Sailing to the Galápagos Archipelago

Landfall In The Galápagos

This is what Isla San Cristóbal looked like on our radar at a range of about 12 miles. It's the smudge in the upper right corner of the display.   Not quite a day later, we're approaching our destination of Isla Santa Cruz, which is looming large but only faintly visible.

Entering the outer portion of Academy Bay, starboard-side view. Much of the coastline was an undeveloped arid but green wilderness atop old lava flows.  

Entering the outer portion of Academy Bay, port-side view. In the distance, you can see the boats in the anchorage with Puerto Ayora in the background. The few big sailboats you can make out are actually megayachts—very large and very expensive.  

Sunday, March 28, 2004 (Day 5 of Galápagos Passage)

Today we should finally see the islands. For several days, we have been proceeding towards "Waypoint 003" on the chart and we finally reached the waypoint during my morning watch. We switched to the next waypoint which is near Academy Bay and the GPS said we had 75 nm to go. At a typical boat speed, we would arrive sometime in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. Since it would still be dark, this is not a good time to arrive. Therefore we slowed down a little so we would arrive a few hours later, in daylight.

Towards mid-day, we started seeing a lot more birds—dark little birds flying low over the water, big white and black birds, boobies, a frigate bird, even a white egret (which is normally not a seagoing bird).

We finally saw Isla San Cristóbal in early afternoon; it was an indistinct low gray mass far away on the horizon. We spent most of the afternoon and early evening slowly sailing past the island (we are not planning to visit Isla San Cristóbal). David created a new GPS waypoint to give Cristóbal a wider berth during the night and to take better advantage of the winds (causing less slatting of the sails).

During my night watch it was very slow going as the wind slowly but surely failed. With negligible wind and boatspeed, the GPS indicated it would take another full day to reach Academy Bay. Since we wanted to arrive by morning (in roughly eight to ten hours), I started the engine but kept the RPM's low so the GPS indicated an arrival at the desired time.

Monday, March 29, 2004 (Day 6 of Galápagos Passage)

Today we expect to reach Isla Santa Cruz, our destination. In the morning, everyone was up and eagerly looking for the island but surprisingly we couldn't see it, even though it should have been easily visible. It turns out the island was obscured by the heavy early-morning haze all around the horizon. Finally we could see the island in the binoculars and then directly; it was a big island. We were all excited and I thought the island looked so exotic and mysterious, misty and indistinct but looming large on the horizon.

It was still miles away so it would take at least a couple of hours to get there. As we got closer and closer, the island became more distinct and appeared quite large, with an irregular profile. We could see a town on the shore and in the binoculars make out some sailboat masts which gave us a general idea of where the anchorage was located.

We kept motorsailing and noticed that the wind was steadily increasing as we got closer. David kept using the autopilot until we got quite close, frequently consulting the chart and using the binoculars. We needed to make sure we identified and avoided a rocky island at the entrance to Academy Bay, but once we got close enough, the rocky island was easy to see and avoid.

We could now easily see boats in the anchorage. On either side of the bay we could see waves breaking on rough and very inhospitable basaltic rocks and cliffs. To the left, some distance from the bay, we saw a white beach that might have been a landmark mentioned in the guidebook.

Finally, David turned the autopilot dial to head into the wind and he went on the coachroof to lower the mainsail. By this time, close to shore and motoring into the wind, the wind was quite strong, especially compared to the mild breezes we experienced on the passage.

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