As we sailed and grew more confident in the boats surprisingly high speeds in the light winds, we turned slightly further into the wind and pushed forward on a straight course to the Galapagos . It felt like the boat was gliding effortlessly over the increasingly calm water. We had a strong current helping us along and as the breeze dropped further we marvelled at our continued rapid progress.
Finally, Wednesday afternoon and about 120 miles out, the wind dropped so low sailing was impossible and we started the engine. The sea became glassy smooth, the humidity increased and an erie mist hung in the air. At just after nine in the evening we approached the equator. We had suspended the watch system so we could all enjoy the moment and share a bottle of champagne. Tradition requires when you cross the equator for the first time that you make a donation to Neptune, so we filled five glasses, one for each of us and one for the ocean. The conditions were so peculiar we switched off the engine and moved to the back of the boat to fully witness our introduction to the South Pacific. Ghostly shapes of birds flew around us, the full moon shone through the dense mist casting a silvery sheen, the water, seemingly viscous, undulated slowly under us and the warm humid air enveloped us in a damp hug, none of us had experienced anything like it.
Slowly the morning sun burnt off the haze and the Islands of Galapagos came into view.
By ten we were making our way into the anchorage in Wreck Bay, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the southwest tip of San Cristabal Island and the first stop of our visit here. Access by yachts is very restricted we have a pass to visit three of the islands but are limited to the one designated anchorage on each island.
Our agent hadn’t replied to my latest emails and we had no clue how to proceed with all the processes we knew we had to get through before we could go ashore. We flew the yellow quarantine flag, a hang over from the days when all crew had to be past fit to go ashore and is these days flown to indicate that we have yet to check in with customs and immigration. We needn’t have worried within minutes of dropping our anchor and while still drinking our ‘got here’ beer, the agents island representative was onboard sorting things out for us. We were informed the authorities would arrive at four that afternoon until then we must stay on the boat.
We were allowed to have a swim however, so feeling hot in the humidity we dived in. One of the attractions of these islands is, with no predators, how unafraid the large animals are here and soon after getting in we were swimming with sea lions. In fact one immediately laid claim to our swim deck barking at us as we approached the swim ladder and getting out of the water became rather precarious. It seems to have become the favourite spot of the bay, with battles occurring to secure a place on the warm teak. It is amazing to watch them, despite their rather grumpy nature, but they are very noisy, constantly barking at each other to maintain their place and loudly snoring in their sleep.
On the dot of four a water taxi approached carrying six officials, one a diver who went into the water to check our hull, everyone else crowded into the cockpit and an orgy of form filling took over the boat. There was one person from immigration, one from customs, an official from the Nation Parks Organisation, the Port Captain and one from environmental control who walked around below searching for unwanted foreign species. Luckily all was past fit except for one rather mouldy looking orange that was, with a suitable amount of tutting, carefully bagged and taken away. Passports and forms were ceremoniously stamped and then it was hand shakes all round and we were free to enter Galapagos. It may have been a bit over the top but it certainly beat trudging into town and waiting around hot, bleak custom offices to be grunted at by glum bureaucrats. Galapagos gets the thumbs up so far.