Galapagos at night

We made the Galapagos this morning at about 1 a.m. It was a night entry, but relatively easy because the chart plotter and radar were dead on and because the entrance was well marked.

This seems like a magical place. As we came in, sea lions danced and played around the boat, and then snorted about as we prepared to drop anchor. They skedaddled away when the chain rolled out of the locker and crashed into the water, but came back after a few moments. As I type this, they can be heard out and about, mooing like cows and whooping like beagles.

The trip was not too bad. We got blasted with a nasty lightning storm and a heavy downpour the night we left. The squalls continued for the next several days. This rainy season stuff is for the birds. For two and a half days, at the start, we watched on the radar as squalls tracked us down and then unloaded on us. You’d finally get through, after a couple of hours of it slowly passing over you, and you’d look at the radar to see another one lining up for a repeat show a couple of hours away. It was worse when the squalls were traveling in the same direction as us, because then the two hours would become five.

That is the scene in and around the ITCZ (the “Intertropical Convergence Zone”), better known as the doldrums, which sits just north of the equator. It is typified by violent thunderstorms and light winds. The winds aren’t too terrible in the storms, but the electrical storms can sometimes be something to behold, and the rain can feel like there are 15 fellows with fire hoses trained at the very spot where you are cowering underneath the bimini.

(Holy cow!!!!! I nearly jumped out of my seat just now! A sea lion has come up to the back of the boat and started braying like a banshee. Scared the daylights out of me!)

We got through the doldrums, sailing due south out of Panama Bay, along the entire coast of Colombia, to about the middle of Ecuador. We couldn’t sail a direct line to the Galapagos because the winds blow straight from there to Panama. So you’ve got to sneak in the backdoor, going south, tacking once a day, until you can finally take a right hand turn to drive straight at the island. Those big tacks can be hard on the spirit, as one would sail 100 miles or so total distance under the keel in a 24 hour period, but only make 50 miles or as the crow flies. Add into that the persistent rain, and it made for a hard first week. We were a mere 20 miles from the Ecuadorian cost, and only a few hundred miles from Peru. We could see the glow of the local Ecuadorian towns at night. It would be nice to take detours and spend a couple of weeks there, but we’ve got a limited window of time to get to New Zealand.

(Now the sea lion is doing laps around and under the boat. Underwater sounds can echo through the hull, and you can hear him noisily swishing by under the hull. It feels like the aquarium in reverse, with him playing around on the outside, curious about us, here on display for him on the inside.)

But when we finally did make the turn to the Galapagos, it was pleasant sailing then on. We did about 150 miles a day, and there was no more rain. Yay!

But it has continued to be overcast. And, stunningly, cold! We’ve been moving south for the last 9 months or so, and it has gotten progressively hotter. But when we made the right hand turn off the coast of Ecuador, we picked up the north-setting “Humboldt” or “Peru” current. Just like the Gulf Stream warms things in its path, the Humboldt Current chills everything along its route. We wore hooded sweatshirts and pants on watch at night. It’s the same here in the Galapagos, which enables penguins, sea lions, and fur seals to thrive

Time for bed. It’s been a long sail, and I can barely keep my eyes open

08/08/2008 | ayse
wow, galapagos! That’s a definite must-see on my list. Please take and post lots of pictures! It must be extra cool to visit it with your own boat so you can see things at your own pace!
08/16/2008 | steve bucci
paul, Barbara and i were at the Galapagos in April. if you can get permission toland on the diferent islands, they are unique and the animals oblivious to people. Lots of sharks in the water, but we were told they had plenty of better tasting food than us, so no worries. if you see the ship Xpedition that was our home of over a week. Kicker rock in the early morning is beautiful.
Good luck.


08/20/2008 | jeannie
great to hear from you while on the beach in nahant…we missed you guys so much in nh and at the bday parties…really seconds earlier I saw you walking towards me, and then it wasn’t you of course, and was talking w belden daniels who asked for your email…very eeerie….sea loins, how cool, we saw at aquarium when boys little and they still call the bridge from revere to lynn the sea lion bridge as it makes a noise like them when you drive over…so we all open our mouths and imitate (like going through tunnels has it’s own tradition..’all we own we owe her” (??) love and kisses jeannie
09/24/2008 | Kelley Mc
What is the next port of call? I have friends in Jakarta, Saudi, Oman, Tokyo, and Soeul (all classmates from National Academy). If you can, update the map while you are at sea so I know where to drop the ceare package (a case of Sam Adams, 2 Red Sox hats, and a “I went to Princeton too” bumper sticker for the back of the boat. Smooth Sailing. Kel, Kim, and Ryan
10/12/2008 | jeannie
glad to hear you made it across the pacific! Sarah and Lindasy are playing soccer, Sarah is pretty intense for a 5 year old and she choose the #13! I told her after she choose that that was Uncle Paul’s lucky #-thought you’d like that…love jean

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