We thought we might just stop in the Galapagos to refuel and get some provisions before heading out to French Polynesia. But instead we opted to pay for the autografo (cruising permit) that would enable us to stay for a month. We’re glad we did, because it’s one of our favorite stops so far. We’d heard stories of boats having endless problems with officials and formalities that really cast a pall on their visit. So we were worried about that, but it wasn’t necessary. We used Johnny Romero as our agent as he was one of the few who would respond to emails when we had questions. Also his fees were half of what other agents charged. We paid our agent fee before arriving and hoped for the best. We arrived on San Cristobal at 0630, right after the sun came up. While we were looking for a place to anchor and without even calling them to notify of our arrival, a boat came out with Karmela, Johnny’s sister. She handles the check-ins at San Cristobal for the agency. They told us a good spot to anchor and let us know they’d be back out with the officials at 0900. At 0900, she showed up with the port captain and agriculture officials to handle our paperwork. And that was that! A boat inspection was done and forms filled out. No unexpected fees or charges. After that, we met Karmela ashore and she took us via taxi to immigration.
IT WAS ONE OF THE EASIEST CHECKINS WE HAVE DONE. No problems, no bribes, no hidden fees, no “new requirements” and no waiting around for hours on end. Maybe we were lucky, I don’t know. But Karmela seems to run a tight operation and gets things handled. We were very impressed and very pleased with how our entry into Ecuador and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was conducted. It immediately set the tone for what would turn out to be a wonderful visit.
The passage from Panama was relatively fast for us. We even set a new 24-hour record at 161 miles. Pretty quick for the voluptuous and fully laden Bella Star. We had some rough seas on day 2 that caused the autopilot to work pretty hard. The tiller arm loosened up on the rudder post and eventually failed. So we had to steer by hand for 2 days, which sucked pretty bad. After things calmed down a bit, I turned the galley into a machine shop and was able to drill and tap the tiller arm to hold it on the rudder post. There wasn’t enough material left to make it strong enough, so I also added some supports from aluminum bits left over from the solar panel install. After a few iterations, the repairs held for the last 3 days of the voyage. We’ve taken the tiller arm to a machine shop here and are crossing our fingers they can make a suitable replacement. Hats off to Nicole, who steered endlessly while I fumbled around in the lazarette in a pitching sea trying to drill holes.
We have lots of bins aboard. Goo bins, cleaning bins, epoxy bins, electrical bins, etc. When Nicole was labeling the bins she couldn’t remember how to spell Macgyver, so she labeled it the Richard Dean Anderson bin. This is where bits and pieces go that may or may not have some jury rigging future. In this case, as in several times in the past, it saved the day.
Here is one of our taxi drivers and his daughter. Being a tourist destination, there are plenty of establishments offering tours to various parts of the island and neighboring islands. A good way to do an inland tour on the cheap is to just hire a taxi for 5 hours and split up the costs. We got together with our Swedish buddies on SV Orkerstern and SV Ninita and hired a couple taxis to drive us over to the other side of the island for $15 each. And it’s easy to get around town, just hop in a taxi for $1. Speaking of taxis, a water taxi to shore is only $1.
Next stop was a tortoise sanctuary. There we ran into Karin, a biology teacher from Germany, and Harro, a biologist from Denmark. They are volunteers that help out at the sanctuary and were kind enough to give us a full and very informative free tour of the place.
Lunch time with the Swedes. The Swedish chef on Ninita made a couscous dish. Børk børk børk!
Nina from SV Ninita coming up the wall, and a shark’s eye view of the day’s buffet.
What a wonderful stop! The Galapagos are amazing, and it’s a place I think we’ll want to come back to. We’re looking to the horizon and eagerly wondering what Islas Floreana, Isabela , and Santa Cruz have to offer.