Day 149, Year 1: Crossing the Equator and Arriving in the Galapagos
Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Weather at Anchorage: Sunny, clear blue skies
Daytime Air Temperature: 82 degrees F daytime
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F
Latitude: 00 degrees 44 minutes S
Longitude: 090 degrees 18 minutes W
Location: Academy Bay, Puerto Ayoro, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

I’m writing today’s log in two parts. This first part was written during the night while I was on watch and covers the crossing of the equator. The second part was written in the evening after our arrival in the Galapagos. Note that the time has changed for us. Galapagos time is the same as Central time in the US.

Part One:
It is currently 0245 and the full moon is high in the sky serving as our guiding light into the Galapagos Islands. At exactly 7:07 PM EST last evening, we had an absolutely spectacular red sunset in the western sky and at 7:08 PM EST, the full moon rose in the eastern sky. At this point, we were getting close to the equator, so we watched the show in the sky and anticipated the moment of crossing 00 degrees 00.00 minutes-our gateway into the southern Pacific Ocean. From now on, our latitude readings will be S–South, not N–North. Watching the red sunset, I remembered that we have a great rendition of “Red Sails in the Sunset” on CD and went below to put that on. As it was playing, we transmitted it over VHF radio to Aqua Magic. Watching the spectacular sunset with the music in the background set the stage for the rituals accompanying equator crossing. By the way, the woman who took my position in the Concord School District, Dorinda Gibney, gave me the CD with that song on it as a going away present. Dorinda, we thought of you and all of our friends in Concord while watching that sunset.

The colors in the sky and the music seemed to make the time fly and before we knew it, the GPS was approaching 00 degrees 00.00 minutes. For this occasion, Mark opened the special bottle of wine we had been carrying for just this moment and I changed the CD to Jerry Jeff Walker singing “LA Freeway”. That was our “theme song” back in the early 1970’s when we embarked on our first adventure that ended in our building a log cabin in the mountains of Idaho. That song is always there for special occasions in our lives. Aqua Magic was in front of us and crossed first. They radioed back to us the good news and seconds later, we were across and toasting the occasion. We had one glitch and that was that the camera batteries decided to quit just as I was taking the picture of Mark uncorking the wine. I put in a new set of charged batteries, and nothing. I put in another set of charged batteries, and still nothing. Mark ran downstairs to get new batteries. This necessitated getting in the cabinet under our bed in the aft cabin. We store various things there and currently it is a storage area for soft drinks and other miscellaneous items. Somehow in his effort to hurry with those batteries, he managed to puncture a can of coke with the cabinet door latch. He came running in to the galley with the spewing can and put it in the sink. Yuck! Coke was everywhere, but we had to carry on and clean up later. The batteries worked and I got my picture. Now it was time for the dousing of sea water. We had the bucket of salt water ready and waiting and poured the water over each other. A few coins from Panama and the Caribbean were sent overboard to appease Neptune, along with a share of the wine. We then drank the wine and absorbed this special moment.

We were both so excited that neither of us could possibly go to sleep, so I put on one of my favorite CDs, a traveling music mix given to us by Linda Stuart. Linda and worked closely in the Concord School District and I had to include her in our celebration. Finally, at 11 PM I turned in and Mark did first watch. It was an incredible evening.

As I write this, we have slowed ourselves down so that we will not arrive at our next waypoint until daybreak. We don’t want to negotiate the path through the islands at night. By 7 AM we will reach the set waypoint and have about 35 miles to go to the anchorage in Academy Bay off Santa Cruz Island. I will continue this log then.

Part Two:
We arrived in Academy Bay around noon. By the time I got up at 7:30 AM, we had already passed Isla San Cristobal and were approaching Santa Fe to port and Santa Cruz to starboard in the distance. There were lots of basking sharks out this morning, and a few sea lions and sea birds. We approached the crowded anchorage and found a place to drop our anchor. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand the currents running through the anchorage, and we misjudged. We were too close to the boat just behind us, so we reset the anchor. The anchorage is crowded because the Blue Water Cruising boats have not left yet. We weren’t supposed to get here until Friday, and most of them are leaving tomorrow. But we got here early and will live with the crowded conditions until they are ready to leave.

Upon arrival, we tried to hail Johnny Romero, our agent from Naugala Yacht Services. We weren’t successful on the VHF, but we got him on the Sat phone and then we were able to communicate on the VHF. Johnny processed our Galapagos cruising permit allowing us to stay here up to six weeks, and he will deal with our check-in with the Port Captain here. He said he would be out around 2:00 PM, Galapagos time, which reminded us that we needed to set our clocks back one hour. When Johnny arrived by water taxi, the means of transportation here, I was a little shocked. He looks like a teenager, but he founded Naugala Yacht Services six years ago, so he is probably more like 30. He was quick and efficient and by the time we meet him at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning, he will have all of our paperwork processed. In the meantime, we were free to go into Puerto Ayoro and start our explorations.

Margaret and Patrick from Aqua Magic arrived when we did, and also checked in with Johnny. Patrick had developed an infection in his hand due to a small cut on this finger and needed to go into town to see a doctor. We all took a water taxi to town, and Johnny went with Patrick and Margaret to the hospital. Mark and I decided to walk though town and make our first visit to the Darwin Center. I was not prepared for what we found in town. I assumed it would be much like towns in the Caribbean where poverty abounds, but I was very, very wrong. Puerto Ayoro is living proof that eco-tourism is a most lucrative industry. This town is anything but poor! It is more like Bonaire than other Caribbean islands. It is clean and has all kinds of interesting restaurants, upscale jewelry stores, shops with Ecuadorian handicrafts, many dive shops, etc. The streets are paved with something that looks like patio tiles. There are not many cars, but there are tour mini-buses and vans and lots of bicycles. I think I thought it would be more like the villages in the San Blas, but I was way off base. The ports in the other islands we will visit might be different, but Puerto Ayoro is a hub of activity and its residents and business people have figured out how to serve the eco-tourism crowd.

Mark and I walked out to the Darwin Center for a quick run through. We didn’t go to the tortoise exhibits today, but just surveyed the area to see what is there for a more thorough explore tomorrow.

I’ve gone on way too long, but we have just had an incredible 24 hours and I wanted to share each and every moment with you. Hope you can bear with me.

060315 Day 149 Arrival in the Galapagos