Blog Entry 9 - Galapagos/Schmerlapagos

Ian Redwood & Laura Brown
Sun 20 Mar 2022 16:41

 01° 54.400’ S 090° 32.750’ W Galapagos/Schmerlapagos

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Recalling our last entry: P.S.  We’re having ^ issues with the satphone – (understatement insert: fall on the floor sides splitting with laughter at just how understated that line was) please bear with us (insert: give up all hope), we may not respond to emails of messages for several days (insert: ever).

As we arrived in Galapagos it became clear that the gods of technology were going to play some little tricksies on us.  I knew Laura shouldn’t have mocked Neptune with that offering of a dribble of amber nectar.  The first warning we had of invoking salty divine displeasure was when the autopilot mysteriously turned itself off.  The islands had appeared out of the haze, and we were occupied by this vision and the prospect and smells of land.  However, it then became apparent that something was wrong - the island we were heading for started rapidly moving along the side of the yacht until we were, very clearly, heading away from it.  The autopilot had gone tits-up.  Of course, those of you who have experienced long passages with only two crew will realise just how dependent upon an autopilot that any long-distance sailing relies upon.  Those of you who aren’t familiar with long passages I recommend holding your arms out straight (simulating holding a yacht’s wheel) and then repeat this action for about 3 weeks.  Those of you who consequently suggest we just tie the helm off or adopt some other Heath-Robinson (patent-pending) solution, well ok, but remember this is supposed to be a light read and no none likes smart-arse ideas.   

Next clue that technology was eyeing us up for a laugh was when our electronic chart’s accuracy started to decline.  That is to say, we dropped anchor in the town square.  Of course, we didn’t really do this but in the virtual world occupied by our electronic Navionics charts we had somehow miraculously been sailing on the public beach, crossed the main road, slipped along a side street and crashed through a Sunday school playground.  Mr Navionics will charge you a mere £250 per chart for this amusing experience.  A sort of a sailing Grand Theft Auto.  Some computer nerd at their chart-making division was obviously asleep at the programming wheel when the chart was made.  At an earlier juncture when this guy was in the queue for brains he thought they said ‘trains’ and asked for a slow one.  However, don’t bother complaining to Navionics or any supplier of their comedy products about this potentially life-endangering nonsense.  You might as well try screaming it at Mr Navionics himself as he speeds past you in his Ferrari, with his stereo up, as he disappears up his gated mansion’s winding drive.  Mr Navionics chart-packaging small print does say ‘not to be relied upon for navigation’.  FFS.

Even the sea-lions honked in mock derision at us, and there was plenty of them.  They lounged on the town quay steps, they slept on the benches, and they gracefully darted under the yachts at anchor.  Best of all, they got onto the back of boats irrespective of the owner’s protests.  “I say Tiffany there’s a damn sea-lion here – get the boathook”.  This was very amusing providing it didn’t happen to your own yacht.  You might remember a battle we had with Boobys (Aka shite-hawks).  Well forget that, if a big seal gets on your boat you’re going to be shovelling manure off your decks like a belt-fed grave-digger. 

We had no opportunity to go ashore – other than when I was escorted quick-time by the agent to the local ATM to provide him with their entire cash content.  I looked longingly at the shore establishments as people sipped beers or licked towering ice-creams.  But we were on an emergency stopover – ‘Señor there is no possibility of you to go ashore’.  We simply had permission for a 12 hour stop to refuel and grab some fresh rations.  We handed over our shopping list to the agent – kerrrrrching!  (For those of you who are not Brits this onomatope represents the sound of an old-fashioned cash-register opening to the benefit of the operator.  For Generation X there is no sound that represents your apple pay phone swipe as you empty your on-line account – but you get the picture).        

So an afternoon waiting for the rations and fuel was spent watching giant rays leap out of the water.  Apparently, they do this both to rid themselves of parasites and/or as part of a mating ritual.  I’ve tried leaping out of the water from a snorkelling dive myself (in the hope of the latter) but generally found it hard to get more than my shoulders out - that explains my parasites then.  For those of you who think all we do is lounge around all day here is a list of jobs we did that afternoon:

·      Climb mast to retrieve lost halyard and repair damage to wind instruments.

·      Bail sea water under engine compartment and assess volume of water ingress.

·      Top up all batteries with distilled H2O.

·      Check engine and generator drive belts, oil levels and top up.

·      Glue broken wooden floor grill.

·      Check and regrease steering gear and bail water from under steering quadrants.

·      Wash and air bed sheets and dirty clothes (by hand).

·      Take stock of rations.

·      Repair and fit broken track end.

·      Swap empty gas bottle for full.

·      Spend 90 minutes talking to satellite phone company to try to resolve sat phone issues.

·      Snorkel under hull to see damage from rock engagement in Las Perlas.

·      Refill with diesel from local boat with jerry cans and portable pump.

·      Clean body, hair and eyes and decks from spilled diesel that exploded like a fountain from his superfast pump into our nearly full tank.

·      Receive Port Captain and Health Worker on board for formalities. 

The latter was an amusing encounter.  We were asked all sorts of detailed questions like: how many people does your life-raft take?; how many fire extinguishers do you have aboard?; how many weevils in your pasta at the moment?  Although we didn’t get asked the latter, it did turn out that we had a small community of stowaway weevils eating our pasta.  Carbonara that night was eaten with some trepidation in anticipation of it having more protein in it than was originally planned.

Eventually, everyone left us alone and penniless.  We were free to enjoy a well-earned beer as the sun went down.  We listened to the music and party atmosphere from the ashore that taunted us with their sounds across the bay.  We slept soundly, exhausted from the previous 9 days of 4 hour on – four hours off routine of watches.

In the morning we delayed our departure so I could fix the autopilot.  I found a wire that had somehow worked free amongst a spider’s web of wires in the back of the autopilot computer.  When I tried to refit it I clumsily managed to dislodge 3 other wires.  I’m no electrician or electronics engineer.  I had no clue as to where any of the wires were connected.  After another two hours of deduction, swearing, sweat and a few sparks plus some more swearing I managed to solve the connection issues.  RaLa had a functioning autopilot again.  My chances of doing this were akin to getting a monkey to type the works of Shakespeare.

We finally set off after multiple messages from the Port Captain – ‘you must go now, you have over-stayed your time’.  In other words ‘get orrf moi water’.  Yeah, thanks mate, do try to remember we stopped for an emergency.  It felt a bit like paying for a ridiculously expensive service and then getting a kick in the arse from the proprietor as you head out the door.

The sealions were still honking with derisive laughter as we departed the bay.  Galapagos – schmerlapagos.