Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Galapagos - Isabela

We left San Cristobal on 25 May and had a wonderful overnight passage to Isabela. We had officially cleared out of the Galapagos so prayed the Port Captain would look kindly on us and allow us to stay. The Galapagos is a National Park and the Ecuadorian Government previously prohibited yachts from visiting, currently they permit yachts on route to other destinations to stop in either Santa Cruz or San Cristobal for a short period determined by the Port Captain and to only stay in the main port. Many people had told us that the authorities in Isabela were relaxed about yachts visiting and would give onward clearance to the Marquesas. We anchored in a beautiful spot with lava islands all around protecting us from the ocean swell. Our friends Nick & Ellen on Kika had arrived a couple of days earlier, they whizzed us ashore in their super new dinghy, Jordan and we went to meet the Port Captain. He was absolutely lovely, spoke no English but smiled a lot. We gave him all our papers and asked if we could stay for 3 days and he agreed - we were delighted.

Isabela is the largest of the Galapagos Islands and the least visited by tourists. It was so very relaxed and low key we instantly fell in love with the place - it was just like we had expected the Galapagos to be. Dirt roads, a few small shops and restaurants and naturally beautiful. The people were amazingly friendly and everyone smiled and said Hola! A couple of the bars had a small bbq running each evening and for $2.50 you got a huge plate of delicious food. We thought it only right to sample these places as we didn't want to eat into our provisions for our Pacific crossing. We took a hike along the coast and saw flamingos, lava tubes, huge lagoons, loads of iguanas, worblers, and blue footed boobies but failed to find the famous flightless cormorant. Next day we went off with Nick & Ellen in search of white tipped sharks and Galapagos penguins - we weren't disappointed. Just around the corner from the anchorage we landed the dinghy and walked a short way to a crack in the lava, this was the sharks daytime resting place. We saw about 8 sharks lazily cruising up and down occasionally being tormented by a sealion and her pup - it was just like an aquarium. After a short hike around the lava islands we took to the water and snorkeled amongst the islets hunting for penguins, we saw a couple but they were a bit too far away but then we came to penguin rock where they were clustered. They are the cutest things about 30 cm tall, proud little chaps with fluffy coats they stood pruning on the rocks. Andrew wouldn't let me bring one with us - just so cute! Our final day on Isabella took us on another hike (all this walking!!) through lagoons with mangroves, huge candelabra cacti with bark trunks and trees with poisonous apples to reach the tortoise breeding centre. We had the place to ourselves except the staff who were just starting to feed the giant tortoises. As we approached the enclosure we had about 10 huge tortoises approach us looking for food. One of the keepers said I could give them some leaves, which they took straight from my hand, their huge triangular mouths grabbing it from me. The centre takes care of all the breeding of tortoises on Isabela as the eggs are destroyed in the wild by rats, goats, dogs etc. When the tortoises have gained their tough shell they are released into the wild on the south of the island, they had about 50 waiting to be released when we were there.

We would have loved to have stayed longer in Isabela but it was time to push on so we upped anchor at 0900 on 30 May and set sail (well motor initially) for the Marquesas Islands some 3000 miles west of the Galapagos. An hour out of the anchorage and Andrew decided it was time to try fishing. After just ten minutes the line reeled off very fast, we managed to slow the boat down and Andrew started the normally fruitless task of dragging in a huge fish only for it to escape just as it gets near to the boat. But this time it kept coming, we saw a huge tuna in the water and felt sure it would escape but no! After along struggle Andrew managed to get it right to the boat and then I had to get it with the gaff. I had not done this before, but we just had to have this fish so I just went for it and managed to drag it onto the boat. It was a fantastic yellow fin tuna, about 30 llbs. Andrew immediately gutted it and made it into steaks. We put about half in the freezer and have enough fish for at least a week. For lunch we had tuna fried in potatoes flakes with salad (a little recipe courtesy of Ellen)- it was amazing! Then we noticed our stem of bananas was already going yellow and as the day was going so well, we decided to celebrate with a banana cake - made up recipe but turned out very well indeed. We had a fantastic sail all afternoon and really feel good about this trip. Kika are a day ahead of us, Zeffrin leave tomorrow, then Ragtime, Helene and Ripple II won't be long behind.

Position 31 May 2006 1530 GMT 02 degrees, 03 minutes south, 092 degrees, 51 minutes west. 2780 miles to go the Marquesas Islands.

Happy Birthday Jane x

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Galapagos Tours

We have been very busy since we arrived in San Cristobal. After a day of clearing in and finding our landlegs again we went to visit the interpretation centre to find out all about the history of the islands, we also took a hike from the centre up Frigate Hill where we saw nesting Frigate birds and Darwins statue. The next day we took a tour with Matt & Togs from Helene. We went to the largest extinct volcanoe, to visit the giant tortoises, to a beach with loads of marine iguanas and all around the island. It was a great day which ended with lunch at our guide´s house. The iguana´s were my favourite, they were huge and not scared of us at all. We were so sad to learn that there are only a few giant tortoises on San Cristabal that are not in the protective sanctuary. Unfortunately introduced animals and plants have lead to them being close to extinct here. They were great to see though even in a sanctuary, the oldest one we saw was over 100 years old, the youngest just 30 days.

The next day we went diving. We are here with Ellen & Nick from Kika, Will & Alyssa from Ragtime and Matt & Togs from Helene. We all went diving with Victor from Challo Tours for the day. Victor picked us all up from our boats and we sped off to a beatiful bay just outside the anchorage. We did our dive checks surrounded by sealions and huge fish before zooming off to Leon Dormido - a group of rocks just off the coast. As soon as we went down we saw Galapagos sharks, they came quite close enough for my liking, they were about 2 m long and quite beautiful. We also saw loads of turtles, rays and loads of incredible fish. We did a second dive after lunch in the hope of seeing hammerhead sharks but we didn´t see any but still had an incredible dive. The water is really cold here as we are in a cold current from south america, even so we couldn´t resist getting in the water again for a bit of snorkelling on the way back.

We have been having a great time with our friends here too. Every night we seem to be at one boat or another for dinner or drinks. Sandy, Joan & Warwick on Zeffrin arrived yesterday, we also have met up with Pepe & Bianca from Arjo and a group of Swedes on a very small boat. Last night Helene had 13 of us for dinner, Matt & Togs put on a splendid feast and we drank and ate far too much.

Now it´s back to boat jobs to prepare for the next leg of our Pacific crossing - from Galapagos to Marqueses - about 3000 miles.

Galapagos Sealions

We feel very priveledged to be here in the Galapagos - the wildlife here has blown our minds. We are at anchor in San Cristobal, the boat is surrounded by sealions, blue footed boobies (their feet look unreal they are so blue), frigate birds with bright red throats, pelicans and so much more. We have a sealion that has been sleeping in our dinghy all morning - very cute. On our first day here I was photographing baby sealions on the beach when a huge one came at me so fast I had to run away and hide!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Arrived in the Galapagos

ReVision II arrived safe and sound in San Cristobal (Wreck Bay) in the Galapagos on Wednesday afternoon after 10 days on crossing. We are now at anchor with the Sea Lions. Update to follow.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

From Pollywogs to Shellbacks

At 0701 GMT on 17 May 2006 ReVision II crossed the Equator at 88 degrees 50 minutes west.

Information courtesy of Ragtime: Crossing the Line" is nearly as old as seafaring itself; Our modern practice is believed to have evolved from Viking rituals, executed upon crossing the 30th parallel, a tradition that they passed on to the Anglo-Saxons and Normans in Britain.

Early "Crossing the Line" had a fairly serious purpose, however: they were designed to test the novices in the crew to see whether they could endure their first cruise at sea. Ceremonies in the seventeenth century were particularly rough. Today, "Crossing the Line" no longer has such serious undertones, although some of the novice/veteran dichotomy persists in the titles given to those who have and have not been initiated by the rites: those who have crossed the equator are termed "shellbacks" (often called "trusty shellbacks") and those who have not are called "pollywogs" (also rendered "polliwog"). These "slimy" pollywogs (or "wogs" for short) must endure the entire ceremony at the hands of the shellbacks before being accepted into their number.

What does a "Crossing the Line" ceremony entail? Traditionally, the night before King Neptune (the most senior shellback) sends a messenger informing the Captain that he intends to board the ship the following day, and summoning a list of slimy wogs to appear before him. The actual ceremony revolves around the pretext of "preparing" the wogs for their audience before King Neptune. This "preparation" involves any number of disgusting, dirty and deprecating actions. This may include crawling through garbage, eating coloured food, allowing the "Royal Doctor" to squirt foul-tasting liquids into one's mouth, and kissing the "Royal Baby" (the fattest chief on board) on the belly.

The penultimate ritual is a "shaving" by the Royal Barber with a huge wooden "razor," after which one is dunked in a tub of water (often dyed a hideous colour) to "cleanse" oneself for the final meeting with King Neptune. At this meeting, King Neptune appears with his entire retinue, Queen Amphitrite, and Davy Jones and officially proclaims the wogs to be trusty shellbacks. After the trial, the new shellbacks receive elaborate certificates testifying to their safe passage, along with a wallet-sized card to prove the fact on future crossings.

Where do these colourful characters come from? Neptune is the Roman god of the sea, who originated as the god of fresh water but later became associated with the Greek sea god Poseidon. Poseidon was one of three sons of Kronos: Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon were said to have cast lots for the three kingdoms of heaven, underworld, and sea. Neptune generally appears with a trident (a three-pronged spear) and his consort, Queen Amphitrite. Davy Jones has a number of stories concerning his origins. The most common tale is that he is the evil spirit of the sea, whose name came from a corruption of " Duppy Jonah," duppy being the West Indies name for "spirit" or "ghost" and Jonah being the Old Testament prophet who was thrown into the sea.

Aboard ReVision II we had planned to have a disgusting dinner of tinned Duck A'orange (don't ask where we got this or why) although fortunately Andrew caught a fabulous tuna just before sunset and it could not be left in the fridge. Local time of our Crossing the Line was 0201 which meant we had to curtail our ceremony somewhat but we still had fun. As we had no shellbacks on board I took it upon myself to where Andrew's clothes and subject him to the ceremony after waking him at 0100. He was dressed in a skirt, little top and my lama hat, his nails were varnished, his face drawn on and his legs waxed (shaving a little too dangerous with 20 degrees of heel). He was then fed tinned fish worms (courtesy of a Christmas present from the Goolka's - thanks guys - appropriately disgusting). We then sat down to a rum laced hot choc and sped across the equator at 6 knots. I touched the water (we'd hoped to swim but hey we were just pleased to be here) and splashed it upon us. We proclaimed ourselves trusty shellbacks and were very excited to be in the South Pacific.

We hope to arrive in the Galapagos later today - hurray!!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Speeding Along to Galapagos at last

Position 14 May 2006 14:30 GMT 02 degrees, 34 minutes north and 85 degrees, 23 minutes west. Conditions have improved greatly since our last update, we had record speeds of 7.2 knots last night, actually in the correct direction. The night before Andrew caught our first tuna, which was small but absolutely delicious - a 'reel' treat. Now I am pressing him for more. Our two boobies are still with us - they come closer and closer to ReVision II with every visit - we are getting quite fond of them. Three of our friends have already arrived in the Galapagos now the race is on between us and Helene. We hope to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday all being well. Sorry not much more to say - we are just out here - Togs on Helene has been writing a poem about this passage which I will have to post later on. Byeee for now.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Why does it always happen at night?

Day 6 of our passage to the Galapagos. Position 12 May 2006 16.30 GMT 03 degrees, 32 minutes north, 82 degrees, 8 minutes west. 515 miles to go. Progress since our last update continued in the same dire fashion, we were stuck for 3 days in hideous current, with everything against us, our friends Matt & Togs on Helene were in the same area and also managing about 1.5 knots mostly in the wrong direction. In the end we stuck on the engine and used more of our precious fuel to plough through, still slowly, but eventually made it past this tiny Columbian Island which was our landmark. Yesterday afternoon we were finally making really good speed sailing in roughly the right direction. The mood on R2 lifted and we had a lovely afternoon and evening. Andrew even caught a small Tuna but he was too small so we returned him alive. We have had two boobies (birds) flying along with us for the last three days - Peter & Paul (original but....). Yesterday afternoon we received an email from our friends Will & Alyssa on Ragtime to say their backstay had broken (the thing that holds the mast up from the back) but that they had rigged a temporary fix and were doing okay motor sailing. We spoke with them on our net, which Will is running superbly, and they were pretty happy with the fix and don't have too far to go so we all agreed to speak in the morning as well to check on them and off we went. We had a great evening, speeding along, roast beef for dinner, full moon, calm seas - perfect! Then about 2300 I was sleeping and Andrew was on watch when we heard this almighty bang. We thought we'd hit a floating container but then noticed OUR backstay flogging at the back of the boat. We couldn't believe it. We quickly took down the sails and clung on to this 50 ft wire bouncing all around in the swell with all our might. Luckily ReVision II has a keel stepped mast (it goes through the deck to the keel,rather than sitting on the deck) and running backstays (moveable wires to counterbalance the sails) which were in place towards the back of the boat at the time, otherwise we could certainly have lost our mast(...doesn't bear thinking about 500 miles to go, no mast and not enough fuel to get there). A metal plate 1/4 inches thick had broken in two places - unbelievable. After an hour of struggling Andrew was able to temporarily secure the stay and the mast to the boat before tensioning the rig again. This was an okay fix so we put some of the sails up again and cautiously sailed off. When we went to send an email to our friends to let them know our predicament we found our radio was not working - the backstay acts as the antenna. We were worried that if the fix didn't hold we would not be able to make radio contact with the boats nearby. Andrew remade the connection to the backstay but still no luck. We decided we needed to get some sleep and would start again in the morning. This morning Andrew climbed under the steering deep in the stern locker and found where the radio connector came through - while the backstay was swinging around the electrical terminal had been pulled off. Good news - Andrew was able to replace the terminal just in time for our morning contact with the Panama Pacific Net. It was such a relief to be in contact with the outside world. We had a feeling we had seen some spare rigging parts deep in the bilges of ReVision II so I set about lifting floorboards and discovered just the thing we needed. So down came the sails again and we tentatively removed the backstay again. Andrew was able to fit the replacement end to the turnbuckle (the thing that tensions the rig and links the stay to the chainplate in the deck) and tension the rig once again. We feel very very lucky to have got through this experience and very lucky to have the parts we needed on the boat - some people believe their is a fairy watching over each boat on the ocean - we want to thank our fairy for being there through this. Now on we go speedly at last - those tortoises better be worth it!

PS sorry for the technical stuff. It's been a tough few days but we are sailing again and the weather is beautiful and calm has returned to R2

PPS Ive saved you from news of the exploded furler which controls the stay sail, the fused inverter which charges the computer and the engine leaking oil as they didnt't seem too important in the scheme of things.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Slow going to the Galapagos

At 15:00 GMT on Wednesday May 10th 2006 ReVision II is at 4 Deg 33 minutes North and 80 Deg 36 minutes West. 3 days after leaving Pedro Gonzalez in the Gulf of Panama we have managed only 250 miles, half of this with the engine. We have light head winds, a lumpy sea and a current constantly pushing us back where we have come from. It's slow progress. We have been lucky enough to see an abundance of wild life on the way. Our journey has been full of dolphins and turtles and last night we were accompanied by 3 pilot whales for a while. They were about 15 feet long and right beside the boat...almost touching distance. We hooked a very large tuna yesterday only to see it leaping out of the water before escaping. We are in regular contact with friends also on passage aboard Kika, Helene, Noa and Ragtime as well as Zefferin back in port in Balboa. Only 664 miles to the Galapagos and 4700 to Tahiti!

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Path Between the Seas

After our few days of relaxation and testing Andrew's work on the engine in the Chagres River we returned to Colon for three days of mad rushing around, laundry, shopping and dealing with the paperwork to check out of Panama. On 2 May we collected Sandy, Joan and Warwick from Zeffrin and brought them aboard R2 to be our line handlers for our transit of the Panama Canal. We had been told to expect our advisor at 17.45. At 1800 the signal control radioed us to advise the time was now to be 1900, so we had our dinner and relaxed a bit. About 1915 Carlos arrived, we knew Carlos from our transit with Goolka, we were very pleased to see him as he was really lovely and very professional. We pulled the anchor and then as Andrew put the boat into reverse it stuck! This was not good to put it mildly so in the anchor went and out came the tools. Carlos advised us we had some time as our first canal was not booked until 2100. Tension was high as Andrew worked to find out what the problem was, all the while thinking we could loose our transit date, fee and bond of $1450 then we'd have to wait another 3 weeks, pay again and then have to rush to reach Tahiti in time for our flights booked in the summer - this really was not good. Flightless, the boat transitting with us offered to tow us but their advisor would not allow it. After 20 minutes Andrew realised the problem was with the mount for the gear lever cable rather than gear box so he disconnected the cable and installed Warwick in the locker behind the engine to operate the gears manually on Andrew's instruction. This was quite a warm spot for poor Warwick who had only arrived from New Zealand on a plane the day before. Up came the anchor again and we headed towards the canal entrance. We rafted with Flightless to transit the Gatun locks - three locks that take you up 85 feet to the Gatun lake. Flightless took care of power through the locks with Andrew (and Warwick) on standby in case we needed to assist. The locks are huge - we went through with a cargo ship called Afric Star which was 520 feet long and 80 feet wide. The locks take ships up to about 750 feet long and 105 feet wide. There is a lot of hype about the locks but to be honest they are just locks and anyone who has sailed in Europe will be quite familiar with the process - it was just fine. We reached Gatun lake shortly before midnight, tied up to a buoy and got out the well deserved rum.

We were told our next advisor would arrive at 0630, so got up bright and early. Morning on the Gatun lake is out of this world, Howler Monkey's roar (yes roar), the trees all around are alive and the view across the lake is calm and quiet. We waited for our adviser, and waited and waited. The advisor to Flightless arrived at about 0730 and they left. This worried us as we knew the transit was as at 1230 and if we were to make it the 21 miles to the Pedro Miguel locks we needed to leave soon. You have to say you can do 8 knots otherwise the Canal authorities make you pay more, but at this late time 8 knots was even pushing it. 0915 and a launch appear across the lake, George arrives on board and off we go at last. His first question is how fast can we go!! He then disappeared below and watched a dvd during our trip down to Pedro Miguel. This was fine by us as the route is totally buoyed and we had a nice trip - we got the sails out and managed 7 knots most of the way. We were very relieved to see Flightless when we arrived as we could raft with them again. Pedro Miguel is just one lock and then a mile to the two locks at Miraflores. As we left Pedro Miguel we spotted Charmer, the boat my Dad built when I was about 10 moored in the little yacht club - we knew she was in Panama but not where so it was great to see her and snap a couple of pics. The Miraflores locks went smoothly just gently lowering us into the Pacific. There was a webcam at these locks so we waved to Jonathan & James who hopefully were watching. When the last gates opened we had a bit of turbulence as the fresh and salt water mixes but it wasn't an issue. George prized himself from his laptop and zoomed off on his launch and we were free - we took the momentous journey into the Pacific under the bridge of the Amercias. It felt great if not just a little scary.

We took a mooring in Balboa and went out to TGI Fridays (of all places). Next morning it took Andrew about an hour to disassemble the steering, find the bolt that had worked loose from the gear stick and put it all back together. We then took a whistle stop tour of Panama City before heading back to Balboa for a few too many beers with Tim, Darren and Annie - friends from Colon we found loitering in the yacht club bar. Friday morning we broke free and headed out to the Perlas Islands. This is a small archipelago in the gulf on Panama, not quite the San Blas but still quite special. Our first night was spent off Contodoro a very exclusive island where South American political meetings often take place. Tonight we are on an island called Pedro Gonzalez near a small fishing settlement. We had three local children on board most of the afternoon - India, Carla and Luis were fascinated with our binoculars and digital camera. They brought us bread, papaya and plantain before exploring R2 confidently.

Tomorrow we are heading out towards the Galapagos, a trip that should take about 10 to 14 days.

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