Visiting Isla Isabela in the Galápagos Archipelago

First Impressions

A panoramic view of the Puerto Villamil waterfront from Nine of Cups in the anchorage. You can click on this picture to enlarge it (99 kb); use your browser's "back" command to return here.  

Saturday, April 10, 2004 (Day 13 in the Galápagos Archipelago)

Last night was the first night in many nights where the boat moved only slightly from small waves. It was a real treat to have a peaceful night's sleep without the wicked and bothersome rolling like in Academy Bay. In the morning light, Puerto Villamil looked quite charming and much more interesting than the scant row of streetlights we saw last night. The small town had numerous palm trees and small, low buildings. In the background there was a large, broad volcano with some bare, dark lava flows visible on the otherwise vegetated slopes; the aqua blue-green water of the harbor was in the foreground.

We have to check-in with the Port Captain this morning since we arrived after business hours yesterday. Unlike Puerto Ayora there are no water taxis at Puerto Villamil, so we must travel to and from shore using Nine of Cups' inflatable dinghy. During the passage to Isabela, we stored the dinghy upside-down on the foredeck. To deploy the dinghy, we first used a spare halliard and the cockpit halliard winch to hoist the dinghy off the foredeck and lower it over the side. After mooring the dinghy alongside Nine of Cups' stern, Marcie climbed in. David then used a rope to lower the 4-hp Yamaha outboard from Nine of Cups' stern rail to Marcie who guided the motor to the dinghy's transom and secured the motor mount clamps.

I had become a little spoiled by the water taxis at Puerto Ayora which were stable, secure, and very convenient. I confess to being a little uncomfortable in our small inflatable dinghy. Being a poor swimmer, I'm a little nervous in such a small craft, especially when there are rocks close to the surface and breaking waves. To get ashore here at Puerto Villamil, we have to maneuver the dinghy around a reef of dark volcanic rocks that causes the incoming swell to break. This can make the ride a little bumpy and wet, and although it's not dangerous, it still causes me a little anxiety.

This section of the waterfront has a dry landing next to the seawall, and wet landings anywhere along the sandy beach. This was a relatively calm day; with more wind and/or swell there would be a bigger surf on the beach. Waves can also break on the shallow reef, which is visible as a darker line in the water running horizontally across the picture. To avoid the breaking waves, we need to steer the dinghy through a gap in the reef, which is out of view to the right. The blue-roofed buildings are part of the Armada del Ecuador compound.  

When you go ashore in your dinghy, in general there are two ways you can arrive: a dry landing or a wet landing. With a dry landing, you pull up to a dock or pier, tie-up the dinghy, then step ashore without getting your feet wet (hence a "dry" landing). With a wet landing, you pull up to a beach (timing it so you arrive between the waves of the surf), then everybody hops out into the shallow water and drags the dinghy up onto the beach. Since you get your feet wet, this is a wet landing.

Earlier, we saw another cruiser dinghy over to a dry landing adjacent to a seawall. We drove our dinghy over to the landing, but when we got there, we discovered we didn't have our dinghy anchor. With a dry landing, although you tie-up to a dock or pier, you usually deploy the dinghy anchor from the stern to hold the dinghy away from the rough wall to avoid chafe. Therefore, David elected for a wet landing and we beached the dink on the soft cream-colored sandy beach.

A closer view of the Armada del Ecuador compound.  

The beach was right next to the Armada del Ecuador compound so it was a short walk to the Port Captain's office. Business proceeded efficiently with relatively little paper shuffling and form filling. We were granted a 15-day stay, and unlike Puerto Ayora the fees were very modest (just over $7.00). Speaking Spanish, Marcie explained to the Port Captain that we had a problem with our propeller shaft and might require the services of a diver. The Port Captain consulted his staff then provided us with the name and telephone number of a diver. He even called the diver to confirm availability and set up an appointment for us on Monday.

This lovely park is located along the waterfront in the center of town.   The park has an attractive and solidly-built tourist pier extending out from shore. To the left of the pier, you can barely see a set of steps leading down to the dry landing, which is in the very shallow water next to the pier.

At the far end of the pier there is an observation plaza overlooking the harbor and anchorage. You can see some waves breaking on the reef, which is the same reef visible in the earlier picture.   A closer view of the anchorage. Nine of Cups is the boat closest to the plaza, just to the left of the right-hand flagpole.

Previous Page   Next Page   Section Contents Page   Main Contents Page   Sailboat Cruising Page   Home Page