We managed to do another 36 hours with the engine
running but with eight miles to go she started making some horrible noises.
Clanking and whistling with the water temperature rising dramatically. I
was asleep in the forepeak and woke up, looked at my watch and thought, 'oh for
fuck sake'. The GPS said we would arrive at midday and my watch said eleven.
That's how aware we were that we just needed to get to port so we could sort
this shit out. It took four days in the end but it seemed like double that.
Manta was enticingly close. We could see it. While we
waited for the engine to cool down we weighed up our options. We put out a call
on the VHF saying we would pay $100 to be towed in. No answer. We thought that
as we were so close a fishing boat would inevitably come past and we could hail
them but in the end we decided to try and tow her in ourselves with the tender.
As we are on the Equator the Sun is that much closer that it stings you
when you are exposed to it, especially in the midday Sun. It is unbearable.
Anyway, I jumped in the tender and attempted to tow a fifteen ton boat with a
2.3 horsepower outboard. That idea lasted about twenty minutes when, aside from
the fact that if we did manage to pull it off it would take around 5 hours
and no doubt fry me and the outboard in the process besides, the
tender was just veering from side to side clearly losing the will to
Needless to say, we thought fuck it, tighten up a couple
of things, keep our fingers crossed and just get to this godforsaken place.
Thankfully this worked and we anchored up in the port of Manta, next to Manta
Yacht Club. We were the only sailing yacht there amongst hundreds off
fishing boats. Manta is the second largest tuna fishing port in the world.
The tuna has no hope it is sad to say.
We had been told that you had to get an agent to take
care of everything. Not just Customs and Immigration but the Navy.
Ecuador is very protective about its waters so you have to inform them
straight away of your location. However it was Sunday when we arrived and the
agent was not answering. Gareth and I left Dickon in charge of security and went
to have a wander about (as illegal aliens). We tied the tender up at the yacht
club, blagged our way past the security guards and set off to get some phone
cards and some well deserved booze. We ended up in a little waterfront bar and
tried to get in touch with the guys we met in Panama. No joy, so we got a
load of takeouts, walked back past the confused security guards (bamboozling
them with our pigeon Spanish. I think) and went back to the boat. We
were pretty anxious about the authorities and getting our engine sorted and the
fact that the people we had met in Panama were full of shit.
Next morning we woke up to the waft of rotting fish and
decided to get amongst it. Phone cards in this part of the world have been our
savior but we could not get any for love nor money. There are dozens of phone
boxes with enticing little slots where one would assume that a phone card would
fit. Don't be so bloody stupid. Jesus, that would be too simple. Apparently all
these phone boxes are redundant and there are phone booths you can use to make
international calls. Perfect. So in we go to the mobile network 'Claro' shop and
ask to use one of the booths. They are out of order. Ok, damn you, can
I buy your cheapest mobile phone then. Of course. Fair enough $30 is ok.
Pity that it says it has sent a text when it hasn't and there is a five metre
zone where you can use it without the reception cutting out.
So by now it is Monday afternoon and we have been
illegally in the country for 36 hours and can't get hold of anybody. At around
1pm I manage to get hold of the agent and he says to ring him back in
two hours as he is based 5 hours away and will have to get an agent sorted
for us in Manta. Not what it said on your fucking website sunshine. The
fact that it said you were based in Manta was the main reason I
fucking called you. Ok. Amazing as it is being an illegal alien in a South
American country, let alone the fifth biggest city in Ecuador we are
starting to think that we are pretty much scuppered. Two hours later I ring
the agent and he says I need your exact coordinates. I say I will be back
on the boat in an hour to which he replies 'you must be on the boat as you
cannot go ashore until you have gone through all the formalities. We hot
foot it back to the boat, leaving Gareth ashore to pay the yacht club
guy and try and ring the number we were given by
the guys we met. 'He's name is Roduigo Adugo. Just get to Manta and mention his
name and that you know us and he will sort everything out for you'. By now we
are thinking yeah right, whatever, this place is a hole and we are fucked. we
tried to ring the number earlier and got hung up on and none of our contact
numbers are working for our friends from Panama.
Back on the boat I frantically get our GPS position to
give to our agent and attempt to ring him back. The reception is so bad I give
up and tell him I will ring him back. Dickon and I go back to shore to see an
animated Gareth literally hopping from one foot to the other with his hands up
in the air. We step off the tender to him saying 'I found them. I tried shouting but you were gone. I fucking found them'.
Excuse the swearing but this was big for us. Gustavo and Harry were at the bar
with Mr. Adugo and endearingly pleased to see us. You can understand that we
were thinking the worst and that we were stuck here with no help and ashamadley
not the greatest grasp of Spanish, although it is getting better. Anyway it
turns out that Roduigo owns the Yacht Club and about 20 of the huge fishing
boats out in the harbor so pretty much runs shit and we are treated like
royalty. 'The British invasion has started' Gusatvo repeats about fifty times
while consuming roughly the same amount of beers
Thank God the reception went when I was on the
phone to the agent because Roduigo made a phone call and within 10
minutes someone from customs and immigration was there followed by a captain
from the Navy in full regalia signing us in. Special! We have since been treated
so well. They insisted we moor up closer to the yacht club and he got his
engineers to work on our engine first thing the next morning. We want for
nothing. It's so nice to meet people who are true to their word. We were going
to stop in Ecuador anyway but at a different port. we stopped here because of
these guys and in there first 36 hours it seemed like we were fools. But no. It
all came good and we are feeling the warmth of a protective Ecuadorian
wing. Such nice people.
It turns out that the reason they hadn't got back to us
was because they had endured a nightmare themselves. During their passage
through the canal the skipper, who doesn't normally drink, decided to get shit
faced. What the hell?. Of all the places, the Panama Canal!? Eventually
after four warnings the Navy boarded them on the fifth and they were
escorted through. Then they had engine failure and ended up in the North of
Ecuador, in Esmirelda for repairs so only arrived a day before
Anyway, we have been here a week now and the engine is
harder to fix than we first thought. It's ok, it's just going to take a bit more
time. To be honest we really have had a stroke of luck in being able to get it
sorted in this part of the world. Harry and Gustavo have acted as translators
and it will all be fine I'm sure. We need the engine badly as there really is a
lack of wind around here. We need to crack on to the Galapagos though soon. Even
though it is owned by Ecuador you can't actually say that you are going there.
You have to state that you are going to another country and basically turn up
there saying it was an emergency. Perfect for us...Engine trouble!!!! I guess
it's fair enough because it is a protected area and I don't think in a few
years people will be allowed to visit it. Can't wait.
Here are some nice pics of our boat xxx