LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2001
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Log for the week of April 1, 2001 Academy Bay Santa Cruz, Galapagos by PS
This week was a real eye opener. Our taste of Wreck Bay didn't prepare us for what we found in Academy Bay on Santa Cruz. When you think of Galapagos, you think of black lava, sea lions, marine iguanas, and a vast under sea life. Just like you would see on a Public TV program. What we found in Academy Bay were 10,000 people, tourist traps, lots of restaurants and 5 Internet cafes! The water in the bay was cloudy, there were no fish or sea lions. Looks like the wildlife (the animals that is) found a quieter place to stay.
Monday, we explored the wilds of Puerto Ayora. Thanks to all this civilization, we were able to find a good (fast connection) Internet cafe' to update the web page from. Along the waterfront, we discovered a weathered old sailboat. Being deep draft and double ended, it attracted my attention. It looks like someone had a dream to sail away a long time ago. It has probably been here like this for at least 5 years. When I see boats left like this, I always wonder what happened. Did their owners run out of ambition, money or time? What was it that caused this boat to end up on the shores of Academy Bay, neglected and abandoned for so long? When I was a teenager I used to take on projects like this. It was the only way I could afford a boat. Now I look upon them with a sad reverence to another person's dreams.
The town seems to have everything but a movie theater. Oh well, they do have some pretty good TV. We watched "The Academy Awards". It was dubbed in Spanish though, and I gave Amy a good laugh at my verbal interpretations.
Tuesday we went on a mission to find four small watch batteries. It seems that I left our water tester on and the batteries went dead. We bought spare batteries for everything but that! Amy said that we don't really need it because she can taste whether its OK or not. I, on the other hand have an iron palate and a keen affinity for gauges and numbers. We asked at least five different people for directions and got at least five different answers. We were directed from one end of town to the other. We thought we had covered every likely business. On our last inquiry, we were told to go to the "Lab". The lab turned out to be a photo lab that had about a dozen of the kind we needed. What luck! We told him we needed "cuatro". He told us, a little embarrassed, that they were $3.80 each. We repeated our request for four. He shrugged his shoulders and took our money.
Wednesday we walked a mile or so to the Darwin Research Station with our friends, Ken and Judy from "Sunbow". We walk whenever we can, because it is difficult to get exercise on board the boat. You would think that just trying to remain upright you would stay in shape, but it doesn't help. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday the DRS feeds their captive Giant Tortoises. The tortoises are truly giant, weighing up to four hundred pounds. The station runs a very successful breeding program. Some of the tortoises that have been released back into the wild, are now breeding on their own. The total population numbers about 15,000 compared to an estimated 250,000 of the original population. Until the early 1900's, ships visiting the islands used them for food. While this may seem cruel to us now, fresh meat was a rare thing aboard ships at that time. Four races are now extinct. Eleven races remain. You can tell which island they are from by their unique shape. Again, just another hint for Darwin.
While we were there, Amy made an appointment to see the director. She has been really upset at the lack of quarantine regarding the visiting yachts. We were sure that the regulations would be very strict in such a unique environment. There seemed to be no quarantine at all. No one came out to the boat. The port captain / immigration didn't ask any questions about what we might have on board. Nothing. And what really got Amy going was that two islands just lost most of their domestic dog population to distemper. Sea lions are close relatives of dogs and can get the same diseases. Amy was determined to get to the bottom of this quarantine issue. We even met a boat that made false to get out of dealing with it. From what we could see, there was a system in place, it just wasn't being enforced. Amy spent the remainder of the afternoon writing her thoughts on the issue, and getting ready for her appointment on Thursday morning with the director.
On Thursday Amy headed off to the DRS while I stayed aboard and did a large load of laundry. I felt that it was better if Amy did this on her own, without me there to possible distract the conversation. Three hours later she was back on board. Things went very well. She hit it off with the director and got to meet and speak with some of the staff. I'll let Amy tell you what happened, but the gist of it was that we may be staying in the Galapagos for a while, helping out at the DRS. We'll have a better idea in the coming weeks.
Friday we went on a tour of Bartolome' Island. It cost sixty dollars each, but was the only way we could legally see this part of the park. It was well worth it, despite the fact that we had to get up at 4:30 am. At 5:20 we caught the bus to the other side of the island and from there we took a two-hour boat ride to Bartolome'. The bus trip was a bit scary because the driver went so fast. I have had the sensation of going fast in a car after spending weeks at a boat/walking speed of 5 knots. I couldn't tell exactly how fast we were going because the speedometer was broken. It was probably a good thing for my sake. I do know that I have never watched the scenery go by so fast, except when I'm taking off in an airplane.
What we noticed on the trip overland was how lush and green the high parts of Santa Cruz were. There were even some very large elm- like trees. It is supposed to be the rainy season here, but we haven't seen any rain on the coast. I think the rainy season applies to the mountains. When we reached the boat landing we were greeted by our young guide "Marlon" There were 16 of us on the tour. Ourselves, our friends from "Sunbow" and a dozen high school senior girls on an exchange program. They were dragging themselves around at first, typical teenage behavior. Teens are definitely not morning people!
Once at the island we hiked up 310 steps to the top of this small, dormant volcano. HOT was the word of the day. No breeze and a black lava path. The view was spectacular though. When I was about twelve years old I painted a picture of a coastline that I found in a magazine. Years later I couldn't recall where the picture was from. Now I know. It was this very view that I painted. Kind of strange don't you think?
When we returned to the boat it was time for lunch. Mahi mahi, rice and cold beet and potato salad. The mahi mahi we had seen earlier, head down in a five-gallon bucket. Next we were off to the beach. On our way in we saw two Galapagos penguins on the rocks. I checked off another animal on my list of things to see in the islands. We snorkled around the rocky shore and saw a great variety of fish. We saw two really big puffer fish. I mean BIG. They were at least two feet long and one was chasing the other. I think one was in "the mood" and the other wasn't. Anyway, the best siting for us was a penguin swimming so close you could almost touch it. Only in the Galapagos! About 5pm we were back in town and ready for a siesta.
Saturday I spent a few hours troubleshooting our LP gas system. The symptoms seemed to indicate that we were running out of gas. You could light the burners, but they would go out after a few minutes. We had just gotten the tanks filled in Panama, so we should have been fine. The gauges on the tanks showed they had fuel in them. At first I thought it was the magnetic solenoid valve which turns off the gas at the tanks. I took the valve apart and checked to see that the valve mechanism was working properly. When the magnet was activated the valve seemed to stay open. Next I checked the tanks by weight in case the gauges were off. There was definitely fuel in them. LP is sold by the pound so, if you know the weight of the metal cylinder, you know just how much fuel is in the tank. I thought the gas regulator was malfunctioning, so I tried changing the settings to the maximum pressure. Same result. I put things back together in hopes that the problem cured itself. Nothing doing. Finally I decided that the solenoid was just not opening far enough. The valve housing seated against an O ring. I would either have to shorten the valve or not seat the housing in all the way. The valve had some fancy machine work on one end and a rubber seal on the other. I couldn't re-machine the valve and I couldn't take a chance of cutting the seal back without doing some damage. My decision would be very important. Remember we are in the Galapagos. It would take several weeks to order a new part, if I was lucky. Because the housing screwed into the base, I decided to try pipe tape on the threads in the hopes that it still would seal. There are only five to seven pounds of pressure at that point in the system, so I kept my fingers crossed. Success! Now we can get water to boil in less then thirty minutes.
To celebrate, we went ashore to find the lava tubes we had heard about from "Argenauta". We didn't have directions, so we thought we would just ask a cab driver. Well there is the language problem. Amy's' Spanish is getting better, but the first driver thought we wanted to go to the Laundromat. You might wonder whet a lava tube and a Laundromat have in common. Laundromat in Spanish (at least in Ecuador) is Lavanderia and Amy was asking for the "tubo de lava". So we were on to plan "B". Going to a tour service. We then discovered our problem. They are not called lava tubes, they are called lava tunnels (Tunel de Lava). After discovering that the tour service could set us up on a trip for fifty dollars, we said "Thank you very much. We'll let you know". With the correct terminology in hand, we went to the first taxi driver we saw and were soon on our way to "Tunel de Amore" (tunnel of love). We arrived at an old farm, which the enterprising owner had converted to a homegrown tourist destination. It definitely wasn't a "Tourist Trap". After paying our modest five dollars (large flashlight included) we headed down the tunnel.
Lava tubes are formed when the flow of lava is such that the outer part cools to a solid and the inner part remains molten. Many of the tubes are either collapsed or covered over time, with plants and soil. Part of the roof of this tube collapsed, which allowed its discovery. It's the largest in the world. About the size of a single tube subway tunnel (twenty feet high and two thousand feet long) it is truly an amazing site. It was cool and dark inside, the light from the collapsed entrance dissipating about one hundred feet in. You could see were the flow had stopped, then resumed, leaving striations along the sides like marks from the tide. I'm afraid that we didn't live up to the tunnels reputation-tunnel of love. We arrived at the end and the taxi driver was no-where in site. We walked back, returned the flashlight and took our cab back to town. I'd like to say something about our cab. In Panama, many of the taxis have the trademark cracked windshield on the passenger side. Obviously the taxi stopped and the passenger didn't. In the Galapagos, the taxis are short on rubber. That is to say, there were no treads on any of the tires on our cab. They looked like the rear tires on a dragster. Thank goodness for the gravel roads and no rain. I'm sure under the right conditions they could give an ice skater a run for their money.
Sunday we headed to shore to find "Los Griettos"- the Grottos. We heard about them while listening in on the VHF radio net in the harbor. When we arrived on shore, a very tame marine iguana greeted us. He posed for us and we got this great picture. Following the signs, we hiked inland about a mile or so. We passed an old salt works and walked on lots of hot black "Ah, ah" lava. It's called "Ah, ah" for the obvious reason that it's sharp and very hard to walk on. Just about when we were going to call it quits (i.e. we are not having fun any more) we came upon an unbelievable site. There was a crack in the earth about thirty feet wide and seventy feet deep, half filled with cool, clear water. We put on our snorkel gear and swam around with about a dozen native island boys. I was a bit concerned for their safety, before we got in, because a few of them were diving from about forty feet. Once I was in the water, I saw that it was at least thirty feet to the bottom.We spent a refreshing hour in the water, not looking forward to the walk back. Our return was no less taxing, but did seem to go a little bit quicker. It reminded me of the saying "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun."
Well that's enough writing for this week. PS
Log for the week ending Sunday April 8, 2001 Galapagos: Santa Cruz, Floreanna Island (Santa Maria) and Villamil Harbor on Santa Isabella by APW
Sorry this log is late, Ben is on Easter break and the rest of the Galapagos has only sporadic internet, but at a very high price!
Academy Bay, Santa Cruz: It's a good thing Bill Gates was no where near the Galapagos a few nights ago. I had been asked by the Director of the Darwin Research Station, Charles Bensted-Smith, to write a letter in English detailing our quarantine experiences, or lack there of. He was going to disseminate copies of the letter to the various officials in charge. I worked on the letter for two days, editing, sharpening, polishing and buffing it until it was, in my opinion, like a scalpel blade. Sharp and quick, leaving such a clean incision, the reader never knew they'd been sliced. (Unlike the logs which are lucky to get a reading once through!) Phil offered a program which would allow me to put the little curly-qu's over the Spanish M's, which I needed for some of the names, giving it a final finished burnish. I installed the program, made a copy of the letter, and somehow in the process, managed to delete the entire thing, two days of work- responding "yes" to one of those foggy Bill Gates questions, "would you like to revert to the saved changes of 'letter 1' ", or maybe I responded no; in any event the whole thing was gone and there was no going back. The Macintosh computer will automatically put the curley-quew thing on the Spanish "m", why can't this Compaq? So I re-wrote the letter and ended up with a much duller version, lacking the vigor of the first. We shall see if anything happens.
The long and the short of our research is, that, parts of the Ecuadorian Armada is, hmm, well, for lack of any better terminology, quite corrupt. An official in the Ecuadorian Armada was the owner of the boat that ran aground in Wreck Bay. The boat was carrying bunker fuel-which is illegal to do in these waters. It was only through some type of divine intervention, that the tides and wind were such that the oil went through the island chain leaving the animals and beaches relatively unscathed. Nothing exists in these islands for oil clean up. Booms, absorbent bilge bags, nothing, even paper towels are scarce.
No one is quite sure what the laws are regarding us yachts. We aren't tour boats and we aren't individual visitors flying in. Somehow we have fallen between the cracks. The consensus among the yachts is that we don't have to pay the park fee. Where did this ruling come from? At some ports, the port Captain's are insisting it be paid. The fumigation which is supposed to occur on all yachts, is equally vague. It gets paid for but that is the end of it. Nothing gets scheduled and nothing gets done. Two boats we have spoken with actually did get a fumigation. This consisted of a guy getting on the boat and giving two squirts of an insecticide under the kitchen sink, in the case of one boat, and around the bow on the other boat. Several of the yachts have made false documents claiming they have already been fumigated, so they don't have to pay the fee for a service which usually isn't rendered. We paid the fee, but as yet have never seen a fumigator. I did blast the boat with Ovitrol a Veterinary flea spray in an effort to get rid of a flock of annoying fruit flies. There is no one checking to see if there are pets of any kind on board, nor if these animals are healthy and vaccinated.
Phil and I paid the park fees- $100.00 per person, but it was not easy to do. I had to go through a gated guard house, to a building and secretary, to another building on top of a hill, to a back office manned with teenage girls. All of whom, spoke very fast Spanish. (I have decided that young Spanish girls are speaking a different language entirely.) They would not take a check or credit cards, cash only, which didn't leave me with a very good feeling. Since we didn't have enough cash, I had to return to the boat to fish out of "the car in the jar, fund". (Speaking of that, when we return I am going to put together a link on the web page detailing all of our expenses and how we paid for this trip. I do not want to do it until we are home, in case of webpage reading pirates!)
The Darwin Research Center is the third point in an equilateral triangle, the government, and Park Service serving as the other two regulatory bodies for the Galapagos Islands. The Darwin Center, an international non-profit group, seems to be the brains behind everything. They started the breeding program to save the Galapagos tortoise and are funding scientists from around the world, to do much needed research on the flora and fauna of the Galapagos. I had a good meeting with Sandy Salazar, the woman in charge of the sea lion project. A group of Dutch scientists came to the islands to establish the effects of the canine distemper outbreak on the sea lion population. They captured and drew blood samples from several apparently sick and healthy specimens. The whole blood was then sent off to Holland for analysis- much to Sandy's dismay, as she wanted to spin and separate the blood down first. Of course all the samples were hemolyzed, ( the blood cells broke apart from the movement of the sample) and the lab couldn't do the analysis it wanted. They are trying to run DNA analysis on the salvaged samples, but the results are as yet, inconclusive. I have offered my services to Sandy, but this is the Galapagos, where time is measured in weeks and months, instead of minutes and hours. It may be awhile before anything comes of it. If anyone is interested in helping the wildlife of the Galapagos, I would recommend donating to the Darwin Research Center, donations can be sent to: Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc. 100 N. Washington St. Suite 232, Falls Church, Va. 22046 USA. Or visit: www.galapagos.org. How's that for advertising? I have been totally impressed with what they have accomplished on a shoestring budget -you won't find a single fat guy in an air-conditioned office here.
After delivering my letters and finding out the Director would be gone for a few weeks, Phil and I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at a beach on Santa Cruz. According to the tour book I had read, the beach (Tortuga Beach) was three miles round trip from town. (Do not believe everything you read) We headed off carrying our pack (camera, pint of water, sunblock etc) and climbed straight up a hill, checking in at the park gatehouse and proceeding down a cement-block path, which meandered over lava rocks and through prickly pear cactus. Galapagos prickly pear cactus has evolved into a rather large tree form, with thick straight bark to prevent it from being eaten by tortoises. It was hot. April is the hottest month in the Galapagos, the locals especially have been complaining of the heat. The path continued on. At each brow of each small hill, we hoped to have a view of the beach before us. I thought it strange I couldn't hear the surf. Finally when we thought we could go no further, we crested a hill and saw the ocean in front of us, still a mile or so away. We trudged on and were passed by several perspiring, scowling, tourists heading back the other way. Finally we made it to the beach. We had been told by the park official at the gatehouse, that we couldn't swim at the first beach, because of dangerous currents, but must go to the second beach. The first beach had everything I dream about in a beach. A long curl of breaking turquoise waves to body surf in, miles of white soft sand and only two other people. We passed the other couple, an older man and woman wearing no clothes, drooping pink body parts lying out for way too much sun, and passing voyeur, exposure. The second beach was nothing more than a quiet lagoon. I reluctantly went in the thick warm water, so dense with salt, I easily fell asleep floating on the surface. It was hardly refreshing. Phil and I returned to the first beach and found a small protected pool sheltered from the breaking surf, but containing much more refreshing water, than the lagoon. I really wanted to swim in the surf. I told Phil I would never put myself in danger and if it really was dangerous I would not go in. It was a good deal of fun and the undertow was strong but not unmanageable for a moderate swimmer. Phil became bored waiting for me to get out of the surf and left by himself. It was awhile before I noticed he was gone. I got very hot and sweaty trying to catch up to him. The long walk back was gruesome, but thankfully someone donated money for outside fresh water showers at the park gatehouse; which we clothes and all, stood under, for several luxurious minutes before heading back, dripping but refreshed, to town.
The next morning, instead of the oily hot sunshine, we woke up to a strong breeze. Since there was nothing we could do in Santa Cruz until the Darwin Center Director returned, we decided it was time to investigate the other remaining islands.
After checking out with the port Captain and buying some last minute fresh food, we headed off to Floreanna. Practically the only time Phil cares about what other people think about him is when we are entering or leaving a harbor- there is nothing he hates more than a Chinese fire drill. Leaving Santa Cruz was a particularly adroit moment in our anchoring skills. As I have mentioned the wind was quite fresh and secondary to that we had a heaving sea, the anchorage was very crowded, lots of people sitting, watching from their cockpits. We had no trouble lifting the stern anchor with the running backstay winch. The anchor rode had wrapped itself around an old tractor tire, a fact I had discovered while snorkeling on it a few days earlier. Actually things were going pretty well up until the point I had most of the bow anchor stowed. We were motoring out into the waves, quite a bit of bucking going on; when all of a sudden, the last two feet of the anchor chain jumped off the windlass gypsy and the anchor and all three hundred feet of chain proceeded to the bottom of the harbor at an alarming pace. There was nothing I could do but stand back and watch in amazement. Phil then had the job of maneuvering Iwalani in place, so she wouldn't crash into the other anchored boats, while I waited for the last link to catch on the shackled eyebolt in the anchorlocker. It took a long time for the electric windlass to haul everything back in, I was glad for every penny we had spent on that piece of equipment. Lesson #14A, do not get underway until the anchor is securely locked in place.
We had a nice two hour sail until the wind died out after we went through our first tropical rainstorm. We rushed up on deck, soap bars and shampoo in hand, only to get all soaped up, with no more rain to rinse off with; thank goodness for the water maker and shower, passing rain showers do not provide enough water for proper bathing. We also hooked our first Pacific fish- a small bonito which made good sushi for supper.
The Galapagos islands have been called the enchanted islands, for their abliltity to appear and disappear suddenly out of nowhere. Floreanna, lived up to the enchanted island reputation. All of a sudden it appeared before us, full size, towering volcanic peaks not hidden in any haze or clouds.
We traveled along the western shore and anchored off Black Beach. We had the whole place to ourselves, not another boat was in sight as far as the eye could see. The sun was setting and we enjoyed the full moon rise over the Volcanic peaks to the east. Phil and I watched a woman wearing a dress, with shoulder length brown hair, pace back and forth across the beach at the shoreline, anxiously looking out past us toward the sea. We thought maybe she was a Wittmer heir, willing us to come in to shore for dinner at the Wittmer family pensione. Instead, we stayed on board the boat eating sushi and drinking saki.
That evening Phil played around on the ham radio and finally reached Bob Ayer in East Boothbay Harbor Maine, the fellow who sold us most of our electronic equipment. He is true Mainer with a brushfire of flame orange hair and a wit equally as hot. Phil told him about the death of our salt-water pump and how he was still figuring out how to fix it. A very sad affair, as that pump is teed off onto several important faucets- the deck hose to wash down the anchor and decks, the kitchen sink hose to pre-wash the dishes, and the bathroom hose which hoses down the shower stall. "Of coss it broke, its pumpin' salt water- wud-jou spect?. Its boun' to c'rode " was Bob's reply in his thick Maine accent, a sound too sweet to hear, for six sets of home-sick ears. Bob even got me to say a few words over the airwaves, a feat in itself. The propagation began breaking up so Phil and Bob agreed to talk again, next Thursday. Phil said "I don't know Bob, with this cruising life, I sort of lose track of the days." "Heahs wot yuh do", replied Bob "Yuh get yawself a post, and stahtin today yuh put a nawtch in that post. Each day you put a new nawtch on that post. When ya get tah eight nawtches its time tuh turn the radio on." Phil is notching away, counting down the days.
Floreanna, or Santa Maria, lacks both tortoises and unique animal species. It does possess a unique human history with a true story of twisted love triangles, hatred, jealousy and perhaps murder. In the 1930's a German dentist named Ritter arrived on Floreanna with his girlfriend Dore Strauch. Both were married to other people, but wanted to escape society and find a simpler lifestyle. Ritter and Dore were devoted followers of the philosopher Nietzche, who believed that woman were on this planet for the sole pleasure of the warrior man. Ritter wrote about his "paradise Galapagos island" in a German magazine and attracted the interests of another family from Germany called Wittmer; who arrived a few years later also seeking a simpler lifestyle. Then along came the "Baroness"- a German peroxide blonde, (until her dye ran out), with her two male lovers, Lorenz and Philipson. Upon arriving, the baroness announced she was in charge. Wearing jodhpurs, riding boots and sporting a whip, with a pistol in her belt for back-up, she believed everyone must bow to her needs. She was going to open a hotel for millionaires. A more polar opposite to Ritter could not be found anywhere. Needless to say much tension arose, with the end result being that the Baroness and one of her lovers disappeared. Before disappearing, the baroness told Margaret Wittmer that a ship had arrived and she was leaving with her second lover, Philipson. Later Dr. Ritter had said there had been no ships calling at the beach. The first lover Lorenz, began to hate the baroness and Philipson and was worried that they were plotting to kill him. Lorenz decided to sell off the contents of the house to the Wittmers and the Ritters. The Wittmers were reluctant to buy anything, but Ritter assured them the Baroness was "never coming back". The money from the sale allowed Lorenz to leave the island, but he was soon found dead on another island, along with the Norwegian fisherman who had taken him from Floreanna. The alleged vegetarian Dr Ritter, died of botulism shortly thereafter. Supposedly from contaminated meat, in a dish prepared by Dore, who was becoming tired of the domineering Ritter. Yet despite all this, the Wittmers lived on. We first read of this twisted tale in some of the books by circumnavigators from the 1930's. Everyone has their own theories on what really happened, but the people that know the truth have long since died.
The next morning we easily found the port captain's office, as there are only thirty or so buildings on Floreanna. The cement block office was painted the usual blue and white on the outside, snapping flags civilizing the landscape. We were ushered into an office by a young shirtless teenager, fresh off the volleyball court. A mixed breed dog lay sprawled on the floor, hot and tired, obviously taking a break from the puppies she was still nursing. Soon the port Captain came in, a paunchy older man, wearing a wilted white uniform with gold epaulets. He seemed a little confused, or was, perhaps new to the job. The shirtless teenager guided him through the paperwork and fees to be computed on the hand-held calculator. He was having trouble calculating ten percent of 42, the amount we had to pay based on our length. The two of them, each manned with their own calculators, kept arriving at different amounts. Phil and I did our best to stay out of this higher math. Finally, Phil couldn't stand it any longer and not knowing any Spanish passed our calculator over, which had a percentage key on it. The port Captains face lit up and after more button pushing, scribbling with a pencil and head scratching, passed the calculator over to me, with the figure 13.20 displayed. Not wanting to argue or go through the math all over again, as I had calculated a figure of 8.40 for the entrance and exit fees, I paid the full amount with my dwindling cash supply. It seems so odd to me, that we have so far visited quite a few countries and seem so far from home, and yet still pay everywhere with US dollars. Most of these countries make their own coinage, but they are based on the US dime, nickel and quarter and look almost the same. Yet an Ecuadorian can spot a Panamanian or Canadian dime from thirty feet, and will only accept the US or Ecuadorian version.
As we were finishing the paperwork, a young chick, of the poultry variety, wandered in to the office, followed by the bouncing puppies of the mixed breed dog, her morning rest now ended. We headed back to Black Beach to the Hotel Wittmer, a Germanic looking building situated on the north side of the beach. We were introduced to Erica Wittmer, grandaughter to Margret Wittmer. She ushered us into a screened in porch and brought us fresh juice from a (seguilla?tree), papaya and photograph/ guest book albums from the 50's onward, with entries and photos from all the vessels sailing westward. We recognized many boats and people- Tom Watson in Palawan on his way to Easter Island, Phinneus Sprague from Portland Maine, to name just a few. We added our names and Iwalani's "boat card"; an item we had left Maine without last summer, not realizing the importance of these business/calling cards among other yachts. (Iwalani's has a color picture of her under sail and gives our names, e-mail address etc. we made it on the computer, using I forget exactly which, business card program and took the floppy disc to a color copy place where we had several color copies made. We spent about $12.00 and have over 600 cards.)
After finishing our juice and all of the albums, we went in search of Erica to find out who did the tours of the island. She was no where to be found, so after leaving a note and some money for the juice and papaya, Phil and I decided to go on our own walking tour of Floreanna. We had read the book "Galapagos Affair" a few days before and I had committed the map of the three houses to memory. The Wittmer's place was the furthest away and was located near some pirate caves, which had served as their "house" when they arrived on the island. After a few hundred feet we were joined by a long haired black dog, who served as our tour guide, a choice we would later regret, for the rest of the afternoon. We took the main road out of town as it appeared to be made on the original path used in the thirties. It was hot and dusty. The soil near the coast is the color of rust and we followed the rutted dirt road up, up, up, toward the tallest volcanic peak on the island. According to my mental map, the Wittmers place was on the backside of the volcano. The Ritter house was closest to Black Beach and was on the front side. Our tour guide wanted us to take a path off the road to the left, I felt this was a mistake, so Phil scouted on ahead while I rested under a bush. It turned out our guide was correct, it was a short cut and bypassed a long section of the road which made a big ninety degree dog leg. Up we went, the dog and I panting in unison. He took several trips off into the scrub brush looking for water. All the water holes were bone dry; strange, as this is supposed to be the rainy season. Phil and I had only a pint of water between the two of us, which I carried in my backpack along with the cameras. We came to a dirt road which went off to the right, and a sign saying "Casa de Somebody or other, in Spanish, 1950. Our tour guide wanted to go down this road so we reluctantly followed. We eventually got to a modest house, surrounded by palm trees and lush vegetation. This should have been the Ritter house. A sign in Spanish said "keep out, private property" the four legged tour guide took us up some more paths, which turned out to be nothing more than burro trails, criss-crossing, meandering and going nowhere in particular. Along the way we passed several bony remains of goats, dogs and burros, all bleached out and parched in the sun. Eventually the burro trails led back to the road. We realized if we had just kept on straight up the road, we would have arrived at the same spot hours earlier. There is nothing quite like Galapagos hot. It is oven hot- like when the oven door is opened to check on the Thanksgiving turkey. However, the higher we went the cooler it became. One by one, the oven bursts were punctuated by cooling bursts from a refrigerator. The higher climates smell like the inside of a small chest you might find in your grandmother's attic, somewhat spicey, with a hint of must. There aren't many flower smells in the Galapagos, as there are few dramatic flowering plants. The Galapagos lack the necessary pollinating insects. There are some species of moth, which do most of the pollinating, so perhaps that's why the overall scent is somewhat "attic-y".
Eventually we made it to the top of a plateau and were even with the base of the highest Volcano. We should have been getting close, but still had to go around the volcano. Phil said that if I had told him on shore that we would have to walk around the volcano, he would have told me I was nuts. To make matters worse, I had left wearing boat shoes and no socks. My yachtie tenderized feet were getting blisters from the hard leather shoes. We were getting out of the orange clay and into thick black volcanic soil, which contained volcanic gravel. It got in our shoes and helped to sand the blisters down. We stopped on the side of the road for a rest. Phil offered to carry the backpack, a burden I was more than happy to unload and we drank half of the pint of water. We offered some to our tour guide, but he turned his head away. Phil scouted ahead and reported that two teenagers were heading down the road toward us. Eventually they arrived at the spot of the road, where I lay sprawled out, exhausted. I could not remember how to ask how far we were to hacienda Wittmer, so instead asked how many minutes away we were. "Twenty" was the reply. After our short break, I was ready to push on. It gave me some consolation to think of the Wittmers arriving and carrying all their worldly possessions, by hand up this dirt road. If they could make several trips, I could do one. Phil began joking about the "Amy" Tours we seem to go on and like best. Oftentimes in Maine we just wander off from our house exploring, with only a knife and book of matches between us. Eventually we got to some rather grand looking farmland, bananas, avacado and a fat orange tree which hung over the road offering its bounty to three parched visitors. We offered some to our tour guide, but again, he demurred. The oranges weren't quite ripe, but their juicy tartness helped to revive us. Our tour guide stopped at one of the farms and went under a barbed wire fence. We followed, but turned back when we saw a woman working in one of the fields. We were no longer on Park land, but private property. I left my watch on a the beach in Bartholemy so neither of us knows the correct time, but I could tell it was getting late and we ought to start back if we were going to make it to the boat before dark. I was also worried about our tour guide, since he was panting worse than me, yet his gray facial hair made him appear older than his teeth showed, so I wasn't too worried about him really overdoing it. We had hoped that a car or truck might pass us on the way back, but that wasn't the case. As there are only two trucks and one car on the entire island, we would have been pushing our luck. Our tour guide made a side trip under another fence and stood drinking from a rain barrel next to an abandoned shack. I thought skinny thoughts and crawled under the low barbed wire fence. I cupped my hands into the barrel bringing out handfuls of warm water, which our tour guide gratefully drank, as he wasn't quite tall enough to reach the water level in the barrel. Phil arrived a few seconds later after having passed through the gate a little further down the fence. "Why don't you use the dish?" he asked rather pointedly. "Uh, I was worried about diseases. Uh, umm and I didn't want him drinking a whole lot at once." I actually had not noticed the dog dish at my feet. When Phil wasn't looking I cleaned the dog dish and gave the tour guide a half bowl full, he wanted more, but I didn't want him exercising with a stomach full of water. After a short break we headed back on the road and started the downhill trip to town. We spent our return trip trying to figure out the tour guide's name. Starting at A, we went through men's and and dog's names in English, Spanish and German, never once getting him to turn around. We had arrived back in town at the letter "T" and still hadn't figured out his name. Erica came out of the hotel, drying her hands on a dish towel as we walked up. All three of us tired and sore. "Whiskey, where have you been?" she asked our tour guide. Next time we will start at the end of the alphabet. She was amazed that we had walked as far as we did, even more amazed that her dog went with us, since he never had walked that trip in his entire five year life. We arranged for a tour with her at 8:30 the next morning, as she is the owner of one of the three island vehicles, figuring she might be a better guide than her dog.
The next morning we arrived on time and were introduced to her mother Inga Floreanna Wittmer, the second baby born to the original Wittmers on Floreanna Island. In the book "Floreanna" written by Margret Wittmer, Margret wrote of baby Inga's second Christmas. The Wittmers had spent months making a doll and doll bed, to be given to Inga by St. Nick. When Inga unwrapped the present Christmas morning, she was terribly disappointed that father Christmas gave her a doll instead of a machete. Here was Inga Floreana sixty or so years later, wearing pants and a "CAT" (for caterpillar" baseball cap, at her feet- buckets and shovels and in her right hand- a machete. Inga Floreanna Wittmer had short curly gray hair and was not the type to pace the beach in a dress; I had assumed it was she that Phil and I saw pacing along the shoreline two nights before. I was beginning to wonder who the woman was that we had seen so clearly. Phil, Whisky and I piled into the back of Erica's small pick up truck and the five of us, headed up the same dusty track we had taken the day before. Before we left, I asked Erica how far it was to the farm- "eight kilometers" was her reply. No wonder we were so tired. We went a half mile or so further, down the road we had been on the previous day and dropped her mother off to do some digging. We then continued a little further, to the remains of the original Wittmer homestead. The original building has long since rotted and a run of the mill building now stands near it. A woman and her small children live there now and look after the place for the Wittmers. The caves were a few hundred feet up the volcanic slope and were semi-circled by a series of tall narrow passages through volcanic stone, giving it a fairy tale setting. The view from the side of the slope was of the Pacific, Black Beach was obscured by the volcano we had walked around. When I first had seen Floreanna, the gray mountains, gray coastal plants and black beach seemed terribly depressing. Yet, I could imagine establishing a homestead in this magical setting.The caves could once have been bubbles in the volcanic lava, which were further chiseled and hollowed out by humans. Built- in bunks, and a fireplace were in the main cave, smaller caves housed more bunk beds. A few hundred yards away was a fresh spring that dripped down over the rocks and filled a small pool at the base. The air was cool and fresh and what's more,-no mosquitos!
We had brought a bag of goodies to shore to give to the Wittmer's- sauerkraut and canned Maine blueberries. We left with fresh papaya, yucca, bananas, oranges, and 2 lbs of home grown and roasted coffee. As we were leaving, I asked Erica about the woman pacing the beach two nights ago. Perhaps it was a guest in the hotel or another European living on the island. She replied the hotel was empty and there were no other Europeans beside her mother and herself on the island. Perhaps it was her mother on the beach, I asked further. She gave me funny look and said "You must have seen a ghost." I am quite sure that Phil and I saw the Baroness, still looking out to sea for the ship that never came.
Despite the fact that there was little wind, Phil wanted to press on to Villamil on Isabella Island. We had been warned by several boats, that no matter what, make sure we arrived before dark as the entrance is tricky with lots of reefs. Phil sort of takes statements like that as bold challenge. I wasn't too worried as it was clear, flat calm and a full moon night. What trouble could we get into? I had failed to notice the rather large soft swell we coming from the South, until we had taken the mainsail down. We arrived a few miles out, shortly after sunset. Right on schedule, the moon appeared to the east and lit up the "harbor" ahead. Phil stayed down below, steering with the remote control and using the radar and moving map program on the computer. We actually were not using a scanned in chart with Delorme Map kit, but scanned in a printout on an 8x11 sheet of paper that Ken from Sunbow had printed from his moving map program and computer printer. I was a little apprehensive and stayed on the bow as a lookout. I must say that the Galapagos has some of the best surf I have ever seen anywhere, the puny little waves I saw in Hawaii, pale in comparison. We had to thread our way through some of these breaking monsters, to get to the "harbor." Luckily Phil never saw them at all and I could only barely see them in the fading dusk and shimmering moonlight. Villamil is supposed to be one of the best "anchorages" in the Pacific. I say that lightly, as we lay at anchor and I reach to catch a glass flying off the table from the rolling. It seems very pretty, but you will have to hear more in Phil's log as that's it, (thank goodness you may say), for Sunday April 8. APW
Log for the week ending April 16, 2001 by PS
"Ride 'em Cowboy" was the quote for the day. We took a truck/horse and foot trip to an active volcano vent. Despite the fact that "Philip" means lover of horses, I really don't like them. They have a brain. With that brain, they are able to tell who is in charge and it's not me. I took my first horseback ride about 5 years ago and while I did manage to survive, I wasn't looking forward to my next time. To humor Amy I went in this trip to the volcano. There didn't seem to be any other mode of transportation to it. If I had my choice I would have taken a small plane. Speaking of planes, I don't understand why there isn't a seaplane charter business on the islands. Maybe I should start one. It would be a great way to put perspective on vast size and variety of the terrain.
Anyway, the trip was interesting. We started out at 8am riding in the back of a pickup truck. About five miles from town the truck died. Looking at the cactus and dried bones of long dead animals on the side of the road didn't inspire us. There are few vehicles on this island, so there wasn't much chance of getting help. Amy had diagnosed the problem earlier, before the engine finally died. Water in the gas. The driver managed to clear the fuel line and we were on our way. I'm sure this wasn't the first time he had this problem. Getting good fuel in these out of the way places is hard. I've noticed water in our diesel for the first time since we left Maine.
As we traveled higher into the mountains, the air got cooler and the vegetation got larger. We saw some buttressed trees that were at least ten feet across. After an hours worth of road grit in our teeth, we arrived at the next phase. Horses. Ugh. The "cowboys" picked horses for the riders. There were fifteen of us, all-varying in weight. Then I began thinking maybe it wasn't weight that mattered. Perhaps the "Cowboys" were putting the most frightened looking "Gringos" on the wildest horses. No. They wouldn't do that would they? I think you may be getting an idea of my state of mind. All seemed to go well at first. My steed started out walking slowly up the hill. "Not so bad" I thought. Where the trail leveled out a bit, things changed. My horse started trotting. Have you ever been on a trotting horse? It's kind of like sitting on a chair that is hammering into your bottom every two seconds. Ouch! The horses also started jockeying for position. Riding at a trotting pace, they were trying to brush past each other. Or were they trying to brush off their riders? This was getting more fun by the minute. Then, as if to tighten my grip on the makeshift saddle even more, my horse started galloping. I pulled back on the reins, but the horse wasn't happy. At that point I didn't care. I was riding this horse. I wasn't going to let her take me for a ride. Controlling animals is all a "head trip" Amy tells me. You have to let the animal know who is in charge. "Ok." I thought "Now's my chance." My horse eventually got the idea, and the rest of the trip was a compromise. I let the horse think she was in charge half of the time and I let myself think I was in charge the other half.
After another hours worth of grit in our teeth, the dust was even worse then the truck ride, we reached the end of the horse trail. Whew! We tied the horses to some trees, out of the sun, and started a hike across the lava fields. The volcano had erupted twice in recent times, once in 1963 and again in 1979. The strange patchwork of green vegetation on the slopes defined the recent flows very well. Small islands just high enough to be out of reach of the hot, molten lava. The two types of lava were easy to recognize. The molasses looking "Pahoe hoe" and the sharp, cinder looking "Aa". The most recent eruption was mostly "Aa". There was also some barrel cactus we hadn't seen at the lower elevations.
After an hour we reached the highest point on the island of Isabella. The view was hazy but still far-reaching. We could see for over thirty miles. This perpetual haze makes the islands seem to appear "as if by magic" when approached from sea. The vent looked to be about fifty feet deep. There were ferns growing in the warm steam, but not the familiar sulfur smell I remember from the "Big Island" in Hawaii. I guess this vent was too old for that. We took our "Siesta" under the hot, hazy sun and ate our lunch of pepperoni, cheese and crackers. Then it was back to the horses. I was dreading this phase even more. The horses knew they were headed back to some food and rest, so I was sure the return pace would be even faster. It was, but I went along with it. I knew that the sooner we got back, the sooner I would be off the horse! We looked like coal miners at the end of our ride. Dirt covered us from head to foot. Then it was into the back of the pickup and finally a cold shower on the boat.
Tuesday I worked on the head. It's a WC Skipper. I don't think it was meant for a world cruising boat. If the head were installed in a weekend cruiser, it would have lasted 20 years. As we use it several times a day, every day, its expected life span is shortened considerably. After getting in the "mood" to do this nasty job, I took it completely apart. As it turned out, there was a bronze arm and pin assembly that was worn. All the spare parts kit had in it were rubber seals and valves, no arm and pin. This is because the company expects the rubber parts to deteriorate with age. Definitely not the case with us. I managed to cut off a piece of faucet to act as a bushing for the pin. I put it back together and it works fine. For how long I don't know, but it beats using a bucket. Our next head will be a vacuum type. The head itself has no moving parts. The system uses a regular diaphragm hand pump, which we have to use anyway to pump out the sink and shower. When you close the lid and use the pump, the vacuum created in the bowl draws in seawater to flush. I tried the one on Sunbow and it's the only way to go. Our head has over a dozen moving parts. Too many things to go wrong!
Wednesday we sailed the dinghy to a small island near the anchorage. We tied the boat to some mangrove trees and waded to shore. It was a little hard on the feet as we were walking on Aa lava. Once on shore we put on our shoes and walked along the beach. We saw hundreds of fat and healthy looking marine iguanas. This is the closest we have gotten to them for our entire time in the Galapagos. We also watched a sea turtle and some frolicking sea lions. Not bad for only being a few hundred yards from Iwalani.
When we returned, I scrubbed our hull around the waterline. Because of our rolling, seaweed had been able to grow up onto the topside paint. How it could grow on a moving surface I don't know. I do remember reading that earlier voyagers had the same problem as they were crossing oceans. Seeing believes. Not only were we growing a nice crop of seaweed, but also this in turn gave a habitat for hundreds of tiny crabs, which were crawling halfway up her topsides. I really didn't build Iwalani to be a wildlife refuge, so it was off with the freeloaders. People were starting to talk about "Iwalani's" crabs on the radio.
Then it was up with our stern anchor. It was kind of a pain as the wind had us broadside to it, so we had to haul it up over the side. After about thirty minutes of hauling, swearing and gouging up the rail, we finally got it on board. Then we raised the bow anchor and headed for Tagus Cove. The trip was about ninety miles, so by leaving in the afternoon we would arrive at noon the next day. It was a quite passage. We had to motor the whole way, as the wind was either on the nose or non-existent. The only notable thing that happened was getting Amy up an hour early for her watch. It seems that there are three time zones on Iwalani. Galapagos time, which is one hour earlier than the ships clock. Ships time, which we haven't changed since we left Maine. And finally, computer time, which is daylight savings time or one hour later than ships time. Confused yet? Well, I was when I called Amy at what I thought was 4am. My watch did seem to go by pretty fast.
As we approached Tagus, a fog bank formed. Fog in the Galapagos! I thought Maine had cornered the market on fog. It was on with the radar and digging around to find the sweaters. Well, maybe we didn't go quite that far. Amy was talking about being cold though. As we approached the cove, the fog lifted in the lee of the land. We saw one large cruise boat pulling up anchor, so we had the place all to ourselves. Outside the cove the fog rolled by for most of the day.
The main reason we came was to find a name painted on the rock cliffs. Dennis Puleston describes in his book "Blue Water Vagabond" that when he arrived here in the late 30's on "Director", he added their name to the rocks. It's been a long-standing tradition to write visiting ships names for all to see. We searched in vain for hours, but didn't have any luck. It has been almost seventy years. We did find other names which he describes seeing-Orion, Cimba, Svaap along with hundreds of others. It was interesting to see that the painted letters, on some of the names, were raised up. The soft rock had eroded around them. As we slowly rowed around the cove we saw lots of penguins, sea turtles and sea lions. Not only that, but as far as I was concerned, this was the best anchorage in the Galapagos. No rolling! We haven't seen this calm of an anchorage since we left Manta, Ecuador almost a month ago. Later in the day another small cruise ship arrived. Not only would his presence brake our solitude, but we also expected to be thrown out. Rumor has it that cruisers like us have to hire a guide to go to the nicer places in the Galapagos. Sure enough, at about sunset their skiff came over with a boatload of tourists and their guide wanted us to leave. I stayed below and let Amy do the talking, in hopes that her natural charm would help our situation. Even as the tourists rolled their eyes at his ranting, he wanted us to leave ASAP. Amy told him we would be leaving in the morning. This seemed to appease him and he left. I think the reason they get so wound up is because they are trying to protect their guide income. If only they would guard their quarantine system as well…The remainder of the day was spent listening to roaring outboards, loud music and their diesel generator. That night the children on board were using a spotlight to disturb the wildlife. And they wanted us to leave! Somehow it just didn't seem right.
Friday the thirteenth. Ouch. I hate the sound of that. Amy was up at dawn to see if the lighting was any better to find "Directors" name. We had managed to pick up a few more names in the evening light the day before. She and I carefully looked the rocks over with our high power binoculars. Still no luck. A cruise ship headed into the cove, so I got the anchor up and we headed back to Villamil. I steered from down below, using the DeLorme GPS map program and the remote for the autopilot. I didn't want someone photographing the "Criminals".
We arrived at Villamil about 2:30am on Saturday. The return trip had an exciting moment about 10 minutes into my midnight to 4am watch. Before I went on deck, I checked our progress on the moving map GPS. I was startled to hear a whistle. Not just any whistle. This was the characteristic "Ecuadorian" whistle. I bolted up on deck, sans clothes, and saw a small fishing boat shining a flashlight on me. I quickly sat down, embarrassed at my condition, and was deluged with excited and rapidly spoken Spanish. "Amy, you better get up here." I said. I wasn't afraid about pirates. After my paranoid reaction at Las Pearlas, I no longer fear the Ecuadorian fisherman. They were pretty worked up though. Amy came up on deck and tried to understand what was wrong. I thought we had cut their fishnet in two. No, it wasn't that. After about five minutes worth of exchanges, Amy decided that they were trying to tell us that one of their fellow fishermen was missing. We told them we hadn't seen anyone.
Let me tell you about these fishing boats. They are about twenty-four feet long, completely open and powered with large outboards. There are no running lights, compass, flares, radar reflectors or radios. I am not sure just how far offshore they go, but I wouldn't want to be on one. All I could picture was that the missing boat had engine trouble. Working into the night he used up the flashlight batteries in vain trying to fix the engine. How were we to see him? It would have been pure luck as the moon hadn't come up yet. It was "as dark as the inside of a cow." I tried looking around with the radar, but could barely make out the boat that had just visited us, one mile ahead. This was not good news. It was Friday the thirteenth you will remember. Years ago, another local fisherman was lost along with two passengers. They also left on a Friday. Two of them were found months later, on a waterless island to the north, dried up like mummies. Sends chills up my spine.
Saturday I awoke to the sound of a small plane. It was the Coast Guard still looking for the fishermen. I hope they find them safe and well. Fishing has always been a dangerous occupation.
Sunday we walked to the flamingo pond and saw a very tropical site. Pink birds. You can see them in Maine, but they are just plastic lawn ornaments. The pond had about 20 real ones wading and preening. They sounded like Canadian geese. We walked back along the beach and had a short swim in the surf before heading back to Iwalani. Our friends on Sunbow invited us to a dinner ashore. It was a nice seafood platter with fish, lobster and octopus. The music was the usual American "Musak" Aggg. Amy entertained us though. She was showing everyone how many flies she could kill by clapping her hands together. She started off at two and got all the way up to seven at one time. Ask me if there were a few flies around. Well, that's enough for this week. We are rolling pretty well here in Villamil. Tomorrow, it's back to Academy Bay or I'm moving ashore! PS
Log for the week of April 22, 2001 Academy Bay Santa Cruz Galapagos by APW
Living in a wooden boat in the tropics has more than its fair share of disadvantages, fire, worms and explosions not withstanding, Iwalani's very organic substrate has allowed a rather tenacious methane producing organism to breed rather successfully in the waters of her bilge. In short, we have turned her into a biological bomb.
I actually blame it on myself. My parents as wonderful as they are, taught me many things, from cooking, how to split and stack firewood, appreciation of art and music, how to repair a stone wall, to growing a plant from a small cutting. However, there was a very large part of growing up which remained shrouded in mystery. The art of cleaning. I can't blame Ma or Dad, for I really think they weren't taught either. My mother's mother was an extremely fastidious woman, yet she relied on a small army of servants to keep her house in order. My mother, inherited the same fastidious genes from her mother. Though we did not have a house full of servants growing up, we did have a man named Harold Rounseville, who arrived Thursday mornings while we kids were in school and left that afternoon with all the fibers in every carpet marching in the same direction, the wood furniture gleaming and a general sense of order everywhere, including my room, which caused him quite a bit of consternation. For you see, I did not inherit the same set of maternal genes. I thought with my life shrunken down to just forty two feet, I could become my ideal person- a type "A". It has not happened. I have been fairly good about putting things away once they are no longer needed, but this whole cleaning thing is still shrouded in mystery. We have gone on several boats which make me salivate with envy, these stark white bastions to economy and sterility, lacking any hint of their owners personality. Books, papers, paintings, plants and pets are not in sight and maybe not even on board. "Oh how I wish I could live like that" I lament to Phil. He just rolls his eyes, knowing full well it would take nothing short of a head transplant for me to change. We are what we are, and I am a slob.
I surreptitiously watch my neat freak friends, seeing what potions and goos they use to keep their boats and homes so pristine and fresh. Then I wander down that very long, confusing grocery isle looking for the same mysterious bottles and spray cans. I know enough of Organic chemistry to know which chemicals can't be mixed together, but I haven't a clue when you are to use an ammonia based cleaner and when to use bleach, or just plain soap, or whatever. Do you rinse afterward? It's a mystery.
The varnished wood surfaces of Iwalani support a healthy colony of molds and mildews, to which I attack with water and bleach. The interior painted surfaces, have thankfully, not supported much growth, so I clean them with Fantastic spray. The lack of growth comes from the exterior house paint I used inside her. The fumes nearly killed me in year 2000 while I was painting. The paint store guy was appalled when he found out I was using an exterior house paint in a confined non-ventilated space. "That paint has a toxic level of fungicide and mildewcide" he told me shaking his head. Duh, that's why I used it.
Which brings me to our present condition of the methane producing bilge water. Two weeks ago the inflammable vapor alarm went off. We lifted the floor boards and were appalled at the sight and smell of the bilge water. Phil scrubbed the bilge and pumped the water into a bucket, which I was too embarrassed to dump overboard. The water was deathly black and looked like motor oil and smelled like sewage. Not a drop of oil has seeped into the bilge, so though it may have looked like oil, it wasn't. An onlooker would not have known this. So I dumped the waste water down the sink, which drained into the harbor anyway. Phil thought it was residue from the tar that was used to prevent rot on the "faying" surfaces of Iwalani's private places. That doesn't appear to be the case. Our latest theory is that it is a rather gruesome bacteria which probably came from the water maker filters which slosh into the bilge each time the exterior cannister is removed. This bacteria has a happy time growing in our bilge water, which is not fed by any source other than the drip from the stuffing box. All of Iwalani's drains go overboard and none of them are leaking.
Everything seemed fine until the bilge alarm went off again, a few days ago. We opened the seacocks and flushed the bilge out with seawater. I wasn't anxious to use a lot of harsh chemicals in the Galapagos, so we decided on a germ warfare type of approach. Add good guys to fight the bad guys. I made up a brew of yeast and lactobaccilus and dumped this potion into the bilge water. We left it overnight. The next morning we were awoken to the bilge alarm screaming her message that an imminent explosion was soon to take place. We turned off all the electrical systems and once again opened all the floorboards. PU! What a stink. The good guys had been totally defeated by the bad guys and the bad guys were feasting on their remains.
War had been declared and I at this point did not care about harsh chemicals. Phil removed all the plastic containers from the bilge once again and scrubbed it out, for the third time in two weeks. Then he removed the hose from the bathroom seacock, and we flooded and flushed Iwalani for over an hour. It was a good lesson for me to see how little water really comes in from a one inch hole. All the bilge pumps were tested. Iwalani was pumped dry. The pumps work fine and if all of them are working at once, we can drain out two feet of water above the floor boards in a few minutes. Then we added a gallon of bleach. I wasn't sure whether the bleach would work in salt water, since it is a hypochlorite, but so far we seem to have gotten the situation under control, and our imminent explosion alarm has remained relatively quiet. We now have a catch basin under the watermaker filters, hopefully this will work.
We returned to Academy Bay from Villamil last Monday. We said good bye to our friends Ken and Judy on Sunbow, who gave us the honor of a "Billy Bob" performance with their "Billy Bob" teeth. (Everyone should have a set of the beauties-available on-line at www.billybob-teeth.comorder the extra gum cement if you get a set of these pretty pearlies).
I have done all I can for the Darwin Center. A bill is going through at the end of April, which the President of Ecuador will hopefully sign into law by August. It will make all sorts of changes in the quarantine regulations. They will be using a handout I made, to be given to visiting yachts. The biggest problem in implementing any changes has been the lack of money. The Darwin Center is really the brains behind everything. They work on a shoe string budget and have no endowment. They do all the research and advise the government on policy and procedure. The government was against any type of quarantine, but now see the long term wisdom.
I met with Charlotte Causton at the Darwin Center, an entomologist by training and she explained to me that everyone in the world is under the mistaken impression that the Environmental Organizations (actually the Darwin Center) in the Galapagos must be swimming in funds from various sources. That surely would have been my guess, before coming here. Nothing could be further from the truth. The World Bank and Global Environmental Fund have promised a big donation to get this quarantine thing going. So, Iwalani really arrived at a transition stage. In a couple of years the quarantine/import system will be similar to New Zealand and Australia. Both countries have sent their own representatives and advisors, to help in the planning. Stewart will be one of the last cats to cruise the Galapagos. It will soon be illegal to bring in any plants or animals. (I tried to change Charlottes mind that dog's and birds are the biggest threat, wild cats are actually responsible for a lot of environmental damage and an imported cat disease may not be such a bad thing, but I don't think I changed her mind.)
As far as my vaccinating the dogs here goes, they aren't ready. I would also be stepping on the toes of the two vets that are already here. They are a married couple trained in Cuba. I never did meet them, as we always seem to be on different islands. Neither of them speak English. Charlotte is trying to change that. Both of them complain of an un-ending amount of work, so language lessons are low on their list of priorities. Charlotte would like to see a list of projects that volunteer visiting Vets could fulfill while vacationing here. Charlotte's e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone reading this is interested. I would start now setting something up for next February or March. You would need to fly into Quito first, so visit Machu Pichu, then come here for a month!! There is no doubt we will be coming back, after I take a Spanish refresher course.
We changed Iwalani's lanyards, since they are now almost a year old. We now have some old line to start making baggy wrinkle. While helping Phil, using the "handi-Billy" a block and tackle thingamabob to tighten the dead eyes and lanyards, I looked around the harbor at all the other pitiful white Clorox bottle boats. How envious those poor people must be to see us struggling with such archaic nautical equipment. Yet, I really don't miss turnbuckles at all, they do seem to break at the most inopportune moments.I looked fondly at the dead eyes we both made, which over a year ago were boiling on our woodstove. It would be shame for them not to complete their mission in life. We have topped off all the tanks, changed fuel filters, bought as much fresh stuff as we can hold, and today (April 21,2000) scrubbed Iwalani's bottom. She is due for a haul out and painting. Her topsides have been rammed so many times by the water taxis that she really looks rather sad. Above and to the right is a picture of one of the Santa Cruz watertaxis. We are ready to go. Where? Good Question, one I'm not going to answer.
Speaking of the cleaning of the bottom, Phil and I both donned mask and flippers to do this nasty job. Phil did the waterline and above, while I did the keel and rudder. Our Interlux Micron CSC Extra bottom paint was as usual, supporting a whole ecosystem- grass, barnacles, seaweed, a strange type of coral, small fish, crabs, big fish and pelicans. When we got back in the boat Phil started complaining that he had shrimp in his ears. Any of you that have been following the log know that Phil had a bad car accident as a kid and as a result he is deaf in one ear and has a lot of trouble equalizing the pressure when diving. His ears are always bothering him when he gets out of the water. I obligingly went into the bathroom and got out my "black bag". Wasn't I surprised! Waving his little arms at me, when I looked in with the otoscope, was a tiny little crab, bouncing around on Phil's ear drum. I had a devil of a time trying to get him out with the alligator forceps. I almost used one of Stewarts pyrethrin based ear medicines. But luckily he came out, once I flushed Phil's ear with warm water and a peroxide based cleaner. So yes, Phil had a case of Galapagos crabs, and I thought sharks were the biggest danger in the Pacific!
Log for the week ending April 29, 2001 byPS
This was the week of the BIG decision.Should we continue west or head back home.
Monday we checked out at the port captain's office and got our zarpe' for the Marquises.The die had been cast.Returning to Maine had it's advantages.We could cure our home sickness.On the otherhand, how could we turn our backs on a life-long dream? I have always accomplished my lifes goals, building and living in a log cabin, building a large wooden schooner and learning to fly. Now my teenage dream doesn't seem so great.I think the only true account of an around the world cruise was written by the Hiscocks. The rest of the accounts leave out the boredom,constant challenge of trying to stand up,staying awake for four hours then trying to sleep for four every day we are on passage, etc.
Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote that passages at sea were"Stupefying to the mind".He was absolutely right.I can say this with conviction.We are now into our fifth day of a thirty day passage to the Marquises and I'm going crazy.All we see is blue sky and blue water.Sure you can read.I've read over 150 books on board. Where is the outside stimulation? What are we contributing to society? Nothing. Nothing at all. Cruising is a purely selfish pursuit.
Why are we continuing you ask? Because if we don't, we'll never know what it's like, If we turned back, we would always ask ourselves, "What if we kept going? "What experiences would we have had?". Lots of people have done this. We can do it. It's just that we are not like most cruisers. Most of them have left the "Rat race" and are glad for the boredom, glad to be out of the morning commute, glad to be out of the high pressure job. Not us. We miss our work. We miss our home. Amy said that to some cruises once and they nearly fell out of their chairs!PS