Wednesday, November 05, 2008


IguanaOur twenty day permitted stay has expired and we began the passage to Mexico this morning. We had hoped to spend time cruising the coast of Costa Rica on our way to Mexico but we ran into a minor detail. Costa Rica requires a yellow fever vaccination when coming from Ecuador. But since the Galapagos, and parts of Ecuador, do not have yellow fever the vaccine is not available on the islands. One option would have been to sail to the mainland of Ecuador and obtain shots there, but we didn't want to make the extra trip, though we heard many nice things from cruisers who spent time in Ecuador. So we will go directly to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a distance of about 1700 nm, and taking about 2 weeks. We expect to have some wind the first third of the distance and maybe second third of the way, but definitely expect to have to motor the last third of the way.

As a private yacht, the current policy in the Galapagos limits your stay to one of three anchorages, each a settlement or town on a different island. A cruising permit can be obtained in advance that allows a yacht to cruise the islands for 30 days at $200/day and requires the services of a guide.

We choose to enter and stay at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the eastern most island of San Cristobal because we heard it's not as crowded as Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz and not as small as Puerto Villamil on Isabela where it would be difficult to get what we needed to continue - fuel, water and provisions. And we had heard from various friends who had been here previously that one could view ninety percent of the wildlife found on any of the three larger islands.

Pto Baquerizo MorenoPto Baquerizo MorenoPto Baquerizo MorenoPto Baquerizo MorenoPto Baquerizo Moreno
Upon arrival there was only one other foreign yacht in the well protected bay. By the time we left, four other yachts had arrived, all headed into the South Pacific. A few days after we arrived we woke up to find an Australian catamaran anchored next to us. There was also a Coast Guard zodiac with six armed men at the yacht. The catamaran was on a delivery trip from Florida to Australia and the crew was stopping for a few days for provisions before continuing. Unfortunately they had stopped in an unapproved anchorage the night before and were caught. They were escorted into Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by the Coast Guard Cutter and escorted ashore to the Capitania. Initially a fine of $5000 was levied against the yacht but the captain was able to get it down to $150! The number of small charter boats that work in the Galapagos make it impossible for a private yacht to "sneak" into an unapproved anchorage.

Pto Baquerizo MorenoPelicanLobo Tourist Share BeachThis is the off season, but everyday 4 to 6 small charter boats (approx 20 passengers on each) arrive early in the morning to off-load passengers, clean the boat, and take on new passengers when the plane from the mainland arrives around noon. Each morning, when we'd get up, we'd look to see what charter boats were in town. We actually took advantage of the passenger change over and to seek out an American couple we asked to take our absentee ballots back to the States and mail it for us. The charter boats are all doing more or less the same 7 night cruise, so we are assuming that many of the isolated anchorages aren't so isolated. Scuba diving, said to be some of the best, is one of the big draws. And the weather has been very pleasant considering we are right on the Equator.

Blue Footed BoobiesBlue Footed BoobyCactiTreeCactus CloseupCandalabra ForestLas TijeretasA visit to the islands is not complete without viewing the wildlife. The small beaches around the bay offered many opportunities for viewing sea lions, aquatic iguanas, brown pelican, and blue footed boobies. Frigate birds can be found whirling overhead, scavengers of the sky. On the beach and rocks in the center of town there is a nursery for new sea lion pups. It's amusing to watch them awkwardly chase each other in the sand and in the small pools in the rocks. Blue footed boobies fish in the harbor and local coves and can be seen dive bombing 10-15 feet into the water then bobbing up and taking off again. The giant tortoises are now only found in protected reserves where eggs are now being collected when laid and incubated, hatched and reared until big enough to release into the reserve. The island of Isabela has four species of the giant tortoises, including the largest, but unfortunately they’re still hunted by some locals and need better protection.

IguanaIguana CloseupLazy LobosLobo BabiesLobo CloseupLobo CloseupLobo Family NapLobo JuvenileLobos IguanasNormally, when on anchor, we launch our inflatable dinghy to get ashore. But the sea lions have taken over the anchorage and will get on any platform to sun and sleep. There were a couple of fishing boats that were not being used that had five or six who seemed to have moved onboard. One had to walk around them at the city dock when getting in and out of dinghies. Initially we did launch our dinghy but the first night it was in the water we had a sea lion move in. In the morning he left quite a mess that needed to be cleaned up. Once was enough for Mark. Luckily there is a water taxi service in the bay to get us ashore, so we left our dinghy on deck and supported the local economy.

San Cristobal Taxi
It was almost exactly three years ago that we crossed the Equator into the southern hemisphere and in 20 nm and we will cross back in the northern hemisphere. Looking forward to good Mexican food!

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