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The Crossing from Panama to Galapagos Islands, May 17-26  2006     by Bart

We left Balboa and Panama City in thunder, lightning and a lot of rain. Another perfect day in Paradise. We had a rolly night before. 6 boats dragged their anchors, one lost his dinghy and his glasses and another his outboard. The wind came straight into the Flamenco Bay, luckily our anchor and chain held.

Soon the wind was off and on, every few hours. The next day became an eventful day. The sun came out. The wind died totally, no little ripple on the water. In the morning a tanker passed by with a group of dolphins jumping in front of his bow wave. I had seen it on pictures, but always thought it was a trick photo. Every 10 seconds an other jumped up, one higher than the other. It looked like they were really enjoying themselves. Next we caught a big Mahi Mahi. Good for 4 dinners and a little snack. We had a swim and right after some big dolphins came along our boat, while we were motoring. We had lots of dolphins before, but this time it was special. Because the water was like a mirror. You could see the dolphins like you were in the water your self. They turned their heads and looked at you right in the eye.

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I have never been beating the wind for 9 days and I donít wish for it in the future. Every day up wind, trimming the sails to itís best performance to get the most out of the circumstances. The 3rd  day we were caught in a terrific thunderstorm coming from 3 sides. Lightning everywhere and no place to hide. But remarkably we could sail around most of it. With the wind changing every 15 minutes in strength and direction it wasnít much fun. The day after we sailed in the clouds most of the day.  But the wind picked up and we were sailing more towards Canada than the Galapagos but we hoped for the wind to change gradually, the closer we would get to the Galapagos. Ernst (my father) would send us a message on the satellite phone with wind updates.

The closer we got to the Galapagos and Ecuador the colder it got. Specially during the night we were freezing our b.. off. Because of the Humboldt Current coming from Antarctica the water is getting colder, but the sun is getting stronger every day. An other remarkable thing are the birds...all of the 9 days we had birds around the boat. Boobies, Frigate birds, Albatross and others.

200 miles out of Galapagos we encountered twice a little fisher boat. 3 guys in a 5-meter open fishing boat with only one outboard engine. They asked us for some thing to drink, so we gave them a gallon of water, 3 beers and a bag of potato chips. On board they had some tunas and a 4-meter shark.

On the equator we got a glimpse of Neptune. It was just a quick visit. He colleted his gifts for the 7 seas and off he went again. Obviously satisfied with the drawing from Soleil, Dagmar's nice shell and Bart's Oreo cookies.

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Some days we had to motor for half a day, but during the night the wind picked up mostly. Luckily the wind changed to our favor little by little and on the last day we were able to point to Santa Cruz, Galapagos. Since it looked like we were just not going to make it before dark, we motored the last 5 hours and made it in just before sunset.

 

Isla Santa Cruz, The Galapagos, May 26- May 30   2006   by Bart

We arrived in Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, one of the 3 ports, where you are allowed to enter and stay on the Galapagos. The rest is Nature Reserve. A few years ago no one was allowed to enter the Galapagos, so most boats came up with Ďstoriesí like engine failures and were granted a 72 hours stay. Now, since a few years, boats can stay up to 21 days. We didnít really know, what to expect, so didnít know, how long we would stay. Puerto Ayora is the tourist center of the Galapagos, where all small charter boats start their tours around the islands. The town is very nice, like a small French village along the Cote díAzur. The whole population comes out to the street at night and takes a walk in the small park or on the boulevard. And around 50 guys play volleyball almost every night just in their everyday clothes, but very fanatic.

 

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After we had been to the local Saturday market, where we bought lot of fruits and vegetables, we explored the turtle beach a few kilometers behind the village. A nice walk where we saw our first wild life like the marine iguanas. They look like giant lizards, that are able to swim too.

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The day after we organized a taxi to the giant tortoises in the mountains.  We didnít have to look long to find them. First of all they are giant and second they move like a turtle veryyyyy slooooowlyyyy. We walked around in the bush, followed a few turtles and saw two fights, which is like a boxing match in slow motion. The best was, when one went after the other, also in slow motion. Next we got to the lava tubes.  We disappeared into a hole in the ground about 15 meters deep. We walked 800m and climbed to the other end, where we popped out of the ground again.

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The girls heard about swimming with the sea lions and were excited right away.  We found a small taxi boat, that took us to a small island. When we arrived there, we jumped overboard right away in the cold water.  After a few minutes we found a few near the shore. They were as curious as we were, coming very close and playing around. We had so much fun with them. Soleil got cold after 15 minutes and went back to the boat with Dagmar. I found a few others on the other side of the bay, where I could take some pictures and play a little with them. 

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Isla Isabela, The Galapagos, May 30 - June 5   2006    by Bart

After a few days on Santa Cruz we wanted to see some unspoiled island with some more wildlife. So in a day we sailed to Isla Isabela. When we got close to the island, a huge swell came up, like I only know from Maui on good days. 

We got closer to the bay, where we were suppose to enter, but we saw only breaking waves. We were looking for a small channel between the reefs, but I thought that maybe the waves are to big and breaking everywhere. We decided it looked too risky. I called on the VHF  the port authorities and hoped somebody was in. They answered right away in Spanish off course. They understood the situation and saw us out on the ocean.  

They werenít sure, if the channel was open, so they send somebody out to check. One of the buoys, the red one was free of waves. So they called us back and told us to steer 10 degrees towards the red buoy. Although at the time we couldnít see any buoy, only breaking waves, we proceeded slowly toward the bay. After 10 minutes a small opening between the waves appeared and a little later we saw the red buoy. We quickly went in and hoped we didnít get a big wave in the back. 

Inside we found a small sheltered bay with 5 sailing boats behind a few little islands, one of the boats was the Zeferin, which we helped through the Panama channel. On board Sandy (75) and Joan (70) and one of their friends Warwick.

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Isla Isabela was beautiful. The first day we explored the tiny islands and lagoons in the bay. The island consisted only out of lava and some small beaches. But wild life was abundant. On our way to the small lagoon sea lions, penguins and blue footed boobies greeted us. On the islands we encountered the marine iguanas next to a small natural canal with many small white tip sharks. On the beaches we found many sea lions, birds, iguanas, and sea turtles. During the next few days we came back to this place a several times at different times of the day. Every time we were inspired by this magical place.

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On the anchorage we met an English couple on board of the Helene, Matt and Tracy. We decide to go up to the volcano with them the next day.

Early in the morning we went up the volcano with Menino our guide (ex national soccer player, and now farmer/guide) who first took us up in a car to the edge of the crater, where we continued on horses. We started in the clouds of Sierra Negra, but soon the sun appeared. Soleil was super excited, since it was her first time on a horse. For an hour we rode along the crater. The last eruption was in September last year. That eruption filled up the whole carter with new lava and it was still smoking in some places. This crater, with 10 km wide, is the second biggest crater in the world. At the only tree within sight, we parked the horses and walked down to some small craters on the side. It looked like we were walking on the moon, with the only difference that there were big cactuses along the way.

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This island is more than a 100 km long, but 95% of the island is wild without any road or inhabitants other than animals. From here you could see the whole island and many others. On the way back we had a good time on the back of the horses again. Dagmar had a racehorse always in front. The horses soon felt they were going home and started galloping every now and then.

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The next 2 days we bought the last few things for our next crossing in the tiny market and few shops in the little village. We stayed a day longer because we had met a German boat, ďVerenaĒ with 2 kids on board, so Soleil could play for 2 days with Kylian und Isabel.

                       

 

Last modified: September 02, 2008          Hit Counter