Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Passage to the Galapagos

Long passages like this 953 mile journey from Panama to the Galapagos makes you really look forward to your destination, like a child counting the days until her birthday.

Today, 5 pm Monday the 22nd of February, we have been away from land for five nights. We just crossed the Equator for the third time, gave King Neptune some sacrificial rum and asked him to continue to be kind to us. We are now officially back in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Back because we crossed the Equator in August when we sailed to mainland Ecuador and lived in Bahia de Caraquez for three months. Isla San Cristobal, the only Galapagos Island with fresh water, is 55 miles away. We’re moving slowly towards it on this moody on again off again windy and rainy day.

Our friends on the catamaran Stray Kitty offered to come out in their dinghy in the middle of the night and help us navigate the entrance, but instead of waking them up at the witching hours, we’ll slow down and time our arrival for dawn tomorrow. Every morning at 9 am we check in with other boats via our single sideband radio on the Pan Pacific Net. Stray Kitty, a Canadian family of five, arrived in San Cristobal about one week ago and they told us that they need to fend off the sea lions who climb on their boat. One even managed to make his way up to their cockpit cushions and demand breakfast.

But back to passages….Last Wednesday Feb. 18 at four pm, we left the idyllic island of Jicaron in western Panama where we swam in clear blue water, had tiny freshwater shrimp clean our toenails and fingernails (look closely - not at my beautiful manicured toes, but at the diaphanous tiny shrimp near my second and third toes)

and ate fresh coconuts on the beach.

As we sailed away romantically towards the orange pink sunset, I was feeling nervous heading out to sea.

This was going to be our longest sail so far – it was 673 miles (we had shaved 200 miles by sailing to western Panama.) “I’m looking forward to this passage,” says Tim and I smile, wondering whether I was looking forward to the passage or dreading it.

I always struggle the first few nights at sea. Getting used to being awake from 11:00 pm until 1:00 in the morning and then again from 4:00 to 7:00 am is difficult, especially since I love to sleep and hate to be woken up in the middle of a dream. When it isn’t too windy, I like to listen to various podcasts and audiobooks to help me stay awake and entertained. I wish I could watch the winter Olympics but unfortunately we don’t have television coverage out at sea or anytime on the boat. You know, sailing is about doing with less.

The first few days, I also always feel a little out of it and desperately need a siesta during the day. But then my body slowly adjusts to keeping vampire hours. Being in perpetual motion is also hard for the kids, so instead of our typical school, this passage we’ve been learning about the moon and the stars, memorizing the Presidents of the United States, playing the recorder, dissecting squids (one just landed on our deck) and reading continuously. Maya and I are enthralled with the book, A Sheltered Life, The Unexpected History of the Giant Tortoise. It’s a perfect way for us to learn how Charles Darwin came up with his evolution of species theory. According to the author Paul Chambers, it was the Galapagos Tortoise, not the finches, that gave him the important clue that animals change and evolve into new species depending on what they eat and where they live.

Maya also just starting doing watches and has been helping out by taking an hour watch from 3:30 to 4:30 in the morning when the wind and weather permit. What other 10 year old is awake at such hours?

Our journey so far has been mixed with a strong breeze the first few days where we sailed at about 7 knots. Then on Day 3, we were brought to a screaming halt from the ITCZ, the inter tropical convergence zone. Also known as the doldrums, the ITCZ is an area of low pressure caused by the convergence of the northern and southern trade winds and that translates to hot windless days. We tried to sail, but then opted to motor. I hate it when Kamaya becomes a noisy motor boat, but it’s better than drifting all day and night.

Then yesterday, we had our first rain in a long time. When the rain stopped, the wind shifted and came straight ahead of us. We’ve been beating ever since, with light wind and a strong current pushing us north of Isla San Cristobal, but we'll manage to get there somehow. We’re almost there! I’m so excited to see the Galapagos!

That evening, the rain poured and lightning and thunder blasted from the sky. It was the worst sail so far and we could hardly see ten feet of front of us. With limited visibility, radar enabled us to see the contours of land, ships and even rain clouds. We arrived at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno at 8:00 in the morning and the rain ceased. According to the locals, this was one of the worst storms they had in many years. The otherwise aquarium clear water has turned a reddish brown mucky color. Their beach in front of the town is cleared away. But we’re here and so happy to be here with the Galapagos tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas and the famous finches and mockingbirds!

1 comment:

Jim and Heather on Meerkat said...

Congrats on your arrival! And to Maya for doing nightwatches. I still have the "Gods-eye" she made us hanging inside our cabin. Enjoy :)

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