We have safely arrived in the Galapagos after a six day journey at sea. The total distance was 630 miles. The beginning was not very pleasant with intersecting currents and choppy waters. As a reprieve Mother Nature gave us a delightful middle three days. The air temperature was quite cool, the seas were fairly calm and the winds just enough to blow our three main sails along at about 5 knots. Jane sat on her deck chair with a blanket wrapped around her legs and felt just like a guest on the QE2 taking a health break on the deck.
We decided to make our landfall on the island of Isabela, the largest and most westerly island of the group. It is the least visited of the islands and that is precisely one of the things that appealed to us. We arrived here on Friday, March 7, a little after noon and were the only boat in the harbor for about two hours. One other boat has arrived since then but is not getting in our way of totally enjoying the surroundings.
The anchorage is nearly surrounded by a lava reef bearing tall skinny cacti and backed by turquoise colored seas. The wind is steadily out of the SE and keeps the boat in one position regardless of the tides. What a marvelous night's sleep we had when we arrived!
We climbed into our dinghy as soon as possible in order to check in with the port captain's office before the weekend. As we buzzed along in the dinghy, a tiny bird popped up in front of us. With a surprised look on his face, as though to say "Oh s---!" he quickly dived down under the dinghy again. We soon discovered that these are baby Galapagos penguins, endemic to the islands. Only one other species of penguin in the world is smaller. We have come very close to some sunning on the lava rocks and they seem to have very little fear. Most of the animals here on Isabela have been very approachable.
The other local resident that we saw very quickly is the sea lion. The Galapagos sea lion is related to the California sea lion but is smaller. Their favorite haunt seems to be the local unused fishing boats. They leap high (4') into the air to land on the back end of the boat where they sun themselves and bark loudly at any intruders. Sometimes we have seen as many as seven lions on one boat. Today Jane hoped to swim with the sea lions. She was able to get quite close and watch them swim beneath the surface. We were advised that if we could free dive and then quickly swivel around that they would come to play much closer. It did not work today but Jane will keep on trying.
Each night we raise the dinghy with a harness and using a halyard and the anchor windlass. It comes up about 4' and hangs all night from this harness. We have been hoping the sea lions do not decide to try to jump into the dinghy. The harness is strong, but we fear that the whole thing would come crashing down under the weight of one of them.
Today we went into town to wander around and found an area covered with the marine iguana, many of them in the middle of molting their skin. This is the only marine iguana in the whole world. It is believed that they descended from a land iguana somewhere in South America and migrated here on vegetation rafts. Isabela is home to the largest variety - up to one meter in length. The iguana feeds on alga in the seawater, sometimes diving as deep as 60' and staying under the water for an hour at a time. Because eggs are laid in Feb-Mar, we will have to be extra careful about approaching them.
When we used to dream about coming to the Galapagos, we imagined that we could easily be disappointed. Perhaps we would have to look far and wide to find any of the wonderful animals. Not so at all! They are everywhere! We are happy that we decided to come just to Isla Isabela. Here we are able to see nearly all of the magic of the islands in a very low-keyed and personal setting.
We will be here until March 27th before we start our month-long trip to the South Pacific.
If you would like to write to us and ask about anything, please use our ham radio address which is *****.
We send our thanks to our friends, Greg and Catherine in the Chesapeake who are helping to post this message on our hotmail account. We will try to send out another message during our stay here.
With thoughts of you all… Jane and Sander