Saturday, July 22, 2017

Galapagos to Marquesas, Day 4

21st July 2017

Current position : 02 53.91S /099 30.1W at 0200 UTC, 2000hr boat time. SOG 8.4. COG 252T. Wind SSE15 kts. Sea state, Choppy.
24 hr run : 135nm.

Today was just another day at the office. The early hours saw light winds, flattish seas and not even the distant lights of trawlers. It was just us out here with a million stars above. The sun came up as a big ball of fire, just the same way it went down last evening. Spectacular to say the least.

Light winds continued all day so for a change of scenery we rolled out the spinnaker for a cameo appearance. It looked ever so pretty floating gracefully off the starboard side but sadly did nothing for our boat speed. Can't have it all.

The fish tally today...nada. Most mundane chore...cleaning the brown slime that is rearing it's ugly head on our transoms. If we don't keep on top of it by the time we make landfall we'll look like a bit part from the movie "The Blob".

Then as evening approached the breeze started to increase and not wanting to get caught with our pants down, we pulled down the giant sock and snuffed the spinnaker. Into it's bag and into the locker it went. That was more than likely the last time it will see that daylight on this passage.

The clock has struck eight and we are starting to pick up speed. The fresh breeze is kicking up GWTW's ever so clean transoms and girl is stretching her legs. I reckon we could be in for a fast but bumpy night.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Galapagos to Marquesas : Day 3

20th July 2017

Current position: 02 26.1S 097 5.6W at 0300UTC, 2100hrs boat time. SOG 6.5kts, COG 245. Wind SSE 8-10 kts. Seas state :long gentle swells. 24hr run 135nm. DTR: 2488nm


It has been a quite day on GWTW today with the wind up and down like a yo-yo.

Many more Chinese trawlers have past us today heading east towards Galapagos. They are big and cumbersome looking and their paint work leaves a lot to be desired. The outside of these boats is appalling and covered in huge streak marks down the sides of the hulls where they haul in their catch. W e can only imagine what the inside must look and smell like.

They look to be either squid catchers or long line fishing boats and seem to come in packs usually with the same name followed by a different set of numbers for each vessel. Kind of like calling your kids Ming 823, Ming 824, Ming 825 etc, not very inventive really. Anyway their attack plan is to have two or three boats in the front row with the others in the group bringing up the rear. Their noisy engines thump away as they go by. In fact it is the only mechanical sound out here. There are no other ships or yachts nearby and no planes overhead.

The mother ship stays about 20 miles or more behind the group while the refueling tanker, yes they bring their own, ambles along some 50 miles in the distance. You gotta give it to them, China certainly is organized when it comes to the assault on the world's marine life.

On another subject the weather today is the best since leaving the Galapagos. Not a cloud in the sky and the long slow swells make it a very pleasant motion on board. One would almost think we were on a cruise ship. It's starting to warm up too. The temp today hit the 30's and the sea temp is now 18c.. nearly time for that swim.

Liam has been playing guitar and I have been engrossed in a book. Lunch today was a tasty lobster salad with sundried tomatoes, avocado, basil and fresh romaine lettuce. A nice glass of chilled NZ Sav Blanc would have gone very nicely with it, but soda water had to suffice instead.

Tonight the sunset was a cracker. Without a trace of cloud on the horizon the fabled "Green Flash" lived up to it's name. One of the best we've seen and a first on this crossing.

So that's the GWTW crew report for today. More exciting news tomorrow.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Galapagos to Marquesas: Day 2

19th July 2017

Current position: 01 54.17S / 094 52.58W at 0200UTC, 2000hr boat time. SOG 7kts, COG 283. 24hr run 160nm

Conditions are pleasant out here albeit we are traveling a bit slow. In the wee small hours of the morning and we were dodging many very large Chinese flagged fishing vessels. We counted six not including the mother ship which because of it's size of 900ft in length had to be a fish processing vessel. We assume that their home waters have been fished out and they have no choice but had to venture further afield to the rich grounds of the South Pacific.

This afternoon while under sail we dropped our reaching sail to the deck to do a few minor repairs. The old girl has seen better days and is starting to show her age with some de-lamination happening here and there. So a stitch in time was the thing to do.

Things got a little boisterous as we wrestled it to the foredeck. Still under sail but with the aid of our engines we ran downwind and brought the boat up to wind speed. We needed to do this in order to drop the sail safely onto the deck while it was blanketed by the mainsail to prevent it from resetting like a billowing spinnaker as the halyard was released. The repairs took the best part of an hour and then up it went again with the reverse manoeuvre of dropping it and we got back to the business of sailing.

A few of the Stormy Petrels are still hanging around. They are such tiny little birds with so much energy and a joy to watch as they dip and dive for their dinners. On the fishing front the count is still zero.

It's now O-dark-hundred and as all sailors have come to accept this is when the shit hits the fan.

The wind and swell have increased and we are galloping along with the screecher and a full main. Not a good scenario given the conditions. Great minds think alike as we give each other that look, time to pull in the reigns and put the brakes on.

Gingerly Liam slinks up to the foredeck to furl in the screecher while I handle the lines at the back. It's then that a problem rears it's ugly head. While the sail was down earlier this arvo for repairs Liam had loosened the line that slides the sail forward and back on the track on our prodder pole. That line had now somehow wrapped it's tail around our anchor and it was jamming the movement of the furler. The halyard, with the sail now only partly furled needed to be partially dropped.

One thing you have to understand is that we were still blasting along through the water at speed and the wave and wind noise makes it extremely had to hear each other even though I was now on the foredeck and only inches away from Liam. Lucky their were no neighbours about 'cause they would have thought we were having a doozy of a tiff.

With me sitting down on the deck and hanging on to the furling lines like there is no tomorrow so the sail wouldn't unfurl anymore, Liam eased the halyard and then slowly pulled the sail back up the track on the pole. It may all sound simple but believe me it wasn't. Eventually the screecher was put to bed and while we were still hyped up on adrenaline we put a reef in the main then rolled out 3/4 of the jib. Aahhh peace at last.

See, it's not all fun and gin and tonics out here all the time.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Galapagos to Marquesas : Day 1

18th July 2017

Current position: 01 27S 92 23W @0200 UTC, 2000hr boat time, SOG 5.4, COG 253, DTR 2830NM

So far so good. Isabela is gradually disappearing behind us and after many miles we have finally emerged from the cloud and drizzle that has been a constant since arriving in the Galapagos. The sky is blue and the sun is shinning and we're wearing sunglasses. The sea water temps are still rocketing south and the gauge reads a very chilly 14c, best not fall overboard just yet!

The fishing lines have been deployed but as this stage there have been no takers. The captain lives in hope of a strike. Most of the day the Boobies and the Petrels have been giving us a royal escort out of the Galapagos, maybe some might hitch a ride tonight. And as a last hooray we've seen a couple of huge Manta Rays as well.

The winds are steady on the beam coming in from the SSE at 8-10 kts and our boat speeds have been in the 9,10 & 11 knot range for most of the day but are lightening off now.. Pushing us in the right direction is the mainsail with one reef and our screecher, our big reaching sail. GWTW is purring along on the straight and level. Life onboard is good at this point in time, here's hoping it stays that way.

We heard from another boat today, S/V OFF 2 C (catamaran) they have arrived in Santa Cruz from mainland Ecuador. We meet the OFF 2 C crew Vaughn and Leslie in Guatemala years ago and again in Panama a few months back. While anchored in Santa Cruz Leslie had a bad fall and now has two broken ribs. This injury was caused by the atrocios conditions in Santa Cruz harbour. The same sea state that drove us out of there.

In keeping with all our previous ocean passage traditions we have started up the "Tailenders Magellan Net" on our high frequency SSB radio with the three other boats that we know of out here. We pick up the microphones twice daily for a chat and even through we can't see each other it's nice to have some neighbours just across the fence so to speak.

S/V Lurata a NZ flagged Northwind 56ft monohull which left Santa Cruz this morning is 55 miles astern. The race is on.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz

14th-16th July 2017


P7150916To be quite honest we didn’t like Santa Cruz at all, well the anchorage that is. The town was nice and we did walk out to the Darwin Research Centre and around town a little bit. But with the anchorage so untenable we cut our time there very short and left with 3 days.

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We are now about to depart for the Marquesas, a 3,000 mile passage which will take anything up to 20 days at sea.

I will post each day but there will be no photos until we next have internet.

So off we go to the South Pacific.

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Monday, July 17, 2017


The Galapagos Islands : Isabela

Our Last days.

11th – 13th July 2017


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Our final trip was by foot. We followed the coastal trail  8 klms out to  a place in the hot arid scrub known as the Wall of Tears. During the late 40’s early 50’s a penal colony was set up here to deal with political prisoners and delinquents from mainland Ecuador. The conditions and treatment of those incarcerated were extremely hash. The guards worked the prisoners hard and for no particular reason made them construct a rock wall from the surrounding volcanic stone. It was a fruitless project resulting in the  loss of many lives. The wall still stands today as a memorial to those whose fate was sealed by being sent here.

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Our time in Isabella was quickly coming to and end and a final day was spent buying fresh veggies, having a haircut and checking out the only church in town that had a distinctive Galapagos flavor to it. The windows were beautiful and under the alter was a huge wooden carved tortoise. The mural behind the alter depicted Christ  ascending surrounded by frigate birds while iguanas watched from the shore.


We really enjoyed our time here and definitely recommend  to anyone following us to spend as long as possible  here on this special island.

So where to now ?? We’re off to  our third island, Santa Cruz.


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Above are some of the stained glass windows in the church but God always has a soft spot for the Galapagos it seems. Check out where the ray of light is going in the photo below on the left.

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The Galapagos Islands : Isabela.

8th-11 July 2017

                      “All you  really need is Isabela”

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After a lovely  83 mile overnight sail from San Cristobal we arrived at Isabella at 11am. We spent the rest of the day trying to get in contact with our agent  so that we could get checked in and on our way to seeing the sights. I may have mentioned that the Galapagos is very restrictive with respect to yacht movements. This means that although you are limited to three ports only, you have to check in and out of each one paying a fee each time you do. By 4pm we finally gave up calling on both the radio and our cell phone and piled into the dinghy and walked the length of town until we found where the man lived. He was most apologetic for not answering  any of our calls and assured us that all would be taken care of tomorrow!  Just gotta roll with the punches sometimes.


P7120810Isabela is the largest  and youngest island in the Galapagos archipelago and consists of five intermittently active volcanos. The last eruption back in 2005 was from Volcano Sierra Negra which sent a plume of smoke and ash 20klm skyward. This eruption put Isabela on the map as far as tourism was concerned.  People wanted to come and see the Volcano. Little did they know that this island had the best of the best animals as well.


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The Port of Villamil where we entered is the main town for the island. It has an excellent anchorage which is protected from the swell by small islands of lava rocks and mangroves. It’s a sleepy little place with sandy streets and a handful of bars, restaurants, and cafes. It has a country feel to it and we really like it so far. But before we could get out and see the place there were a few major jobs to do on GWTW. One of the hinges on our glass shower screen door sheared off on the way over and that had to be dealt with promptly, borrowing from Peter to pay back Paul as it was. So now our starboard shower has no door ‘till we can find another hinge and that won’t be easy. One of our bilge pumps failed so that had to be replaced and  after 13 years of work our screecher has started to delaminate, so down that came for repairs. The bottom of the boat is getting an increase of growth again and that took us several hours to clean. All these jobs were biting into our touring time but they couldn't wait.


P7090447 (1)So on to the sights. First up was a swim with the sea lions in the mangrove lagoon just near the dinghy dock. I just love swimming with those guys, they are a real hoot, then it was a nice long walk on the boardwalk trail to see the beautiful pink flamingos. Flamingos have been illusive to us in the past buy today we got our flamingo fix.


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Later in the week we booked a  half day boat tour to Los Tuneles  and Cabo Rosa, 45 mins further along the coast. This trip was recommended to us by both our agent and cruising friends and it definitely lived up to all the hype. We booked with Rosedelco Tours and we really don’t think that there is a better outfit in town to go with.

The ride up there was thrilling as the boat captain raced the  breaking waves and swell into a narrow channel between the lava rocks, just feet away from crunching the hull. Talk about an expert driver. Once anchored we,  there were 10 of us, jumped overboard with our guide Edwardo into the very chilly 14c water. Within minutes we were face to face with sea horses, golden manta rays, white tip sharks and giant turtles. It was a wonderful experience and yet again we were up close and personal with these animals who have no fear of humans.

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P7110648From here it was off to the actual lava tunnels. We swam through them, around them and over them.  Adding to the ever growing list of species we’ve seen so far were now penguins. They may only be small but man they are like torpedos in the water. I was lucky enough to have one whoosh by and my camera caught the shot perfectly.



It had  certainly been a jam-packed few hours so far but as they say you gotta leave the best till last. And so it was. After a hose down, a change of clothes  and a bite of lunch it was time for a little hike over the larva archways. And there waiting patiently for or us on the other side were the famed Blue Footed Booby birds which we’d been hanging out to see.

So far we’d only ever seen them flying high or nesting on far away rocks and cliffs and here they were just feet away from us.


P7110732This time of year for many animals in the Galapagos is mating season and we were gob smacked when out of the blue a couple of them started doing what is called the Booby Dance. The male struts around showing the female some well rehearsed moves hoping that she will do him the honor of taking to the floor with him. Even though she may do a mirror image of his dance steps doesn’t mean that she’s accepting his proposal  just yet.


P7110696We waited and watched in silence and eventually after a lot of fancy footwork in a flutter of wings  and a  song in their throats ,the deal was sealed with a beak to beak kiss. They sure didn’t waste any time and before our group had moved off there were already picking up bits and pieces of twig to build their love nest.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Galapagos Islands.

San Cristobal : Time to see the sights

29th June – 6th July 2017

Over the next eight days we visited all the walkable sights around town, took an all day 360 degree boat tour around the island and grabbed a local taxi for a half day trip up to the highlands.

The photo below shows what goes on at the dinghy dock, so we always caught a water taxi in for shore excursions. It’s hard enough to clean sea lion poo off GWTW let alone in the dinghy as well!

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P6293909Just a few minutes walk along the waterfront from the town dock, our first stop was to visit the Interpretation Centre to learn more about these mysterious islands that are plonked in the middle of nowhere.  There is a wealth of information here and the centre is very well set out with both Spanish and English translations of the exhibits which deal with ecology, biology, geology and the first settlers who came here.  It took a few hours to digest everything we read and now that we were all boned up we took to the walking trails.

The master pavers had been hard at work here constructing interconnecting trails which led up hill and down dale through the scrub and cactus covered headland. We ambled along the deserted sands of Playa Carola, well it was devoid of humans that is. The beach was full of basking sea lions of all shapes and sizes and black marine iguanas soaking up every ray of sunshine they could get to keep warm. Brown pelicans dived for their dinner while massive frigate birds with wing spans of over 3 feet tried fruitlessly to pinch the pelicans catch.


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P6293953Heading inland from the beach took us to a couple of scenic lookouts and eventually we ended up at Darwin Bay. It’s here that there is a huge statue of the man himself surrounded by sea lions and tortoises. Below this lookout was a beautiful bay with inviting calm, clear waters where sea lions frolicked with snorkelers and boobies and pelicans circled overhead, diving from great heights at unbelievable speeds to stun the unsuspecting fish below. As we didn’t have our snorkel gear with us we decided to come back another day to join in the fun ,and when we did we had a ball snorkeling with our marine friends


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Another walk at the other end of town took us out to a beach on the southwest side of the island called La Loberia. Being about 3 k’s out and with the heat of the day we decided to take a taxi rather than walk. As with all the bays and beaches we’ve seen so far this one too had a goodly supply of basking sea lions and the iguanas resembled statues as they perched all over the black lava rocks worshiping the sun.


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Following the advice from friends on S/V Balvenie, we continued past the beach and followed a well marked trail over the leg breaking, ankle twisting rocks and crawled up the hill to a cliff that overlooks the sea.


P7050346Chowing down on our packed lunch we watched as all types of birds whizzed past us at eye level, then to our astonishment way below us in the crashing waves we spotted about a dozen turtles and they were, wait for it .. surfing ! Yes you read that right, there were turtles surfing in the giant waves. These guys didn’t need state of the art boards, they just spread out their flippers and went for it riding the waves in and tuning back out just before they hit the rocks. It was an unbelievable sight and certainly a first for us. Sadly we were too high up to get any decent photos of them , so just use your imagination.


P6300011Day trips by tour boat is a popular thing on San Cristobal and given that GWTW has to stay put we really had no option but to jump on the tourist band wagon if we wanted to see more of this island. So we signed up for a 360 tour by boat. We were picked up from GWTW by water taxi and ferried about 20 feet to our awaiting speedboat where we joined eight other tourists. It was an overcast day and the sea was pretty rough as we headed up the east side of the island, and we started to wonder had we done the right thing. About an hour later the captain spun the helm to port and we headed at speed into shore, dodging the many rocky outcrops and shoals before backing up to a relatively calm beach .


P6300008Our guide (all tour boats have guides) led us on a path to a mangrove lagoon where we swam with our first giant turtle and saw our first sharks. I didn’t bother taking my camera in as the waters looked and were very cloudy. So no pics of that event. We’ve been pretty spoilt over the years with gin clear waters so we didn’t stay in for long, unlike the others in our party.



Back on board we headed further up the coast to Punta Pitt, a place were the blue footed boobies hang out. We did see some but it was too far away for the camera catch. Next up was a beach on the sheltered western side where I had my first swim with a sea lion and it was a hoot, Liam opted out of this one preferring just to sit on the sand instead. The sea lion danced and played around me, zooming straight toward my head then veering off at the last minute. It sure was a lot of fun. Our last stop of the day was at Kicker Rock. Famed for it’s diving, the snorkeling here was pretty good as well and the water was very clear and very deep, I’m talking 70 ft plus at least. There were turtles, sharks and fish of all sizes as well as a very colourful coral encrusted wall that slowly disappeared into the abyss.


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A trip to the highlands was next on our to do list, so armed with a copy of lonely planet we planned a four stop visit. After hailing a taxi at the town dock, well it was a ute  actually as they are here, and negotiating a price with the driver, Carlos, we headed off. At sea level it was a sunny cool day but as we drove up the winding road towards the hills the conditions got progressively more dreary with fog and light rain rolling in, but hey, that wasn’t going to deter us.

Our first stop in the village of El Progresso was at Casa del Ceibo where we ventured up a narrow swing bridge to a tree house . Perched in the branches of the world’s oldest and biggest Ceiba tree, for a fee you can spend the night there. 

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It has two beds a fridge, balcony and bathroom. Down in the enormous root system accessed by a narrow ladder is a rather big cellar room, although the purpose of this was unclear. We enjoyed an organic cup of coffee made from coffee beans grown on the premises in the small café made of 22,000 empty beer bottles, and then hit the road again.

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DSCN1140Climbing higher up towards El Junco volcano crater, we intended to hike to the now flooded crater ,the islands only freshwater source, but the rain and fog became heavier so Carlos our driver suggested we try again later in the day. It wasn’t a hard idea to sell I tell you, so on we journeyed to the Galapaguera center where giant tortoises  roam in a semi natural environment. This is a rehabilitation and breeding centre so that the young ones can be reintroduced back into their wild natural environment in a few years time. The centre was well set up and Carlos led us around, explaining about the flora and fauna as we strolled along the path sharing it with with huge tortoises who were out for a stroll.


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So far during our days here on San Cristobel we have not found one creature that shy's away from human company. It is one of life's true privileges to be able to get up close and personal with these special animals as they go about their business of daily living.

Leaving the centre we headed to our lunch spot at Otoy organic farm. The setting was lovely and the food incredible. After lunch we did a little walk around the farm and checked out the crops. They grow an amazing  variety and had we been leaving to cross the pacific tomorrow I would have been buying my produce from here for sure.

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We had two more stops along the way home  one to Puerto Chino, a lovely beach on the rocky east coast and to the El Junco lagoon to do the hike. Once again the weather won out and we decided it probably wasn’t  worth walking up to the crater in the heavy rain and mist so we just headed back to town instead. Our time here on this island was coming to an end as there are more islands to explore and more animals to meet.  We really enjoyed our stay here, and the town is really nice with lots of options for eating, drinking buying souvenirs and organising tours. Our next stop will be the island of Isabela, but more on that soon.


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