Friday 15th June - A Gallop through the Galapagos

Jon & Carol Dutton
Sun 17 Jun 2012 00:09

1:03.586S 92:06.61W

Friday 15th June - A Gallop through the Galapagos

Having recovered from the excitement of crossing the line on 7th June, we knew that we’d have to slow down if we were to enter the anchorage at Academy Bay on the island of Santa Cruz in daylight.  The easiest way of doing this was to take down the sails and potter along with a low revving engine.  At about 0330 on Friday morning the service alternator charging light on the engine panel lit up.  That’s not helpful – it means that the alternator isn’t charging the domestic batteries that run pretty well everything on board.  The only thing they don’t do is start the engine.  So, Mr Perkins, precisely what is your problem?  Please do not tell me that either the service alternator or its regulator has died.  Removing the engine cover revealed two very mangled alternator belts.  We’d tightened them up before leaving Panama but obviously hadn’t been ruthless enough about it.  So, they’d worked slack, begun to slip and eventually expired.  It’s a pretty big alternator they drive so slack belts are not a good idea.  Well, we’ve got spare alternator belts and replacing them isn’t a major drama – irritating though it may be.  However, in thrashing about the engine compartment the now dead belts had managed to mangle and rip off the three wires to the oil pressure sensor.  So, even though we could have survived until we got to anchor without an alternator charging our domestic batteries, the engine would not re-start as long as those wires were not connected.  Hot-wiring might have been an option provided you knew what you were doing – but at around 0400 that morning Jon wasn’t up to thinking that one through.    Meanwhile, given that it was dark, we were getting pretty close to the islands and there was quite a lot of traffic around it didn’t seem wise to drift about unable to manoeuvre.  And, no, we don’t have two red all-round lights to show our being ‘Not under command’.  We rehoisted sail to give us the manoeuvrability we needed and set off in the general direction of Academy Bay.  Meanwhile Jon went to work in the engine compartment with an electrical crimping kit and lengths of spare wire.  After a bit of trial and error we managed to get the three wires connected to the right terminals on the oil pressure sensor.  It had proved impossible to tell by examination which terminal was which on the sensor – buried as it is in the depths of the engine.  But, there are only 6 permutations for 3 wires and 3 terminals and we managed to get it right on the fifth attempt.  Which, one has to accept, is indicative of some pretty poor guessing.  It may explain why we haven’t won the lottery – although our lack of investment may have something to do with it. 

The church clock in Puerto Ayoro, the main town on Santa Cruz Island, and which fronts Academy Bay, was chiming 8 o’clock as we anchored.  We had about an hour of rest before a water taxi came alongside and on board stepped Ivan.  He was not the agent we had arranged to deal with; he was in fact the agent’s friend’s husband!  Sadly, he spoke less English than Carol speaks Spanish and worse, he clearly wasn’t conversant with all the necessary procedures.  Nevertheless, he went away with a large number of our dollars and passports.  Later, he dragged us off to Immigration who were a) shut because it was lunchtime and b) won’t deal directly with punters –  that is what the agent is for!  He did, however, find us a welder who did work we needed to be done at a very reasonable rate.

A couple of visits to very smartly dressed Fuerza Naval officials – how do they manage to keep their uniforms so pristine? – brought a pleasant surprise.  The harbour dues amounted to “only” $180 instead of the $315 that the agent had advised us they would be.  This covered us for up to 20 days in the Galapagos, but only in Puerto Ayoro.  If we had wanted to go to other islands, we understood that our agent’s charges would have risen from a mere $150 to $400 to include the required cruising permit.  In addition, the harbour authority in each harbour in which we dropped anchor would extract another wad of dollars at least equal to the $180 we’d already paid the Ayoro authority.  Since we were only going to be in the islands for a week and needed to be in the capital for several days of that anyway to get stuff done and bought, that was rather more than we wanted to pay.

Ayoro harbour bay is dotted with local tourist boats – some definitely more upmarket than others – so they should be at a price tag of up to $5-6000 per head per week – cruising yachts and working boats that service the supply ships.  Little yellow water taxis buzz around taking everyone hither and thither.


 For the first few days, Arnamentia’s decks resembled Steptoe’s back yard as everything from the forepeak and the lockers therein, was brought up on deck to dry, following the ingress of a fairly substantial amount of water on the passage from Panama.  That had been the result of having lowered the staysail to the bottom of the inner forestay and lashing it to the grab handles that are used to slide the forehatch back and forth.  Not a good idea.  A big goffer got under the lashed down sail and tore the starboard rail of the hatch out of its coachroof mountings.  This left a very big gap where one didn’t ought to be.  Each succeeding goffer headed inwards to join its mates for a party in the forepeak until we noticed what was happening.  A lash-up at sea sorted the problem out temporarily but the hatch and its slides and mountings needed to be disassembled completely and re-mounted by Jon once we got in and a welder was needed to sort out the bent and broken hatch catches.  The list of chores grew and grew – after all we were shortly to embark on a 3,000 NM passage – longer than our Atlantic crossing – and we needed to be in the best possible shape.  Carol took a break from cleaning and mending things to go across the island to take a ferry (think Gosport Green Bucket but smaller and far shabbier) to the island of Baltra where the main airport is located.  She was on her way to meet Chris Austin who was joining us for the next few weeks.  His plane was bang on time and he looked remarkably chipper despite the 34 hour long journey from Heathrow.

The next day saw us take an organised trip with an official guide to Seymour Island, an island with an abundance of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, land and marine iguanas and sea lions.  The islands have always been famed for the abundance of wildlife and none of it is remotely fearful of humans.  Both frigate birds and blue-footed boobies have complicated courtship rituals.  The male frigate bird inflates his red throat and makes sure that he has built a nest of sufficient luxuriousness to pass muster with the future intended.  No en-suite, no dice.  The male booby starts a dance, makes an extravagant display with his wings, whistles and hopes his intended will join him on the dance floor.  She will for a while before stepping aside to slightly higher ground, feigning lack of interest and playing hard to get before relenting and rejoining the party.  Watching pairs of these birds going through the routine is an absolute hoot and it was far from clear to us why the blue-footed booby boogie hasn’t caught on in all the smartest night clubs in capitals around the world.  Regrettably the male blue-footed booby’s DIY skills are rudimentary in the extreme.  So, it’s a good thing that female blue-footed boobies aren’t anywhere near as fussy as their frigate bird counterparts when it comes to the standards of accommodation demanded.  


                                                                                Just look at me!!  I’m your alpha male!


    Girl, you ain’t seen dancin’ like this before                                OK, ma’am; now let’s see you strut your stuff


   Oooh, y’know what?  That ain’t bad at all.                             So, let’s boogie.  The blue-footed boobie pas de deux




Hopeful Mr Frigate Bird awaits atop his nest                                Frigate bird family.  Dad’s past impressing females.


Land Iguana                                                                                        Marine Iguana


                                                            You lookin’ for a fight?



Am I handsome or what?                                                                          Actually, no . . . . .


you are a cheeky bundle of . . . . .                                                                  precocious adolescence.        

We had been warned that getting fuel was likely to be a complicated business.  There is only one filling station on the island and you can’t get fuel unless you have applied for and been given an allocation by the Fuerza Naval.  So that was another form to acquire – though at least the agent did oblige this time and there was no fee.  We needed 180 litres to replace what we’d used on the way to the Galapagos and we had 6 twenty litre plastic jerry cans in which to collect it by taxi.  So, it was a bit of a palaver and it took a bit of time but t’was done.  Fuel there costs locals $1.02 per US gallon whilst foreigners pay $4.80.  Still, that’s about $1.26 /£0.85 per litre so it could be worse.

By Friday 15th everything was dry enough to stow back on the boat.  Fresh provisioning was completed, the waterline was cleaned (even a few days in that anchorage had been enough to leave huge amounts of slime and weed well above the waterline) and we made ready to depart.  The anchor was raised at 1730 and off the three of us set heading west – a long way.