Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Arrived at Hiva Oa

May 25, 2008  Sunday
Traitors Bay, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands

Surprisingly we were not very tired when we arrived Friday morning and managed to put in a full day getting familiar with Hiva Oa.  After anchoring and getting settled a few minutes we contacted Polynesia Yacht Services to act as our agent while we are in French Polynesia.  The local office is managed by a very nice and efficient woman named Sandra.  Sandra met us at the dock, took our passports and boat papers, and gave us a couple of forms to complete over the weekend.  She will again meet us at the dock at 8 Monday morning to collect the completed forms and to clear us in.  The local gendarme office is only open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. so it was not possible for us to be cleared in on Friday and we must wait until Monday.  Sandra will also obtain a Duty Free Fuel Permit for us; that will take 3 days because the application must go to Papeete, Tahiti and then be returned here.  Not sure if we will hang around Hiva Oa while awaiting the fuel permit; might go down to Fatu Hiva and then come back here to pick up the fuel permit later in the week.

Sandra kindly gave us a ride into the main village of Atuona.  It is about 2 miles over hills so we really appreciated the ride into town.  The walk back was bad enough to give me blisters on the bottoms of all my toes; not sure I would have made it if we had been forced to walk both directions.  While in town we went to the Snack Make Make – a little bar/restaurant.  We each had a simple hamburger and fries for lunch; Bill drank one beer and I had a soft drink.  The tab was a whopping $50 USD!  About double what we thought it would cost.  Don’t think we will be eating ashore often in French Polynesia.  Bill is now glad that we bought all those cases of beer back in Panama.

Late Friday afternoon we worked on removing the marine growth that had accumulated on BeBe during the passage.  You absolutely would not believe how much junk can grow on the boat even though it is moving rapidly through the water.  The entire rear 1/3 of the boat was covered in 2-inch long gooseneck barnacles.  These barnacles were purple and very soft.  More experienced cruisers had warned me that we should remove these barnacles within 24 hours of anchoring.  The barnacles stay pliable and soft as long as the water is rapidly moving down the hull while underway, but they harden when the boat become stationary and the water is no longer flowing by.  Bill screwed a 10-inch plastic drywall spatula onto a wooden broom handle; we got into the dinghy and scraped off thousands of barnacles.  The barnacles were the easy part.  There is also a brown marine growth at the waterline and about a foot up the side of the boat.  That brown stuff is really hard and very difficult to scrub off.  We did less than half the port side before crying Uncle and stopping for the day.  Had good intentions of getting back to work on it Saturday morning, but got invited to walk into town for the local Mother’s Day festivities instead.  So boat cleaning got put off to another day.

Saturday morning we walked back into town -- wearing proper walking shoes this time and I used a walking stick for the hills.  We walked with Amy and Bill from S/V ESTRELLITA.  The reason for this trip into town was to attend a festival to celebrate Mother’s Day.  They had set-up awnings and locals had table-stalls selling all kinds of things.  There was a musical band and cotton candy and one stand was selling grilled meat of some kind.  I bought another pareo that was painted by a local woman and we bought a jar of homemade jam of some unknown fruit.  The woman who made the jam said it was plum but it does not look or taste like any plum we have ever seen, so there might have been something lost in translation.  Amy and Bill bought a gorgeous paddle carved from rosewood that they will use as a wall-hanging when they move back into a land home someday.  The four of us also walked up the road to the largest grocery store; not to make purchases but just to scout it out.  Then we walked back to the festival grounds and made our purchases.  I also bought a few fresh veggies from the back of a nearby pick-up truck.

At the festival we met up with Guy and Karen from S/V SZEL (pronounced sail), a very nice 64-ft boat designed by Steve Dashew.  There were only 10 hulls made from this design and we have now seen 2 of them.  The other one is JEDI and is owned by Nick and Josey.  SZEL is anchored off our starboard stern here in Hiva Oa.  SZEL completed the passage from Galapagos in only 17 days.  Their long, ultra-slim boat is very fast.  At the festival we also ran into Jeff and Kathy from S/V BEATRIX and their crew member Delilah.  BEATRIX is anchored just off our port side.  Delilah decided to walk back to the anchorage with us.

Along the way we stopped at the Paul Gaugin museum.  The artist Paul Gaugin lived here for many years and is buried up on one of the hills.  We opted not to walk up the hills to the cemetery (after all, it is just a grave – seen one, seen enough), but Amy and I did visit the museum.  The others waited outside while Amy and I did a quick 15-minute tour because the museum was closing for the day.  The others didn’t want to spend the $7.50 entrance fee for such a short visit but we saw all we were interested in seeing at the museum.  Neither of us knows a thing about art but we decided that Gaugin had a foot fetish because in almost every painting at least one person’s foot was grossly out of scale.

Saturday night we visited S/V BEATRIX for potluck dinner.  Their refrigeration system is broken and they wanted to cook as much as possible and share dinner with the rest of us before the food spoiled.  Kathy and Jeff served grilled shrimp, a wonderful steak, and port tenderloin.  All of it was very good.  I made ratatouille from the fresh eggplant, peppers and tomatoes that I had purchased at the festival earlier in the day.  Bill and Amy from ESTRELLITA also joined us, so that made 3 couples.  As we visited and got to know one another we soon discovered that each of the 3 couples were prior Porsche owners.  Each of us owned a different model Porsche, but we each had our stories to tell of those wonderful cars.

FWIW, IMHO, the French government has completely ruined the native Marquesans.  The French government pays an annual amount to each local person.  Supposedly it is equivalent to approximately 46,000 dollars per year.  Plus all medical and dental care is free.   Because they receive such substantial assistance from the government, very few local people will work anymore.  One cruiser wanted to hire a local person to do numerous boat chores and was told that there is no one on the island that will do manual work --- for any price.  The cruiser ended up hiring another single-hander cruiser to do the work.  Shades of the welfare status that LBJ created back in the states over 40 years ago.  Why work when the government provides for you.

Our friends on S/V FREE SPIRIT are now within VHF radio distance and should arrive here at Hiva Oa late this afternoon.  They went to Fatu Hiva first because their guests wanted to see that island before the guests depart here at Hiva Oa.   Their guests/crew have been aboard for 2 months and it is time for them to get back home to businesses and jobs.  They can fly from Hiva Oa to Tahiti and then back to Montreal.

May 27, 2008  Tuesday
Hiva Oa, Marquesas

Yesterday our agent Sandra picked us up at the dock and brought us to the gendarmerie to officially clear into French Polynesia.  It was a simple task and we are glad that we used Polynesia Yacht Services to act as our agent in French Polynesia.  A few others we have met are clearing themselves in and think they are saving lots of money by doing it themselves instead of using the agent.  One guy said on the VHF radio that he and his wife are saving $500 by handling the clearance themselves.  Au contraire!  This guy obviously has not calculated the costs correctly.  Our friends on FREE SPIRIT handled their own clearance rather than using the agent and told us what it cost them.  Sure the actual clearance is free; but by the time they had paid the bond fee and charged their credit card for the cost of airplane tickets back to the US, the total cost difference would have been only $59 more per person to use the agent and avoid all the hassle.  Either one must convert cash to local currency to secure the bond (about $1500 per person) or one must charge than amount to one’s credit card.  If you convert cash there are considerable bank fees; if you charge it to a credit card then there are foreign currency transaction fees of usually 3% (not to mention the credit card companies give you horrible conversion rates).  We are happy that we paid the extra $59 per person and used the agent and avoided all this.  So much simpler.  The only inconvenience is that we also purchased a Duty Free Fuel Permit.  The application must be processed in Papeete and then returned to Hiva Oa; this supposedly takes 3 days.  We do not want to sit in Hiva Oa and wait for the fuel permit.  Instead, we will sail down to Fatu Hiva for a few days and then return to Hiva Oa to pick up the permit and get fuel.  This duty free fuel permit is only available if an agent handles your clearance and will save us approximately 30% on cost of diesel. 

This morning a Customs boat arrived and checked all the boats in the anchorage.  Good thing we got cleared in yesterday.  They went through the boat and looked beneath the floor boards and in several cabinets but did not do a thorough search of the boat.  Only thing that struck us as strange is that they went through every zippered compartment of my backpack.  They even had Bill unzip our cooler bag to check that there was nothing inside it.  Cannot imagine what they were looking for in those little zippered compartments.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The long Marquesas Passage in May 2008

3rd May 2008 - 13th May 2008

We left Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands at 1300 on Saturday, 3 May 2008. Initial course was 234 and later changed to 248T. Winds at 10 knots from SE; seas 6-10 ft swell spaced far apart; favorable 1 knot current. Since we have started this passage during mid-day we will follow the old British Royal Navy custom of recording our positions at noon each day; or more accurately, we will record our position daily at 1800 UTZ or GMT. The "distance sailed" noted will really be the distance actually made good toward our destination and will not include all the zigs and zags we will make along the way. The number of miles really sailed will be higher but meaningless. Only miles sailed that bring us closer to the destination are of any importance. We will progress through 3 ½ time zone changes during the approximately 3000 mile passage to the Marquesas. Believe it or not, the Marquesas time zone is GMT minus 3.5 hours. That is the only place I have ever heard of that uses a half-hour time zone; and quite frankly, I cannot get my mind around that. Guess we will see how it works when we arrive there.

End Day #1 Noon, 1800 UTZ, Sunday 04 May 2008.
Current Position: 01.48.421S; 092.34.942W
Distance sailed during past 23 hours: 137 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 137 NM
Air Temperature: 82F
Winds SE at 10 knots; seas very comfortable 6-10 ft swell; current .8 knot favorable; sunny day.

There is a morning SSB radio net where boats bound for the Marquesas check in with each other. We report weather conditions at each of our locations. This helps those boats farther behind the others know what to expect. As we are the last boat on this passage at this moment, we are the boat getting the most benefit from the reports from all the others. It is quite cool at night; enough so that we are wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and still curling up in the cockpit under a blanket during our night watches.

End Day #2 Noon, 1800 UTZ, Monday 05 May 2008.
Current Position: 02.17.6391S; 094.45.814W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 150 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 287 NM
Course: 248T
Air Temperature: 82.4F
Barometer: 1010.2
Winds SE at 18 knots; seas comfortable 10-12 ft swell; current .5 knot adverse; gray day. Sailed with genoa poled to starboard for most of day. During the night we had a lot of squid landing on the deck. As I was lowering the side panel of the cockpit bimini because it was starting to rain, a large squid came flying over my shoulder and past my head and landed square in the middle of our cockpit. Told Bill about it the next morning and he said it was a good thing it didn't fly right into my open mouth. Wouldn't it be horrible to be asphyxiated by a mouthful of squirming squid? What a perverse mind to even think of such a thing. I had picked up most of the squid and thrown them overboard before I talked to Michele on FREE SPIRIT and learned that it is easy to de-ink these little things and cook them. Bill & I both enjoy fried calamari so now I am putting all freshly fallen squid into a ziplock and placing in the freezer. The trick is to find them as soon as they land because they die and dry out in the wind fairly quickly. Kicking myself now for throwing back that nice large squid that landed in the cockpit. That will never happen again.

End Day #3 Noon, 1800 UTZ, Tuesday 06 May 2008.
Current Position: 02.24.4892S; 097.39.7417W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 174.1 NM Total distance sailed this passage: 461.1 NM
Course: 260T
Air Temperature: 82.4F
Barometer: 1008.9
Winds SE at 18 knots; seas uncomfortable 10-12 ft swell at 5 second intervals; current .5 knot adverse; hazy.

Lots more sea motion today; very confused seas. Sailed with genoa poled to starboard off and on all day. We are getting pretty good at putting out the pole and then soon taking it back in as the wind keeps changing direction slightly. Day was mostly beam reach and we can only leave the pole in place if the wind is behind the beam. Lost VHF radio contact with our friends on FREE SPIRIT this morning. Checking in with them twice per day via SSB radio for rest of this passage. They have caught 4 yellow fin tuna, 3 mahi-mahi, one large head only by the time it was reeled in, and one 52-inch wahoo! Their freezer is jam-packed full so they will have to lay off trailing fishing lines for awhile. We, OTOH, have not even put a fishing line in the water yet. We left Galapagos with both our freezers full and do not have room for fish at this time. We also do not have a nice fish-cleaning station on the life rail like they do. Bill must clean the fish on the deck on our boat - quite a messy operation and not something either of us feels like dealing with just yet. However, wahoo is my favorite fish so we probably will drop a line in the water at some point during this long passage.

End Day #4 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Wednesday 07 May 2008.
Current Position: 02.29.988S; 100.20.900W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 150.1 NM Total distance sailed this passage: 611.2 NM
Course: 250T
Air Temperature: 83.8
Barometer: 1008.5

We turned clocks back one hour as we are certain that we have entered a new time zone based on sunrise and sunset. Continuing to record positions at 1800 UTZ so this log remains on 24 hour increments. Winds SE at 15 knots; seas very gentle 15 ft swell spaced very far apart; moving farther south to pick up favorable current; sunny and beautiful. All day was beam reach. SOG 7.2 knots. Absolutely perfect sailing. Instead of having fresh fish, I baked brownies and some great blueberry muffins. Sliver of new moon tonight was very pretty. Stars were huge and covered entire sky down to water edge in every direction. Night is warmer now and we are back to short-sleeved tee-shirts and shorts for our night watches, but still covered with a blanket when sitting in the cockpit for hours at a time.

End Day #5 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Thursday 08 May 2008.
Current Position: 03.09.705S; 102.58.2413W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 173.3 NM Total distance sailed this passage: 784.5 NM
Course: 270T
Air Temperature: 83.6
Barometer: 1009.5
Winds SE at 8 knots; seas very gentle 8 ft swell spaced far apart;
SOG only 5.3 knots; beam reach with asymmetrical spinnaker (first time we have flown this sail that we purchased more than 2 years ago). Raising and lowering the asymmetrical wasn't difficult thanks to the ATN sock and ATN tacker. We were sailing at 6-7 knots in only 8-10 knots wind with favorable current of about ½ knot. Made the sailing almost flat and was very enjoyable. As we were concerned of possible slightly higher winds building during the night, we doused the spinnaker around 3:00 p.m. and changed to standard beam reach with genoa. Boat speed immediately dropped to only 5 knots but that will do considering the winds are so light. Still making great time towards the Marquesas. We are trying to do as much westing as possible before starting the southing. Boats ahead of us turned south too soon and are now being forced too far south. They are having a difficult time maintaining course to reach Marquesas. We hope to avoid that situation.

When we were handling the spinnaker we apparently knocked a halyard or line against the deck light on the main mast because after we put the sail back into the deck locker we noticed that the light bulb for the deck light was dangling loose and banging against the mast. We didn't want it to scratch up the mast or to break and have glass shards all over the deck (and we also did not want to listen to it banging for another 2200 miles) so Bill did the required duty and went up the mast. Not something either of us wanted him to do out in the middle of an ocean but all went well. We brought in the sails and turned on the engine; turned the boat into the swell and realized that created too much movement so we then turned the boat stern-to the swell and that diminished boat movement. Bill was up, light bulb snapped back into the fixture, and he was back down in minutes. Easy job but one we hope not to repeat mid-ocean.

End Day #6 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Friday 09 May 2008.
Current Position: 03.21.033S, 105.15.327W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 152 NM Total distance sailed this passage: 936.5 NM
Course: 249T
Air Temperature: 82.4
Barometer: 1011.5
Winds SE at only 5 knots; had to motor several times overnight and during morning to retain headway; seas very gentle 6 ft swell; very gray day and we hope for rain to wash some of the salt off everything.

Boats ahead of us also report no wind; only 2 boats reported having at least 10 knots of wind this morning. After 5 days of perfect sailing I guess we are due for a poor sailing day. But we have lots of diesel so motoring for a day or two is not a problem. We have poled out the genoa again but there is just not enough wind to power us more than 3 knots SOG even with the positive .8 knot current; and that is just too slow.

Our morning inspection of lines turned up slight evidence of chafing on the genoa sheet. The sheet feeds from the clew of the genoa down to a carr that is on a 12-ft track. The sheet follows the track very close to the stanchions back to a shackle and then to the electric winch at the cockpit. There is slight evidence of chafe where the sheet touches the stanchions. Guess that is to be expected after more than 800 miles of constant use in basically same position. For all you non-sailors: a rope is getting worn because it is rubbing something. Not to worry though. We have spare genoa sheets on board, as well as spare halyards, spare main sheet, spare carr traveler lines, spare outhaul lines for all sails, and many other spare lines. We have replacements for all running rigging. We are prepared for any chafing that might occur.

This was a gray boring day so I did what I do in those circumstances and baked something. Made pizza with the last bits of yellow zucchini from the Galapagos, ham, onions and the olives stuffed with bacon that neither Bill nor I particularly care for. Used the bread machine to make the pizza crust. Pizza turned out pretty good. Bill even ate half and he doesn't normally care for pizza.

Winds were so light and we were moving so slow that we finally changed our minds and motored 9 hours SSW in search of better winds.

End Day #7 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Saturday 10 May 2008.
Current Position: 04.30.9608S, 107.41.4234W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 168 NM Total distance sailed this passage: 1104.5 NM
Course: 258T
Air Temperature: 82.7
Barometer: 1008.8

Well, we wanted wind - and, boy did we find it! Last night was a tough night. We sailed through 3 squalls, one of which was testing with sustained winds of 25 knots and gusting 35 knots. This was the first time that I have handled the boat entirely by myself during a squall. I am on watch from 6 p.m. until 2 or 3 a.m. Bill comes on watch about 3 a.m. and I go to bed until around 8 a.m. This schedule works well for us because I am a night owl and Bill is not. He is a morning person and I am not. This way he gets plenty of sleep in an 8 to 9 hour stretch. I try to sleep a couple of hours in the late afternoon so we are both getting adequate sleep. All 3 squalls last night occurred between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. I would turn the boat and run with the winds as each squall started. When the boat would begin to go too fast or there seemed to be too much stress on the rigging, then I would reef all 3 sails. During the worst squall I had to triple reef genoa and mainsail and completely take in the mizzen sail. After all squalls passed there was no wind for an hour or so and I had to motor. Bill said he was tossed all over the aft cabin bed during this night. He finally gave up attempting to sleep and relieved me at the helm at 2:30 a.m. I was exhausted and immediately fell into a deep sleep for 4 hours.

Seas were very confused all night and continued confused this morning. SOG at 1800 UTZ position report was 8.7 knots, but it ranged greatly during the past 24 hours. Seas currently 10-ft on 7 second; not comfortable. Winds are now forcing us farther southward than we would like at this point of the passage. Yucky gray day.

End Day #8 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Sunday 11 May 2008.
Current Position: 05.00.3863S, 110.36.5391W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 177 NM Total distance sailed this passage: 1281.5 NM
Course: 257T
Air Temperature: 82.7F
Barometer: 1011.5

Gorgeous sunny day, slightly cloudy; seas 8-ft on 7 seconds; poled genoa so could better point westward instead of being forced farther south. Wind 10-15 knots from SE; SOG 8.2 knots with .8 knot favorable current. Saw 2 pods of porpoises today - the first marine life that we have seen since leaving the Galapagos, not considering the deck squid and flying fish squadrons. The birds out here amaze us. They are nearly 1300 miles from land in one direction and 1800 miles from land in the other direction. Why in the world are these birds way the heck out here? Seems like they could find food closer to land. Our friends on FREE SPIRIT reported that they had to change course today to avoid hitting a whale that was floating on the surface. We haven't seen any whales on this passage. Lucky for them that this occurred during the day, otherwise they would have hit the whale and that could have seriously damaged their boat.

End Day #9 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Monday 12 May 2008.
Current Position: 05.33.36S, 113.16.72W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 169NM Total distance sailed this passage: 1450.5 NM
Course: 258T
Air Temperature: 83.2
Barometer: 1010.6
Winds SE at 10 knots; seas appear flat but GRIB files show 5-6 ft swell; beautiful sunny day.

This morning it was time to change course more westerly so we put up the twin headsails so we could sail direct downwind. This involves using one sail poled to starboard and one sail poled to port. This was the first time that we have had the genoa poled out to port in a very, very long time (about 1 ½ years). Shortly after setting both sails we noticed that the sun shield panel on the genoa had come unstitched from the leach edge of the sail. The sail does not appear damaged in any way, just that the sun shield panel is unstitched for about 5 feet. We didn't want to take the chance of damaging the sail, so we brought in the twin headsails; furled the genoa; and then raised the asymmetrical sail to starboard. This means that we cannot point westward (downwind) as our course requires. The only course that we can sail without using twin headsails is more appropriate for the Gambier islands in southeast French Polynesia instead of the Marquesas in northeast French Polynesia. We have no intentions of visiting the Gambier islands. At any rate we are sailing farther south than desired.

End Day #10 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Tuesday 13 May 2008.
Current Position: 06°19.7780 S; 115°31.8205 W Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 157 NM Total distance sailed this passage: 1607.5 NM
Course: 267
Air Temperature: 81.8
Barometer: 1012.3

We passed the halfway point to the Marquesas around 6:00 p.m. local time Monday evening. I think we entered a new time zone at longitude 115 but someone on the SSB net said they think it changes at longitude 120; so we are not changing our clocks back another hour just yet. Monday night was exhausting for my 9 hour watch from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. We had left the asymmetrical sail flying when Bill went to bed. We have a rule that neither of us gets out of the cockpit when at sea unless the other is also on deck. To change the sail would require both of us working together on deck and I don't like to disturb Bill's sleep. So that meant that the sail could not be changed overnight. The wind clocked all night long forcing us farther and farther south. I had to sit at the helm almost the entire 9 hours constantly adjusting course in order to keep the wind at 150 degrees on our port side - that is the farthest point of wind that we could sail with the asymmetrical --- 3 points left and then 2 points back to the right every minute or so with an occasional 5 points right and then even more back to the left. Made me wish for a handheld remote for the autopilot so that I could have sat all night in a more comfortable place in the cockpit. Raymarine makes such a handheld remote for the autopilot but we don't have one. Never wanted one until tonight. Bill relieved me at 3:00 a.m. and I showered and went to bed.

As soon as it was light enough to see Bill awakened me and we snuffed the sail, put out the pole, and re-set the asymmetrical on the pole to starboard. This allowed Bill to point the boat about 10 degrees more westerly and I went back to sleep. At 8:30 Bill again awakened me and we again snuffed the asymmetrical and fed it down the forward hatch into the front cabin, brought the pole back in, and turned on the engine. We had been in a rainstorm for the past 2 hours and Bill was tired of it. The rain was moving the same speed and direction as our boat so we couldn't get away from it. But running the engine for half-hour and changing course brought us out of the rain. Around 10:00 a.m. we poled out the genoa to starboard and re-set the main and mizzen sails. SOG 5.9 knots; wind 9 knots true; seas appear flat but really are 6-ft swell. We are both tired today and the gray weather makes us feel even more tired.

We are very glad to be past the half-way point on this passage. As I type this, our destination waypoint indicates 1401 miles to where we will make landfall at Fatu Hiva. (later changed our minds and went to Hiva Oa as required by the authorities)

End Day #11 1100 local time, 1800 UTZ, Wednesday 14 May 2008.
Current Position: 06.25.81S; 118.08.34W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 156 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 1763.5 NM
Course over Ground: 266T
Air Temperature: 84.2
Barometer: 1009.2

Yesterday morning was dreary and gray and we were tired of changing sails so often. We poled the genoa out to starboard with hopes that the sun shield panel will not be torn completely off before we reach the Marquesas. The unstitching appears to be about 12 feet long with about 5 feet of panel flapping loosely from the leech edge of the sail. The sail itself appears fine. We have a sail repair kit onboard but are reluctant to remove the sail and attempt manual repair while at sea; far better to do that while anchored. Who knows, we might even find another sailor who has a sewing machine capable of doing this repair. My old Kenmore certainly cannot handle a sail repair. If we lose the sun shield, then we just lose it. Nothing to be done about it now. The rainy morning provided the benefit of washing all the accumulated salt from the boat topsides. Nice to feel "clean" again. SOG 6.7 knots; seas 7-ft swell spaced far apart. Great sailing conditions.

Sky cleared and we enjoyed gorgeous sunny afternoon yesterday, albeit without wind. Around 4 p.m. the wind dropped to only 4 knots so we turned on the engine. Four knots of wind is not sufficient to propel a 27 ton sailboat through the water. Seas were completely flat. We spent the afternoon lounging in the cockpit and reading. Bill is reading "The Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough and thoroughly enjoying it. Great historical book about the building of the Panama Canal. Bill said he would like to read it again some day if we are ever able to buy our own copy of this book. This one is borrowed from FREE SPIRIT and must be returned to them when we reach Fatu Hiva. BTW, they are currently approximately 65 miles ahead of us on this passage.

Early this morning Bill noticed a radar target and our AIS identified it as a cargo ship named GO FRIENDSHIP and that it was 198 meters long - that is over 643 feet. A big ship! Bill hailed the ship on the VHF and spoke with them. They are enroute to Japan. This is only the second vessel that we have seen either with naked eyes or on radar since leaving the Galapagos Islands. The first vessel was seen yesterday morning. It was a long-line fishing boat. We did not speak with that one.

End Day #12 1000 local time, 1800 UTZ, Thursday 15 May 2008.
Current Position: 06.43.0918S; 120.37.0824W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 147 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 1910.5 NM
Course over Ground: 257T
Air Temperature: 84.3
Barometer: 1011.9

Yesterday afternoon we turned the clocks back another hour as we certainly must be in time zone GMT minus 8 by now. I thought it changed at longitude 115W but another boat on the SSB morning net believed it changed at longitude 120W. Since we would cross longitude 120W overnight, we opted to turn back the clocks before Bill went to bed so that he would get an extra hour sleep. I had a long afternoon nap so staying awake another hour was no problem for me. Wind was 18-20 knots from the SW all afternoon - yes, the southwest! That is weird for this part of the ocean. Wind is almost always from the SE out here. So we were sailing close-hauled all afternoon. Overnight the wind clocked to beam reach. Excellent sailing conditions. The waxing ¾ moon was so bright that the stars barely appeared. Lovely night with the moonlight on the water.

SOG as of this reading is 6.8 knots and it is a gorgeous day. Large swell running from SE and 15 knots wind from SE (the normal direction); boat is sailing flat so moving about is easy and there is almost no rolling motion. Cannot imagine more perfect sailing conditions. Still have not dropped a fishing line in the water.

Spending time baking instead and have discovered a plain white bread recipe that we like much better than the normal one I bake. Yesterday marked the end of all fresh produce except 3 potatoes, 2 onions, 3 tomatoes, 3 grapefruit and 2 apples. No more salads for my lunch and I will miss that. Not likely that we will be buying many more veggies for quite some time due to the scarcity and the cost in French Polynesia. We are about to enter the land of the pamplemousse and that will become our most frequent fresh fruit. Pamplemousse looks and tastes like a sweet grapefruit so we should enjoy that. Both Bill and I are starting to crave certain foods - meats in particular. Guess we should be taking daily multi-vitamins, which we have onboard but neither of us likes to take. Bill craves bacon and sausage and that I can handle because there is plenty in the freezer. OTOH, I am craving potato salad from Strack's. Trey and Aaron will remember that potato salad from their childhood -tiny bits of sharp cheddar cheese and lots of tiny bits of chopped barbequed beef brisket end in it. Would love a cup of that potato salad and a few bites of a Strack's barbeque ham sandwich. Haven't had either of those in probably 15 - 20 years.

End Day #13 1000 local time, 1800 UTZ, Friday 16 May 2008.
Current Position: 06.55.4975 S; 123.11.0641 W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 151 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 2061.5 NM
Course over Ground: 256T
Air Temperature: 84.0F
Barometer: 1012.8

The wind died to absolutely nothing around 3 yesterday afternoon. Rather than wallow in the swell and drift all night (like several other boats on this passage did), we opted to turn on the engine and ran it all night. Wind finally picked up to 9 knots around 6 this morning and we were able to turn off the engine and sail again. Currently SOG is 6.5 knots and wind is up to 10-12 knots. There is a very gentle, well-spaced, 10-ft swell running from the SE today as usual. I tried to take a short video of it but water never shows up well in photos. Since the winds are so low and the swell so comfortable, we ran the watermaker and did a load of laundry. So now there are clothes hanging all over the topsides as we sail along on this gorgeous day. During my long watch last night I baked cinnamon rolls with lots of golden raisins and pecans; we are doing our best to eat them all up before they get stale.

A very large fishing boat pulling nets passed us around midnight. He came within 1 ½ miles off our port side. We have gotten so accustomed to being the only boat out here that it seems strange to see another boat. Our friends on FREE SPIRIT are the nearest boat to us and they are 60 miles ahead of us this morning. We talk each morning and afternoon on the SSB to check up on each other.

940 miles to go as of this moment. A few days ago Bill set our GPS with a count-down waypoint and we are enjoying watching it count lower and lower as we cover more miles. So far this passage has been unbelievably easy except for the one night of squalls - and that wasn't nearly as bad as our first overnight passage in this boat from BVI to St. Martin in May 2006.

End Day #14 1000 local time, 1800 UTZ, Saturday 17 May 2008.
Current Position: 07.32.17S; 125.38.53W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 151.5 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 2213 NM
Course over Ground: 257T
Air Temperature: 83.1F
Barometer: 1013.2

Today marks the end of our second week of this passage. Making good time. Sat around and read all day. As stated previously, a boring passage is much better than an exciting one.

End Day #15 1000 local time, 1800 UTZ, Sunday 18 May 2008.
Current Position: 08.04.84S; 127.57.26W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 140 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 2353 NM
Course over Ground: 257T
Air Temperature: 83.2F
Barometer: 1013.7

Our slowest day so far. Wind died yesterday afternoon to 0-5 knots and we obviously cannot sail in wind that light. We poled out the genoa just before sunset and Bill went to bed. We thought the light winds would clock back eastward as they have done the previous 3 nights. Of course that did not happen. Instead, the wind clocked westward - putting it closer to the bow and making the poled sail unusable. So I furled it in and put out the mainsail and started the engine. We motored all night Good thing we stocked so much diesel. We still have enough diesel fuel that we could motor the entire remaining distance to the Marquesas if that should become necessary. Wind finally picked up to 8-10 knots around 9 a.m. and we are now back to sailing with poled genoa plus standard mainsail and mizzen sail. Making decent time of 6.6 knots boat speed. Seas have 2.13 meter swell, which is about 7 feet.

Bill finally dropped a fishing line in the water yesterday afternoon but did not get a bite. He is trying again today. A nice wahoo or a mahi-mahi would be nice but we doubt will catch anything because the boat is going too slow. The lures need to be pulled through the water at speeds 6-8 knots in order to entice any bites. This morning we finally pulled out our guide books and navigation books for French Polynesia. Figured it was time to start thinking about where we might want to go now that we are "almost" to the first islands. Only about 650 miles to go. Funny how that now seems "close" to us.

End Day #16 1000 local time, 1800 UTZ, Monday 19 May 2008.
Current Position: 08.34.80S; 130.03.68W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 130.5 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 2483.5 NM
Course over Ground: 270T for 6 hours and then back to 257T
Air Temperature: 84.4
Barometer: 1011.0

The full moon rose in the east behind us just as the sun dripped below the horizon in the west in front of us; and nothing to be seen except ocean, ocean, ocean. Beginning to seem like we are the only people on this planet. There is no traffic on the VHF radio and we have seen no other boats. Each morning at 1500 Zulu we listen and report our position to what is now called The Flying Fish Net on the SSB. These are boats enroute to the Marquesas and we keep track of position of each other. Most are several hundred miles apart. The closest to us are our friends on FREE SPIRIT; they are about 55 miles ahead of us. Also nearby is QAYAK (pronounced kayak). We actually spoke with QAYAK yesterday on the VHF radio but we are no longer in radio range today. We also speak with FREE SPIRIT on the SSB each morning at 1530 Zulu and again in the afternoon at 2400 Zulu. QAYAK will now start joining us for these twice-daily check-ins. They are as bored as the rest of us out here and welcome the opportunity to talk to someone.

The past 24 hours has seen the lowest number of miles completed during this passage. At times it has seemed unbelievably slow because the wind is so light. When our boat speed drops to 3 knots then we turn on the engine to 1300 rpm and motor until the wind picks up a tiny bit; then we try to sail again. I do not know how these smaller boats that drift along at 3 knots all the time can stand it. Around 6 this morning the wind moved to directly behind us, so we set the twin headsails. This worked great and we sailed along at 5.5 to 7.4 knots SOG until the wind totally died at 2:30 this afternoon. Then we removed the dual headsails and went back to the poled genoa. I am writing this Monday evening and we are now ghosting along at 4.6 knots SOG. Every 5 minutes or so the seas get a little confused and we roll around like crazy for about 30 seconds; then we go back to ghosting along. If the wind were high enough to propel us faster then we would not experience all this rolling and it would be smooth sailing again. One thing is for certain: we have gotten pretty good at our various sail changes. The wind does not stay consistent for longer than 6 hours at a time, then we are forced to change sails in one way or another. We had hoped to arrive in Fatu Hiva on Friday but if the wind does not pick up then landfall will not happen until Saturday or even Sunday.

Bill tried fishing again today but had no bites. Paul on FREE SPIRIT caught a 40-lb big eye tuna yesterday! They are getting tired of eating so much fish and have no place left to store more, so Paul is now on "fishing probation." They are also on "Sailmail probation" as they have exceeded the Sailmail weekly 90-minute connection limit. They are not HAMs and Sailmail is their only method of receiving GRIB files. This means they cannot receive any GRIB files for weather info. So we are telling them latest GRIB file updates during our twice daily SSB talks. Less than 500 miles to go.

End Day #17 1000 local time, 1800 UTZ, Tuesday 20 May 2008.
Current Position: 08.55.70S; 132.05.22W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 125 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 2608.5 NM
Course over Ground: 268T
Air Temperature: 84.2F
Barometer: 1011.4

Oh, where to go; where to go? Our intended destination for landfall in the Marquesas is Fatu Hiva. However, Fatu Hiva is not a port of entry; one is supposed to clear in at Hiva Oa or Nuku Hiva before proceeding to any of the other islands. Nuku Hiva is the most northwestern island and is where we will clear out before heading to the Tuamotus; and Hiva Oa is situated sort of in the middle of all the Marquesas islands. Fatu Hiva is the most windward (southeasterly) island. For that reason almost everyone coming from Panama or South America or Galapagos Islands will visit Fatu Hiva before officially clearing in. Boats coming from Mexico or the western coast of North America often arrive at Nuku Hiva and are not faced with this decision. Even though Fatu Hiva is not a port of entry, most of the time the local gendarme allow a boat to stop for anywhere from 24 hours to 72 hours before proceeding to Hiva Oa to officially clear in. To do the proper thing and first clear in at Hiva Oa would mean a 40-45 mile trip back against the wind to visit Fatu Hiva --- not something any sailor would willingly chose to do.

This morning we learned via the SSB net that a Customs boat visited Fatu Hiva a day or so ago and fined every boat that had stopped without first visiting Hiva Oa and officially clearing in. They were fined $200 each; we are unclear if the fine was $200 per boat or $200 per person. So, do we go 40 miles out of our way to officially clear in first at Hiva Oa and then beat upwind 40-45 miles back down to Fatu Hiva? Or do we follow our original plan and just stop at Fatu Hiva for a day or two and then proceed to Hiva Oa and officially clear in? We thought about it all day and decided to just go for it and stick to our original plan. Hopefully the Customs boat won't visit Fatu Hiva while we are there; it isn't like we will be staying there for days on end - just a day or two. We will see what the local gendarme say when we arrive. If they tell us to move on, then that is what we will do. If they let us stay a day or two and we still get caught by the Customs boat then we will gladly pay the fine.

This really angers both of us because we know what causes this type of situation. The locals often grant courtesies such as allowing a boat to stop for a couple of days before proceeding to another island or port to officially clear in. Then some cruisers will take advantage of these courtesies and stay for a week or more. Some of them try to skirt clearance altogether. This in turn upsets the local authorities because their courtesies have been abused. We have seen this happen over and over again ever since we started cruising. All the cruisers who pat themselves on the back for stretching the laws and not doing the right thing only made it harder for those of us who follow them.

BTW, we also learned that Customs requests information on what navigational software each boat uses. Customs has visited some boats and checked their computers and have fined those found to be using pirated copies of Maxsea. Supposedly the fine has been $4,000 per instance. Maxsea is a French company so it makes sense that they might be checking for this in French Polynesia. So anyone out there with a pirated copy of Maxsea should be prepared when visiting French Polynesia.

Winds overnight and all morning were again exceptionally light. First thing this morning we again put out twin headsails; and we are drifting along very, very, very slowly. SOG has ranged from 2.5 knots (excruciatingly slow!!!!) to 6.4 knots. Seas appear flat but have about 6-ft gentle swell. As I write this on Tuesday evening, we have 389 miles counting down to the anchorage at Fatu Hiva.

End Day #18 1000 local time, 1800 UTZ, Wednesday 21 May 2008.
Current Position: 09.17.88S; 134.25.80W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 137.5 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 2746 NM
Course over Ground: 256T
Air Temperature: 81.8F
Barometer: 1014.9 Wow! Highest reading so far.

Around 5 p.m. we furled both headsails together on the forestay (first time we have tried this) and put up the asymmetrical spinnaker poled out to starboard. The asymmetrical is made from ¾-ounce material and is very lightweight so it is filled by lower speed wind. We have been poling out the genoa at night, but the genoa is made from a 9-ounce material and is a much heavier sail; so it requires higher wind to fill it --- otherwise it flogs about in low wind. This is the first time we have tried flying the asymmetrical overnight and it worked very well. Luckily the winds did not pick up as this sail cannot be flown at wind speeds higher than 20 knots. This sail provided a very comfortable sailing motion although we were forced to go farther north and then correct by sailing back south when we later changed the sail.

Around 6 p.m. we were visited by the largest pod of porpoises that we have ever seen. There must have been well over a hundred of them. They came racing up to the boat from behind on both sides, and played around the bow. It is entertaining to watch them playing in the bow wake. They love it if you whistle loudly and they play back and forth under the front of the boat. These were the 6-8 foot dolphin with very pointed noises. A couple of them jumped way out of the water and performed for us. It is unusual to see the larger variety porpoise jump like that; usually the jumpers are the small variety. Saw a couple of babies in the pod, staying right next to their mothers.

SOG 7.1 at "noon" today. Seas were calm overnight but kicked up when the wind picked up around 5 this morning. Seas were 8-10 feet and rough for most of the day. True wind at 17 knots at "noon." Our mileage recorded today did not include the 10 miles we were forced north by the wind overnight or the 10 miles sailed back southward after we changed the sails for the new wind direction. We turned clocks back another hour today to GMT minus 9. Only 199 miles to go as of 8 p.m. Wednesday local time.

End Day #19 0900 local time, 1800 UTZ, Thursday 22 May 2008.
Current Position: 09.29.24S; 136.46.01W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 134.5 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 2880.5 NM
Course over Ground: 248T
Air Temperature: 84.0F
Barometer: 1014.3

The twin headsails worked great overnight; we were able to maintain 5 to 7 knots SOG all night; whereas the other boats on this same course had a terrible night of it with the wind directly astern. We did have a bit of rolling motion because of the larger seas overnight but it was not uncomfortable. It was not bad enough to prevent me from reading during my night watch. I have a little LED light that clips to a book and this enables me to read during the night watches without having a cockpit light to destroy night vision. After the SSB net this morning we took in the dual headsails, poled out the genoa to starboard, and changed our course to now head direct to Fatu Hiva. Finally we can stop forcing our way west and can go somewhat south. Oh, we have kicked ourselves many times during this passage for being stupid and motoring south for almost 10 hours in search of wind reported by others during the early days of this trip. We should have stayed at latitude 2S and made our way westerly; that would have avoided all this consternation of being forever forced farther southerly all along the passage.

We are on a broad reach with genoa poled to starboard for the final leg of this long passage. And it is absolutely blissful sailing at this point. Seas about 6-ft and wind is 12 knots true from ESE.

End Day #20 0910 local time, 1840 UTZ, Friday 23 May 2008.
Current Position: 09.48.24S; 139.01.90W
Distance sailed during past 24 hours: 145.8 NM
Total distance sailed this passage: 3026.3 NM previous day total 2880.5
Course over Ground: 266T
Air Temperature: 86.0F
Barometer: 1013.2

Changed our plans again. Around 3 or 4 yesterday afternoon we looked at the weather GRIB files for the next few days and decided to change our destination to Hiva Oa. The winds are predicted to be extremely light for the next few days, so going against the wind from Hiva Oa down to Fatu Hiva should be easy. Plus, we learned that it will take minimum 3 days to obtain a duty free fuel permit through the clearance agent in Hiva Oa. This helped us make the decision to go to Hiva Oa first and officially clear into the Marquesas and submit the application for the duty free fuel permit. Hopefully the clearance be accomplished in one day and we can then go down to Fatu Hiva for a few days while awaiting delivery of the duty free fuel permit to the agent in Hiva Oa. We will make a return trip to Hiva Oa to pick up that permit once it is finalized. At the time we changed our destination plans, it was 110 miles to one island and 106 miles to the other; so it isn't like we are going much out of our way to clear in correctly.

Arrived at Atuona anchorage (a/k/a Traitors Bay or Baie Taahuku) at Hiva Oa around 9 a.m. after motoring slowly overnight. Wind has virtually stopped altogether overnight and seas were flat, so it was a very pleasant final night for this passage except for the smell of diesel engine fumes. Entering the anchorage was a bit stressful because the bay is hidden from sight until you are practically into it. Our electronic raster charts were not correct but the C-Map electronic charts were dead-on accurate. This is a beautiful little anchorage with high mountains all around. It is quite small and the anchored boats are quite close together, all with both bow and stern anchors. S/V BeBe has a lot of marine growth down both sides; there are long slim barnacle-looking things that will need to be cleaned off ASAP before they harden now that we have stopped moving through the water. Supposed to be lots of sharks in this bay so we won't be getting into the water; will try to clean the waterline around the hull as much as we can from the dinghy. The bottom cleaning will have to wait until another anchorage.

We had hoped to complete the formalities in one day and depart Saturday morning but that won't be possible. The agent will meet us at 1 p.m. today but cannot clear us in until Monday morning. So we have the entire weekend to rest up and do lots of boat chores. This long-anticipated very long passage was not nearly as difficult as we had feared. Neither of us is particularly tired. Very glad to have arrived in this beautiful place. Internet is not available so it will be awhile before photos can be uploaded to this website.

SYNOPSIS OF PASSAGE: Advice to anyone contemplating this passage is to follow Jimmy Cornell's book on route planning: go south to southwest from the Galapagos Islands to latitude 2S where you should find southeasterly or easterly winds; then head straight west riding a favorable current of 1 to 1 ½ knots. Stay at latitude 2S as long as you possibly can (even as far as 130 longitude if possible) and then begin southing to Marquesas island of your choice. You will constantly be forced farther south during the entire passage westward and will be glad that you did not go too far south too soon. We did it wrong; we knew better but we followed the "pack" mentality. As Forest Gump said: stupid is as stupid does.

1. Stern light burned out ---- replaced underway
2. Bulb knocked out of deck light on main mast during sail change ---- Bill went up mast and replaced underway
3. Tri-color light bulb burned out ---- will replace when reach anchorage. Once up the mast on the open ocean is enough for one passage. We are using the navigation lights mounted on the life rail instead of the tri-color. Nice that we have both kinds of navigation lights on this boat.
4. The water intrusion alarm for the under-floor area of the forward cabin quit working ---- we visually check the area twice daily; never see more than a tablespoon of seawater that has seeped past the bow thruster seals. Will order a replacement but won't be able to get it until we make a trip back to the states. Will also replace bow thruster seals when we do a haulout in New Zealand. This is a routine maintenance item and the seals were last replaced in May 2006 so it is time to replace them. We have them in our spares stock.
5. Extremely light chafe noted on starboard genoa sheet where it runs near a couple of stanchions ---- no need to do anything but do have spare sheet if need it later.
6. Sun shield panel on genoa unstitched and separated on leech ---- must find sail loft or repair facility to sew this 12-ft stitching before it shreds.
7. ATN Tacker rubbed ruined stitching on foot seam of sun shield panel on genoa ---- must have sail loft/repair facility sew it back together & never use the ATN Tacker with the asymmetrical again.

All things considered, we had a very, very good crossing ---- far better than either of us expected. Only thing we were surprised about is that we had heard this is a downwind passage and we had not expected to sail so often close-hauled or on beam reach. There were only about 5 days that we really sailed downwind.

Passage was just short of 480 hours; 19 days 23 hours 40 minutes to be exact.
Engine was run 21% of the passage time.
Generator was run 56.8 hours (charging batteries, making water, doing laundry).
Averaged 151 miles made good per day.
Averages 6.3 knots velocity made good.
Used 355 liters diesel (about half our main tank capacity; never touched the extra 10 jerry jugs of diesel)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tortoises, lava tubes, enjoying Santa Cruz

2008-04-27 to 05-01
Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

Puerto Ayora is quite the tourist town.  Almost 70% of the economy of the Galapagos Islands is derived from tourism, another 20% from exporting wahoo and other fish to the mainland and nearly 10% from agriculture.  In recent years Santa Cruz has experienced 7% population growth annually with a total population of around 12,000 to 14,000 today.   Approximately 120,000 tourists visit here each year.  Each person who visits the Galapagos Islands is supposed to pay the $100 park fee, whether they arrive via airplane or boat.  The waters surrounding the islands comprise the Galapagos Marine Reserve and are protected.  It is illegal to remove any marine wildlife.  Guess the cruisers better hope they don’t get caught trailing fishing lines while sailing through this area.

The $100 park fee is distributed as shown below:
Galapagos National Park – 40%
Galapagos Marine Reserve - 5%
Quarantine and Inspection Service – 5%
National network of Protected Areas – 5%
Ecuadorian Army – 5%
Galapagos National Institute – INGALA – 10%
Galapagos Provincial Council – 10%
Local Authorities (Town Halls) – 20%

Some cruisers have the mistaken idea that they are not required to pay this park fee unless they participate in an organized tour.  Not true; the entire Galapagos Islands area is inside the designated national park; some parts are called reserve but it is all part of the park.  This is such a unique environment that paying $100 each to visit should not be considered a burden, especially since the largest portion of the fee goes to protect the environment.  So much of the local environment has already been destroyed and they are doing their best to preserve what remains.

Yesterday we did what is called the Highlands tour.  Rancho Primicias is private property but of course is located inside the national park.  It is owned by one of the older families of Santa Cruz.  Our guide was wonderful.  His name is Dario Morales and he speaks English exceptionally well.  Dario plans to become a private tourist guide in 2010.  He hopes to specialize in the Galapagos Islands since this is his home but also provide unique tours in remote areas of mainland Ecuador.  Dario’s mother is of indigenous heritage from mainland Ecuador and his father was of Spanish Ecuadorian ancestry.  Dario was born in Santa Cruz in 1985, but he has visited relatives and has friends in many remote areas of Ecuador.  Dario speaks English, Spanish and one of the rare indigenous languages.  He is intelligent and has studied and knows the geography, history and environment very thoroughly.  He should make a wonderful personal guide.  If you are planning to visit Santa Cruz anytime soon, we would highly recommend Dario Morales as a guide.  He can be contacted at or his cell phone is 091262874.  Sorry, I don’t know the country code or area code and do not know if additional prefix numbers are required to call internationally.  Dario also works at Ida Mario Yacht in Santa Cruz, work phone number 02526117.  Guarantee you that he is the best guide in the Galapagos Islands.

The Highlands tour is very simple – we just walked around the premises of Rancho Primicias looking for giant tortoises and then walked partway through a lava tube.  Dario pointed out various plants and animals along our route.  Unfortunately, this is the time of year when most of the male tortoises migrate down to the lowlands to mate so there was not the abundance of tortoises that one might find at other times, but we saw a total of five.  We did spot one very large tortoise cooling himself in a pond filled with green algae.  A tortoise must maintain his body temperature between 15C and 35C or he will die, so they require ponds for this purpose. 

The shell of a male tortoise displays rings inside each section which indicate his age – sort of like the rings inside a cross-section of a tree trunk.  But the rings do not change past the age of 80-90 years.  So you can tell if a tortoise is 90 years old but cannot tell much after that age.  It would be impossible to tell if a tortoise is 170 or 120 years old based on the rings of his shell sections, only that he was older than 90 years.  The shell of a female tortoise has smooth sections; no rings.  The female is also considerably smaller than the male.  Lonesome George is a tortoise believed to be about 175 years old and is the last of his species.  The researchers have tried to mate him with the most similar species but he has shown no interest whatsoever.  Sorry we missed old George but not doing that long walk in the heat again just to see him.

The 2 primary reasons of death of adult tortoises are a result of mating mishaps.  When the male mounts the female to mate, he places his front feet on the shell of the female on each side of her head.  The shell actually curves up at these places so nature made allowance for this practice and put perfect footholds in the correct positions.  However, sometimes the male will lose his balance and a foot will slip out of place on the female’s shell.  When this happens the entire weight of the male drops down onto the female’s back and splits her shell and kills her.  The second problem is that sometimes the male loses his balance when dismounting from the female and turns over towards her side instead of backing off towards the rear.  When this happens then the male ends up turned onto his back.  If a park guide or a guard finds the tortoise soon enough then they can turn him over and he will be fine.  But most times the tortoise will be left on his back and he will die of starvation or excessive body heat.  We were fortunate to see both male and female tortoises during our walk around Rancho Primicias.

I said in our last log that each island in the Galapagos has a different species of giant tortoise.  This is also true of the land iguanas.  Isla Isabella was formed by several volcanoes.  The area near each volcano has a different species of land iguana and they cannot successfully interbreed.  Sometimes the iguanas do mate between species but the baby iguanas of mixed species do not live beyond 2 years.  Maybe this will change over the centuries and eventually produce viable offspring and a new sub-species, but for now the baby iguanas of mixed species all die.

Next was a quick stop at the snack bar and gift shop where we bought the obligatory tee shirts for our grandson and granddaughter.  Since we have no idea when we will see them again we bought 7-year-old Zach a size mans small and 6-year-old BeBe a ladies small.  Hopefully they won’t have outgrown those sizes before we see them again!

A short drive later brought us to the lava tube.  This was what I have wanted to see for years.  A lava tube is formed when part of the lava has cooled and hardened but a stream of hot liquid lava still continues to flow beneath it.   The result looks like a man-made tunnel.  This particular lava tube is very large, ranging 10 to 20 feet high and 15 feet wide.  Water continually drips down from the ceiling of the lava tube so it is muddy inside.  This lava tube is approximately 2 kilometers long and is partially collapsed at the far end.  It is passable but is only about 4-feet high at the final section.  Neither Bill nor I were keen on crawling through mud to exit the lava tunnel and there was no way my knees could squat and duck-walk through there, so we opted to walk half-way and turn around and exit from the main entrance.

As we exited the lava tube were treated to a small tree filled with Darwin’s Finches.  Like all wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, these birds exhibited no fear of mankind.  We stood right next to them and they weren’t bothered by our presence in the slightest.

Several days ago we attempted to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center to see Lonesome George and the land iguanas, but we never found the center.  Supposedly we were within a block of it but couldn’t find it.  They have no signs here.  It was hot and we were hungry so decided to blow it off and went back to town for lunch. 

BTW, the red-footed booby that visited our boat several hundred miles before we arrived here was something special.  Most people here have only seen the blue-footed boobies.  Dario explained why.  The blue-footed boobies feed near-coastal so are commonly seen all around the shores of the Galapagos Islands.  The red-footed boobies, OTOH, are native to the small northernmost uninhabited islands of the Galapagos.  And the red-footed boobies feed on squid way offshore.  That also explains the black stains all over the foredeck near where the booby sat on the rail – squid ink.

Isla Isabella is the largest island in the Galapagos and is located west of Santa Cruz.  We do not have permission to go there.  Could have taken a tour from here but would have had to leave our boat for 3 days.  FREE SPIRIT offered to watch our boat in our absence, but we just would not feel comfortable leaving our boat on anchor like that.  There are penguins on Isabella and the second largest volcano crater in the world and many species of land iguanas and many other interesting things to see, but guess we will be giving Isabella a miss.  There are boat tours available to go to another smaller island to see fur seals but we will skip that also.  Galapagos would get a lot more of our tourist dollars if they would allow us to take our boat to these various places.

Tomorrow a diver is supposed to come clean the bottom of our boat.  The scum line around the boat is filthy and really bothering me.  We have no idea of the condition of the actual bottom of the boat or the prop since we can’t see those, but want it all cleaned before the next long passage.  There are many sharks around our boat but that isn’t the reason that Bill and I aren’t doing this job ourselves.  We aren’t afraid of the sharks bothering us (they are NOT white-tipped sharks).  Bill would have to kit-up with his diving gear in order to clean the bottom of the boat and that would mean finding a place to re-fill the air tank that he would use, because we want to leave here with both air tanks full.  Plus, this water is cold and Bill detests cold water.  Simpler to pay someone else to do it.  Diesel also will be delivered tomorrow to top off our tank and jerry jugs.  The agent will clear us out and bring our final bill. 

We plan to leave Saturday morning for the 3,000 mile passage to the Marquesas.  This passage could take 18-30 days, depending on wind and current.  It is the longest passage we will ever make; longer than crossing the entire Atlantic Ocean.  BeBe is in great shape and we think we are physically and mentally up to the passage.  We both know that the boat is a lot stronger than we are.  Our biggest challenge is likely to be boredom.  If the SSB signal is good we will try to send a few updates along the way and have our son Trey post them to the website while we are enroute.  But SSB is not always reliable so don’t worry if those updates don’t get posted.  Next posting to this site might be a month away.