090319; 1741 UTC,

Wreck Bay, Isla San Cristobal, Galapogos, Ecuador

N 01 degrees 53.72’ / W 089 degrees 36.74’

Dear Friends;

When we last wrote we were in the process of returning from the Islas Las Perlas back to Panama City in order to repair our damaged forestay.  Before leaving Isla Espiritu Santo we, with the help of folks aboard the vessels RDreamz (Royce and Pam), Tao 8 (Larry and Angie) and Blue Bottle (Joe and Adrienne), removed the forestay and Profurl furling unit and laid it gently on RDreamz' fifty-foot deck.  This was orchestrated on a day when winds were pretty strong but steady though the water in the anchorage was absolutely flat.  We began by tying Carina (like a big dinghy) to the stern of RDreamz; she was held there by keeping Carina under low power in reverse.  Next Leslie and Angie winched Philip, wearing a climbing harness, to the top of the mast.  He then tied a halyard with a rolling hitch around the furler's extrusion about four feet down from the top.

With the halyard tensioned and using only a pair of lineman's snips, he cut the last few remaining wires and the forestay and furling unit sagged against the halyard which was holding it up..   (Carina has 1/ 19 stainless steel wire cable, which means there are 19 small wires that make up the whole cable.  Most of the 19 wires were broken or ready to break.)    Philip remained at the masthead while Larry swung the furler's drum up and over the bow pulpit and "handed" it over to Royce and Joe who guided the drum (and over 40 feet worth of aluminum extrusions) down onto RDreamz deck while Angie and Leslie slowly lowered the halyard.  RDreamz' expansive deck allowed us inspect and disassemble the forestay and the Profurl at our leisure and later move the pieces to Carina.  We coiled and stored the broken forestay away since we would later use it to measure the wire for the new forestay.  Check our photo gallery for some photos of the process.

All-in-all the broken forestay turned out to be a mixed blessing.  We were quite fortunate to discover the problem before setting off on our trip as a complete failure in a worse case scenario would possibly result in the mast falling down and would certainly have resulted in significant damage to the furling unit..  This has actually happened to a few of our friends and their descriptions of the event make us pleased we avoided one ourselves (though narrowly).

We had arrived back to Panama City from Isla Contadora on a Sunday, picked up the new wire we had ordered from the states via email on Monday and re-installed the new forestay and the Profurl on Tuesday, again with the help of some kind cruisers; Tom (Susurru), Jack (Iwa) and John (Nakia),  We effected this repair in the Playita anchorage on a day when winds were gusting to 30 knots and the to-ing and fro-ing of workboats dealt us large wakes.  Our experience shows once again the amazing generosity of skills and effort offered by the cruising community.    We celebrated our re-newed rig over supper at (where else?) Napoli's Restaurant.  Making the supper even more joyous was the presence of friends Bruce and Olenka and daughter Anita of 5th Element who we had not seen since 2006. 

Rig intact, we spent the next few days frantically re-provisioning, topping up our propane supply  and, once again, getting Carina ready for the 900 mile passage to the Galapagos.  From Panama City we returned to Isla Contadora where we could tuck into the lee of the island and leisurely make final, final preparations for departure.   On Monday March 9, 2009 at 11 am local time, we pulled up our anchor and raised our sails to catch the rising wind, heading southwest.

We are now safely anchored at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Bahía Naufragio (aka Wreck Bay; a naufragio is a shipwreck in Spanish), Isla San Cristobal in the Galapagos.  The trip was relatively easy, characterized by either a LOT of wind or barely enough wind.  We are pleased though because we have only two criteria for a successful trip through the waters between Panama and Ecuador; 1) Carina continues to move forward towards our destination without anything major breaking down and 2) we aren't getting our butts whupped.   Our trip of 893 miles from Islas Las Perlas was 8 days, almost to the minute.  We had very strong winds and rough, confused seas almost immediately upon departing; these continued for at least two days before things settled into light winds which then gave way to very little wind and flat seas on the last two days.  During the trip we averaged 112 nm a day, though we set a Carina record on this trip—152 nm in one 24 hour period—running under staysail alone!  That gives you an idea of just how much wind we had.

We had magical nights on passage. We left Panama two days before a full moon and had bright, luminous evenings throughout the trip.  A prone Southern Cross would rise from the sea off our port bow and would gradually right itself as it arced across the sky.  The sky was alive with twinkling stars, the constellation Carina (!) and the braided milky way but these celestial bodies dimmed considerably each night as the bright moon rose.   After moon set, with the black night settling around us, we relied on radar as our eyes in an attempt to avoid other vessels.  There is something disconcerting about "rocketing" along at six knots under a totally inky sky, trusting that your boat doesn't "win" the passage lottery by hitting a floating log or (worse), an unlit fishing panga.  These obstacles offer little or no radar returns.  From Carina's stern we would watch a phosphorescence trail from the paddle of our wind vane stream away as we sailed along.

We watched the amazing hunting skills of masked (or Nazca) boobies who sent flocks of flying fish fleeing across the sea.   Schools of dolphins rocketed past Carina or played in our bow wake; sometimes jumping to amazing heights and, with a flip of their tails, dismissing us to go off and play elsewhere.  Late one afternoon, a shark came cruising by, and coursed back and forth close to Carina.  Though we couldn't see much but the Jaws-like dorsal fin, we consulted our nature books and tried to identify it from this one part of its anatomy and the fact of its offshore presence.  Our conclusions: black tip shark. 

On our final night we were becalmed and reluctantly fired up the "iron genoa" and motored through the night.  Before the moon rose this evening, the phosphorescence eerily illuminated large, unidentified sea creatures that slowly moved towards and then under Carina, causing us to catch our breath for a moment, hoping for the safe passing of the bright ghost beneath us.  Dawn brought us a view of the outline of the extinct volcano of Isla San Cristobal and as the sun rose, we noticed three enormous wind turbines at its peak, a new feature since our last visit.   As we rounded the western point of the island and before we lined Carina up for our final approach, we received a radio call from friend Manuel who runs Sharksky Tours in Wreck Bay.  Manuel had arranged for a local agent to meet us upon our arrival; the Capitania of San Cristobal requires this.  Later we sought out Manuel in his office and had a great reunion.  In a few days we'll go with Manuel along with friends from three other boats on a tour along the north coast of San Cristobal. 

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a neat, clean little town with a lovely malécon lined by teak benches and stylish lighting.  Under construction when we last visited, the corrugated tin barriers are now gone, opening up the view of the sea lion-lined playa (beach) and muelles (quays).  Sea lions and fur seals bark to each other day and night.  Busloads of small cruise ship tourists bearing engraved name tags disembark regularly from Parque Nacional Galápagos buses and swarm the shops seeking t-shirts and other souvenirs after having visited other San Cristobal sites. 

Carina has have been granted a 20 day stay in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, though Immigration has stamped our passports for 90 days.   So, in 19 days and counting, we'll again weigh anchor and head south and west to Polynesia where we'll have to learn to get our tongues around French after almost six years of acquiring competence in Spanish.   It's almost 3000 miles from here to Hiva Oa so we're hoping the trade winds fill in otherwise it'll be a looooong trip.



Sus amigos del velero Carina,

Philip, Leslie and el gato supremo, Jake


At 3/17/2009 and 13:03 UTC (GMT) our position was: 00°53.72'S / 089°36.74'W