On Passage to the Marquesas, Day 5

On passage to the Marquesas
Blue sea and sky, day after day…

Sea, sky, and another 130 miles under the keel. There is not much new to report each day, so I have not been sending daily updates. This passage so far has lived up to the reputation that the “milk run” Pacific passages are famous for–warm weather, gentle breezes, and consistent daily runs over a deep blue sea. The first almost 700 miles since leaving Galapagos have slipped into the wake in a wonderfully relaxed fashion. Of course, I am not going to use those first days to confidently extrapolate that the rest of the trip will be the same, and indeed Simba just now informed me that he suspects that there may be a problem with the engine mounts because the engine was “jumping around” more than usual when he started it to charge the batteries last night. Hopefully that is not the problem, since we don’t carry spare engine mounts nor any way to repair the ones on which the engine is currently sitting. Checking the engine just moved to the top of my list of things to do this morning. We haven’t had a bite on our fishing lines yet on this passage, but at least there are signs that we are surrounded by life even if it is not interested in he lures we are dragging behind us. We have seen one large pod of dolphins, have had a shark trailing us, have scattered great schools of flying fish, and have enjoyed the constant company of petrels tip-toeing on the waves around us. I am sure it is just a matter of time before some fish gets curious enough to take a bite at our spoon or pink squid. There is a little more space in the food lockers with each passing day, but we are keeping up with most of our water usage by running the small watermaker for a couple of hours every day when the sun is high. We catch the drips and eventually fill our drinking water containers. We can make water at the rate of about a gallon and a half per hour for the modest cost of 6 amp-hours of electrical power and the small mental drain of having to listen to the machine churn way beneath the settee. So, so far we are in good shape in that department. Time to go take a look at the engine…

Getting Underway Again

A sunset over Puerto Ayora as seen from the masthead of Starlight.
A sunset over Puerto Ayora as seen from the masthead of Starlight.

The engine is running and we are just pulling and stowing the anchors for sea. This is to be the longest leg of our voyage, at somewhat over 3,000 miles, but the winds are forecast to be fair and we should have a favorable current for most of the way as well. Our next planned stop is Nuku Hiva, and it should take us about 3 weeks to get there, more or less. When we reach our next port, it will be well into September!

Leaving here took longer than expected, as we had to wait several days for our new clearance paper. All is sorted out now, we have our new clearance paper in hand, and we are headed to sea.

Getting Underway for French Polynesia

Almost everything is in place for our departure from the Galapagos. We need to hoist the anchor and finish stowing the stern anchor, but all else is ready. It took a few days to receive our new clearance paper, but that has all been worked out now and we are free to go. This will be the longest passage of the voyage, at somewhat over 3,000 miles. I expect that we will be at sea for two to three weeks, but it could take a little longer. in any case, it will be well into September before we reach our next port.

A Few Rough Days

A rough day at anchor in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos.
A rough day in the harbor in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos. You can see how close our neighbor is to the surf. Just after I had put the camera away, a wave broke completely over this boat!

The things that make a story more interesting are usually not pleasant to live through. We were supposed to leave almost a week ago, but I became ill with the common traveler’s curse the day before we planned to go, possibly because of something that I ate, but more likely from the local water source. The effect on my system was bad enough to make me seek medical attention for the first time that I can remember in my adult life (outside of problems that required stitches or repairing broken bones). After two injections, a course of 2 different medications, choking down 3 days of a re-hydrating mineral solution, and several days on a strong probiotic prescribed by the hospital, I feel much better now. A follow-up visit has pronounced me still a little dehydrated, but fit enough to sail. Fantastic. We’ll be leaving as soon as we get our new clearance papers.

Puerto Ayora rough anchorage
Look carefully at the boats and you’ll see there is quite a chop in the harbor. The sailboat on the left is Starlight, and the one on the right is a Swan 46. Click on the picture to enlarge.

We’re all ready to be underway again. This has been a wonderful stop, but we’ve explored the area to our content. Also, the anchorage here can be uncomfortable when the wind kicks up from the southeast, which is the direction it has blown from every day since we arrived. Any swell rolls right into the harbor from relatively deep water, keeping things lively for those of us on monohulls. When the wind kicks up and a chop gets added to the mix, things get even worse. Most of the time that we’ve been here Starlight rolls and bounces around enough to make it feel like we’re still at sea. You can see that we have been rolling a lot because we’ve accumulated bottom growth at least a foot above the waterline on the topsides of the hull.

On the very bad days, the swell will kick up and break in the harbor. At the top of this post is a picture of the boat that is moored next to us. When the swell is large, the waves break awfully close to this boat, and on one rough day the biggest waves were breaking where the boat was moored. Where we are anchored with Starlight, the waves were standing up and getting steep, but not quite enough to threaten breaking. Several boats have ended up on the rocks in this port in the past 6 months, including at least one of the supply ships, according to the owner of the mast-less boat. I never forget that we’re not far from a lee shore when the wind kicks up here.

Puerto Ayora cloudy sunset
Enough of a break in the clouds to almost see a sunset…

At least getting back and forth to the boat is pretty easy, thanks to the excellent water taxi service in the harbor. The taxis run 24/7 and the price is fixed at $.80/per person per trip during the day and $1 per person at night. This can still add up, but when I think about some yacht clubs I’ve been to that charge $3-4 per person per trip plus expect a tip on top of that, it seems downright cheap. I also don’t think that we’ve ever really waited more than about 5 minutes for a taxi, which is a nice contrast to days that I remember baking in the sun for a half an hour or more on a moored boat in harbors in New England in the summer waiting for the launch driver to finally decide that I was going to be lucky enough to get a ride to shore.

Before getting sick, Idoia and I got out to explore a few more of the surrounding sights, including the rock formations and Las Grietas, Tortuga Bay, a private ranch in the interior of the island, and some lava tunnels left over from when the island was formed 5 million years ago.

Marine iguanas in Puerto Ayora
Marine iguanas sunning in Puerto Ayora
Cactus forest near Tortuga Bay
Cactus forest near Tortuga Bay
Inside a lava tunnel
Inside a lava tunnel on Rancho El Chato


Rock formations at Las Grietas
Rock formations at Las Grietas
Las Grietas
Las Grietas are a series of what are described locally as “fjords”, crevices in the volcanic rock with clear fresh water at the bottom. They are a great, protected place to swim and snorkel.


Landscape near Las Grietas
Pools of water in the volcanic rock create an otherworldly landscape. This is near the trail to Las Grietas.
More rock pools on the trail to Las Grietas
More rock pools on the trail to Las Grietas







One of Darwin's finches at Las Grietas
One of Darwin’s finches at Las Grietas
Unidentified bird on the beach at Tortuga Bay
Unidentified bird on the beach at Tortuga Bay






Pelican at Tortuga Bay
Pelican at Tortuga Bay
Plover on the beach at Tortuga Bay
Dunlin on the beach at Tortuga Bay







Entry to Rancho El Chato 2
Entry to Rancho El Chato. The uplands of Santa Cruz are rich and green, with many farms.
Giant land tortoise
The giant land tortoises really are impressively huge. It was great to see them roaming free in the high interior of Santa Cruz.
Sea lion on the gangway
You might have to share the gangway to the water taxi with a sea lion in Puerto Ayora
Local market, Puerto Ayora
The local market in Puerto Ayora. There is a good selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat. The prices on fresh food are reasonable.
Turtle ATV
Everyone is turtle crazy here, including this guy. There’s not much headroom in there…
Turtle Graffiti
There’s even turtle graffiti on construction sites here.
Puerto Ayora sunset
This is as close to a sunset as we have seen here. A break in the clouds at least let a little color through this evening.


The View From Here: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

The wildlife and natural settings here are amazing. Here are some pictures taken over the past days:IMG_1067IMG_1076IMG_0859IMG_1055IMG_1047IMG_1016 IMG_0980 IMG_0977IMG_1023IMG_0933 IMG_0932 IMG_0912 IMG_0880IMG_1081IMG_1082

Arrival in Galapagos Archipelago

After nine days at sea we are now less than fifty miles from Puerto Ayuda on the island of Santa Cruz. The sea is calm, and we are making good just under five knots, though much of that speed is coming from the current. Yesterday we had an unceremonious equator crossing at about 1130. The past few days have been good sailing on the SE trades, and with the fair current we enjoyed good day’s runs. As we approached these islands, we have seen increasing numbers of birds and signs of marine life. Two days ago we sailed through a large area where hundreds of dolphins were feeding, driving fish to the surface, where they also attracted clouds of birds. I am sure that we would have had good luck as well if we had put a line in the water, but nobody was in the mood for fishing and instead just enjoyed watching the spectacle and taking pictures. Despite our fumigation certificate from Panama, we have spent much time in the past couple of days getting rid of bug-infested food. Things seem better now, but there will be problems again unless everyone is more willing to get rid of things that have gone bad and be more fastidious in good food storage practices. Not all the important lessons on this trip are directly related to strictly sailing the boat as the family adjusts to the reality of life aboard.