Sailing to the Galápagos Archipelago

Leaving The Mainland

The boatyard (and navigation beacon) at Puerto Lucia, as seen from Nine of Cups just after we motored out of the marina basin.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2004 (Day 1 of Galápagos Passage)

In the morning we began puttering around with the usual pre-departure chores, but we were mostly going through the motions—the boat was ready and so were we. Marcie had been on deck talking to Sharon ashore and Suni and Charlie on Cosmos next door. Finally, she simply asked David "are you ready" and he said "yes". Marcie called the yacht club office on the radio and told them we were ready to leave.

Some marina staff came over and a couple of George's crew came over, too. It takes several people to send off a med-moored boat because of the long mooring lines to the floating buoys and to the shore. There were people ashore, people in the marina launch, and people on the neighboring boats, Cosmos and Belair. The people on the neighboring boats had fenders out and everybody was prepared for potential problems because it had been a little breezy. But when David finally started the engine and we began untying the lines, the wind pretty much quit. The launch crew had to undo the mooring lines to the buoys and also had to pull a big mooring buoy aside that would otherwise have been directly behind the boat.

We got out of the slip without any problems and motored slowly across the marina basin while the marina launch caught up with us and tossed up our mooring lines. All the other cruisers blew their horns—Suni and Charlie blew the conch shell and ram's horn—"Farewell!". We slowly motored out of the marina basin and onto the Pacific Ocean.

I though it was an emotional moment—the breaking of bonds between people and places and putting friendships on hold as we head out to sea. An adventure awaits us, we know not what, but we will find it far over the horizon. There are normally such strong bonds between people and places and between friends. To break those bonds and accept the pangs of sadness due to separation, there must be a much more powerful force pulling us onward, over the horizon, to the unknown adventure that awaits us.

This same force has been tugging at men and women as long as people have existed. The urge to explore and seek adventure has always caused people to break bonds and abandon the known. Not only seafarers, but even in the earliest human migrations and explorations. It hasn't always been a straightforward search for food and shelter, either—people roamed far and wide just to see what was over the horizon. Having roamed the entire planet, the same force now drives modern man to explore other worlds. People have walked on the moon; rovers have sent back pictures of Mars. And when you look at a picture of Mars and see a hill, you wonder what's on the other side.

Heading Out To Sea

A local fishing boat, with the Salinas waterfront in the background.   This is one of the small tankers anchored off La Libertád. I assume it's waiting to dock at the oil refinery. On the stern it says Esmeraldas, Guayaquil.

Hooray, we're on our way! The mainland slowly recedes into the distance. (The white object in the foreground is the upside-down inflatable dinghy, stowed for sea.)  

We motored westward, passing through the anchored fleet of ships, the South American mainland slowly receding into the haze. While we motored, Marcie walked to the rail and said a short prayer to Neptune. She made an offering to Neptune, tossing into the sea a beautiful bouquet of flowers and pouring in some vodka. Sailors have long made offerings to Neptune, God of the Sea. We all believe that there are forces more powerful than us, and it is good policy to make at least a token offering to those forces to stay on their good side.

We raised the mainsail right away and some time later unfurled the headsails and shut off the engine. Even though we were only going slowly, it was still nice to have the engine off and be sailing. The wind was light and from exactly the direction we wanted to go, requiring us to steer well off our course line to get the sails to draw. Even then our speed was only 2 to 3 knots and Vmg (velocity made good, or the component of our speed towards the Galápagos) was often less than 1 knot. Not a very awe-inspiring speed to start a voyage but at least we're on our way. A voyage of a thousand miles proceeds one boatlength at a time.

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