[090414, 1920 UTC, Underway Islas Marquesas from Islas Galapagos; 05º 54'S/097º50' W]
Well, we're on our way across the big blue pond!
We left Wreck Bay on San Cristobal in the Galapagos at 1200 hours (local) on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 bound for Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands. Our passage planner software tells us we only have to travel 3010 nautical miles for this passage - that is if we go the rhumb line. Since a nautical mile is 6,080 feet, that works out to 3,464 statute miles, a pretty daunting distance when you travel at less than five miles per hour!
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the town at "Wreck Bay" (Bahía Naufragio) on Isla San Cristóbal in the Galápagos is a small town and we became very comfortable there. It´s not a tourist town in the posh resort sense, but a modest, safe, insular community of ~7000 souls in a spectacular location under a gorgeous sky that seems bluer than bluing. The malecón (the walkway which runs along the waterfront) is brick-paved and its sidewalks of volcanic stone, are dotted with cedar gazebos, benches of ultra modern design and a plethora of shops selling Galapagos momentos ("I love boobies"). Sea lions lounge beneath the benches and on the rocky shore and swim gleefully with children in a tidal pool created at the water's edge.
Catholicism is the predominant religion here but fundamentalist groups are also represented with their "intelligent design" billboards placed at the precise location Darwin came ashore in these enchanted islands. (Darwin's 'Origin of Species" changed the way the world thinks about evolution, though it's clear that one hundred and fifty years later not everyone is buying his story.) Old world traditions and strong religious influences here also mean no sex education and consistent denial about AIDs and fifteen year old girls toting babies without dads. Privacy isn't an considered a right in such a small town and everyone knows every other person's business. Friends comment that unfortunately youth development beyond public school is not supported by the traditional family structure and families resent "outsider" ideas. All-in-all, the challenges this town faces are like any small rural American town, though its location on an island where immigration is strictly controlled, intensify the debates.
When we last visited San Cristobal we met Manolo, a young Galapagueño who runs an eco-tour business called Sharksky. Manolo is disciplined, hard-working, ebullient, enthusiastic and always in a good mood. Since we visited last, Manolo has married Tina, a lovely, tall, pre-school teacher from Switzerland. Manolo and Tina went out of their way to make our stay very special, including hosting us for supper at their home (where they have two rescued kitties!) at the eastern end of the Wreck Bay malécon. Between the two they speak English, Spanish and German and have become defacto cruising hosts, which has led to their designation as the Seven Seas Cruising Association's Cruising Station hosts for Isla San Cristobal. (For more information see: www.sharksky.com).
For fun, we rounded up some other cruisers and booked a boat trip (on Sharksky) to Cerro Bruja, Punta Pitt, Isla Lobos, and Leon Dormido, aka Kicker Rock. Our Parque Nacional Galapagos guide, Wilson, was an enthusiastic leader who was always first into the water and quick to point out interesting wildlife. While at Isla Lobos he took off swimming with a length of bright line trailing behind and soon had a whole herd of sea lion pups playing with us all. Here too at Isla Lobos we watched in awe at close range as a marine iguana held a rock underwater with his claws and grazed nonchalantly on algae. One of the highlights of this trip was snorkeling through the fissure in the famous Leon Dormido where from 500' above blue footed boobies gaze down and, below in the shadows of the sheer rock walls, sharks swim slowly by. We had a great time and urged many other cruisers in the anchorage (there were 30-40 other sailboats) to take the same tour. Everyone who did had a fantastic time. We also hired Wilmer, a taxi driver who took us along with new friends Tom and Ann of Leonidas on a land-based tour of the island that included a return visit (for us) to the Galapaguera or giant tortoise breeding center.
One of the major repair tasks we had to tackle while in San Cristobal was our engine's starter, which intermittently suffered from a kind of mechanical dementia, completely forgetting to turn over the engine. At first we thought it was the switch but ultimately, we could not diagnose the problem, and decided it might be a good idea to have it checked over by a professional. We removed the starter and walked to the Sharksky office and asked if there was someone on the island who could rebuild the starter. Manolo took one look at our Hitachi starter and said, "sure, this is a very common starter and I know the person who can fix it." He dropped everything and told us to follow him. We walked a few blocks and entered a vacant lot in the corner of which was a rickety shack with a grease-covered bench and vise outside covered by a corrugated tin roof. From up in a tree nearby came a greeting and we looked up to see Miguel Pionce, a short, slight medium-aged man with a ready smile.
We glanced at each other thinking the same thing: "does this guy know how to fix a starter off a boat?" Manolo caught our uncertainty and told us not to worry, Pionce was very capable. Pionce (once down from the tree and sharing the fruits of his collecting "con sal") spread "clean" newspapers on the workbench and within a minute or so had our starter taken apart under his shed. In the meantime, the sky opened up and it began to pour. Soon, coffee-colored water was flowing downhill across the vacant lot and accumulating on the dirt floor of Miguel's workshop until it was several inches deep. We all sought high ground on scraps of wood and tried not to think about what we might be soaking out toes in. Miguel pretty much ignored the wetness until he needed to use a heat lamp which had several spots in the cord where the wiring was showing through. Undaunted, he smiled and shrugged and wrapped some electrical tape around the cord and plugged the lamp into an outlet. (OSHA does not exist in Latin American countries.)
His diagnosis was that the shaft bushing needed to be replaced but the one he had "in stock" in his shack was the wrong size. "No problema" he said. He whipped out a cell phone and called a taxi and waved us into it when it arrived. He directed the taxi to "Taller Brann" (taller is Spanish for shop) and once there, jumped out into the torrent and yelled to Philip "one dollar" with a nod to the taxi. We darted across the rainy side street and into an immaculate machine shop, devoid of any other customers where a young man was grinding steel. Latin American music blared from a boom box on the wall and rain pounded on the metal roof, making talk impossible. Miguel started dancing across the clean floor towards Juan, a twenty-something, short, pony-tailed Ecuadorian with the obligatory reversed baseball cap on his head. Juan stopped his grinder and ambled over. Miguel explained the problem, handed Juan the bushing and in about 30-40 minutes Juan had machined the bushing down to the correct size on a precision lathe machine. Cost: $5.00. Back at his shop, Miguel quicklyy reassembled the starter and tested by hot-wiring it to a battery sitting precariously close to a deep muddy puddle. Miguel's charges where somewhat higher: $50 for the labor plus bushing and an extra set of brushes. (It works great!)
While in San Cristobal, we provisioned Carina with as much as was available including some things new to us. One is called tomate de arbol (tree tomato). It is oblong, red in color and about the size of a small pear. The flesh is yellow with soft dark seeds, softer in the middle and more firm nearer the skin. The taste is...different; something like tomato and a little cantaloupe, slightly sweet with a somewhat mealy consistency; it might be an acquired taste. We also bought passion fruit (maracuya) and we picked naranjillo off a tree on a farm and then stocked upon the usual onions, potatoes, peppers, bananas, pineapples, watermelon, apples, etc. We bought a total of 26, 20-liter bottles of desalinated pure water and filled our tanks to the brim.
San Cristobal has no "supermercado", so provisioning is a exercise in stopping and buying at nearly every tiny store we would encounter on a given route. We'd bring our purchases home and then go out and take another circuitous route through town, stopping at a different set of tiendas. One place we found which offered (truly) frozen meat & chicken (no flies!) was called "Distribudora Pallo" and we visited here a few times. In a small town like Wreck Bay, a couple of visits and you are practically family, so Javier, its proprietor began asking us questions in Spanish: where are you from? where are you going?, is it just the two of you?, etc.. We gave him our boat card and this intrigued him further and he asked Philip (sotto voce) about Leslie's role on the boat. When Philip told him that he was captain and she was co-captaina, Javier could not understand why Leslie should be considered his equal. Philip laughed and said, "she actually out-ranks me, because she is the admiral!" Javier was skeptical about that but Philip reassured him that she was quite capable of sailing Carina all by herself if necessary. His gaze skipped back and forth between us, clearly not sure if we were playing a joke on him. It seems though the Latin culture is matri-linear, some men haven't quite gotten the grasp of a women as an equal partner!
We used every minute of the twenty days we were allotted in San Cristóbal, Galapagos to enjoy this nice little town, its warm people and their exotic island of volcanic stone, cactus, scrub trees and wildlife. Of course we also spent a fair bit of time on boat chores such as sewing sails, varnishing acres of teak, engine maintenance, etc. A very international parade of boats came and went in the anchorage and we made many new friends. It was tough to break free and pull up that anchor but, with friendly Sargento Alban of the Port Captain's office asking us regularly about our departure, we finally gave in, said good-bye to our friends, new and old, and left.
Sus amigos del velero Carina
Philip, Leslie and el gato supremo, Jake