Sunday, April 14
Who needs pets?
We have arrived safely at the Isla de Cocos after 3 days at sea. On our last night at sea we had some guests on the bow pulpit all night - four boobies. They landed one at a time during the afternoon...and then there were two, and then there were three etc.
They had quite a time figuring out just how to do the landings as the boat was pitching and moving ahead. We had a very entertaining time watching them in their determined efforts. They would have to circle the boat 'one more time' in order to set themselves up for the hoped-for landing. As the numbers of birds clutching the slippery stainless steel tubing grew, it became more and more difficult for each successive bird to pinpoint the landing. Boobies seem to be quite uncooperative in that way as they squawk "Don't come into my territory!" It was interesting to watch them preen - gripping a feather with the ends of their beak they would work the beak all the way out to the tip of the feather. We were not sure what they were attempting to remove from the feather in that way but they needed to fluff up every single one. With daybreak we were about 20 miles out from the island. The birds took off but did not go far before coming back to circle the boat. (photo #1)
As we got closer to Cocos we could see lots of jumping. The dolphins here really like to propel themselves out of the water and land with a big splash. They joined us around the bow and continued the show on the way in. Our friends on the boat Djarrka were fairly close behind us and we were in radio contact with them as we arrived. We met these folks, Sara and GB in Curacao and saw them again at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club on the canal. A second boat named Ventana was also close behind them.
We were a little disappointed about the park facilities in the beginning. The fees for us were $63/night, but there were no guides available. That meant that we would go diving with the sharks etc without a guide. In the end it was no problem. There were six of us in three boats to go together. Sometimes we needed to leave someone in the dinghy and sometimes we were able to anchor the dinghy on a shelf and all go together. The park rangers assured us that all of the sharks were mellow and would not bother us. They did warn that we should not go near any clusters of sea birds as that usually indicated that the sharks were feeding there. No problem about that…!
We stayed at the Cocos for three days leaving on Wednesday (4/17) about 9 am. We are both so very very happy we decided to go there. The island itself is marvelous. It sits 330 miles off Costa Rica, where we had departed, and then it is another 400 miles to the Galapagos so you can see that it is truly out in the middle of a very big ocean. The island is 4 miles north to south and 5 miles east to west so it is not very big. The highest point is 2,000' and it is covered with rainforest as it receives 280" of rain/year. The island is ringed with cliffs that plunge from 550' (in most places) straight into the sea. There is one good bay for anchoring that has a large amount of sand about 30' deep. The water is so clear that we could see the sand ripples on the bottom and all the great fish swimming around. (Photo #2) From the cliffs are about 10 waterfalls around the perimeter of the island. They seem to come gushing out of the rock and plunge straight down to the sea. One of these waterfalls was close enough to our anchorage that we could dinghy there, anchor the dinghy and swim in. The surf is too strong to take the dinghy all the way into shore. From the shore we climbed over the rocks in the stream all the way to the base of the lowest part of these falls and swam in the basin at the bottom. What fun to get right up under the pounding water...so loud that you have to shout to each other to be heard. (photo #3) The best part of Cocos is the diving. The area has been protected as a marine park by Costa Rica since 1978 with no fishing allowed. Because of these restrictions the marine life is so abundant that nearly everything one wants to ever see in diving can be seen here. The coral was ruined by the El Nino of 1978. The settings for the diving trips were several islands just offshore of Cocos. Around these small islands are found the best in the way of marine life.
The walls of the islands go down about 120' and have crevasses supplying hiding places for hundreds of lobsters. You can see them lined up one after the other. Some, apparently, feel secure enough to just make their way across the face of the wall as though out for a Sunday stroll.
When diving in a reef environment it is not unusual to find large schools of small snapper etc. Here at Cocos one finds huge schools of large silvery jacks and other sport fish. Of course where there are fish there are usually sharks and there were plenty for us to see. The greatest number are the small white tipped reef sharks, about 3’ to 5’ in length. On our third and last dive we were to be rewarded with repeated sightings of hammerhead sharks, 6’-8’, and swimming quite close. How strange they seem tossing their heads back and forth in order to see with those eyes that are so widely spaced. There were hawksbill turtles and small marbled rays, but still we had not caught site of the most elusive manta ray. You always have to look up, down and all around to be sure that you do not miss something as the visibility of the diver is limited to that small area of the facemask. We were thrilled with what we had seen but the air always runs out at some point. Sander and Jane had crawled back into the dinghy and out of their dive gear. At that moment it almost seemed as though the manta ray knew that Jane was terribly disappointed. He surfaced about 6’ from the dinghy and swam straight for us. Hardly able to catch her breath, Jane grabbed the facemask and snorkel and got a good look at the manta as it slowly swam away and submerged. We still get chills thinking about that visit.
The afternoon of the best dive, the six of us decided to go in search of the waterfalls that were filmed at the beginning of the movie “Jurassic Park”. Michael Crighton is purported to have received his inspiration for the story at Cocos. Perhaps you remember the beginning shots through the rainforest when it suddenly opened up to a magnificent waterfall? We were told it was a hike of about 2.5 km and figured that we could manage that. Cocos is not a well developed park and the hike turned into a real challenge. A few times we took a wrong path and ended up at the edge of a cliff. Finally we found the creek and climbed over the large boulders to search for a cool pool at the bottom of the falls. Considering that our ages were 48-59 you can imagine that we did not persevere too long before stripping down to underwear and enjoying a plunge into the creek’s water. We were able to see the Holy Spirit dove, a white bird that nests on Cocos and makes its presence known by hovering above the heads of visitors. It is easy to see why it is called the Holy Spirit dove. Against the dark green backdrop of the rainforest, those silently flapping wings seemed almost an apparition.
The trip from Cocos to our first stop on the mainland of Ecuador is a distance of 540 nautical miles or about 630 statute miles. The average boat speed for Satori is 4 nautical miles per hour which is about the speed that most of you can walk at a good clip. Perhaps you can figure why these passages take us such a long time then. Imagine the trip to the South Pacific next spring?! We should arrive there Monday night and will then have to wait for a high tide to enter the Bahia de Caraquez. A pilot will come out from the town and steer Satori in through the maze of the delta and finally we will get a good night’s sleep rather than standing watches. It has been a good trip over all. The seas are very much different from those of the Caribbean. We have not suffered from seasickness. Jane has been able to cook meals and even do laundry. We think that perhaps we like this cruising life well enough to continue for a while longer.
We will send another group message once we are able to get the flavor of life in Ecuador. One thing we feel rather sure about is that the days will be a lot more comfortable. As we sail closer and closer to the equator the days and nights become cooler and cooler.
Strange phenomenon…this Humboldt Current.
Jane and Sander aboard Satori