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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