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Galapagos: Getting There

From Panama, Voyageur 10.10 headed westward to The Galapagos Islands: An anticipated nature preserve; rich in “location specific” creatures from which Darwin devised his Theory of Natural Selection. What lay before us was an 8+ day-passage which has been the dread of sailors for centuries. The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) aka “The Doldrums” is a weather phenomena which forms a belt which wraps around the earth near equator. It presents challenges of unfavourable winds and currents, lightning and thunderstorms. For 4 days, with the help of our “Iron Genny” we made way of a mere 3-5 knots. Finally on Day 5, we broke through the southern boundaries of the Convergence Zone. We were greeted by moderate SE trade winds and clearer skies. Although the expected favourable subequatorial current never did arrive, we enjoyed a pleasurable sail for the last 3 days.

The official name of the Galapagos is The Archipelago de Colon. The government vehemently defends its wild life. Autografo: required, Fumigation: required, No dumping of any kind of waste unless 6 miles out...the rules and fees for cruising the Galapagos makes you question if it’s all worth it ...From experience, it most definitely is!

At 10:30 am on April 30, we were lowering the anchor in Puerto Baquiezo Moreno on San Cristobal. A water taxi helmsman shouted something about an “agento”. Within minutes, our agent’s representatives arrived to warn us of an on-board meeting with the port authorities, conservation authorities and immigration officers at 2pm. They arrived: All nine of them. Squeezing themselves a spot around Voyageur’s Salon Table, they each filled out copious forms in triplicate. Speaking very little Spanish ourselves, we were grateful to Juan Carlos, our agent’s San Cristobal representative. The boat was thoroughly searched including lockers, bilges, cupboards, safety equipment and first aid kits. All that was confiscated was one out of date bottle of ibuprofen and a box of expired green tea!

Much care was taken by the authorities to verify Voyageur was up to standard. They checked our grey and black water tanks and the pumping system. They ensured we were separating and labelling all metals, glass, and organics from household garbage and that none of our garbage was to be brought onshore. On the other hand, our recyclables were welcome!

Voyageur10.10 had new antifouling applied in January, but we knew the Galapagos will send vessels 70 miles offshore if their hulls are not “barnacle free” and “up to standard” upon arrival. During the 14 days prior to landing in the Galapagos, Ken had dived under Voyageur numerous times; in harbours in Panama and during our Ocean crossing. Equipped with mask and scraper, he methodically shaved Voyageur’s hull clean. The final inspection was our major concern: a diver from the ministry of natural resources of the Galapagos borrowed one of our masks, stripped to his shorts and dove under Voyageur10.10. Surfacing moments later, he gave us the “thumbs up”!

All 9 officers left after drinking a glass of our Ocean Spray Cran-Grape Cocktail. Everyone seemed happy! But none was happier than our agent’s assistant Carmella, who had been nervously awaiting the news that we had passed inspection. She hugged us tightly and breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was so refreshing to be greeted by such passionate and caring people!

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