Sailing to the Galápagos Archipelago

On Passage (continued)

David on the side deck, working on the boat (as usual). He's adding some non-skid to the rubrail below the lifeline gate opening. This will give us more secure footing when we climb in and out of the dinghy.  

Here's a view of the cockpit while on-passage. It looks like nobody's steering, but of course, someone is always steering—the autopilot! The autopilot controls the rudder from belowdecks, so the ship's wheel doesn't actually turn. The blue-green bag in the lower right corner is David's bag of fishing tackle. The blue-green object on the other side of the cockpit (with a rope on it) is the plastic folder that contains our log sheets. We log all relevant parameters every hour on the hour.  


Early one morning, David fired up the SSB radio and managed to make a Pactor connection to send/receive some email. This was still using the old Pactor modem software that communicates at slow speed, but now using the newer PC software that controls the whole system. I was really glad the system still worked because I had so much trouble getting it to work back in the boatyard. Now that we know the new PC software works O.K. I can go ahead and install the new high-speed Pactor software in the modem.

Some time later, I downloaded the new Pactor software into the modem and succeeded in making a couple of calls and transferring information. Everything seemed to work fine and the communication speed was much faster than the old software. Now that we know the upgrade works, we'll have to purchase a license for continued high-speed operation. Without purchasing a license, you can only make 20 high-speed calls before the system drops back to slow speed all the time.

We're having mixed results with sailing. Although we've had good sailing conditions a few times, most of the time the winds are light (and sometimes nonexistent). A big heavy cruising boat has a hard time sailing in light air. The sails are barely filled by the light air, and as the boat rolls and pitches slightly in the small swell, the filled sails sometimes collapse and flap around uselessly. Then when the boat rolls the other way the sails flap back and refill with a pop and a jerk. This is not good for the sails since it stresses the seams and fabric, also the sails can chafe on each other or on the rigging.

It can be discouraging trying to sail in light wind. You might start a watch with enough wind to sail, but the wind keeps diminishing and the boat goes slower and slower. The process can take hours, and it's hard to decide when to quit sailing and start motoring. It's nice to enjoy the peace and quiet of sailing, but we still need to make decent progress towards our destination. Motoring gets us there rapidly, but it's noisy and consumes fuel. We have already learned from other cruisers that fuel is readily available in the Galápagos and is reasonably priced. Since the Galápagos are within our motoring range and fuel is available, we don't have to worry about our fuel supply and can motor whenever it's convenient.

If we are sailing with a failing wind, we keep sailing until the speedo says 0.5 kt and the GPS says less than 1.5 knots. The speedo isn't affected by currents so it gives us the true speed of the boat through the water. Unfortunately, the speedo isn't very sensitive at slow speeds. The GPS is very sensitive but the speed readout includes the motion of the boat due to currents. Both instruments can be affected by the rolling and pitching of the boat in the swell.

Once we start motoring, we usually leave the mainsail up since it's a nuisance to raise and lower. It also helps stabilize the boat in the swells, although the swells haven't been a problem (just a few feet of very slow undulations). Overall, we seem to be averaging about 50-50 sailing vs. motoring.

For a couple of days, David has been working on a project to add some non-skid to the rubrail on the hull, which is where you have to step when getting in and out of the dinghy. This required masking off an area on the rubrail, laying down a coat of varnish, then sprinkling some sand while the varnish is still wet, then laying down a couple more coats of varnish.

David also fixed the teak cupholder on the pedestal that I probably broke. He also replaced the backup batteries in the two GPS units (the supposedly 10-year batteries only last a year or so). He also repaired the GPS power cable that had developed a bad connection.

Pretty handy guy, that David.

The aft deck, starboard side. From left to right along the rail: a white tube holding a fishing rod, a big yellow propane tank (with two aluminum scuba tanks behind it), a vertical pole which is the gaffing pole to bring aboard a fish, the blue-covered barbecue, the trusty 4-hp Yamaha outboard, another vertical pole which is part of the goal post frame, and finally the solar panel. The frame for the solar panel also has davits to hoist the dinghy. The deck box contains miscellaneous lines and other gear—one of the (few) drawbacks of a center-cockpit boat is that you don't usually get lockers under the cockpit seats, so you must find another place to store on-deck miscellany. The blue object in the foreground is the open hatch for the aft cabin.   The aft deck, port side. From left to right along the rail: the solar panel, the yellow bag for the man-overboard recovery sling, a vertical pole which is part of the goal post frame, a horseshoe buoy, a white canvas bucket (to retrieve seawater to wash the decks), a blue jug for gasoline, and four yellow jugs for diesel fuel. The white object at extreme right is part of the man-overboard pole holder. The few small objects on deck are David's varnishing kit; he was in the process of adding non-skid to the rubrail.


I usually sleep pretty well because I get tired by the end of my 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight watch. One night, a few hours after I fell asleep, the door to my cabin popped open and banged against the bunk, waking me and startling me. At first I though it was an emergency and they had banged loudly on the door. It definitely interrupted my sleep and I had trouble falling back asleep.

Another morning I got up early for my 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon watch and finally got to wash my hair in the forward head. To minimize the mess and make it safer in a rolling boat, I do this while kneeling down and leaning over the floor drain. It sure felt good to have clean hair. I went on deck and relieved Marcie, who was dressed in sweatpants due to the night chill. The wind had come up that night and David had had a boisterous sail.

I've been passing the time by reading my Ecuador guide book, which has a big section on the Galápagos. It was interesting, but there are so many details. It's hard to figure out what to do, where to do it, and in what order. After discussions (and based on what we learned from other cruisers), we decided to start our visit at Isla Santa Cruz, so we're currently heading for the island's main town of Puerto Ayora on Academy Bay. Once we get there, we'll see if the Port Captain will let us check-in. We still don't know what the deal is for cruisers visiting by boat. In the past it was permitted, then it wasn't permitted, then it was permitted but only if you had an emergency. The Port Captains seem to have a lot of leeway to do as they wish. Marcie and David present a good enough appearance (especially with Marcie's knowledge of Spanish) to give us a good chance to stay and visit.

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