Galapagos Islands


April 20, 2002

Log: Leaving Bahia de Caraquez for Galapagos Islands
Wind 2.9kts
Seas calm

Finally on our way!! We have about 600 miles to go to reach the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. It will be our first stop in the S. Pacific. We are too far south to catch a few days of Caribbean trade winds that sometimes flow over into the Gulf of Panama but far enough south to catch a NW stream as well as the Humbolt current. We can either go south of 5 degrees for stronger winds and less current or stay north and ride the current but less wind. 8:30AM the pilot from Bahia motors out to catch us. Our designated time of departure was 7:AM but no one showed. The German boat ‘Cobra’ with Ingrid and Lutz aboard didn’t wait and motored on around us. There is still the contention about paying the $25 for the pilot as we can use our reciprocal GPS course to exit the river. The Germans think they are taking advantage of the cruisers and by paying we are spoiling it for other cruisers. Once past the sand bars to the entrance we dropped anchor. The captain goes overboard to clean the barnacles off the keel, prop and anchor chain. Decks are washed down, watermaker turned on to top off the tanks and everything stowed for the passage. 11:00AM we motor out into flat calm seas with reefed main for stability. White spotted dolphins grace our bow as we quietly head off into the west and vast open sea.

April 21, 2002

Log: Heading 266
Wind SE 10 kts.
Seas calm

The captain has chosen a good course. By midnight we are in the Humbolt current which is about 1 1/2 knots. Main is up full and jib out to catch the small amount of wind and stabilize the boat but still must motor most of night. 7:00AM wind up 10kts. out of SW so engine off, sails up and we are sailing 5-6 kts. on a close reach. Listening to the Net this AM we hear there is a problem with boats anchored on Isabella one of the Galapagos Islands. Several boats did not check in or out so the Navy sent a boat out to bring them back and fined them $5000. Every sailboat must check in and pay the required port entrance fees either on Isle San Cristobal, Isle Santa Cruz or Isla Isabella. It was not until recently that yachts were even welcome. Now we must stay within certain required island groups or pay exorbitant amounts of money and endless time processing permits as well as taking on a local guide at our expense of $200 a day to tour the Galapagos in our own boats. That does not include the $100 each for park fees. But we do understand it is possible to stop, pay the port fees and take a designated tour on one of their boats leaving ours at anchor.

April 22, 2002

Log: Heading 266
Wind 7.2kts.
Seas calm

Wind has died down so motoring once again. In the night the air felt cool so heavy clothing put on. We speculate it must be do to the Humbolt current and the cooler water temperatures. But the day is warm and sunny. A sense of peace prevails as we relax to the motion of Ariel. That is all but the captain. He is busy on the back deck cleaning out the carburetors on the dinghy engine. Some laundry gets washed and hung out on the lifelines to dry. It is calm enough to do computer work, and cook an involved Thai meal. Ariel is a well maintained working ship. Passages are a good time to catch up on projects and carry on further than the usual everyday living chores. We have a discussion with Georgiana about the close living of 4 people for over 6 months. We agree that lots of compromise is in order. We will see how it goes.

April 23, 2002

Log: Heading 263
Wind 8kts.
Seas calm

200 miles to go till we reach the Galapagos. Beautiful sunny day, temperature 80 degrees with intermittent wind. The wind seems to die down at night and pick up in the daytime. We take advantage of the sailing when possible or when the boat speed drops below 5kts to pick us up to at least 6.5kts. Big discussion today about when and who should make the decision about turning the engine on or making sail changes. Steve likes to keep the boat moving and not opposed to turning on the engine when the speed drops. But when the engine was turned off during the captains nap time it was a moment of pure panic that maybe someone had fallen overboard. It was decided the person that makes the decision to make a change must be willing to carry out follow up sail trims, reefing, jibing or putting up the whisker pole or whatever is called for. Everett and Georgiana do not go out of the cockpit while under power or sail unless it is flat calm. The captain will remain the decision maker since he and first mate will be making all the major physical sail changes. Ariel will remain under the same command as has always worked in the past.

                                                           GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

The Galapagos Islands are almost 600 miles off the west coast of South America and consist of over 60 islands and islets, 13 large islands, six smaller islands, and over 40 islets that have official names. The Ecuadorian government declared the Galapagos Islands a protected area in 1959. Today they are considered one of the most spectacular and pristine National Parks within a marine reserve of 45,000 square kilometers.
There are fewer places in the world where it is possible to find such a variety of species, both plant and animal, which show so many degrees of evolutionary changes, in such a restricted area. Charles Darwin the explorer and scientist was astounded by these observations which lead him to his masterpiece: The Origin of the Species. His work changed the concepts of science forever.

April 24, 2002

Log: Arriving from Bahia de Caraquez Ecuador to Galapagos Islands 561 nautical miles
Wind 10.2kts.
Seas calm, night squalls

Sailing into the night with squalls all around. Radar shows one 5 miles off another 1.7 miles but it barely affected Ariel’s sails with only a whisper of wind change. But an early morning squall did come up in time to wash Ariel’s decks before anchoring. 9:30Am anchored in Wreck Bay, Isla San Cristobal Galapagos Islands a nice 4 1/2 days passage.

                                    Wreck Bay, Isla San Cristobal Galapagos Islands

S/v Eros is next to us, Terry the captain we met in the Rio and now we have met his wife Phyllis and crew Jo and Jennifer. They explain the painless checking in process and we find it as laid back as the dozens of sea lions laying around on all the moored fishing boats. Georgiana and Everett have decided to go the tourist route and take one of the designer tours. The Galapagos Explorer is at anchor and leaving out of Wreck Bay at midnight.                                            

The Galapagos Explorer at $2000 US for one week

 We dingy over, get a tour aboard and within hours Georgiana and Everett have paid their $1700 each for a week tour. They were able to bargain the price down from $2000 each as last minute bargaining is acceptable. Of course this does not include the recommended $20 a day tip. We choose to remain on Ariel for the week, do some recommended walks and exploration, lay back like the sea lions and enjoy nature as it comes.

April 25 to May 6, 2002

(May 1 to May 2, 2002 Logged 84 nautical miles between San Cristobal and Isabella Is.)

The Galapagos Islands

We did not have to lay back for long or walk far. The Galapagos Islands are known for their tame and unusual wildlife. The islands are dominated by birds, sea mammals and reptiles.

‘Galapagos’ in Spanish means ‘giant tortoises’

All around Ariel we had sea lions and fur seals playing and romping about diving under the keel and even sleeping in the dinghy. In the evening we could hear them snorting and ‘talking’ though the hull.







                                        Friendly Sea Lions

The 13 major and 6 smaller islands along with dozens of islets that make up the islands are volcanic in origin surrounded by very deep ocean.  They have never been connected to the mainland.   All living things including plant and animal must have come by way of either flying, swimming or carried across long distances on floating debris.  The plant seeds could also be carried in the stomach or on the bodies of other species.    Because there are no large predators the animals and birds all seem to be fearless.   It is possible to wander very close without disturbing them.

Flamingos in a still pond inland walk from Wreck Bay Isla San Christobal


An Interpretation Center located on San Cristobal at Wreck Bay introduced us to the history, geography, geology, colonization and evolution of these very unique isolated islands.

Waiting for nature to come to us on many of the Nature Walks from Interpretation Center

 From there, trails through the rough lava landscape overgrown with tropical vegetation enabled us to wonder through the interior without disturbing the wildlife. Darwin finches came right up to us almost within our touch. Named after the famous scientific explorer Charles Darwin, there are noted to be 13 different species, their bills adapted to different ecological niches, thus proving the theory of evolution by natural selection. We found the solitude of walking alone among such specialized nature to be the essence of the Galapagos.

Of our two weeks in the islands we were able to visit several areas not subject to park fees within walking distance of Ariel and one trip by horseback with a guide up to Volcan Negro and Volcan Chica on Isabella island. Several cruisers joined us on our ride which turned out to be a fun and interesting day trip.

Cruisers from EROS, and ODYSSEY OF CANADA & crews go for a horseback ride

Cruisers are more oriented to water so trotting across the fields of low scrub, through old coffee plants, up steep muddy paths and keeping our steeds under control without GPS’s  was nothing short of amusing.   Turn starboard or port meant nothing to our source of transport and we often found one wondering off into the bushes or trotting off ahead picking up the pace for the entire fleet.

But we all stayed aboard for the 1 1/2 hour ride. It was worth the $20 just to see the view down into the Volcan Negro. Something like 10 miles across this steep sided circle drops down into a black void of vast desolate lava fields, earning its name

Horseback riding along Volcan Negro

A short hike to Volcan Chico gave us a close look down into steaming calderas and a view of the island stretched out beyond. It truly felt as if we had reached the end of the earth or perhaps what it must have been like at the beginning .

Can you find Martin of ODYSSEY peering into the caldera?

There are over 50 visitor sites in the Galapagos but the wildlife is everywhere without bounds. Exploring the shore lines we walked among colonies of sea lions and fur seals, being careful not to step on the black iguana’s that blend in with the black lava rocks and found the pink flamingos in the inland lagoons fading in with the glowing pink sunsets. We saw the famous huge land tortoise, were entertained by the pelicans diving and scooping up fish right next to the dinghy and always excited when a marine turtle surfaced near us. We took the dinghy right up to the penguins sunning on the rocks, looked down on the white tip sharks laying in the still shallows between the crevasses in the lava of nearby coves.    


White Tip  Sharks in  rock cravass

                                                                                                      Black Iguana



The blue footed boobies were our favorite, their webbed feet the most beautiful shade of blue against the black rock at the waters edge.

In the end we felt we had successfully experienced all that we had come to expect. Doing the Galapagos on your own without the guided tours is possible. We are totally in agreement that the rules and regulations are needed to preserve these delicate unique ecosystems. We were able to see what we did without any more impact than if we had been in a group but had the rewards of being able to come together with nature peacefully without time frames or organization, by adapting to it’s time and often letting nature come to us.


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