Passage to Galapagos (March 2005)
Update- March 24, 2005, Passage to Galapagos

We are in the Galapagos!  Yes, we finally got out of that big city of Panama.  Martin had gotten really fed
up with Panama City and would refuse to go into the city (even if lured with a trip to get ice cream).  On
what we thought was our final run into the city, Martin was making announcements to anyone that was in
shouting range that this was his last trip into this city.  And that he was glad!   There is so much noise all
the time in the city—the favorite pastime is to honk your horn at almost anyone—that I’m not sure if
anyone heard him.  Our first day on the passage to the Galapagos, Martin caught the first fish (a yummy
Sierra).

Our lives have been hectic the past couple of months.  You all are probably saying—oh sure!  I can feel
your sympathy pouring out!  Okay—just hear me out for a moment.  This is an interesting lifestyle, but I
would never define it as a vacation.    Our sailboat, Ace is not only our house, it is our vehicle.  The
complexities of its systems and the brutality of the marine environment shouldn’t be underestimated    As
we prepared for this passage to Galapagos and then to the Marquesas,  Lou has been focused on getting
Ace ready to make her longest ocean passage, with new sails, some engine repairs, and lots of other
maintenance issues..  

In Panama-  we have to haul the boat out again to replace a part we broke when we were last hauled out.  
We try the new main sail on and it is cut too long.  There are no sailmakers in Panama City.  So, we have
to determine whether it is better to have one of us fly back with the sail or have it shipped.  We find a
company that ships only to Miami at a “fair” price.  We ship the sail off hoping for the best.  In the
meantime, I’m starting to provision.  Some of the other cruisers going to the Marquesas are provisioning
for one year.  I can’t even think one year.  Let alone one week.  Emily and Martin are like most kids, just
when I think I got their food preferences dialed in—they change their list and then I have a whole lot of
something that nobody wants to eat.  But, I try…I try my hardest.  We hear that many things are expensive
in French Polynesia, except baguettes.  Guess what?  Emily and Martin love baguettes—I think we’re
going to be okay.  I hear that beer costs $57 a case in Tahiti.  Oh no… do we start home brewing or do I
stack up with cases of beer or do we just learn to drink the local drink straight?  You see  my dilemmas.

Lou in his realm of responsibilities was going through the same problems.

I also was responsible for getting our Visas from the French Embassy for French Polynesia.  We had a
dear French cruiser friend help us at the embassy.  You know how those French are about speaking
French.  My first visit to the embassy was in January to try and figure out what they needed from us to
grant a visa.  In the course of that meeting, the requirements changed three times!   So, when we came
back to the Embassy to apply for our visas—including bringing proof that should we die in their lovely
islands—our mortal remains will be promptly shipped out—we had all of our paperwork in order.  Our
French friend came with us and disclosed to me in the waiting room of the Embassy that she had written a
letter to the Ambassador describing to him that the way that the woman in charge of granting the visas was
not very kind to the applicants and basically, was not a good representative of the French people.  One of
the employees at the Embassy had just disclosed to my French friend that the woman granting the visas
was—yes, you guessed it—none other than the Ambassador’s wife!!!!  Yikes!  Oh well, we did get our
visas after a bit of dramatics.  

When we arrived in Panama in November, we had purchased our friend’s inflatable dinghy.  We had
decided to get a new dinghy because our old dinghy had floorboards that had rotted and we asked
around and we could not find marine plywood in Panama City.  So, we sold our dinghy (Ketchup—because
of her color or Catch-up because when we towed her behind Ace she was always trying to catch up!)   to
another cruiser.  Almost from the first day, we had buyer’s remorse.  The new dinghy had an inflatable
floor and a few small holes in it.  Lou tried all kinds of  repairs and nothing worked.  They were slow leaks—
relatively.  But we were unable to plane with the four of us and so every ride was a wet ride!  In the
meantime, the guy who had bought Ketchup was telling us how he found floorboards that would fit.  So,
the slow negotiations to get Ketchup back started.  The new owner of Ketchup was a bit cagey with Lou.  
But, Lou was persistent, kept his cool and worked along side him.  Lou worked out a deal to trade our new
dinghy for our old dinghy.   Lou found marine plywood in Panama City!  He worked at the boatyard and
made new floorboards.  Lou did a wonderful job.  Now, Ketchup is better and stronger than ever!  When I
took my first ride in her- it was like being back with an old friend.  And she planes without hesitation!

And now about our Passage to the Galapagos:

We sailed with great wind for the first 24 hours.  Then we motored and motored through the doldrums
north of the equator  We kept hoping for wind.  If we had to continue to motor, we would not have enough
diesel to make it to the Galapagos, because we were fighting 2 knots of adverse current.    The other
boats ahead of us were getting more wind, but even more of an adverse current.  Some boats were
reporting up to 3 knots pushing them the wrong way.  After 36 hours or so, the wind came back and our
worries were over.

Life on Ace on passage goes pretty well.  We have a watch schedule.  Lou and I take the night watches.  
Lou does from 8-12 and I do from 12-4.  Then, Emily and Martin take about 5 hours during the day.  Lou
and I take the rest.  When we are on a passage, this is the one of the times I feel most in love with my
family.  Its just us on this great big ocean.  You feel small and maybe a little bit vulnerable.  But, our family
feels strong and happy as we glide along this magical world.  The nights are filled with stars.  One night as
I groggily started my watch, I looked up into the heavens and saw a shooting star.  Kalpana throwing the
Ace crew a kiss!  That was the inspiration I needed to open my eyes, take a deep breath and be so
grateful for the beauty that we are getting to experience.

No one got seasick. None of us took any medicine—I guess we are becoming old salts. On Tuesday, we
were closehauled (sailing with the wind just off of our bow).  This is when the boat heels the most (the
sideways tilt thing).  Plus we had lumpy, bumpy seas.  A school holiday was declared—some kids have
snow days—we have lumpy, bumpy seas days.  I had prepared some meals ahead of time, so Lou and the
kids ate.  I didn’t feel like eating nor going down below for anything but the necessities.  

Once the winds filled in again—Ace sailed with such balance..  The new sails are beautiful.  We could set
the windvane (a self-steering device attached to the stern of the boat) and the sails for hours without
adjustment because the winds were so steady.  

Okay, I don’t want you to get so entranced by this idea that you do something crazy like quit your jobs, sell
your house and give away all your possessions and sail away.  You know me- I have to be honest!  There
has to be one problem, one conflict in this story right?  Can you guess?  Yes, our dear Martin came
through again to push us to the brink of turning the boat around and going home (wherever that is!).  One
thing I did was to sit down and snuggle with Martin.  We would just talk about what was going on in the boat
and in the family.  That worked out okay.  But, ultimately, Lou, Martin and I had to sit down and decide to
each make one change in the way we interacted.  

Emily was fantastic on the passage.  Even though her heart was sad to leave many of her friends (and
Cherry Garcia) in Panama City.   The group we were traveling with were mostly strangers to us.  They had
come through the canal from the Caribbean side.   There were 4 other boats with kids on board.  We had
a Single Sideband (SSB) net three times a day where we communicated with the other boats in the fleet.  
Emily took the initiative to set up a kids net.  She  ran the kids net very eloquently.  

For our crossing of the Equator we needed to pay our respects to Neptune.  None of us had crossed the
Equator on the seas before.  Emily wrote a beautiful poem.  We’ll include it on her webpage.   We played
some special music (John Denver’s Calypso).  We gave some champagne to Neptune and Emily and
Martin had their preferred Martinellis.  Martin played guitar.  We gave some foreign coins with nautical
themes to Neptune.

The next morning we sighted land—the Galapagos, the Enchanted Islands!  We were happy to see them,
but also sad to have this beautiful passage come to an end.   Our passage  took us 7 days,  6 hours.  

What we are reading:  
Emily and Martin are both reading Redwall.
Mary is reading The Beak of the Finch (still), Galapagos Islands (ask me about the  sex life of sea lions!)
and Sophie’s World (still) to the children
Lou is reading Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle, Quantum Theology, Kon-Tiki and Fatu Hiva by Thor
Heyerdahl.
Proof that we actually crossed the
equator.  There is no convenient dotted
blue line visible in the ocean, at least at
night.
Emily pulled in this tasty Sierra
Mackerel on our handine on the way
out of Panama, in her pajamas.
Our equator crossing party.  Hopefully
King Neptune was satisfied with our
offerings of champagne and coins from
around the world.
Landfall on Isla San Cristobal in the
Galapagos.