The Galapagos Islands
On arrival we were consumed
with the need to get a new computer on to the island within the twenty days that
we were allowed to stay. We had
been told of the terrible delays in customs in
On our first night at anchor we were hit by a fishing boat. Every other boat in the harbour was held head to wind and swell by a stern anchor. This boat was not and swung and gave us a series of frightening bumps. We were up for two hours fending off and in the morning found our decks littered with flecks of paint and small pieces of fishing boat. It was a good job it was rather a decayed and soft wooden boat. The following day we shifted our position. We later learned that this boat had been fishing illegally and was under “house arrest”. The navy brought bolt croppers and took away its nets but in doing so got a line round their prop and had to return to the fishing boat to ask for a knife to cut it free. Some days later one of our friends was hit twice; by a fishing boat leaving the anchorage and then by the small boat it was towing. Fortunately there was no damage but a catamaran astern of us was not so lucky on our last night. A large steel fishing boat got athwart her and broke a bowsprit and associated rigging.
Our next priority was the
blocked heads. This is a HORRIBLE
job. Seawater reacts with urea to
calcify the pipes from the bowls to the holding tanks until they are completely
blocked. Two metres of pipe had to
be un-installed cleaned out and re-fixed.
It took most of the day but at least the weather was not swealtering
hot. Conditions were much worse
when I last did it on
The water maker had been playing up and the tank was getting low. I decided that it was necessary to replace the seals in the high pressure pump which was an educational process that took the two of us most of the day. In the end I do not think there was anything wrong with the seals but the handbook assures us that it is good practice and should be done after five hundred hours whether the seals are worn or not. It will be easier next time – they say. The equipment was still not making fresh water so I spent ages trying to track down the cause of the trouble. In the end I cured the symptoms by removing one of two filters. It now works a treat in the open ocean but I think we need the second filter when anchored; it has always become dirty quite quickly.
Now the generator stopped and would not start again. Diagnosing a fuel problem I took several bits apart and, as before, contrived to replace a small part upside down. However, an excellent mechanic ashore put me right on this and having put it all together again the engine is running better than it has done for some time. I really don’t know why. I had a lot of help and advice from friends and professionals; it’s heart-warming the way people rally round if they have any expertise to offer.
The shower sump pump was next. I bought a replacement, because it was there and they do not last for ever, but I managed to get everything going again anyway. The spare pump is a comfort.
It took a whole day to take on fuel. Largely because I anticipated trouble importing parts we had taken the pilot books’ advice and engaged the services of an agent. Through him I arranged for the fuel barge to visit four boats and we were told to be ready from 0800. We were, but the pump on the barge was defective. They put that right and we had the barge tied up securely alongside when the man in charge explained that he wanted to serve the other yachts first. He finally left us at 1700. A bit frustrating but…… you learn to go with the flow!
Between times we were practicing new skills. Two of the features of the anchorage at Puerto Ayora are swell and an excellent water taxi service. Very few people use their own dinghies. The yellow painted taxis swarm round at busy times and are usually available at very short notice. They all have big bow fenders and take on passengers by nudging into the side of the boat or landing stage. Passengers climb on to a small foredeck which is equipped with single or double handrails. It is all very easy in calm seas, but they are rarely calm. It takes a sense of balance and a bit of nerve to stand hanging on and waiting for the lift of the wave before making a decisive move, particularly with two big bags of laundry or gas bottles. On the other hand there is never an occasion when someone will not leap up to help if they see the slightest need. The locals generally could not be more friendly and helpful.
We have been rather
surprised at the size of the boats getting ready to cross the mighty ocean. There are very few large Swans and
Oysters and we find that there are many boats smaller than JJ Moon. Many cruisers have a story to tell. A 19ft Bulgarian boat, built of
ferro-cement, had an engine break down and lost a spreader. She had to be towed in after forty days
at sea from
When not working on repairs and malfunctions we were enjoying ourselves! Six of us hired a minibus and an authorised naturalist guide to take a trip round the island to see the giant tortoises and other delights. We have already put the pictures up. Unlike many places we have visited these islands really do have things to offer tourists. In addition to the tortoises and iguanas the whole environment of the air, land and water is teeming with interesting life. Seals play round the boat and sun themselves on every ledge. Manta rays swim past the stern. Pelicans and boobies catch fish and the frigate birds steal the catch from them. The blue footed boobies behave like the Red Arrows, flying in tight echelon formation then pealing off and diving into the sea like…well, arrows. There is always something going on. Mags did a dive with hammerhead sharks and a very friendly cosmopolitan group of people.
The islands are unique because of their geographical position a thousand miles from land and at the meeting of two currents, one warm and the other cold. In spite of being on the Equator the climate is temperate. All this results in a profusion of life and, of course, interesting discoveries.
Some readers may be wondering why they have to put up with all the boring bits about repairs and malfunctions. “Stop whingeing on about things going wrong and tell us more about the tortoises!” Well, you can read about the tortoises and iguanas in the guide books. All we can add is that we have been there, seen them, and it’s all true. They are wonderful. Our excuse for spending so much time describing the other stuff is that the breakages and repairs are a major part of all cruisers’ lives. It is difficult keeping these rather complex machines, operating in a hostile environment, rolling round the world. Half the boats at anchor or on a mooring are having work done or waiting for parts. One very experienced skipper was reported recently to have cried out in anguish “I can’t keep on doing this, Natalie”. But we all know he will have to. We all have to. We’re cruisers; this is what we do.
This comes to you from
latitude 03°S longitude 100°W, about 550 miles west of the Galapagos on passage