Wednesday 4 March 2015

Santa Cruz, Galapagos

We anchor behind the reef, where the long swell from the south bursts against the black rocks in clouds of spray, sharp white in the intense equator sun.  A water taxi takes us across the aquamarine waters of the lagoon, through the mangroves to the deserted wooden dock where an eagle ray glides through the shallows in slow-motion acrobatics.  We walk past a big fat iguana basking un the sun, down an unmade track into the sandy streets of Puerto Vilamil on Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago of Galapagos.

Puerto Vilamil sits on a glorious wild beach, maybe two miles long, where the surf pounds the soft sand. Small hotels and a few empty restaurants line the beach; fair skinned sunbathers risk the intensity of the midday sun, alone on the large expanse of sand with just iguanas for company, digging nests to lay their eggs.  One block inland from the beach is the town square; sandy streets bake in the hot afternoon sun, small restaurants in wooden shacks not yet open as the sleepy town starts to wake from its afternoon siesta.  At the end of the main street, half buried in sand, is the beach bar where we gather at happy hour for cold beer and the ubiquitous mojitos. Hammocks strung from the beams and an open fire adds to the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere and we watch the sun set while the locals play beach volleyball.

We spend a few days here, taking a tour to see the volcano Sierra Negra, and snorkelling in the lagoon at Concha de Perla.   The wildlife is abundant with flamingos, rays and even penguins living in the brackish water of the mangroves. Washed up on the shores of Isabella many years ago by the Humboldt current from Antarctica, these penguins have adapted to their surroundings. With no need for the heavy layers of fat to protect them from the cold, they have evolved into much smaller animals, a fraction of the size of their Antarctic relatives and they swim through the water at high speed. 

We clear out at the Capitania which is manned by heavily armed marines from the Ecuadorian military. They are friendly and patient as we wait for an ancient dot-matrix printer which clatters away, producing yet more forms which we all sign and stamp.  We sail to our final destination in Galapagos, Santa Cruz, the most populous island where we will provision for our long journey across the Pacific.

Santa Cruz is very different to the other islands. The harbour is busy with water taxis plying back and forth between the boats. Small cruise ships are based here and the town has expanded to meet the demands. Nevertheless the port of Puerto Ayora is still a very small town, with only basic facilities.  The anchorage is open to the south and we roll in the swell as pelicans fish all around us, circling at low level until they see their prey, crashing into the water in a pile of beak and feathers, before regaining their composure and gulping down the fish that wriggle in their huge gullets.

World ARC rally control has made its base at the Rock CafĂ© on the main street and the fleet regroups here as we make our preparations for the next leg. I service the engine and generator while Andrew polishes the cap rail and Paulus cleans all the numerous stainless steel fittings.  500 litres of diesel is delivered to the boat in Jerry cans, our gas bottles are refilled, the cover goes on the dinghy.  We check the rig and discover that some of the machine screws that secure the spinnaker pole track to the mast are loose.  Relieved to have found these now, Andrew cleans the fittings and resets the screws with thread locker, nipping them up tight. After a final wash down with precious water from our tanks, Juno looks sparkling and ready. Fatty and Andrew provision from the local market and now we are ready to go. At midday today we leave on the longest leg of our journey; over 3,000 miles from Galapagos to the Islas Marquesas in French Polynesia. 

With light winds forecasted it could be a long trip.  We will blog whenever we can so please send us your emails to

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