How we got here and the plans

Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Thu 2 May 2013 15:56
Right now we are in a small town called Villamil on Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos.
We are still not allowed to leave the boat, there will be an inspection, about 4-5 people from different authoraties will come  aboard and check everything from our trash to the black water tanks. There will probably be some kind of fumigation as well. Then I will be allowed to go ashore and see the port captain to pay our dues. It is very expensive to come to this place, well not compared to going here with a flight from home, but from a sailors perspective.We have to pay park fees, 100 USD per person, 150USD for and agent that is required, different tonnage fees (for instance lighthouse and buoys) 200 USD, disposal of garbage fee 50USD and so on.
But what we heard from the other boats that are around it is worth being here.
So when it is all done we plan on having some "expeditions" ashore
Well being under house arrest is not as bad as it sounds, we can swim in the water around the  boat, the water is cold!! About 21 degrees C! We can watch a marine life from the first row. Yesterday we had two pinguins (yes there is a Galapagos pinguin) swimming under the boat. The sea lions are already a commodity. Actually boats with the new design with a sloping aft, like steps so you can nicely walk down to the water? Well they are made for sea lions so they can climb up! Chilly Cat actually had sea lions in the cockpit! You may think is is a big thing for a sea lion to get up on a boat? Well we saw yesterday a sealion that looked up to an empty boat, then it decided this is the place I wanna be. It dived, took speed and formely jumped on the boat in the air! All new boats with sloping afts have built fences with fenders, oars and you name it to stop sealions from coming in. If you leave your dinghy in the water, well you can imagine the rest...The sloping aft on boats is now kalled the "sealion design" on Salsa (no we have the old fashion step aft).
Above us we have beautyful fregatt birds circling the sky watching for food. And then there is the blue footet boobie that flies around and when it decides to go for a fish, it dives from 100 meter or so, like a rocket, full speed into the water, no wings out, just a rocket and it sounds like a small bomb!
Last blog was more about crossing the equator. The day after we still had very smooth sailing and soon enought the wind died as we approached San Christobal the eastermost island. There was a lot of current coming up to the surface, this creates a foggy situation since the cold water is forced up from the bottom (due to the islands in the way), in the sky we have what some metereologists call mechanical rise of the air, the high mountains on the islands force the air to rise and creates a lot of clouds and rain on the south side.
We where greeted as we came in to this waters, by sealions coming in a big group, making tricks just like dolphins.
Then the most peculiar thing happened, Manta rays (Djävuls rockor), came up through the surface, high, about 2 meters or so, made backflips and bounced back in the water again!!! We asked ourselves, why do they do that? (A´fter "reading" Madonna I think I know)
As we headed for Isabela, the island with the smallest settlement and to be known to be the best for boats that are only allowed to anchor in one place (comment on thet in the end), we had another 70 nM to go, problem being that we did not want to enter in the dark, so we had to slow down the boat, that was no problem, because the only thing moving was the current. So at night we started the engine and went just as fast as we needed to get an approach in the morning light.
It was a long night, because we went slow and we did not dare to sleep. Boats have had problems here with currents dragging them aground.
When the first light came in the morning we approached Isabela and we can only say, thank god we did not try this at night.
Dangerous reefs all the way in and the few buoys (those that we pay for) where in the wrong place.
The maps in the plotter are really not very good in this part of the world.
It is really important to make progress and keep an outlook when approaching a place like this, because the reefs are dangerous in a way, but worse are the breaking waves and they can rise even when there is 2-3 meters of depth. Before you are in the protected waters there is nothing from Antarctica to the Galapagos, so it easy to imagine what kind of swell there is to crash against the bottom.
And funny enought, when we where at 2-4000 meters of depth we could not sense any seas but when we got to shallower water it became uncomfortable again.
Well I tried to speak to the port captain on the VHF because the buoys did not make sense and to make things worse, the rule we are used with in Europe, green buoy on starboard when entering is not the same in Americas, they have the rule: Red Right  Returning.
So I asked the Port Captain in my spanishitalianenglish: Buenos Dias Capitan del Puerto Villamil! Barco di Vela Salsa arriba a Villamil, comos del boyo, Verde a Porto?  The capten answered : Positivo Salsa, benvenudi a Villamil!
I looked at the buoys and wandered why I had to do a slalom trick in braking waters, what could it be that was so good about going like that? So I called again: Confirmando Capitano, Verde al Porto.   He answered: Si Si!
So I started a this strange approach and another spanish voice got in: -No No! Non e, Verde a starbordo!
Wow this was getting confusing! I was slowing down, Ellinor went to the bow, at least some eyes can warn before we hit lavarock (ouch!).
Then an english speaking guy in a yacht in the anchorage had their radio on (thank god) and got in and told us one of the bouys is in the wrong position. Well one buoy is more than enought to create confusion...
Once inside we where greeted by Per on the Norwegian SY Oda, he came over with fresh bananas and sat in the cockpit and informed us on what was going to happen. Soon Miss My came up on deck (we did not know we where one hour earlier, since we  should have moved the watches backwards on this trip) and greeted us. Charles and his son Luca from Chilly Cat came also on board and greeted us before they took off. Their journey has been a real challenge! Their main sail tored apart on the way here, in a low wind!
They have had a real hard time to find someone to help them, and they found out that their Italian sailmaker has not used UV resistant thread in the sail. So now they wonder how it will go on the Pacific. We are all now beyond help from professionals and spare parts, other than what we can help each other. And to remake a sail is beyond anybodies ability.
Comment on rules in the Galapagos.
Galapagos belongs to Equador and they take their role as protector of the islands very seriously.
This means that all turism is extremely regulated. All excursion have to be lead by a professional naturalist and they have put a limit on how many people that can visit the islands, making it all very exclusive in a way.
The 200 yachts that come to the islands every year are enforced rules as well, but they change frequently and if there is any rumour that is going on among yachtees in this area, it is what to use to get in here.
You can always use the international paragraph saying that you are sick or in need for repairs. That will give you some time here.
But officials have learned the game and will visit the sick or see the damage.
Then there is the rule that we go for, you can get a 20 day visa with an agent that will allow you to stay in one anchorage. But we are free to take excursions with other boats etc. This is something we prefer, then we can relax and enjoy the knowledge from the biologists that go with these trips. Going to Isabela does the trick because they are not really a port of entry, but they have come around it without imigration. Then we are in one of those islands that everybody wants to go to. If we would go to St Cruix or Cristobal, wich are the official ports of entry we would be stuck with the crowd and would not be allowed to go here.
Then there is the most complicated visa, called Autographo, that you have to apply from ashore, in Equador, that will grant you the freedom to sail around to 7 something islands (there are 30ish), but with a naturalist on board (200USD per day), and a lot of costs to get the visa. Actually thats what we did when I was here shooting a film. But even with an autographo you can run into problems, because the local authority can come up with their own rules....
From next year it is going to be even worse, then  no yachts will be allowed here other than with autographo!