Seasonal ocean currents and winds mean there are times to do a passage and times suggested not to. COVID-19 has badly delayed us (and many other sailors) and meant we are in the wrong place in the wrong season with precious little options as countries borders remain closed.
We’ve spent a long time considering our options, time constraints and pouring over Jimmy Cornell’s world sailing routes, currents and wind books. We took the gamble that we could sail to Galapagos as although it would be sailing into the wind (not preferable sailing with a young family) we would be able to sail south enough to get the equatorial current to push us along.
How wrong were we! Despite Windy, predictWind and other navigation projections the equatorial current was flowing 2ktns in a counter direction to all the publications. Global warming effects changing traditional currents maybe? Pretty shocking. It was also the opposite direction to us. Therefore we sailed into the wind and against the current. The boat was constantly at a 30 degree angle, rolling in the waves and battling against 2ktns of current against us. This added over two days to our journey and prolonged the agony of the discomfort and sea sickness amongst the crew.
Also the closer we got to the equator, the colder it got! For my night shifts I dugout long trousers (for the first time in 15 months), jumpers and my offshore thick sailing jacket! We had to be very awake at night as there were huge fishing boats hundreds of miles off Galapagos with their AIS turned off (ie we can’t see them on our chart plotter) but they were lit up like Christmas trees fishing at night so we could see them them several miles away. I suspect these are the illegal Chinese fishing fleets that people talk about.
We also had one day, which we named everything-breaks-today where we had one problem after another. First the front head (toilet) broke and Russell had to replace it whilst sailing in a rolling 30 degree angle, that has to be up there with one of the most unpleasant jobs going. He was grey with sea sickness even before he started…Then the waves were so much they washed our life ring bracket off the stern and then the electric winches stopped working, just when we really needed to use them (water got into the electrics). The bouncing of the bow in the waves was so much that the shelf cupboard holding the boys books broke. The books were airborne with each wave and smashed down on the shelf which broke it away from the wall. Everything was creaking and groaning from the shaking and crashing in the waves the noise was incredible. All the tins and food filled in every space possible was bashing around despite my careful storage and packing. Sleep was nigh on impossible even with the lee cloths to hold you in place as you became airborne and smashed to one side or another with each wave.
Despite the hideous passage we enjoyed watching whales breaching, spinner dolphins popping up and even a red-footed booby taking a rest aboard our boat for a day. I just about managed to cook, keeping the crew well fed on cooked meals despite the precarious galley cooking angles. Our track across the Pacific looks like giant steps in the wrong direction as we tacked through the wind and battled the current.
We celebrated crossing the equator and Chloe conquering her sickness even managed to bake a cake for the party. We were nearly there, anything short of 400 nautical miles suddenly seems just around the corner!
We arrived at San Cristobal, Galapagos in the early hours of Monday, too early to attempt the shallow harbour in the pitch black so we took the sails down and drifted slowly down the leeward west coast of the island. We admired dawn over Kicker Rock and then motored into the sleepy Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, delighted the horrendous ordeal was over. We were totally exhausted but needed to start cleaning and prepping the boat for our arrival inspection. It is vital to successfully pass the inspection to allow entry into the Galapagos islands or you risk being turned away.