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Super pod of dolphins

The sea colour is a more intense blue and the temperature is rising but it’s still miles upon miles of endless blue Pacific ocean. Suddenly on day 9 with 1548nm still to go (still not even halfway) Russell cried out “dolphins, hundreds of them!” We all scrambled on deck and stood in awe as around 400 Pantropical Spotted Dolphins (we believe) or more dolphins swam towards us, leaping and surfing in the waves around us. “It’s a super pod” cried Felix.

Super pod arriving to play with us

The dolphins surround us and we could see them in groups of ten or more swimming in synchro to leap out of the water together and surf in our bow waves and the big waves crashing around us.

Felix chatting to the dolphins

After days of seeing nothing and rolling around in large waves (except the occasional red footed booby), it was magical and lifted us all.

Boys captivated by the dolphins
Dolphins all around us

Generator stops working

When we left Galapagos the sea temperature was 17-18 degrees C and with cool air temperatures too, so I was allowed to use our small freezer for once. (Cooling from 17 degrees to -20 is easier than from 33 to -20 in power consumption terms). Chloe and I batch cooked and we had 12 dinners all prepared to ease the the cooking burden at the beginning of the passage. Within four days of our Pacific journey the sea temperature had already risen to 23 degrees and with it the air temperatures too. The weather was infuriatingly cloudy yet equatorial hot so we were limited in the solar power we were making. Russell was having to run the generator three times a day to provide enough power to run the freezer and all the instruments, screens and auto helm (self steering). We quickly took the decision to turn off the freezer, move the contents to the fridge and ease the burden on the generator. With all the rolling motion of the boat I’m not sure you’d exactly get laminar flow through the generator. We now only needed to run it once every two days. The best time to run the generator is when the batteries are low so it puts the maximum charge in. This normally means running it in the dead of night. Only this time after starting up it kept just konking out. Climbing into an engine room at night when the boat is pitching and rolling is not for the faint hearted and after an initial exploration we decided to run the main engine for a bit to charge the batteries and explore further in the morning. We were halfway across the Pacific, the furthest point from anything. With no experience of mending or diagnosing generator problems we set too in the morning.

Taking apart the generator

Going through the service kit and spare parts provided showed multiple spare water impellers. So Russell guessed that might be broken and lo and behold he was right. Changing and sorting it in the ever pitching and rolling engine room was another matter and despite getting stuck with cramp whilst balanced precariously in the engine room, all went fine.

Perched in the engine room

The generator purred back into life and stayed on, hurrah. We’ve only used the generator for 200 hours in a year and a half and the service replacement of the impeller is not till 400 hours, but this one had been annihilated. One to watch out for in the future.

New and old impeller

Pacific crossing first week

The Pacific is often known as the “pacifier” the gentle ocean. I can tell you after our initial 1000 miles / first week at sea in the Pacific crossing were anything but gentle or pacifying! We experienced huge waves which sent us pitch and rolling from side to side like a pinball machine, winds up to Force 8 and a current which varies widely from with us to against us. On day four during a particularly hideous night whilst we were sailing downwind with large waves coming from behind us a massive freak wave came from the front over the top of the yacht and drenched us. How on earth that happens is beyond me! It’s pitch black at night so you can’t see waves coming. With two hatches on vent (tiny opening) we had bath loads of water dumped inside the boat at 3am, ensuring everyone was very much awake.

Russell who never complains about the weather made the following comment at breakfast the next day, “that was pretty hideous and unpleasant”. Understatement!

Dawn the morning after..

Luckily we have all now developed some pretty sturdy sea legs and the days rock and rolling seems to be more bearable. It gets bad at night when the current bizarrely turns against us and the wind picks up to 30kts.

Big waves rising behind us

So much for the steady 20kts trade winds and equatorial current! Humph!! The only good outcome is that we are racing along at 8ktns often surfing down waves even faster than our hull speed. Hopefully that will take some days off the total tally and we will arrive sooner in Pacific paradise, fingers crossed. We have also been treated to several sightings of whales, one who’s puff next the boat startled us all. They are such majestic beautiful creatures. Luckily it swam quickly away and we got a few more tantalising glimpses before it dived into the depths.

Daily arrival of flying fish on the deck

Pacific crossing days 1 & 2

The first days sail of a long passage is always a bit dozy as everyone sleeps off the affects of sea sickness tablets. We snack and graze on bakery goods and fresh foods enjoying the last land treats. My first nights night watch wasn’t without mishap as I heard a loud sound as one of the laden fruit nets hanging from the aft binimi broke sending our precious fresh oranges and grapefruits scattering across the deck and plopping into the dark ocean. Drat, bother, there goes our fresh fruit on the first day! I clipped my harness onto the life line and went aft to retrieve as many as I could, hurling them into the dinghy hanging off the davits. The deck was at a 20-30 degree moving angle so nothing was going to stay still anywhere. I could sort where to put them in the morning in daylight. But with the boat pitching and rolling at a 30 degree angle, sailing at 10kts (with the 2kts of current in our favour for once) and it being pitch black with everyone asleep I wasn’t going to risk anything over an orange, fresh or not!

Russell poked his head up, the net breaking meant the avalanche of oranges landed above his head where he was sleeping in the back cabin. “What on earth was that?” he asked, “the oranges” I replied hurling the last few into the dinghy. We then both laughed at the hilarity of it as I explained what had happened. Never mind we have fresh apples and pears left and tinned fruit and 20 days to go….

Some Galapagos oranges rescued

Exploring Isabela island, Galapagos

Our last land stop before a 3500 mile sail across the Pacific to the Marquesas is the largest island in Galapagos, Isabela. So we decided hiking was the order of the day. First we did a gentle walk to the giant tortoise sanctuary, which was lovely. We arrived at feeding time fortuitously (they are only fed once a week) and it was great to see these large prehistoric-looking animals quite animated as they noisily chomped through leaves. We walked through the wetlands to the ponds and saw one lonesome flamingo.

The next day we hiked to the infamous wall of tears built by the historic penal colony. We nearly renamed it the hike of tears as it turned into a 14km hike across hot volcanic gravel paths in the boiling sun. The boys did brilliantly despite the heat and distance and we made it back to town in time for a late Equadorian lunch which we all happily devoured. We did manage to see giant tortoises, penguins, marine iguanas and a snake too along the walk.

The road up to the volcano is shut unfortunately so that hike is not possible for us (much to the boys relief)! Instead we are just prepping the boat and getting ready for our 3500 mile passage. I’ve hauled Russell up the mast and the mast and rigging check has gone well now it’s my turn to find some fresh fruit and vegetables on the island. Yeeks, slightly nervous, it will be our longest sail yet…and it’s not exactly the best place to try and stock up! This is the high street (the roads are sand on the island).

Sailing to Isabela island Galapagos

We were accompanied by a pod of over 100 inquisitive dolphins on our sail from Santa Cruz to Isabela which was amazing.

It was a delight to drop anchor in the calm anchorage of Puerto Villamil after the rock n roll anchorage of Santa Cruz. We were promptly inspected by the port authority to check all our papers, safety equipment, permits and permissions were in place. You need internal zarpe forms for travel between islands in Galapagos and we have had to have another set of COVID-19 tests, all negative thank goodness.

The anchorage is deserted and we are apparently the first boat to arrive here for seven months. We are allowed ashore tomorrow when the medical team will inspect us at 7am on the dock.

Cruisers meet Overlanders

It’s always great to meet another family travelling and we’ve been delighted to meet a German family who have been overlanding in a truck for two years. They have four children including two teenagers aboard and it dispels the myth that you can’t travel with teenagers. These guys are having a ball, love their lifestyle, the places they are exploring and the children practically speak four languages now.

We’ve loved sharing trips round Santa Cruz with them, climbing volcanic craters, playing on beaches, trips for ice cream or simply working alongside each other doing school work. Such a lovely family and we hope to cross tracks again in Australia!

Their blog (in German) is @Followdirectionsouth

We said a sad farewell as we left Santa Cruz to sail to the island of Isabela our last port of call in Galapagos.

Touring Galapagos

The best way to see Galapagos is on a tour boat as it allows you access with a guide to all the visitor sites. After a long search we finally found a small 16 person tour boat that was working which was both lovely and had a minimal environmental footprint, the motor cruiser M/C EcoGalaxyII We became their first trip since the COVID-19 shut down.

A holiday within a holiday. I can’t tell you how excited we are to sleep in proper beds, have hot showers and for someone to kindly cook and wash up for us (and of course to see all the amazing animals)!

What followed was the most amazing ten day tour of our lives on a gorgeous boat with a wonderful crew and delightful fellow passengers. We cruised around Santa Cruz, the western island of Isabela, Santiago, Fernandina, Bartolome, Rabida and north Seymour and swam with penguins, sea turtles and sea lions all at the same time! The water was bitterly freezing but worth the chill to have penguins swim past you.

On land we were treated to giant tortoises, sealions, land and marine iguanas and countless stunning birds.

Each day had breathtaking sights and we were spoiled by being the only boat at every site. There simply aren’t any other tourists here and no other boats are working (yet). So it’s Galapagos without the tourists and doubly inquisitive animals.

The crew were amazing and we had a crossing the equator party complete with pirates and Neptune.

The guide, James, explained to us that we were so lucky as normally for example the penguins are shy. But with us they played happily around the dinghy, diving and fishing as a family.

Each day we seemed to snorkel with more exiting sights. Groups of white tipped reef sharks, huge Galapagos sharks, stunning fish, turtles and sea lions.

Swimming with the most enormous manta ray on our last day has to be the most beautiful experience ever and an image etched on my brain forever.

An amazing trip, stunning volcanic scenery and beaches, I wish we could stay forever!

Santa Cruz, Galapagos

We sailed the 40nm to the next island along called Santa Cruz which lies at the heart of the archipelago. This is the commercial capital of Galapagos and felt a lot busier than the laidback and friendly San Cristobal. All the tour boats were anchored in the harbour looking forlorn as most of them have not moved for six months. The anchorage is south facing and is open to the southerly Pacific swell which means it feels like we are at sea rolling around even though we are anchored, which is somewhat disappointing! Any excuse to get off the boat and explore then!

Rock n roll anchorage
Las Grietas – stunning water colours

We’ve done a great hike to Las Grietas and Tortuga Bay beach which was stunning and practically deserted. We did have to share it with a few iguanas and sea turtles.

The Darwin research centre provided a great location for school one day as we are doing a project on Galapagos animals and Darwin’s trip on HMS Beagle. There is nothing like the boys writing all they know about giant tortoises and then running to watch them in their break time. There is no one here so the animals are really alert to our presence and even walk towards us to stare!

We’ve also found a delightful little library and the boys are enjoying all the children’s books in Spanish. It’s a great resource for facts on all the amazing animals.

Boat maintenance and the mystery of the missing 12V power

Whilst Chloe and I do school with the boys each morning, Russell ploughs through the endless list of boat maintenance and fixing to be done onboard to keep us ship shape.

The latest upset was when we realised we were totally out of 12 volt power. It is sunny here despite feeling cold due to the chilly wind so the solar power should be working fine. The culprit turned out to be the exhaust pipe from the engine which had sheared through the wires from the solar panels. The slight bit of movement when the engine spurts water out through the pipe has worn it through amazingly.

Russell getting inside the lazarette locker

Mending it means climbing in our cavernous lazarette lockers which are stuffed with everything…scooters, surfboards, ropes, buckets, fishing gear, beach toys, spare anchor, spare fuel, you name it which have to be removed first…let alone trying to turn the ‘solar’ off!

Next problem is that the water maker has broken, again. Grhhhh. Just when we have the most pure water to make water in. As San Cristobal is the only island in Galapagos with water, we were advised to fill here. The only way to do this is by buying large water cooler bottles you have in waiting rooms. There is no marina in Galapagos, so all 26 monster bottles had to come in a water taxi, be lifted and poured in by hand by us. Nothing like a boat workout. At least we have water again! Phew.

Water cooler bottle delivery

We’ve loved our time on San Cristobal and the wonderful friendly locals, it’s definitely the friendliest place we’ve visited on our travels and we’ve been to a fair few! We’ve been spoiled by the amazing Sea Garden cafe and the boys totally adopted by the lovely Whitman & Jeaneth. If you are ever here she cooks the best cakes you have ever tasted and the smell of her chocolate cake is divine. Thank you @SeaGarden for making our stay so magical for our gorgeous farewell dinner and helping us out with all our varied questions and needs! Felix is already planning his own sailing trip to return when he is a bit older.

Farewell San Cristobal