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Date: 18 Feb 2014 18:23:40
Title: Galapagos & the Barnacles Moonlight Cruise to nowhere

> In the course of million of years, continuous eruptions of volcanoes that spurted from the sea floor created a fascinating archipelago: out of black lava: Galapagos.
> The islands are the tops of enormous submarine mountains. Some young islands are still being formed, while older islands are changing their form through the process of erosion. Seeds carried by the wind might probably have been the first sign of terrestrial life in Galapagos. Pioneer species, capable of living almost without water, such as cactus & lichens, paved the way for hundred of unique plants & animals that today inhabit the islands. Now giant sea turtles & land tortoises, sea lions, 13 kinds of finches & other small birds, frigate birds, seabirds, pelicans, iguanas, and many more species live in harmony on the Islands.
> Legends tell that pre-Columbians, in their large rafts, were the first visitors. The discovery of ceramic shards may suggest that sailors from the Ecuadorian Coast may actually have landed here in boats made from trunks of balsa wood.
> Galapagos, or Enchanted Islands, was formally discovered by the Spanish sailor Tomás de Berlanga in 1535, who happened to drift across the Pacific and eventually landed here.
> On Feb 12th, 1832 Galapagos was incorporated into the Republic of Ecuador.
> Our first impression of Isla San Cristóbal, when we arrived late at night (we arrived late on the 11th of Feb), was the sound of many sea lions barking in the harbour of Puerta Baquerizo. On our first night, we had two visitors on the rear platform, and they kept Haakon & Ellen awake with their noise. We tried to block the platform with fenders etc, but the sea lions have a way of sliding in & up on the boats. There they just lie in the sun & they smell like hell. At first sight they are cute, but you soon get enough of their presence, smell & noise.
> The next morning, we were all booked on a day tour around the Island. First to a nearby beach, where we were allowed to snorkel with big sea turtles & fish of all kinds, while the sea lions & iguanas watched us from the shore, dozing in the sun.
> Afterwards we were taken by boat out to Kicker Rock, also called Sleeping Lion, for yet another snorkeling tour. This time in the water with sea lions, more big sea turtles, spotted Eagle Rays, fish of all kinds & last but not least: sharks (white tipped & black tipped sharks, Galapagos sharks & Hammer sharks). It was quite an experience seeing them up close from the sea surface. Ellen & Haakon went back to dive two days later, and came much closer to the sharks, turtles & rays being down there with them.
> After a welcome party & a nice dinner, we stumbled to bed at around 9:30 pm (we are picked up by water taxi), only to discover that they celebrated 12th of Feb with a big firework. So we sat on our boat, overlooking the small town's celebration of their official National Day.
> The next day Glenn went up the mast (26m) twice to fix the Genoa halyard, and were able to take some spectacular photos from up there. Afterwards Glenn & I, together with Erling & Gro from Saphir, went for a walk in the National Park, and visited the Interpretation Center where Galapagos history was displayed. Ellen did the same a bit later. Very interesting indeed. What an extraordinary history it is!
> We were really enjoying our visit here, when we all of a sudden got a disturbing message from the World ARC Committee. Some of the yachts had, after being inspected by divers from the authorities, too many barnacles & green seaweed or what have you underneath their boats - too much for the Galapagos National Park preservers to ignore. Ko-Ko was unfortunately one of them.
> Long story short. 19 boats had to leave San Cristóbal the next day and join the Barnacles Moonlight Cruise to nowhere. Yeaaah!! At least we had free drinks, accommodation & food included. And for this adventure we had to pay a fee of $300 pr boat.
> We were instructed to go to a waypoint 70 Nm from the Isla San Cristóbal, away from the National Park, to a Hull Cleaning Station with divers waiting to remove the barnacles.
> And off we went late Sat night. The next day, the divers only succeeded in cleaning 7 boats, so the rest of us had to stay around another night & day to have our hulls cleaned & inspected by the dive master.
> So we sailed back & forth the whole night, keeping an eye on the waypoint, where the divers would return the next day. We just had to make the most of it. At least we had some good sailing.. The next morning, everything went as planned, and eventually all boats were allowed to return to San Cristóbal. The divers did a terrific job, working under the boats in waves & strong current. We'll done! At least we now have a clean hull..
> Tomorrow we will hopefully get our zarpe permission to leave and sail for Isla Isabela, our next stop in the Galapagos Islands. Fingers crossed..

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