t quite describe. We’ve blogged about it before (here and here again), so I won’t go into it too much more. About mid-day another boat came into anchor by the name of Katie Gat.  Here are a few photos from the one full day that we spent there:

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S/V Shawnigan and S/V Katie Gat in Agua Verde, Baja California.

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Hydration station: Christian packs his Camelback everywhere, so we don’t risk getting dehydrated in the hot desert Baja environment.

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The local tienda (market) in Agua Verde.

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This is how we pack out our groceries in Agua Verde.

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Eating bags of frozen “agua de piña” we bought in Agua Verde for 10 pesos per bag. (That’s about $0.50 for a huge bag of frozen real fruit juice.)

From Agua Verde we had a nice sail off the hook, a down wind sail out of the bay, and the wind so nicely cocked around to keep us on a down wind run heading south to San Everisto.  We ended up staying one and a half days there, swimming, schooling, and stand-up paddle boarding. We were hoping to do a little more fresh produce shopping, but the tienda that was normally open was closed. We were guessing that we were a little early in the season for regular hours.

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Taj loves his magnet toys.

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Pizza making aboard S/V Shawnigan #tinymess

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Taj is mommy’s helper in the kitchen. We made gluten free bagels out of Pamela’s gluten free baking mix.

Next stop, Isla San Jose.  Another lovely, mostly beam reach, sail eastward across the channel to the old salt mine area on Isla San Jose. Again, we sailed onto the hook with the anchorage to ourselves. Shortly after dropping the anchor, we paddle boarded to shore for a walk along the shallow salt ponds and along the beach to the lighthouses and back. The walk ended up being 3 hours long!IMG_1857

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Terra the xterraboard with S/V Shawnigan anchored out of of Isla San Jose salt mine with the Sierra Gigante mountain range in the background.

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Above two groups of photos taken by Nina for her photography elective.

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Holding hands and sportin’ the gear on our salt mine walkabout. Photo by: Nina Lauducci

The next morning we sailed just south and dropped the hook for a short stop at the mangroves. We were apprehensive to stay longer with rumors of the no-see-ums being really bad. Our stop including a dingy tour of the mangrove. What a blast! We all jumped in and got a tow behind the dinghy.

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Isla San Jose Mangrove Dingy Tow

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Dinghy Tow

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Nina and Ellamae @ Isla San Jose Mangrove

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Taj steering the dinghy for a family mangrove tour at Isla San Jose.

Once done with our tour of the mangrove, we sailed around the east side of Isla San Francisco (a first for us) and passed it on by (another first). Alas, our time was starting to become limited, I had to get to La Paz to fly out by October 31st and the weather was predicting a drop off of wind. As many of you know, we like to sail as much as possible and avoid using the engine,  so we used to wind that we had that day, waved to Isla San Francisco and went straight to Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida.

As predicted, the wind was null the next day, so we were excited to take the opportunity to go dive with the Sea Lions at Los Islotes! When we woke, we were double excited, because our friend and fellow kid boat Waponi Woo showed up in the middle of the night and anchored next to us! We had basically been alone for almost 2 whole weeks, except for the one boat in Agua Verde. We were jazzed to see friends and even more jazzed to see a kid boat!

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Waponi Woo at Ensenada Grande

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As soon as everyone was awake, we motored our boats over to Los Islotes. We anchored in 58 feet of water where the Shaun and Heater guide shows to anchor. Waponi Woo anchored just west of us.  There was hardly a breath of wind and the water visibility was about 55 feet! We had the most amazing time swimming with the sea lions.

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Ryan from Waponi Woo
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Christian down at 25 feet.

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After an amazing morning with the Sea Lions we ventured back to Ensenada Grande for the night. Then next day we sailed to Caleta Lobos for one last relaxing anchorage to ourselves before heading into La Paz. We had 13 full days of no cell or wifi service. It was GREAT!!!

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Christian checking in on the Amigo Net.

The kids were happy to arrive to La Paz for a little kid boat action with S/V Secret Water.

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After a few days there, it was time to fly out for Ellamae and I. Ellamae was flying out to spend time with her Papa and I needed to go back to work in San Francisco for the month of November.  We took the Volaris flight from La Paz to Tijuana, then hopped across the border into San Diego. From there we parted ways at the airport. Next time we will all be together will be in the Puerto Vallarta area on December 1st.  Christian is single-handing it, with some help from Nina, until that time. Super dad!

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Looking down on Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. One the very left you can just barely see Los Islotes (where we swam with the sea lions).

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Navionics working on the plane.

Jumping ahead: recent photos in the Sea of Cortez.

Ok, I don’t normally go out of order , but I’m still behind and Christian just sent me too many cool photos to not post right away . So here they are: photos from Puerto Peñasco and along their way south way up in the top of the Sea of Cortez. I will be reunited with them in only a few days! The girls excited to get back to the boat to try out our new Independent Wolf Hammocks. Auntie Tara, professional photographer, managed to the get the kids (Nina 14, Taj 4 and Ellamae 9) together before heading back to the boat to take photos. Here, they posed in their Teeny Tiny Optics sunglasses.

Taj kayaking in the water in Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point).The kids had fried ice cream the night before they set sail. A little treat before hot deserted seclusion for a few weeks. 

After over a month of being hauled out in Puerto Penasco,  S/V Shawnigan’s makeover was complete and ready to set sail to Bahia de Los Angeles.

There she is… S/V Shawnigan out Stevens 40 cutter rigged beauty. Taj representing his Keep it Wild tee, he’s ready to get back in the wild, that’s for sure!The red dot is Puerto Penasco. We finally figured out our PredictWind tracking system.

I’m guessing Christian had his earplugs in for this one! No time for boredom aboard Shawnigan.

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Monkey Girls.Taj testing the new hammock. Yes, this kid does relax sometimes!

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Isla Salsipuedes

Clams!!!Ellamae has been super into her modeling clay. Not just for boatschool.Our 4 year old, Taj, representing the xterra inflatable SUP!

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