Galapagos - Friday 12th March

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 13 Mar 2010 04:02
Arrived at Isla San Cristobal in the Galapagos at 14.00 today, so exactly 7 days to cover 934.5 nautical miles. The last 24 hours were mostly very light winds and so it was motor sailing, running at low rpm with sail to suit the wind direction. So sometimes it was just main and genoa, but most of yesterday afternoon it was both genoas (one poled out to windward) and the main - a total of just over 1500 sq ft of sail. We were making anything from 3.5 to 6 knots - the wind was variable in both speed and direction.

This was the leg of the trip where the wind is least predictable - it can come from any direction, if there is any at all. Expecting light winds all the way, we, like many other yachts, had bought plastic cans to keep extra fuel on deck. We didn't need any of it. With the good winds that we had, we only used about 30% of our normal tanks. We now need to decide whether to keep the cans or get rid of them. We don't like storing cans on deck.

What a start to the Galapagos! There was enough wind to turn the engine off in the early hours this morning and as the dawn broke we had just reached the northern end of Isla San Cristobal. We were ghosting along the coast at 2 or 3kts when we saw a manta ray not far from the boat. When they feed near the surface their 'wing tips' break the surface like 2 parallel fins in the water. We then saw another, and another, and counted 12 in all. A few minutes later 2 whales surfaced one after the other just behind the boat, blew and dived under. It was all a bit quick to determine the type of whales they were, but it was also a bit too close for comfort, being so big and so close! It's great to see them when they're 'just over there', but it's a little scary when they are almost along side. We switched the motor on in neutral - we had read that the noise of the motor will often deter them from coming too close, and we didn't see them again.

We've heard from other yachties about the Galapagos and how tame the wildlife is, but wondered whether it really is like that. Well so far we've only seen the sealions and what they've said is most definitely true. They are lounging around all over the place along the coast basking on the rocks and whatever they can find. Favorite spots seem to be the decks of small fishing boats, yacht dinghies and yacht bathing platforms, and particularly the steps on the sterns of catamarans. One catamaran had 3 sealions on the stern of one hull and 2 on the other. They swim round and under the yachts at anchor, catching fish and playing. We couldn't go ashore until about 17.00 today as we had to wait for the port captain to come out and clear us in. (It's the only place we have been where you have to wait on the boat until boarded by the officials.) When we got ashore, sealions were flat out sunning themselves on the benches along the water front. All the locals just ignore them.

We've seen blue footed boobies, but not close up yet. We've also seen small flocks of very small birds that appear to walk and dance on the surface of the water. Not sure what they are, but we've never seen anything like it before.

It takes about 2 days to get the boat ready for a long passage and it takes longer to put all the gear away again. Sails and running rigging on deck get covered in salt and need to be cleaned before putting away. So we will be spending the next few days getting the boat back to a state for living at anchor and coastal cruising. Then we hope to start exploring this island. But first we are looking forward to 8 hours of continuous sleep!

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