LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2001
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Log for the week of March 4, 2001 Isla San Jose', Las Perlas. Republic of Panama by PS
Well this is the long version of the log. The short one was posted from our Inmarsat-C. I spent Monday recovering from a cold that I caught from Nathaniel. I never thought I would catch a cold where it never gets cold! We couldn't do much of anything relating to business because it was Carnival (Mardi Gras) so everything was closed. I tried watching some TV, but everything was in Spanish. My three years of public school Spanish class was completely lost. We should have been taught important phrases like "Where is the bathroom." "Please speak more slowly." "How much does this cost?" None of which I was able to learn from the TV.
Tuesday we took a taxi to El Dorado to post the log at the local Internet cafe'. We rode in with Jose'. His taxi is unusual as it's an old American car. (Most taxis' are small foreign compacts') Old in the sense that whatever springs it had were long gone, so the car looked like the "Low Riders" you might see in Southern California. The electric window switches were torn out and the rear windows were closed. To make up for the lack of air conditioning, he rigged a fan on the rear window ledge. He turned it on from a Radio Shack switch hanging out the dashboard. We almost died on the way though. The carbon monoxide was overwhelming. I think the fan made it worse. There are definitely no automobile inspections in the Republic of Panama. We arrived barely conscious, gave him $5 and sent him back to Balboa. Once at the cafe' we discovered that our Internet site was down. I called our ISP in Maine and was told that their server had been down and the only way to get our site back up was to re-post it ourselves. I was a bit upset as we were in Panama and they should have had a backup. They insisted they didn't. After a few minutes they did admit that an x-employee had lost the backup. Our phone card ran out so that was the end of the conversation. We decided to use the Internet phone system for future calls. For $2.50 an hour you can talk anywhere in the world. The only drawback was that the connection was dropped every 5 minutes. After calling the ISP back, I managed to confirm that the server was indeed up. I uploaded what I had with us and wrote some code for the opening page of the site to let people know what was going on. We took a city cab back to the boat ($3) and copied the web site onto a CD.
Wednesday my cold returned, so we didn't get back to town.
Thursday it was back to El Dorado and not with Jose'! On the way into the dock, the launch picked up an older couple from another boat. In casual conversation we discovered they were going to town also. They had been in Balboa for over a year! We walked with them to the main highway, waving off the taxis drivers waiting at the end of the yacht club dock. They had long since discovered that by walking a few blocks to the main road, they were able to get a cab for about half the price. I asked how they had come to stay so long in Balboa, and opened a floodgate from the husband. Have you ever met someone who had been away from civilization for a while? You know, like the hunter whose has been in the woods for a week? It turned out that he only went ashore about once a month. I didn't ask why. I couldn't, because he rambled on so. Well, this man let out a run-on sentence for 15 minutes. He told us about being wrecked at an anchorage near Balboa, with no one helping him. Engine troubles that took three times to set right. (He had a Perkins by the way) All kinds of things I really didn't want to hear about. Luckily a taxi stopped and saved us. Actually that is rather harsh. He seemed nice enough and his wife said she came to shore every couple of days. (As if to proclaim her normality) They decided to wait for another cab, as they were not going to El Dorado, so we had a quite ride into town.
Once at the Internet Cafe', we logged on and uploaded the entire site. Luckily they had a fast connection and we were finished in 30 minutes. These problems with the ISP are giving us thoughts about having our own server when we return.
We went to the grocery store and stocked up on more soda, chips and pineapple. Amy left me to start checking out while she went back for some things we had forgotten. The cashier asked me something in Spanish that I couldn't understand. I started to panic. Where was Amy? Help! Finally, I showed the woman my credit card and she smiled and started tallying our groceries. Whew!
Friday we went to the Port Captains office to clear out. We took a marina taxi, because they know where to go. Our driver, Luis, was very helpful. To start with we had to go to the bank to buy 4 $1 stamps (for clearance). We got into the line he told us to and waited. And waited and waited. It seems that the computers were down. There were about 10 people in front of us. I thought that we could get the stamps without the use of their computers, but neither Amy nor I wanted to start a riot by cutting in front of the line. I could see it now, headline in the local paper "Gringos lynched trying to buy stamps." After about 20 minutes Luis came in looking for us. I told him what the problem was and he promptly went to the teller and got us our stamps. He then drove us to the Port Captains Office and guided us to the correct doors. At the first one, we surrendered our stamps and filled out some paperwork. During the process, we were asked some questions that we were having trouble interpreting. On closer listening, we discovered that the lady was speaking Spanglish. She threw in English words at random which through us off. Next we went two doors down and met the port captain. Thanks to an English speaking employee, we got through in about 20 minutes. The only hang-up we had was not clearing out of Colon. Even though we were in the same country, we were supposed to clear in and out of every port. We tried to clear out of Colon, but it was a Saturday and the port captain wasn't around.
With our "Zarpe'" in hand we headed back to the boat. The final clearance was customs. The agent was located at the yacht club. He was busy working on a model of a sport fishing yacht. It was about two feet long and had lots of detail. At least what he was doing seemed more productive then watching TV! He stamped our passports and sent us on our way.
That evening we walked to a restaurant about 3 miles down the road at the end of the causeway and had a very slow meal. I'm sure we could have sat there all night and they wouldn't have minded. After about 2 hours we got our check and had a 3-mile walk back to the boat. We could have taken a taxi, but we need the exercise. You really don't get much on a boat.
Saturday we got the boat ready to go and took a last swim in the yacht club pool.
Sunday, we said our good-byes to Balboa and headed for San Jose, about 50 miles away. While underway we got an e-mail from my son Ben saying that he had been accepted to Rochester Institute of Technology. It was his first choice and I'm glad he made it. PS
Log for the week ending March 11,2001: Manta Ecuador by APW
We left Balboa with very light winds and had to motor the whole way to Las Perlas Islands, ten hours away. We arrived at San Jose in the Las Perlas late Sunday afternoon. Because the seas were so glassy calm we got to see lots of marine wildlife along the way. A marlin, swam along the surface with his dorsal fin up and partially out of the water, his sword bill lashing through the water as he went. We circled around him but he had no interest in attaching himself to the cheap lure and line we had dragging behind us. A little further along we saw an area in the water that looked like a tide rip. The water was churning and frothing like some one was stirring it with an invisible whisk. I told Phil to head over, tide rips can sometimes mean fish and Stew and I were hungry for fish for supper. All of a sudden the tide rip started heading for us, it was no tide rip, but thousands and I mean thousands, of porpoise, swimming, leaping and flying through the air. I videotaped it and if we can figure out how to put it on the internet without Ben's computer expertise, we will. It was an unbelievable site.
We had picked out the south-eastern side of Las Perlas for our anchorage. As we got nearer we realized the rather soft swell from the South we were experiencing, was forming huge breakers that roared and crashed on the southern and southeastern side of the island. Our first anchorage was not an option. San Jose is a private island. A German couple live there and some fat cat builder from Panama, who has built roads all over the island. We were both a little leary of the native population on Las Perlas, having read many accounts from some of the older and recent voyagers of petty thievery.
We threaded our way to the next anchorage further to the north through some strange rock formations looking like the lower mandible and teeth of a huge dinosaur fossil. I was apprehensive, because the waves looked like they were breaking where Phil said I should be heading. I looked behind us and saw we were being followed by four outboards loaded with men. "Oh great" I thought, "Las Perlas pirates, they know we can't make it through these incisor rocks and they are going to plunder our boat once it is wrecked". I made Phil come up and do the steering. The outboards were quickly gaining on us. The passage through was no big deal. It looked much worse far away than up close. Suddenly we rounded the corner and saw a beautiful stretch of sandy beach with six other boats at anchor, all nestled together like ducklings in a pond. We had never been so glad to see other cruising boats. The four outboard boats passed close by us and I saw that they were fishing boats. We waved and got toothless smiles and waves back. One of the boats was named "Vaya con dios" ("Go with god") So I knew they couldn't have been bad guys after all. Just a typical case of American ethnocentricity and paranoia. We anchored near the other cruising boats and recognized them all from the canal. I waved to everyone and got no response back. Now I figure when that happens to us, (which it does quite frequently), that quite possibly it is because there is so much stuff to look at on Iwalani- ratlines, varnished fir spars, an unsightly dodger, the Sears "escargo", "The Grape" dinghy overturned; that people just fail to see the old bag in a bathing suit waving to them. At least that it is what I tell my ego.
The next day we launched The Grape and rowed to shore. Even at this anchorage the swells were breaking into surf on the beach. This was going to be my first experience getting a dinghy to shore through surf. With Phil coaching, I quickly spun the dinghy around just outside the line of breakers, so she was going into the beach stern first, this left the bow to meet the oncoming breaking waves. It worked well. I had wrapped all the cameras in a waterproof kayak bag just in case. I had heard enough horror stories of other people flipping over in the dinghy in breaking waves.
We walked up a tiny fresh water stream that ran out onto the beach. We waded through the water as far as we could until the brush became so thick we couldn't go any further. Even up this stream, far from civilization, we found trash. Plastic bottles, shoes, container lids all had found their way up this remote stream with the tide. It was depressing. Lots of little coconut palms were struggling to grow amid the rubble. We headed down the beach a little further and found a sandy path that went inland. Several green iguanas were busy trying to lay eggs in the warm sand. I have never seen reptiles move so fast. Phil couldn't understand why they were so scared of humans. Dinner I told him. Iguanas are hunted for food around here. On the edge of the path some inconsiderate cruising boat had left their green trash bag full of cans and more plastic. It really is a sad site to be in "paradise", or "nirvana" as my accountant calls it, only to find plastic trash at every turn.
We felt a little guilty about walking on this private island without permission and discussed what we would do, should a car or person venture down the grass covered road. We decided a quick dash into the bushes along the side would be in order. We are still in the dry season, the rainy season doesn't really begin until late April. This time of year the tropical rainforest is very much like a typical deciduous forest in New England in late August. Crackling brown leaves fallen on the ground, the buzz of bees and flies, hummingbirds foraging for nectar, a peregrine falcon or two, herons along the dried trickling stream beds, pythons on the side of the path,WHOA! Pythons? Yes indeedee, thick as a fire hose and almost as long. Fortunately it was more scared of us and the camera than we of him. His coloring very nearly made him invisible. We wonder how many other species we failed to notice because of excellent camouflage. We decided not to venture off the road, no matter who came upon us.
Before we headed back to the boat, we did some swimming in the surf, intentionally, before we launched the dinghy. Phil rowed the dinghy out timing the departure in between breakers. Piece of cake. When we got to Iwalani all the other cruising boats, but one had left. The remaining boat was hurriedly trying to get his anchor up. We are beginning to think we still smell bad.
We spent one entire week in Balboa before we left cleaning Iwalani and ridding her of the bad diaper smell she seemed to have acquired. Unfortunately, the source of the smell was Mr. Stewart. For some reason on the passage from hell, actually from Jamaica to Panama, he took it upon himself to alter his use of the litterbox. He had for months been peeing with his head facing out and his business end left where it should be, in the box. Toward the end of the trip he was going literally ass backwards. Pee was not going in the box, but was running down the floor boards into the bilge. I kept cleaning and scrubbing the box, but couldn't figure out what was going on and why the boat smelled like the streets of New Orleans on Sunday morning. Finally, I caught him doing it. I made a fabric curtain that hung down in front of the box. Thinking this would get him to turn around again. I cut a whole in the curtain for ventilation. All he had to do, to get into the box was walk in from the side, or part the curtain. Stewart like his owner, is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He thought the ventilation cut out was the way to get into and out of the box. Phil found him head and arms out through the hole, rather sizable girth and back legs still in the box, suspended and swinging back and forth, quite pleased with his new entertainment. In any event the curtain seems to be working and Iwalani did smell ok, until the noddy showed up. More on this later.
We tried our best to keep in touch with Herb via relays. He seemed puzzled that we had 10 knot winds out of the North. He kept telling us that the winds would be out of the southwest the following day. It never happened. We finally brought most of Iwalani's sails out of their bags. Phil had designed a spinnaker based on a picture he found in the internet of a similar gaff rigged design. People have wondered what the huge heavy pole is on the front of our mast- it's the "philaker" pole. It worked well, we could wing and wing the main and the Philaker. The only problem with it is that the halyards go all the way to the top of our top mast. We never bothered with the running backstays to the topmast, up to this point we always had more wind than we knew what to do with; so as a temporary measure we use the topsail halyard as running backstay, which can't take a big load. If there are any white caps, the Philaker has to come in and therein lies the big problem. Someone has to climb up the ratlines and secure the Philaker pole back in its place along the front of the mast. Of course by this time once wind has picked up, the seas also have picked up. I have only made it to the twelfth rung on the ratlines, so Phil is the one elected to put the pole back, a job even he is apprehensive about. Using the Philaker sail as a genoa worked well too. If we had a light flexible pole to hold the sail out we could retire the Philaker pole to some other duty. In any event Iwalani flew through the seas averaging 140 miles a day. She actually is a fast boat, the inland waterway was no way to judge her potential.
My a.m.watch gets over at 8. Since I am on duty it is my responsibilty to check in with the cruising net on the single side band at 7 a.m. Most of these cruising boats travel in flocks, we are the only ones that don't. I give my position and listen in to the others that are already in the Galapagos. A flock of British boats were griping about having to pay the $100.00 park fee for the Galapagos. One guy going so far as to say he wouldn't and they could put him in jail. They hauled him off to the office and got out the regulation book. Apparently the book said that he didn't have to pay after all. He seemed quite pleased with himself on the radio. (These are the same boats that were moaning about paying the $60.00 for line rental in the canal, they are definitely not giving their country a good name). So when Phil and I get to the Galapagos we have to make sure that we are not mistaken for a British vessel.
On about the second day out, we picked up a couple of hitchhikers- a cormorant that spent his time at the end of the gaff swinging back and forth, spraying cormorant poop about the foredeck and a noddy. The first time I saw the noddy I was just getting off my midnight watch and was unclipping my harness, when I looked up and saw a blackbird just inches away sitting on the lifesling case. Unfortuantely as a girl, I am prone to those embarrassing screams that girls get, when they see a mouse, or whatever unexpected. Through the years I have learned to stifle those screams so that now they more resemble a dog barking than an "EEEEK!" In any event, the noise that came from my lips scared the bird off, or so I thought. I portended it as a bad omen, especially since I frightened him off, somewhat like the ancient mariner shooting the albatross with his crossbow.
At 4 a.m, the start of my next watch Phil said that it was a minah bird (it was dark) and he was out on the bow pulpit. Sure enough he was, and he was sitting puffed up in a pool of blood. He could still fly weakly but I could see he had injured his wing. We caught him and sure enough he had scraped the equivalent of his wrist, no breaks fortunately. He had webbed feet and didn't look like a minah bird, in fact he looked like no other bird I have seen before. As far as we can tell he is a noddy. Kind of the black sheep of the tern family. If he really is a noddy I think someone needs to re-think their classification, because he really has no ternlike qualities. He has become a good patient. I grind up sardines and tube feed him. We should be able to let him go in a couple more days. The boat is now taking on a very subtle fishy smell.
I tried to catch fresh fish for him. I tried the method that Diane and Andy use on Spirit Born- they put out 400 lb test line with a big hook and feathery lure and when a fish strikes, they drag him through the water until he drowns. Thus, no bludgeoning is needed. Amazingly, just minutes after a put this rig out, a school of mahi mahi came flying through the water and up into the air like giant flying fish, their bright yellow, tourquoise and cobalt blue colors shimmering in the sunlight. They were headed for the lure. One grabbed on and we left him on the hook as we cranked on the rpms with the motor, in addition to sail. A half hour later he was being pulled behind the boat on top of the waves, bouncing along like a water skier, 'he surely must be dead' I thought. I slowed the boat down and began reeling him in. His colors had lost some of their brilliance, but he was far from dead. I let the line out and again, we tried to drown him once more. This time he swam off to the side, out of the prop wash. He just swam along and swam along, like a dog following on his leash. "This isn't working" I looked to Phil for help. He was busy hand sewing the Ecuadorian flag. "This is your fish" he said. I went down below and got the syringe and feeding tube I'd been using on the noddy and filled the syringe up with Mount Gay rum. I had heard that squirting alcohol into the gills is an effective method of murdering. I pulled him up out of the water, he looked up at me with big fishy eyes begging for mercy. I readied the syringe and "plop", the hook let go and he fell back in the water. I felt bad because I was hoping for some food that didn't come out of a can. But more importantly, I had been wanting to put some of his slime on the noddy's wing injury, to see if my thoughts are correct on the healing properties of mahi-mahi slime. Phil just rolls his eyes, when I mention this. He won't even take aspirin without a huge battle, let alone bark tea made from the weeping willow. Yet, in a way I was happy that the fish escaped. Those fish are just too pretty.
At exactly 5 a.m., Friday morning we crossed the equator and had our King Neptune Celebration. We opened and shared some champagne, with the slippery king of the deep, courtesy of a mysterious bottle covered with sparkly ship stickers brought to Iwalani's launching.I never knew where the champagne came from, so thank you who ever you are! It was completely quiet as we drifted over the equator. A few dolphins joined the party and the only sounds we heard were the puff, puff of their exhalation. This was the first time Phil allowed liquor while at sea, I must say it was quite nice, although I got a wicked headache at around noontime. I always thought Sir Francis Chichester had it right, with a built in bar in his boat. Nothing like a cigar and sherry for the midnight watch. But alas, Phil differs strongly on this point and it is only something I can dream about.
We sailed into Manta with a wind that came around to the southwest finally on the last few hours. We aren't really sure why we came to Manta, other than the fact that the other boats on the cruising net were really putting it down. We being the continuous contrarians had to have a look for ourselves. The cruising net people were complaining that Manta was filled with over five hundred fishing boats, which immediately peeked our interest.
Luckily, when we arrived we were rescued by "Lord Portal" a British boat owned jointly by the British army, navy and air force. It is fifty feet long and has twelve British air force guards on board, under the skippering of a fellow named "Boggy", ( his last name was Marsh). The Brits make their armed services do these off the wall things, like climbing Andes mountains and sailing around South America crammed together in a small yacht, to make for better team relations. I think it must work because as a country, it is pretty rare to hear a Brit complain about anything other than the cost of something. If they start complaining about weather or whatever, you know its bad. Anyways, at the "Manta yacht club" we were rather unsure what the anchoring protocol was. Boggy told us to anchor and then he would get in his dinghy and take a stern line over to a mooring bouy, which would keep us from swinging. It was kind of an odd arrangement but it seems to work.
For some reason we cant explain, we like Manta. There really are at least five hundred fishing boats here. Most of them are wood, so Phil is in heaven. They are all painted bright colors, but all have a bit of what I call Manta blue, a color in between turquoise and cerulean blue. The Ecuadorians work on their boats with chainsaws and sledge hammers. Phil's kind of boat building. This afternoon, we took the dinghy out for a sail and maneuvered around the fishing boats in the harbor. One quarter of the fleet still work under sail. There are three basic types of fishing boats: purse seiners, driftnetters and long liners. It seems like people are living on these fishing boats. Its sort of like "Waterworld". It was just as entertaining for the people and dogs on the fishing boats, watching two gringos maneuvering around in a ten foot sailboat, as it was for us.
Prices in Manta are the lowest we have seen anywhere. Diesel is a dollar a gallon, delivered to your boat, internet fees are eighty cents for a half hour, pineapples seventy cents each. This morning, we tried our best to get checked in with the port captain. We faced a definite language barrier. Ecuadorian Spanish is a little like Quebecian French. He did give us directions to the immigration office. Straight down the street over a bridge, we couldn't miss it. We both felt pretty safe walking these streets. People are cheerful and friendly. No one accosted us for money. There is a lot of poverty, a lot of trash, problems with sewage, one or two dead dogs decaying on the sidewalk, but people are content. As we walked over the bridge I heard a lot of laughter coming out of a window to our right. Inside a square cement block three story high rise, was a roomful of girls all giggling and looking at us. Lying in the center of the room on top of a table, was a lady with her butt in the air waiting to get a tatoo. And they were laughing at us?
We finally made it to the immigration office in the downtown police department. They were all preparing for some type of award ceremony, the band was piping up, policia wandering around with uniforms pressed; shoes, gloves and hats bright and polished.
We were answering most of the officials questions ok, until he asked me about "trabaje", which I took to mean work, what do we do for work. "Yo soy una veterinarian" I told him. "El hecha barcos" I told them pointing to Phil. We had reached a definite barrier. He just didn't get it and I didn't get what he was trying to ask me. He gave up and wrote something on the line, of his form, but wouldn't let me see it until we got our passports back. Another good looking fellow came in wearing casual clothes and carrying thirteen passports. Phil figured it out before I did, this was the agent for "Lord Portal" and he spoke English. He helped get us through the last of the paperwork and after we paid thirty dollars for the entrance and exit fees, we got our passports back. On the line for occupacion they had written in "jubilado" for me and "marinara" for Phil. These both sounded like Italian foods to me, so I told them again I was "un medico para los animales" "Oh si" they answered in unison, "una veterinaria" Ay caramba, what did they think I was telling them before? Ordinarily, this wouldn't have been important to me. But I am hoping that when we get to the Galapagos, having my profession written down correctly might help if they need my services treating any animals suffering from the oil spill. Although everyone says the oil spill is all cleared up.
After the immigration, we took a different route home, hoping to avoid the tatooed beauty on the bridge. We went through an open air market selling lots of fruit and vegetables, unidentifiable meat and live chickens. I had not been to the bank yet, so only had large bills. We bought two pineapples with the small change we had.
We came to a booth where lots of children were crowded around a tiny little green parrot, a species I didn't recognize. It looked like a lovebird, but was some type of parrotlet. The children were trying to hold the bird. He wouldn't let them and was biting them right and left. I couldn't resist. Using my best bird voice, I coaxed him onto my finger where he wouldn't get off. In fact we would have him now, were it not for the fact that I am vehemently opposed to owning birds that aren't captive bred. He sure was cute though.
On the way back we stopped at the bank to get smaller bills. Yesterday was the last day for Ecuadorian money. From now on they will be using American dollars and change, which I think is the strangest thing in the world. Here is a whole country that wouldn't know Minnesota from Missouri and yet they walk through town jingling the US state quarters in their pockets.
I am writing this while sitting in the cockpit. Phil just came up from down below, trying to keep himself from throwing up. He is listening to the evening net on the single side band. Some lady from California on route to the Galapagos was expounding about how beautiful the full moon was and the ocean so calm and peaceful, how she could just sail on forever, blah, blah, barf, barf.
Yea, I guess it is ok. But Phil and I are both disappointed with the passages. We just don't have the thoughts of life, the universe and everything, like we thought we would. We feel like we are just driving a car, on a long, boring stretch of highway. These romantic, poetic passages have completely skipped over us. We are either being slammed around with high seas and tempestuous winds, or we are bored, thinking up plans for the future. We just can't seem to live in the present. In fact we passed prosaically by a very special spot on the ocean. This spot was one that Phil had told me about when he was building the globe for Delorme. It is the only place in the world where the two extremes- really deep ocean next to really high mountains(the Andes) occur next to each other. This was going to be a tough spot to build on the globe, before they changed the design and omitted the 3D relief. We looked over at the deep spot as we sailed by. Ho Hum, it just looked like the rest of the ocean.
I looked at our world map just a few days ago. We really haven't gotten very far. Dissension is in the air. Ballots are going to be cast and counted at the Galapagos. I have to find a way to make a fair ballot for Stewart. I don't want him complaining that our ballots were like the Florida presidential election ballots. Election results next week. APW
Log for the week of March 25, 2001 Wreck Bay San Cristobal to Academy Bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos by APW
Phil has already broken two Galapagean hearts. Two adolescents with dewy big brown eyes, sinuous, lithe, brown bodies, short brown hair- and flippers. Sea lions. We swam and snorkeled with them off a beach last week. Phil as you all know isnt very comfortable in the water, but was even more nervous snorkeling with teen age sea lions whizzing around like atomic electrons. He was the first out of the water and the two teenage girls in question, followed him to the edge of the beach, down on their sea lion knee equivalent, begging him to come back in the water. With a mournful bark and flick of their tails they soon got over it fast.
So far the Galapagos have been everything I had hoped. This is the "Mecca" equivalent to anyone with a biology background. The birthing ground of Natural Selection if you are a Darwin, (not Wallace), disciple. Most of the land has been turned to National Park. The Ecuadorians keep it clean. No trash floating in the water or heaped up in stinking piles on the land. The harbor is clean enough to swim in, which we do several times a day. The Ecuadorians take great pride in the special place they live in; and I think, are attempting to keep it nice. A very nice modern Interpretive Center has been built to the eastern side of Wreck Bay. It details the history of the Galapagos and touches on some of the ecology. Wreck Bay is the site of the most recent oil spill. The ship that ran aground, did so while leaving the harbor. It lies belly up and shining on the reef like a huge beached steel whale. It is only fitting that Wreck Bay should have a real wreck. There is no environmental damage done that I can see.
San Cristobal is one of the older islands in the chain; as such it has far more vegetation than I thought we would see. Trees and bushes carpet the volcanoes all the way to the mist shrouded peaks. There are white sandy beaches and turquoise blue water. The buildings are typically Modern Ecuadorian- two story cubist style stucco, with square windows and some scattered arch forms. Mosaic tile is used as a decorative element on some of the buildings, depicting primitive pictures of sea lions and killer whales. The town is small, if I had to guess, maybe four thousand people. The roads are paved with cement paving stones, made from the plastic forms found at "Home Depot". Sea lions lie jelly-like on the beach, on the rocks, on the bows of the small skiffs. Some swim in the water, chasing the big fish, that feed on the small fry enveloping the underside of the boats in a shimmering kaleidoscope of colors. Children swim off the rocks, off the docks, off the beaches, or play soccer on the beaches. Sea lions watch curious, a few feet away, jealous of the childrens movements on land, but quick to demonstrate their superiority in the breaking waves. There is an airport with a big jet that lands a few times a week. Tourists from Guayaquil, Ecuador land and then board cruise ships, which are anchored on the edge of the harbor. Some of the cruise ships are typical miniature "Carnival cruise line things" and some are square rigged ships sailing out of Panama. The square rigged ships look like a more interesting vacation experience.
However, my biggest long-term concern for the Galapagos, is their lackadaisical system for quarantine. There is none. Anyone can come to these islands in a boat, with dogs, cats, parrots, monkeys, you name it, the Ecuadorians don't care. There is no one checking for vaccination history, parasites, contaminated meat or fruit and insects. Its mind boggling. I read an interesting bulletin in Spanish, on a wall posted just for the park officials. Canine distemper came to the island and wiped out a lot of the dog population. Sea lions are close relatives to dogs and get all the same diseases; they too have been battling distemper. One of the sequelae to distemper is a condition called "hard pad", which is literally that, the pads of dogs become thickened and cement-like. The sea lions in the harbor are so tame that you can get very close to them. I noticed on one a thickened flipper. Is this the sea lion equivalent to hard pad?
If I were not married, I would apply for a research position to do a "Jane Goodall" type thing, only living amongst the sea lions. The short time we have been here, I have observed a complex vocal social structure. I have all I can do to contain myself from flopping my blubbery body right next to a young sea lion and scratching him or her behind the ears. They look like they have tremendous itchy places, that they just can't reach well with flippers.
In college I was accused of being "grossly anthropomorphic". In fact, I won an award for it. For those of you who do not know what anthropomorphic means, it is the practice of ascribing human traits to non-human things. A closely related word is anthropocentric; which is a trait similar and equally offensive to my college professors. My argument in college, for which I paid dearly, is that the very word anthropomorphic is anthropomorphic. For humans to think that our feelings and traits are ours alone, is absurd. The emotions and fears we have, were not handed out to us alone, on a silver platter. God didn't just say, "Ok people, I am giving you love, hatred, pain, jealousy, greed and compassion. You alone will have these traits". What? Come on, I am right in the waters the Beagle sailed through. Didn't anyone pay real attention to Darwin? Evolution and Natural selection. We all Evolved. Darwin wasn't just talking about phenotypic characteristics- beaks, wings and fingers. Social structure, how we think and act are all passed on to future generations either through learning or genes. There is an abandoned catamaran in this harbor. A few sea lions have claimed it for their own. They climb up the built in staircase on the stern pontoon and lounge around the boat enjoying all its creature comforts. As the sun goes down you can see a few of them in the cockpit enjoying the human "happy hour". I did a painting of this human mimicked trait. The other night we heard a sea lion swimming around the boats in the anchorage, calling for someone called "Baaauh". To hear the fear and panic in the sealions voice as he tried to find this "Baaauh' was chilling. I hope he or she found Baaauh. (I AM NOT BEING ANTHROPOMORPHIC!!!) Actually, it has been awhile since I have been in college. Maybe by now anthropomorphism has been abolished. I propose a new meaning to the word anthropomorphic- "the mistaken belief that human traits are ours alone". I am sorry to digress.
Wait one more minute, I guess, I need to rag a little more on humans. Actually, I know these people are well meaning and are trying to make us feel comfortable, but- one of the things that really drives Phil and I nuts, is the tendency for businesses, outside of the US, such as taxis, restaurants, or whatever, to play LOUSY AMERICAN music. Actually, it doesn't matter that it is lousy-its American. As soon as we get in a taxicab, the driver turns the station from the local salsa, to "rotten hits from the 70's". The drivers are in disbelief ("Estranje" they all say), when we tell them to turn it back to the salsa, we hate Fleetwood Mac (actually they were ok a century ago) or anything else that is American in foreign waters. I went into the local Galapagos radio station to find out the name of the group I had heard playing a song "Vuella,Vuella" I met my match with the receptionist. He could read English, but couldn't speak it. He spends his days reading TIME magazine. I wrote to him that I had the same problem, I can understand written Spanish, much better than spoken. So we had fun passing notes back and forth, correcting each other's mistakes. I found out the name of the group and he got the DJ to play the song. If anyone plans on coming this way, to Spanish speaking countries, probably the best trade goods are Spanish-English dictionaries and US magazines.
We went on a tour with a family from Maui Hawaii who are on a boat called "Peace and Aloha" The tour was organized by the local entrepreneur named Gustavo. We climbed into a pick up truck and drove off into the volcanic hills to the fresh water filled crater called Cerro Mundo.
It looked a lot like a lake in New England. This is the flight training ground for countless great frigate birds. This is also the time of year for their characteristic breeding display- the bright red gular pouch, on their necks, which gets inflated to the size of a soccer ball. We didnt see any frigate birds on the ground but did watch as they flew around, the gular pouch deflated and flopping in the breeze like the other typical male appendage, an obvious handicap to scooping from the surface on low altitude passes. Frigate birds also have poor preen glands, so lack the waterproofing characteristics of other ocean going birds, as a result they can not land on the water. To obtain food, they are masters at bullying a recent catch from an other bird, or scooping fish or squid from the ocean surface. They are the truly amazing fliers, having the lowest weight to wing span ratio of any bird species.
Afterwards we went to the seal lion beach where Phil broke the sea lion hearts and a beach with the marine iguanas. They are very difficult to photograph with our digital camera. I got some good slide pictures, I hope, but the iguanas are somewhat scared of people and skitter off the rocks if you get too close. Their coloring is almost that of the lava rocks- an inky charcoal black. Another animal I am having difficulty photographing is the black Darwin finches. They too spend most of their time on and around the black lava rocks. It works well for predation, but lousy for photographing. At three o'clock, we went back to Gustavo's family restaurant for lunch-calamari and rice, included in the $20 per person tour price. We were all by this time starving, but this is the usual hour to eat in the Galapagos.
Maybe it's the sea lion societies, or maybe its "cabin fever", but Phil and I have been trying to spend more time with our own species. We seem also to suffer from reverse snobbism. I happen to have the dictionary definition of a snob right in front of me-"one who seeks association with persons of higher social position and looks down on those he considers inferior" We are trying to find the ingredient that binds the cruising community together. The other cruisers as we have mentioned, travel in groups and maintain social connections once all the boats arrive in port. They have all told us how much they love the cruising community and share so much with other boaters. Try as we might, we just can't find this social thread that binds everyone together. We would rather hang out with the fisherman, than some of these really rich yuppies.
We have met some interesting people though, not everyone is filthy rich and brags about the way they managed to talk a local business person down on a price. We got invited on the boat that I would vote as the "#1 Best Pacific Boat Design". This was a catamaran called "Sunbow, a Rockland Maine built boat, designed by Chris White. It was light and airy, with 360 window views-it even had opening windows down low in the pontoons , that reflected the turquoise water and gave it a soft watery feel-"Those are the escape hatches, you fool" Phil said. It had no wide open space to get thrown around in, and yet wasnt cramped. The exterior profile was reminiscent of a Maine lobster boat. It is a nice boat. But, because of the backstay problem it cant go dead down wind, the boom cant swing out past the stays. I am trying to convince Phil that he needs to design a gaff rigged catamaran; with a short boom that could fit inside the stays and an equal sized gaff. He says I am nuts.
As far as the other boats go, we spent some time with another couple who owned an older kitty cat, with yet another tumor, which I removed. (I am going to get the reputation of being a body-parts remover) They were discussing the relative design merits of some of the other boats in the anchorage. They were talking about a Such and Such design versus a whos-it design, drooling over the whos-it design, Phil and I all the while, not knowing what they were seeing or who they were talking about. I can not tell an expensive fiberglass boat from a cheap one. They all look the same to me. White hulls, reverse transoms, no sheer, no nothin'. Besides the catamarans, there is one that is different- a dark green hull reminiscent of my boat Petrel. The male half of the couple on board, even knew Phil from his teaching at the Maine Maritime Museum.
Saturday we were lying around Iwalani trying to figure out what to do for the day. We were bored already, having done all the tourist things. I have my monthly girl thing and wasn't keen on snorkeling too far from the boat, having seen a few good sized sharks in the harbor (Our diving gear is still in the lazarrette, yet to be used) ."Lets go up to kicker rock (Roca Pateadora) and then over to Academy Bay" I told Phil. We knew that getting our anchor up was going to be challenging. We had been snorkeling around the boat and our chain was threaded through several rocks in a half acre sized circle. We couldn't have repeated the threading of the chain, if we had tried for the next fifteen years. Sure enough the anchor wasn't coming up on it's own. The water was very cloudy for some reason, probably the arrival of twenty or more cruising boats. So I had to snorkel down the anchor chain in 30 feet of murky rough water, to be able to tell Phil which way to back up or push forward, to dislodge the chain from the bottom. We had several other cruisers offer assistance, but we were having fun. This was something challenging and different. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on who you talk to, we got ourselves off after only five minutes of maneuvering.
Kicker rock, lies on the North side of San Cristobal and is quite an impressive site. A slab of rock has become separated from the main chunk and many cruising boats try to pass between the two. It had been my plan to put Iwalani through also, but I chickened out when we got close. Phil was quick to say "Ok" when I said I was too much of a wimp.
We had a nice night time sail to Santa Cruise sixty miles away; accompanied by dolphins riding the bow wave. The Pacific is so peaceful and quiet that you can hear their sonar from very far away. They left phosphorescent trails as they whipped under and around Iwalani. I got the spot light out and instead of seeing the dolphins, the spot light reflected millions of tiny fish on the surface of the water, dancing around like orange fire flies. "Look Phil", I cried, "bugs on the water." But with all these little fish on the surface, there are comparatively, fewer flying fish, than in the Atlantic. Stew and I still haven't caught and eaten a Pacific fish yet, but we are trying. APW