Galapagos and the Pacific Ocean
The Galapagos Islands
After 13 days of sailing, we arrive at the jam-packed anchorage near Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, one of the Galapagos Islands. We are anchored far from the shore, but we discover there is a taxi service which allows us to go on shore comfortably and for just one dollar.
Our first concern is to have our gas cylinders refilled and to find the gas leak about which the dolphins warned us. We soon find out that refilling our three gas cylinders is no problem, after two days the cylinders are full to the brim again. We use soapsuds to find the leak; it's the regulator on the gas cylinder which is allowing the gas to escape. The gas cylinders are located in our anchor bin, which fortunately prevents the leaking gas from ending up in our boat's bilge. One of the two spare regulators turns out to have a leak in exactly the same spot, so at least we can prepare a meal and boil water for a cup of coffee with our last regulator. In a wonderful hardware shop we buy two new regulators made in China and elsewhere we have an adaptor made so they fit onto our gas cylinders.
Now that all problems have been solved, it is time to play the tourist. We go for a beautiful walk to Tortuga Bay, where we watch a whole procession of black iguanas pass by. It is probably time for their siesta, because they all disappear under the same bush where they take a wonderful nap in the shade. There are at least twenty of them. A little further down there is a kind of small inland sea, a lagoon where you can rent a wobbly kayak for five dollars. We paddle on the lagoon for an hour and we see beautiful turtles and stately stingrays. Along the side of the lagoon we paddle among dozens of white-tip reef sharks. Our first priority is not to turn turtle, our second priority is to keep our eyes open because we didn't bring our camera in the kayak.
During our walk back we are amazed by all the birds who aren't afraid of anything. They don't move at all when you approach them. You don't have to be an experienced professional photographer to shoot wonderful pictures here.
Seals, penguins and a whale shark
Together with several other sailors we book a day trip to the island of Floriana. On a fast boat with two one hundred horsepower engines at the back we fly over the water and after an hour or two we are bobbing up and down in the water, wearing fins and a mask, near a couple of seals. They approach us and it's absolutely wonderful to see how one of the seals touches Dory's hand. These animals are so supple and elegant in the water, they nimbly dance around us like ballerinas.
After lunch on the fast motorboat we sail along a small island with blue-footed boobies and to our surprise there are also penguins on the low rocks near the water. Suddenly a whale shark appears below the boat and Dory enters the water again with mask and fins. The whale shark isn't easy to photograph, but an unsuspecting turtle is unable to escape the lens of the disposable camera.
We are going sailing again
After fourteen days on the Galapagos Islands and with plenty of supplies on board we weigh the anchor and hoist the sails. The longest crossing of our sailing trip around the world is about to start.
Halfway the Pacific Ocean we have arrived at the most desolate place on earth. There is not a trace of land within a radius of more than two thousand kilometres. What possesses us to be here and, more importantly, how does it feel? It feels peaceful, everything is settling down. As long as the sea and the waves don't shove us around too much, being on the ocean is superb. The clouds, the colours of the sky and the waves in the water never cease to fascinate us. The sunrises and sunsets are often magnificent. Every day we watch the colours of the sky around us change from greyish to bright blue and from pale pink to bright red.
Sometimes life on the ocean is tough as well; when waves and wind shove us around, when something falls over for the umpteenth time because of heavy rolling, everything you need to do is exhausting. And worse, if your mainsail tears and it needs to be changed in heavy rolling. This results in bruises and aching muscles, but once the job is done and the torn sail has been mended, we once again feel contented and happy. Sometimes a group of dolphins swims around the boat. Every time this happens, it's a real treat. When they jump out of the water, we both ooh and aah and cheer at the top of our voices.
Life on board can sometimes be languid as well and then it often feels as if we would be able to continue like this for a very long time. But we are preparing ourselves for our arrival at Fatu Hiva, the southernmost island of the Marquesas Islands. By reading and looking at the map, the exotic names turn into real places we are actually going to visit. It is often hard to believe that we are sailing around the world, but we are already almost halfway. It is a dream which is coming true.
Another five hundreds miles, then we will arrive at Fatu Hiva. Unfortunately, it has been like that for three days, we should be able to cover those five hundred miles in five days, but it's practically windless and all we do is bob up and down on the water. During the day, the spinnaker is hoisted to take advantage of the windy moments as much as possible, but more often than not it's slack like an empty bag. What to do if we can't get away from here? When there's a stiff wind and we're sailing at five knots, we always think that it will be like that during the whole trip, but when we're motionless because there is no wind we think the same. Of course we know that the wind is changing all the time, but after three days you sometimes lose faith. Consulting the weather forecast isn't much help either. It's a forecast for an area that is much too big and therefore very vague. Will we remain here on the Pacific for ever?
During our crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 2005 we didn't have much luck either, the weather was changeable due to the many hurricanes that year. Now we're out of luck again, because it's a so-called "El Nino" year, which means that the weather is mixed up again. Normally, the wind here is blowing with a constant force and direction, but the past few days we have sailed before the wind and close to the wind on both the port side and the starboard side, in as much as you could call it wind, that is. But we struggle on and do everything we can to catch every breath of wind.
We sail for another week and then we finally spot land. Fatu Hiva, the southernmost island of the Marquesas Islands looks magnificent at sunrise in the early morning. We sail into the bay where we drop anchor and are pleasantly surprised by the fairy-like landscape. Rugged rocks in the most fascinating forms reach high in the sky, alternated by rolling green hills with a small village on the waterfront. After five weeks of just water and sky, we can't get enough of all the green around us. Other sailing ships in the bay welcome us enthusiastically and are amazed when we tell them the crossing took us five weeks, but when we explain that we only used our engine for fifteen hours on those three thousand miles they understand.
Here on Fatu Hiva we are first going to rest from those five weeks at sea. Then we are going to make plans to explore the islands of the Marquesas and the rest of French Polynesia.
(Translated from Dutch to English by Percy Balemans)