SV Accomplice Blog week 17 13/2/20 to 19/2/20
Mon 2 Mar 2020 19:48
Departure day for the Galapagos was another glorious sunny one. We were pleased that we had crossed the start line first or thereabouts and were keeping up with the rest of the fleet with full main and Genoa. This was a novelty for us!
We got our first and only catch so far on this passage, a good sized Spanish Mackerel. A lovely tasting fish, a white lightish meat. Matthew and Josh did well landing it. The technique being to catch them with a colourful lure trailed from a hand reel which is placed over a winch with an elastic band keeping the tension. When a fish is caught the band snaps and somebody grabs the the reel before the line runs out. The fish is then reeled in alongside and gaffed to get it on board, the teak grating is then lifted up in the cockpit and we then have a washable area for the fish to expire in before taking below.
The wind lightened and the Genoa was rolled in and the cruising chute was hoisted which gave us a good turn of speed given the lightness of the wind.
At one point as we passed more of the Las Perlas Islands we saw tens of eagle rays launching themselves out of the water and crashing back down. It was an odd sight but amazing. We could also see whales passing in the distance, water shooting up out of their blowholes. It was full of marine life. Wonderful.
The passage was about 875nm and was planned to take about 6 days. Sailing south out of the Gulf of Panama then south west over the equator and down to the Galápagos Islands.
The wind turned very light and the sails were brought down and the engine turned on. 39 hours of motoring then followed. Finally the breeze filled in from the south, sails hoisted and we were off, for a change sailing close hauled in 8 to 10 knots of wind. Galápagos Islands here we come!
We were expecting the wind to turn light again but no it remained sailable and at times increased several knots which made for a great sail.
For a change we were up among the fleet, doing well for the size of Accomplice. We were keeping pace and in fact doing better than larger boats that had taken different routes. It is quite interesting that simply getting a to b can produce so many individual different routes. I normally go for the shortest subject to any major currents or wind shifts. This time it paid off but it doesn’t always !
The days passed without event, sea life appearing on and off. A couple of nights red footed boobies hitchhiked a ride, leaving their calling card in the morning all over the deck.
Matthew got into his bread making stride again and we enjoyed freshly baked bread. The fishing front didn’t do very well on this passage, the problem being that the fish were too big. On several occasions we lost tackle to large marlin and the like, they just bite straight through the steel tracer. Our gear is really only suitable for say up to 5 kg fish. Plans are afoot though to bring some fishing gear from home to up the game!
It was on one late evening shift that we crossed the equator. We had thought hard about how we would mark the occasion, traditionally it was a rite of passage for equator virgins and typically involved Neptune. We decided on a photo of us wearing flags of countries that we had or will visit over strategic parts of our body and spelling out Equator with signal flags. Anyway the moment came at 11 pm, I was on watch on deck and my trusty crew were tucked up in their beds, religiously guarding their sleep! I wasn’t going to let this occasion pass however, so I quietly raised a glass of whiskey to my absent dear friend Dr Iain Crawford without whom I probably wouldn’t be sailing and who would have been probably sailing with me right now. He would have loved it.
Land ahoy!! The weather had started bright and clear at the start of the passage but I guess as we sailed south to the equator it turned dull and murky, we were now in or approaching the doldrums. Out of the murk land appeared, the island of San Cristobal, our home for the coming week.
As the San Cristobal became closer it became more defined and revealed an eroded volcanic landscape, craggy peaks with soft long slopes running down from them. Basically volcanic craters and lava flows eroded over thousands of years. The landscape was covered in a green brush which turned out to be low level trees, in view of the heat I expected the land it to be parched but in in fact was quite green. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleased to not see any evidence of human settlement,no houses, masts etc. We passed pristine looking sandy bays and beaches without anybody on them, yes this was actually different.
We sailed past an off lying rock called Kicker Rock, a renowned diving site and approached the finish line for the rally. As we turned towards the anchorage on the north west of the island an inlet opened up of buildings, sports fishing boats and mini cruise boats, in complete contrast to what we had seen so far of the island. We found a spot and dropped anchor, another passage completed.
We couldn’t yet strictly venture ashore since we needed to be cleared into the islands. We were informed that the officialdom would be arriving on the boat the next day, so unofficially we called a water taxi and stepped on land. It obviously wasn’t like stepping ashore in the days of Darwin and his evolution theories but it did feel different to others. I guess it was the abundance of wildlife that surrounded you. We were greeted on the pick up and drop off pier by sea lions lounging were they could. Then as you started to take it all in you spotted them everywhere, on benches, on the pavement, on the rocks, in the water...it was an incredible sight, this was a living zoo! Like all the animals in the Galápagos they are fearless of people, this was their island which they shared with us. It was mesmerising to watch their antics and playfulness with one another.
Before we had ventured ashore we were visited by the officials that inspect the bottom of the boat to ensure that we hadn’t brought in any foreign organisms. With crossed fingers we got the thumbs up, all the hard work getting the bottom cleaned paid off.
The immigration etc etc arrived and on board the following day. All 7 of them! It was an intense 45 minutes answering the questions being fired at you, producing documents, signing forms, showing them around the boat. Before arriving on the island we had to strategically place notices around the boat reminding us to not throw anything into the sea, not discharge toilet waste and to have signage for rubbish recycling. The officials duly inspected that everything was in place and took photos as evidence. It was a bit of a palaver and had good intentions but cost me $626 and therefore not convinced of the real motive....
Anyhow they were happy with us and asked if they could stay on board to have their lunch which they did. In the meantime we were itching to get off the boat and explore. They finally left swiftly followed by us, time to check this island out.
Andrew, Matthew, Janet and Josh
Isla San Cristobal, Galápagos, Ecuador