Expect departure from Galapagos on Monday, April 19 - a partial account of our time on Isabela

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Sat 17 Apr 2010 15:53

00 57.93 S  90 57.75 W


Still anchored at Isla Isabela; it has been a comfortable week in the anchorage….about 20 – 22 sailboats anchored here on any day…with departures and arrivals balancing. These coming days will see most of those of us towards the back of the Pacific crossing fleet clear out of Isabela and the anchorage will be relatively quiet for the next 9 months until the 2011 fleet makes its way through these waters enroute westward.


Thursday was totally taken up with obtaining fuel : I had to get 190 gallons of fuel by Gerry can. bureaucracy unbelievable between the fuel station operator and the Port Captain/Ecuadorean Navy. Up until, Tuesday, 2 days earlier, sailboats were buying fuel through one of a couple locals who could deliver the jerry cans  to the dinghy dock or to the boat. The local “entrepreneurs” were buying the diesel at the local, government subsidized, price of $1.02 per gallon….and then selling it to the sailboats at a price of $2 per gallon…or if you needed substantial quantity and could negotiate effectively, you could perhaps get it for $1.50 delivered to the dock or $1.80 delivered to the boat. On Wednesday, the Navy, the enforcement arm for the sale/distribution of fuel in the country, decided to crack down on “fuel trafficing”  here on Isabela. That meant that we had to pay the international price of $3.04 per gallon and find our own means of getting containers, and transport. It was a very  tough task having to bring 190 gallons via taxi from a station a couple of miles away ….then unloading into the jerry cans into a boat and then hoisting on-board and siphoning from jerry cans to Sea Mist’s tank.  Anyway, Sea Mist’s fuel tank is full as we ready to depart for the 3000 mile run to the Marquesas Archipelago in French Polynesia.


As a follow up to an earlier blog posting regarding our trials to find best fuel economy: we have found that by running the engine at 1400 rpm rather than 1800 rpm, we drop our fuel consumption from 11 liters per hour to 6.6 liters per hour. That gives us a 35% increase on motoring range with an accompanying increase in time/duration of 20% ….so very helpful in conserving fuel for those periods where we may experience being becalmed or nearly becalmed in low/no wind conditions.  We will be able to run the engine for a maximum of 900 nm of the 3000 nm distance to Marquesas……if we have to ….hopefully we will have sailable wind although we don’t expect it to be a fast sail……most likely 140 – 150 nm days will be the norm.


We had the most remarkable experience yesterday as we took in the “Tuneles” (lava tunnels) excursion : we travelled about 45 minutes by speedboat to the southwestern corner of Isabela where we navigated through high surf to get into a lagoon protected by reefs where the water was crystal clear and the marine life so beautiful. The captain carefully moved the boat with  8 of us on-board through these tiny passages amongst the eroded volcanic lava… while we enjoyed, blue footed boobies (exquisite sea birds with unbelievable coordinated diving capabilities),  wonderfully coloured giant sea turtles, huge parrot fish, schools of yellow tail, etc, etc. We put the bow of the boat against a wall of this coarse lava and disembarked to take a leisurely stroll through this lava field of isolated pinnacles/bridges/tunnels all formed by natural erosion over tens of thousands of years…..all the time overlooking the marine life in the waters  lapping 10 feet below the precipices on which we cautiously stood.  We then boarded the boat again and meandered our way out to the surf and after a couple of no-go decisions by the captain, he then chose the right wave/surf timing to accelerate and speed through  the breaking surf to the safety of the water offshore.


We then moved a few miles eastward along the coast and passed through another maze  of high surf reefs to enter the protection behind in another broken lava field with an array of sea water lagoons. After anchoring, we all grabbed our snorkeling gear and jumped into the water to first,  swim with a whole load of white tipped reef sharks, secondly, located and examined a couple of sea horses passively positioned near the bottom of the 6 foot deep waters where they were clinging to mangrove roots/limbs…..and then, while picking up and playing with several small octopuses enroute, we swam to a location where many giant sea turtles were feeding. All in all an absolutely terrific day…finishing with the 45 minute high speed return trip back eastward along the south coast of Isabela to our anchorage.


We were a bit anxious passing through the breaking surf as we knew that a similar boat last Sunday, with 6 sailors like ourselves on-board, had missed in its entry timing through the surf and had capsized….throwing the sailors and crew and all their belongings into that very turbulent water. Fortunately, all survived with only a few scrapes and bruises from hitting the rocks before they were rescued by another similar boat  after about 15 or 20 scary minutes had passed. The twin 200 HP Evinrude engines were ruined but the hull was recovered the following day and towed back to Puerto Villamil. The sailors lost a number of pairs of prescription glasses, their footwear, cameras, etc. I talked with one Canadian couple from Vancouver two days after the incident and a couple from the USA…..both of them credited the water capabilities and confidence of the group of sailors as the basis for no tragedy to have happened. The consensus seems to be that the captain made a BAD miss-judgement  in selecting the timing/sequence of waves to go through the surf break….and the result was clear with the capsizing.


Today is a provisioning day as we attempt to find fresh fruits and vegetables in the tiny community. Tomorrow, we have a trip organized to the top  of the second biggest volcano in the world…still active…but not erupting in recent years (Volcan Sierra Negra).


We have not been successful yet in finding a Wifi/Internet connection in this little community….so not yet able to load the blog entries with photos, etc……sorry about that.