|time to deploy the fishing line again|
Friday, 31 July 2015
Thursday, 30 July 2015
Tuesday, 28 July 2015
|NO! don't take a photo!!!!!|
Wilsons Stormpetrals Romeo and Juliet are still here, checked our bird book and they are ocean rovers, just going to land to nest (in Antartica or South America) so guess they are used to the miles, it says they often follow off shore vessels, so they must have adopted us.
|now this is nice, but will it last?|
Monday, 27 July 2015
Saturday, 25 July 2015
|a lone booby stayed for a while but left on dark|
|did we double check for stowaways?????|
Thursday, 23 July 2015
|bit of a swell running!|
Wove our way through a fishing fleet of over 18 boats at midnight, the two yachts in front of us, Ole and Wapiti report fishing fleets each night so far.
Wednesday, 22 July 2015
The time has come to move on from these magical group of islands. Two boats left yesterday, that leaves just us and Mezzaluna here and as far as we know there are no other yachts in Santa Cruz or San Cristobal that are coming this way, we shall turn the lights off tomorrow when we leave.
We have filled the fridge and cool spots onboard with a great range of fresh produce after taking an afternoon excursion up into the highlands to an organic farm.
So we have prepared ourselves and Balvenie for the longest passage we will do on our circumnavigation, from here to our next anchorage in the Marquesas Island Group of French Polynesia is around 2,940 nautical miles and should take us just under 3 weeks.
The weather forecast for the first 10 days is looking as good as we can hope for.
We will try to update this blog daily with a short position report of our progress on the way, some days we may miss if its a bit wobbly out there but will do our best. We have had several contenders for a pet to take with us to keep us company, think Sneezy the Sealion would be the best option cos he just jumps overboard to do his business, takes himself for a walk and can also get his own dinner!
The Land of Fire
All the islands of the Galapagos are volcanoes, over millions of years one by one they have been born, erupting from the “hotspot” deep below the earths surface, exploding above the sea and forming islands. In Isabela’s case several volcanoes have joined together to form this large seahorse shaped island, the largest in the group.
Access to the National Park where the southern two volcanoes, Volcán Sierra Negra and Volcán Chico are located side by side can only be obtained by joining a guided tour so in company with Jeff and Katie off Mezzaluna we kitted ourselves out in our hiking and rain gear and headed off into the clouds with our tour guide. We were of course hoping for a clear day, but everyday the tops of the volcanoes had been shrouded in cloud and today was no exception, the best we could hope for was a break in the cover whilst up there.
We were enveloped by cloud and misty drizzle as we hiked up Volcán Sierra Negra, low lying hardy vegetation was as much as we could see, we reached the view point for the cauldron and were told by the guide that the morning before had afforded a clear view the 12 miles across the crater, but not now, oh well ~ maybe on our way back.
On To The Sunny Side?
We carried on and started our descent of the northern side of the crater towards Volcán Chico, this is an active volcano and has erupted a couple of times in the last 40 years (not today we were hoping) and it surely was a very interesting landscape, layer upon layer of lava just seem to sit on top of one an another, not fusing together ~ you could almost peel the layers off or at least chisel them away in sheets.
In many places the topmost layer had buckled upwards creating hollow tunnels below, there were all sorts of weird formations we have not seen previously and it all seemed so fragile, you could almost crumble the pieces of layer in your hands, large heavy looking rocks were actually light and almost filled with air, quite bizarre.
The clouds did clear in patches on the northern side of the volcano and while stopping for our lunch break we got to enjoy the vista right across the top of Isabela and over to Isla Fernandina to the northwest. This is the “newest” island in the chain, still sitting above the volcanic hotspot and very active with the latest eruption being only 6 weeks ago while we were in Panama.
On our return hike the clouds almost cleared for a peak across Sierra Negras crater but we really did need to use quite some imagination to picture just how amazing it might actually look!
Back to Sunny Sea Level
With our voyage into the interior ticked off the “To Do List”, the skippers were starting to focus on possible weather windows for our departure to the Marquesas.
Katie and I had other plans, wanting to delay the inevitable of going to sea for nearly 3 weeks as long as possible so we planned regular excursions ~ snorkelling, dinghy trips, hiking & bike hire ~ anything to divert the skippers attention from leaving!
The Wall of Tears
We hired bikes a couple of times and cycled the coastal path to the Wall of Tears. This stone wall was quarried and built by political prisoners in the late 1960’s when Isabela was a penal colony, it was built for no purpose here in the middle of nowhere except for the hard labour, heat and physical abuse inflicted on the prisoners.
The area it is located in is now a National Park and for the first time in the Galapagos we got to see tortoises truly in the wild. Many of the juveniles from the breeding centre get introduced here and spend their days lounging about, foraging for food or getting their photos taken, we came across 8 of them and they were all around 20 years old.
Back to the Birds
Also in the National Park are several wetlands where we saw herons, gallinules, stilts and the beautiful flamingos, the trees were alive with finches and mockingbirds, the coastal waters bubbling with feeding pelicans, herons and the ever present blue footed boobies.
We found a great spot through the mangroves and onto the rocks where a small inlet seemed to be a favoured dining location of both pelicans and boobies and we sat enthralled by these birds as they feasted on the unsuspecting fish below the surface. You can spend hours watching this display, we just never tired of watching them and appreciated the skill and precision they possessed, amazing.
While in this cove we also saw a first, sea lions that appeared to be doing handstands and flipping their tails up out of the water, tricky to catch by photo but you can almost see them.
Back by the town dock seemed to be a favourite hangout for the penguins. Maybe they enjoyed chasing all the boats, playing in the bubbles from the motors or just terrorizing snorkelling tourists as they approached head on at record speeds but this was their stomping ground vying for attention with sea lions and boobies. So at last we got to swim with penguins, or was that a flash of a penguin, boy do they go fast, they deserve the title of pocket rockets but thanks to Katie on
Mezzaluna we do have a photo of them swimming.
And so our time on Isabela was nearing an end, we were not permitted access to any of the other anchorages in the Galapagos, we had seen all we could. A farewell dinner was enjoyed ashore before Danish Blue left, Olé followed them several days later ~ it was just us and Mezzaluna left in this wildlife paradise.
The weather forecast was looking very favourable for the first 10 days of our crossing of 2,950 miles to the Marquesas, the most north eastern island group of French Polynesia.
We would finally be leaving behind the Spanish speaking world and any ties with the Americas. We would be stepping out across the vast Pacific Ocean, watching sunrise and sunset for days and days before making landfall in a tiny island in Polynesia.
Tuesday, 21 July 2015
7 – 13 July: Puerto Villami, Isabela ~ 00 57S 90 57W
Where Will We End Up?
After being rolled and blown out of Academy Bay on Santa Cruz our day sail was very fast and very sporty. Clearing the shoals at the bottom of Santa Cruz took forever before we could bear away a little and make Balvenie more comfortable. The swell was big and confused, the winds were up to 25 knots in front of the beam and the current made the ride similar to taking on rapids in a river, we compared it to being in the Gulf Stream with strong winds and tide against us, not one of our better days.
The approach to the anchorage at Puerto Villami on Isabela is totally exposed to the south, the winds and swell were from the south and the silence between us was deafening as we both contemplated our options. If on final approach we felt it unsafe to enter the harbour with the current conditions then we had two options ~ either return 100 miles overnight to the closest safe anchorage at Wreck Bay on San Cristobal or continue 3,000 miles to French Polynesia, we truly didn’t like those two alternatives.
Then, with about 2 miles to go, the sun came out, the winds reduced to a manageable 15 knots and the tide changed ~ all within about 5 minutes. The seas flattened some and as we headed to shore we both finally breathed again, we could do this. We radioed Danish Blue and Mezzaluna who were behind us and gave them the good news, we could hear the collective sigh of relief!
The beauty of the anchorage exceeded our expectations. Between us and the ocean lie several groups of black volcanic rocks and also mangrove islands, at high tide the water comes over a little but at low tide we have good protection.
There are also several rocks inside the anchorage so it is not frequented by as many tour boats as our other two anchorages were so the harbour is mainly peaceful and flat. The blue footed boobies, pelicans and penguins rule the roost here, the tiny penguins play in the waters with the sea lions, the boobies and pelicans fish together for the catch of the day. Meanwhile we sit and watch in awe as nature unfolds around us.
A Bombardment of Boobies
We watched an exceptional display of a mass feeding frenzy at dawn, with hundreds of blue footed boobies blackening the sky behind Balvenie, vying for position over the shoals, then bombs away as they dove at speed into the bubbling waters to collect their breakfast, absolutely incredible and all over within a few minutes. Photos can never do these displays justice but I tried my best. On a dinghy excursion around the anchorage we got up close to the little penguins, just a foot tall, congregating on rocks only a couple of hundred metres from Balvenie. Photographing them while swimming has been a challenge, they are pocket rockets and not nearly as inquisitive as the sea lions. The Great Blue Herons perch on top of the mangroves, changing disguise from compact and dumpy to tall and elegant in the blink of an eye, a stunning transformation.
In company with Jeff and Katie on Mezzaluna, and 7 other holidaymakers we joined a Rosedelco Tours 6 hour boat trip along Isabela’s southern coast to Cabo Rosa and the Tuneles de Lava (Lava Tunnels). We headed at speed along the coast, making a short stop for photos at a rocky offshore outcrop, battered by wind and waves but home to nesting Nazca Boobies.
Then it was in through a break in the surf into a protected mangrove area. This was our first snorkel stop and quite frankly for those of us that do a lot of snorkelling jumping overboard into cool murky waters and swimming through mangrove root systems was really not at all appealing. For the first 10 minutes we barely saw even a fish but then we were rewarded with a seahorse, much larger than I expected (everything here is super-sized!) and coiled around a mangrove root, not an outstanding specimen but our first seahorse.
Away from the mangroves and on through the murky depths and I turned to find myself face to face with the most enormous turtles I have seen, two of them just going about their business while we looked on in awe. These giants were everywhere, enough for all us tourists to adopt one each and spend time with them, it was breathtaking to be so close and not have them swim away.
All turtled out it was time to turn our attention to less welcoming snorkelling partners, the Tintoreras or White Tipped Sharks. We found them snoozing under a lava rock tunnel, even in their sleepy state they looked menacing.
Surfing In A Speedboat
Back on board it was time to move further along the coast to the Lava Tunnels and Bridges. This involved going back out through the surf, speeding along about another 20 minutes then heading back into shore and the rocks, but this time there didn’t actually look to be a break in the surf. Us four sailors hunkered down under the cabin thinking this could be very messy, while the holidaymakers looked out and enjoyed the real life Disney ride, this was not something to be attempted in Balvenie!!!
Once into sheltered waters there was another stop for snorkelling, I lasted only a couple of minutes before the chill penetrated my bones, skipper did better and managed to see another sea horse and chased several camera shy penguins.
Our last stop was into the lava tunnels, the Venice of the Galapagos. An incredible area formed over the centuries from explosions of lava rock that have cascaded down to the oceans edge where erosion from water and wind has removed great chunks of rock and natural tunnels, caves and bridges have been formed. Little vegetation survives, mainly some hardy cactus but the bird and sea life have moved in and made this unique setting their home.
Each Day Is A New Adventure In These Amazing Islands
Monday, 20 July 2015
04 – 07 July: San Cristobal to Academy Bay, Santa Cruz ~ 00 44S 90 18W
Heading Further Afield
We had seen everything we could by foot from the anchorage in San Cristobal so decided to hire a taxi for the afternoon to see the rest of the island. Most of the island is uninhabited, without even roads, but there is one newly paved road that climbs up to the volcano and over to the south eastern beach of Puerto Chino, all the taxi drivers do a “tour” driving along this route, pointing out the areas of interest and waiting while we did our sightseeing.
First stop was El Progreso, the oldest and largest tree on the island, in its high branches a tree house has been built, deep down in the root system there is a room dug out and it was previously home to early settlers here. An added bonus was they did a passable coffee to set us up for the rest of our tour!
Next it was a slow climb into the highlands and into the cloud cover. Since arriving in San Cristobal we had not seen the top of the volcano, each day it is shrouded in cloud, bringing rain to the hills to support this fragile ecosystem. Today we escaped the rain, just a fine mist settled around us as we hiked to the top of El Junco.
At the top there is a small freshwater lake where we were lucky enough to see Magnificent Frigatebirds diving low and dipping their wings to clean out the salt, they also looked to be feeding on insects just above but they are generally scavengers stealing food caught by other birds so maybe this was just an illusion. We circumnavigated the crater rim, snippets of the view across the island came but quickly disappeared in the mist.
Finally the Tortoises
Next it was on to the Jacinto Gordillo Tortoise Centre, we were very lucky to have a large group of school children leaving just as we arrived so we virtually had the centre to ourselves during our visit.
We took our time with these prehistoric giants, watching them lumber about with such difficulty under their on weight. Their movements are slower than slow motion and they only undertake a few steps at a time. Still we should take into account many of these specimens are over 100 years old!
Most of the Galapagos Islands have a tortoise species endemic individually to them as they have all had to evolve separately to survive in their unique environments. Some have longer necks to reach higher vegetation, some lower shells so they can fit into smaller spaces ~ they all have their own special story and it is fascinating to see them breeding and surviving in these remote volcanic outcrops in the South Pacific.
We had a final stop at Puerto Chino, a pretty bay with white sand surrounded again by black volcanic rocks ~ just how they end up with such beautiful white the sand is to do with the sediment at sea, but it is just so unexpected. The beach was deserted, we watched more turtles swim, sea lions and pelicans dual for space on rocks, bright yellow Maria canaries whizz by at speed, and finches pose by breaking waves while we took their photos.
We were content that we had seen all San Cristobal had to offer us and had very much enjoyed our time there. With a 50 mile trip to Santa Cruz we did a dawn departure accompanied by bobbies and albatross and headed west. Guess what? - the wind was STILL in front of the beam, however we kept Balvenie comfortable and the miles quickly ticked away.
By mid afternoon we had arrived in Academy Bay, Santa Cruz and all our reservations about the suitability of the anchorage came to fruition. It is the only anchorage on Santa Cruz we are permitted to visit, it is on a lee shore (so the tradewinds blow straight in) and there is very little, if any, protection from the swell which was running at just under 2 metres. The best spots for anchoring were jam packed and the harbour was very busy with tour boats ferrying their guests back and forth (ghastly ride!!), water taxis, local fishing boats and barges unloading a coastal freighter. As if the swell wasn’t bad enough the wash from all the passing traffic just kept the water churned up, all day and night. We immediately decided this was not a place we wanted to be, but officialdom can not be ignored in the Galapagos and we needed to complete the check in and out processes before we could leave.
We spent a day seeing the sights close by. A visit to the fish market could not be missed where I had to fight for position with the cheeky pelicans and sea lions (did you notice the sea lion under the counter in the shadows!!). We spent a couple of hours in the Charles Darwin Centre learning more about the islands and their unique inhabitants and we saw many many more tortoises of all age and size from teeny weeny to giants.
We received our exit papers late on the second day and endured another night at anchor, by dawn the wind was gusting to 25 knots and life jackets were donned before we even lifted anchor. These were not conditions we would ever chose to leave harbour in, but they were certainly not conditions to be riding at anchor at either. The entrance to our last permitted stopover on Isla Isabela was on another lee shore, although the anchorage sits more protected behind rocks, it was another 55 miles away ......
If We Couldn’t Get Into Isabela Next Stop Was French Polynesia!