Sailing to Isla Floreana in the Galápagos Archipelago

Arriving at Isla Floreana

Marcie snaps a picture as we approach Isla Floreana, faintly visible on the horizon and overtopped by white clouds.  

After my morning watch I took a nap and when I awoke the island was in view. As we approached, the island was gradually revealed to us, first as a hazy and indistinct landmass with puffy white clouds above. After a while, you could see hints of topography and land features and detect the town of Puerto Velasco Ibarra. Then you could pick out details, including individual buildings, but not too clearly. Finally you got close enough to see all the meaningful details of the anchorage, such as rocks, breaking waves, and other boats; by now the hilly island looked vivid green and brown and you could see individual trees and cacti. You could also make a pretty good guess where the Port Captain's office was located because they usually fly two flags (the national flag and the navy flag).

Usually by this time you could detect the bottom on the depth sounder, but for this island the water was quite deep until we got very close. In the anchorage itself, depths were about 50 feet with a hard rocky bottom. The first time we dropped the anchor we couldn't get a good set—by looking at the taut anchor chain you could see it vibrate as the anchor skipped across the hard bottom. After reanchoring, the anchor held and we shut down for the night.

It's always such a nice event and milestone when David shuts off the engine. For one thing, everything suddenly becomes quiet and vibration-free; the silence can be deafening. Shutting off the motor also means David is satisfied with the anchoring job and our passagemaking tasks are finished. Finally, it means another leg of our voyage is complete and can be tallied on the log sheets.

To get to Floreana, it took just over 24 hours (spanning two days); we covered about 56 nm. The direct charted distance is quite a bit less and it should only have taken a few hours, but there was very little wind and for the longest time we were trying not to motor. We finally gave in and motored just to make sure we could get anchored tonight before dark.

Two views of Isla Floreana as we approach.   I took this picture about 20 minutes after the previous picture. You can see some tiny white specs on the shoreline towards the left side of the picture: that's the entire town of Puerto Velasco Ibarra.

David furls the mainsail as we prepare to motor into the anchorage.   As we were slowly motoring through the anchorage, I leaned over the bow and took this picture of the slight bow wave. The green stripe running through the picture is a reflection of the island.

The anchorage was very peaceful and had only two other boats, both of which shortly left leaving us alone. We sat in the cockpit as the sun went down, sipping cocktails and enjoying the silence, solitude, and sunset. In the still of the evening we could hear sea-lions barking nearby. It was a very pleasant evening, and we all remarked how nice it was to be here.

Looking ashore, the town of Puerto Velasco Ibarra was a small hamlet of a couple dozen buildings hugging the shoreline for a short distance. Puerto Ayora (with a population of 10,000) had seemed like a major metropolis compared to Puerto Villamil (with a population of 1,200), but now even Puerto Villamil seemed metropolitan compared to tiny Puerto Velasco Ibarra with its population of 70 souls.

Behind the town the terrain climbed steadily to the highlands; there were numerous major and minor volcanic cones visible, all cloaked in spare but green highland vegetation. Hanging overhead were the usual puffy white island-topping clouds. It was another exotic location, perhaps more so than the others due to the tiny town giving the island the appearance of a remote outpost, which of course it was.

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