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Panama - Galápagos 13.5. - 30.5.2002

updates: 13.5.  19.5.  24.5.  30.5.

13.5.2002 Balboa, Panama
Tomorrow, Tuesday, we will start towards the Galapagos islands 850 miles away, which takes about ten days. Today we clear ourselves out, buy some vegetables from the market, and take water and diesel.

19.5.2002 Pacific Ocean  2º 34' N  84º 18 W  (350 miles to the Galapagos)
We left Panama behind us on Tuesday (14.5.) noon, heading west. Or actually first south, out of the Panama Bay. We got very good northerly wind and with the help of a current we were making 8-9 knots on the first day. But the next five days have been gray and rainy fight against the wind. Where are the tradewinds?! This was not supposed to be tacking! The grey scenery remains us of the Baltic Sea. Spinnaker was ready on the deck, just waiting to be hoisted, and so did the second genoa. But the wind was right from the nose. We began to be frustrated since expectations were something else.
In addition, the speed was very slow, only 3-4 knots the first four days. Obviously we had a current against us. Sometimes it felt that we made no progress at all, just tacked back and forth. Kristiina is not a tacker. 
The wind is rather moderate, about 10-15 knots, and waves quite low. But twice the genoa halyard has broken when the boat hit a bigger wave. The temperature has cooled nicely under 30 deg. C.

Along the equator situates an area of low pressure with rain and calms, that is called the doldrums or ITCZ, the intertropical convergnce zone. The tradewinds blow on both sides of this zone, and in south they should be southeasterlies. But we have got southwesterlies.

After the busy traffic of the Panama Bay we have not seen ships, but one small open boat! We saw something that looks like a boat and three men in it, but couldn't believe our eyes. We thought that it is some kind of weather buoy with lots of antennas. But is was a boat. The nearest coast, Columbia, was 240 miles away. The boat had one overboard motor and no shelter. We were so astonished, that just passed by. Maybe a little afraid also after all the talk about Columbian pirates and drug traffic. The men must keep the lonely Malpelo island as their base, which we could hardly see in the horisont.
The next evening we were scared by a helicopter that flew without lights. It curved low near us and vanished into the dark. Again we wondered what that was, there was 250 miles to the shore. Later that night we met a ship, maybe the helicopter was from there.

The daily routine and watches have found their place. During the daytime we don't have watch turns, but the night goes so, that Lissu begins with 21-24, Hannu takes the next watch at 24-03, and Auli the last 03-06. When that ends, it starts to be light and everybody comes out for coffee. During the day we take snaps, read, eat and do this and that. We have seen dolphins only during the night, when the phosphorus creatures zip under the water. We saw about ten pilot whales a bit away from the boat, and a beautiful gannet, that looks a little different than the Northern ones. During the nights two seagulls follow Kristiina.

We haven't had any luck with fishing. Twice it has snapped: on the first time the fish broke the rod and gone was the 15 dollar Rapala, the second time we lost a plastic octopus and some line. Hannu put a heavy cod line, that can take 300 kilos, with another octopus, but no results yet.

The day consists also a regular morning and evening radiotalk with Cassandra. Riku and Iiro had a good start, making around 180 miles a day, but on the fourth day they broke one of the mast fastenings, and they had to turn to Ecuador, seeking help in a place called Esmeralda. We gave a few waypoints and the next day Cassandra got safely into the harbour. Fixing was rapid and now the boat is ready to continue towards the Galapagos islands again. They have about 500 miles to sail.

On the 20th of May is Auli's birthday and we will eat reindeer - no matter what the weather is like!

24.5.2002 San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Kristiina crossed the equator on the 22nd of May at 13.32 boat time (18.32 UTC). The longitude was 88° 38,8' W. The sea was even calmer than before, so Auli and Lissu made the crossing in water while Hannu kept a lookout for the sharks. Cassandra's guys had seen a couple of sharks that had prevented them from swimming, but fortunately we didn't see any. The celebration of the crossing continued in a pleasant 1-2 knots speed. Neptunus had forgotten tar and feathers, so instead we dressed up for a photo. Hannu took out his snowboard and almost sacrified it to the gods of sea because of the rust. Also our equator drinks tasted sweet instead of bitter, which good old Neptunus would have demanded. The day was perfected by a tuna fish dinner, eaten around the cockpit table - a rarity at the sea.

We got an other Finnish boat to our daily radio talks, a 42-foot Swan Aida, who is 3000 miles away on the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia. They have given us good tips what to expect.

Wind did not fresh up much during the last 24-hours, so the sailing was lazy. On Thursday (23.5.) just with the sunrise, which colored the sea and the sky to orange-gold-yellow, we arrived to San Cristóbal in the Galápagos Islands. A flock of dolphins jumped towards us. Soon we saw big, round things in the water; turtles. They did not react to the boat or motoring until very close, maybe a poor sense of hearing.
The bay of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is occupied by the sea lions. They look like seal, and have terrible voice, like a giant belch or a hoarse sheep. There are tens of sea lions and they have occupied not only the beach but also the fishermen's boats. It's best to take the dinghy up, they seem to like rubber boats (maybe they favour red!). We had to take our inflatable up anyway, because we discovered a hole in the bottom. When riding to shore, one had to keep his/her tumb on the hole.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, also know as the Wreck Bay by the sailors, is the capital of the Galápagos Islands, although the village is smaller than Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay) on Santa Cruz. The navy base is located in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and the entry formalities was taken care by an officer dressed in a shiny, white uniform. The sailing permission and other fees are based on the tonnage, and Kristiina's 11 ton ended up to 106 dollars.
The black volcanic stone streets of the village were soon walked through: small food shops, a couple of hotels, souvenir shops, a bank, a post office, a internet place, small bars and cafés. We didn't see tourists and the life seemed to be pleasantly quiet. We found warm, fresh empanadas in a small café. The nine days at sea took it's share, so we returned to Kristiina and had an early night.


The guard

The Galápagos Islands, 19 volcanic islands and 42 islets, is located on equator, about 1000 km west from South America. The Islands has been part of Ecuador since 1832. Galápagos Islands has had several names, telling about its history. The islands were found - like so many other places that time - by coincidence, when the ship of the bishop of Panama got lost on its voyage to Peru in 1535. Strong currents misled other ships as well, and the islands were called Las Islas Encantadas  (enchanted), because occasionally they were found where they should be, occasionally not. The best known name, the Galápagos (turtles in Spanish) is characteristic, giant turtles came to meet us already at the sea. They have been really numerous, but pirates on the 1700th century and whalers on the 1900th century hunted them almost to extinction.
On some charts is printed Archipélago de Colón, a name that Ecuador gave to Islands to honor Cristoffer Kolumbus, even he never sailed on the Pacific.
Geologically, the islands are young, some five million years old. They have been formed by a volcanic eruption. Watching the wide archipelago and high tops, one can just imagine what kind of "fireworks" and giant eruptions their formation have demanded. There are some 2000 craters.
Natural scientist Charles Darwin made Galápagos widely and best known by his evolution theory, for which he got an idea on his trip to the islands in 1835. It took over 20 years, however, before he published his Origin of Species in 1859.
The flora and fauna of Galápagos is special, indeed. Before human beings there were only a few mammals, but even more reptiles and birds. Darwin was especially interested in several species of finch, who all have different, but purposeful bill. He assumed that the different species had one, common proto species.
The fauna of the islands has developed here, isolated from the rest of the world. Also the different circumstances of the various islands have made the place unique. Here are species, that have not been found elsewhere, f.ex. the most Northern penguin and the flightless cormorant.
Galápagos Islands was declared as a natural park in 1959, and it was taken on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978. In 1986, a marine protection area was formed, and in 1998 it was expanded 40 miles offshore. This together with limitations in catching quotas and methods, irritated the local fishermen. On Santa Cruz is located the Charles Darwin research station. There are about 20.000 inhabitants on the islands, and they are visited by 60.000 tourists every year.

30.5.2002 Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Besides the sea lions, tortoises and turtles, we have now seen the sea iguana. It is about one meter long, very ugly, spitting creature, but also very photogenic. It became Auli's favorite animal immediately! Unlike the land iguanas this species eats seagrass under water. It comes up to the hot lavarocks to get warmth in its body. Sea iguanas are found only on the Galápagaos Islands.

 

The week in San Cristóbal went quickly. Cassandra arrived in the night to Sunday. Skipper Riku had hurt his back three days before, and he was not able to sit or walk. It was a prolapsed disc, not a small thing at all. Together with Iiro we got a doctor aboard, and organised a transportation the next day. It was not an easy task to get a big man out of the small and deep companionway. Our dinghies were out of question, but luckily there were other open boats in the harbour. From the Navy Base we got stretcher and some bearer help, even it took several talks (in Spanish) with the officers before it was clear that the patient is in the boat. Riku was feeling a bit better when he got to the hospital, therefore he moved into a hotel. He flew to the continent on Wednesday and arranged a fabulous dinner for us in the last evening. Before the meal we got him with the stretcher in a pick-up taxi and drove to the beach to watch and smell the sea lions, and to a bar for a beer.
Iiro stayed in San Cristóbal waiting for a crew and we sailed to Floreana 60 miles away in Thursday morning. The sea lions had made a trick during our last night: the dinghy was full of shit and smelled so bad that Hannu was near to throw up when he took the outboard up. You can still sense the smell after we have used three different detergents.

On the small Floreana island lives only some 70 people, some of them divers who catch the sea cucumber. Up on the hills grows bananas, oranges, yuca and grape fruits. We picked up our backbags full of oranges and guavas from the trees along the road. On the hills is also located a tortoise farm, where we made a trip with the people from the other boat in the bay. They, parents and a 9-year old boy, come from Austria, and are on their third round-the-world trip. Before they have passed the Galápagos Islands, but now they stopped in Floreana. It is first time we see the Austrian flag on a boat, we even had to check that from a book, although Lissu recongnised the flag immediately.
The giant tortoise, galapago, lives on land and can be 200 years old. There are still 14 species on the islands, and they all hav different shell. The best way to see them is on the farms.

Tomorrow, the 2nd of June, we start our 3000 mile sailing to the Marquesas. We estimate that it takes three weeks.

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