Isla Isabela, Galapagos (April 3, 2005)
We have been enjoying the Galapagos, although much of it is reminiscent of being on safari in Kenya.    
You have a sense of wanting to “check off” all of the animals you are supposed to see in this enchanted
place.  We are controlled in where we can anchor and what areas that we can visit.  We have obtained a
cruising permit which allows us to visit the 5 inhabited ports.  Unfortunately, we can not just drop the hook
(anchor) wherever it pleases us.   Fortunately, we have had one anchorage at Isla Floreana to ourselves.

We have snorkeled with sea lions.  Yes, sea lions- California sea lions.  Yes, the scourge of Pier 39 in
San Francisco and Monterey, California harbor.  Underwater when they are doing their amazing dance of
twists and twirls as the come up to you face to face and hold your gaze, you gain respect for their
intelligence.  

We have snorkeled with turtles as they let us swim with them and touch them on their backs.  We have
had marine iguanas “spit” at us.  (The scientific terminology for this is ejection of salt excess through the
nostrils—to warn off potential predators).  

Lou and I got to dive near Isla Floreana with Galapagos sharks, white tipped sharks, manta rays, moray
eels and turtles.  I got kind of spooked on this dive.  My weight belt slipped off twice and the second time,
my mask filled up with water as I was trying to clear it.  Lou and the divemaster were holding me from
floating up since I was wearing a thick wetsuit (the water temp was around 65 degrees ).  I was quickly
approaching panic mode, but I got things under control thanks to the divemaster and Lou.  But, all I
wanted to do was to get back to the surface.  So, the divemaster went with me back to the dive boat.  
Then he returned to Lou and our other dive companion and they continued the dive.

We have seen the giant Galapagos Tortoise.  What an amazing and docile creature!  They are doing
many things to secure the tortoise population.  The tortoise was almost obliterated by the crews of pirate
ships and whaling ships that found that the tortoise could be kept alive on its back for months in the hold
of their ships—making for a tasty meal!  They would not win a beauty contest.  I remember there being
giant tortoises in the Topeka zoo.  I wonder if that one was from the Galapagos or from the Seychelles—
the only two places where they have been found.  

We’ve seen pink flamingoes, penguins and blue-footed boobies.  I watch the Darwin finches with great
awe since I have read this book, “The Beak of the Finch”.  They are evolution in almost visible action.  I
just wish that I had the patience to just watch these animals and get to know their lives a little better.  

The blue footed boobies are peculiar hunters.  Here we are sitting pleasantly at anchor when you hear
this huge splash next to the boat.  You look out and see the splash rings.  Seconds later the booby
appears, looking like “Hey, doesn’t everybody divebomb into the water from 40 feet, submerge about 10
feet or so and pop right back up?”  

And then the other mammals—the humans.  This has been an interesting experience in the Galapagos.  
My first take was that I really liked the Ecuadorian people that live in the Galapagos.  They enjoy their
islands.  Young and old are at the beaches.  They seem to have a good life.  The siesta is religiously
followed with shops being closed from 12-3 everyday.  

However, our encounters with the homo sapiens that are  Port Captains have left me dismayed.  So, we
have this cruising permit, which we had to pay an agent to secure for us.  This allows us to visit the five
inhabited ports and stay for 30 days (this permit could be as long as 90 days).    Many other cruisers do
not have this permit.  The regulations say that they can visit only one port and stay for 20 days.  If they
want to go to any other island, they have to go by a charter boat.  The Port Captains have let some of
these cruisers know that this situation is a “bribable” one.  This just starts an unhealthy dance.  Port
Captains and their staff are only stationed in the Galapagos for a year.  This also leads to, how should I
say, local interpretations of the regulations.  They move out here with their families away from their
homes in mainland Ecuador.  They are not locals.

In honesty, I don’t know what is more dismaying—the way the Port Captains are handling the situation or
the cruisers that wish to buck the regulations.  I’m afraid cruisers won’t be allowed in these islands if they
keep breaking the rules.  We’ll be seen as a liability rather than an asset.

We have had some wonderful tours of these islands.  We enjoyed the hike and horseback ride around
the rim of the second largest volcanic crater in the world and then to the scene of a 1979 volcanic
eruption.  This moonscape is awesome to see with little visible life—until you look closely.  The children
found an inchworm!  

We also enjoyed being on the island of Floreana by ourselves.  This island was populated by some
Germans in the 1930s.  Some of these residents lived in caves in the highlands.  This was where the
main fresh water source is and where  the climate is a bit cooler.   The situation got complicated when a
German  woman and her two (or three) lovers moved to Floreanna in the late 30s and declared herself
Empress of the Island.  This was not a welcome declaration.  The Empress and one of her lovers
disappeared.  And there were a couple of other deaths associated with this period.   One of the German
families remains there and runs a simple and inviting guesthouse.    We were given a guided tour of the
caves by some local boys.  Emily and Martin enjoyed getting to know these boys.

Martin and Lou have gotten to go surfing a few times in these islands.  Martin wants to buy another
surfboard.  Any money-making ideas for him would be greatly appreciated.

So, our big challenge was the total meltdown of the control unit on our fridge.  We have been in e-mail
communication with the fridge customer service people.  But, there is a small chance that we will be able
to get the fridge running again before we take off for French Polynesia.  Neither Lou and I got stressed
about this.  I started reading and asking other cruisers about living without refrigeration.  What I’m trying
to do is save my cheese and butter.  Which sounds relatively easy.  If you have any recommendations for
me, I will love to hear it.  Remember we are in the tropics and the water temp is 65 degrees (thanks in the
Galapagos to the Humboldt Current), and will rise to 80 as we sail west.  This will be the lowest water
temp we will see so the bilge/hold is not very cool.  Giant tortoises in our hold aren’t an option!  So, think
of us when you have those chilled beers and ice in your drinks.  Again, I feel your overwhelming
sympathy!  

Lou and I aren’t feeling any anxiety as we prepare to head out on our longest ocean passage.  Ace is in
great shape with her new sails!  We have a new set of cruiser friends that we will be communicating with
on single sideband radio.  Emily will be running a kids net as we go along.  It will take us between 20-25
days.  We’ll send position reports daily and you can check up on our progress.   Give three cheers for us
if we have 150 mile plus days (24 hour period remember!)

Please know we will be getting a great boost from all of your thoughts and prayers as we make this
passage.  We will love to get your e-mails.  We love to hear your stories from home.  With this new group
of cruisers, I’m hesitant to make close friends.  The goodbyes are hard for me.  Plus, I miss my friends—
that just know me and love me anyway—without too much explanation.     

What we are reading:

Lou—French for Dummies and looking for more books

Mary—Beak of the Finch (yes, still!)  

Emily is rationing herself so that she doesn’t run out of reads for the crossing.  She has about ten books,
so I think she’ll be just fine.

Martin- Redwall.   
We rode on horseback to see a big
volcano crater.
They say this is the 2nd largest
volcano crater in the world, about 6
miles across.
Riding another mile or so past the
crater, we get to a lava flow from the
late 1970s.  A spectacular landscape.
A blue footed booby party held right
next to our boat.  
These penguins resided near Ace.  
They let us get pretty close to them
before plopping into the water.
No- this isn't someone's lawn
ornament!  This is a genuine Pink
Flamingo on Isla Isabela.
Emily and Lou in some caves on Isla
Floreana.  This is where the German
settlers lived in the middle part of the
20th century.
We enjoyed our encounters with the
sea turtles in the Galapagos.  A friend
took this picture and the following
pictures on a dive we made with them.
A moray eel letting us know that this
was his territory.
A white tipped shark.  A common site in
the waters surrounding the Galapagos.


These marine iguanas are found only
in the Galapagos.  Underneath their
precarious perch are resting white
tipped sharks.  No spitting guys!