Monday, December 19, 2016

Easter Island

Max and I have split up. He is returning to the boat with the fresh food for our next passage and I am waiting to meet a woman named Pina and a group of Rapa Nui kids we will be taking sailing. I watch Max negotiate the waves in our little dingy from a bench that looks out from the edge of town. A man wearing a headdress and a futbol jersey, drinking a warm rum and coke, sits next to me. He introduces himself and I ask him twice to repeat his polysyllabic name. His face is leathery with few but deep wrinkles. He wears a heavy necklace of bone and carved wood and begins the way most Rapa Nui men do, by telling me that he loves the sea. He asks me my name, about the boat, about Max, and tells me he has watched us go about town for days. He offers me part of his day's catch, a fish with sharp white teeth and rainbow scales. I accept and we put the fish in a black plastic bag he finds beneath the
Easter Island arrival.  Preparing the anchor
seat of his scooter. He asks if I have a glass to share the Rum and Coke, and invites me for an asado at his house one day, describing how he would cook fish and meat for us in the way only a Rapa Nui can. He tells me to look at the stars and think of him on our journey and shows me how to scale, gut, and cook the fish correctly. This happens to us from time to time and the cooking directions are always the same, delivered in a serious tone as if to suggest that if I screw it up, he will not be held responsible- a pan, oil, a little salt. I promise that this is how I will cook the fish. As I listen to this man, and look around me, I wonder how I end up in situations like this? How did I get to this bench with this man? How did we reach this far off island?

Having stood watch for many stunning daybreaks, I have grown to love the slow lightening of the sky and the sharpness of the sun's first rays. None of these mornings compare to watching the sun rise on Easter Island after fifteen days at sea. It appeared first as a dark landmass, hardly different from the clouds, but larger and higher than I expected. We sailed towards Hanga Roa on a broad reach in calm seas and I sat alone on the cabintop watching the green undulating hills and eroded cliff faces define themselves. I could see trees disfigured by constant wind on the slopes and the spray of waves hitting those dark, porous lava rocks we grew accustomed to in the Galapagos. I watched the sunrise by myself knowing that Max's sleep was too precious even for this sight. I still peeked through the port at him every five minutes to see if he was stirring. When he woke up and tried to come up I blocked the way, covered his eyes and yelled nothing to see out here captain, nothing to see, until he pushed me aside and looking at the view, letting out a sound of astonishment. I know! I said, It's amazing! Max suggested that I make breakfast, the duty of the dawn watchman, but I refused, saying I would never give up this view to be below deck making oatmeal. I got two granola bars, filled up the coffee thermos, and we sat together staring at the approaching coastline.

Easter Island's mountain tops become visible at dawn

Max and I watching the coast line float by as we head into port

There is nothing like coffee and landfall

Hanga Roa is the only port in Isla de Pascua, more appropriately called Rapa Nui by the indigenous tribe who very much own the essence of this island. It's amazing that their creative, deep traditions could be altered easily by the white guy who showed up on a day that happened to be Easter and renamed the island. We arrived the day after Thanksgiving. So what? The town looked clean cut beneath rolling cumulus clouds and crisp air. We could see a few cars going by, restaurant terraces beckoning in the sun, lines of matte black Maoi heads, and then a tremendous, humbling surf breaking in turquoise and white foam. The main anchorage is not ideal as it is in 85ft of water with no shelter from the pacific swell. We radioed in and were received and even offered a free mooring. For those non-salts reading, a mooring equals a sharp decrease in stress.Government placed moorings don't
Our anchorage in Hanga Roa
usually drag; anchors certainly can. With a mooring one only has to worry about preventing chafe on the mooring lines where ever chafe can occur, a lesson I learned the hard (and terrifying) way in Guadeloupe. So we tied off well, with two lines cow-hitched to the mooring lines and sections of hose around the lines where they led through the forward chalks. Looking down into 85ft of cobalt water, I swore I could see the hard ripples of sand on the bottom. Next to us men were off-loading cargo from a large ship onto a small boat. We were the only two ships in the harbor. We opened the ports and went to sleep with a chilly spring breeze blowing through the cabin. By 10a.m. the crew arrived: immigration, department of agriculture, port captain, and then three others. They were extremely friendly and we went through the paperwork and inspections quickly. In the end it cost $9.00 to check in! They asked for it in USD, and by the way, our next three months are in this country, so it's pretty cheap for an entry fee. This comes as an enormous relief after the Panama Canal and The Galapagos.

Our first trip in to Hanga Roa in our fodable dingy and little Tohatsu engine was the most terrifying experience of the trip so far. Our nearest brush with disaster. We couldn't even see the entrance between the lines of rollers and surfers in wet suits bobbing like sleek black seals. We only knew there must be one. A fisherman, in a long, heavy boat zoomed by an waved us in. He had long hair in a bun and a curly dark beard: the common aesthetic of the Rapa Nui man. He waved us in and pointed to his wake, so we fell in and followed. We quickly realized how incredibly slow we are in comparison as he disappeared around the corner. At least we knew the way in. I was busy looking over the town trying to decide which lovely terrace was deserving of our first beer, when I saw a heavy swell coming towards us. That wave is going to crush us, I said to Max. There was nothing to do but resign ourselves to the fate. We were going swimming. I imagined two weeks of boat garbage unleashed into one of the world's most pristine surf spots. Max imagined something more practical- how we would get anywhere without the computer that was on my back. The wave hit, breaking
Max braving the surf after having perfected our entry method
almost upon us, we instinctively leaned towards it and forward and it sent us spinning, the whole dingy flexing dramatically. Then it spit us out, upright. There was no time to celebrate as another wave was swelling towards us. This one hit and was even worse. We tilted even more, the engine let out a primitive growl, and again I thought of how I could quickly collect all the garbage before swimming to safety. Again we made it. A minute later we were at the dock laughing together like two kids who know they just got away with doing something really stupid. For five days we braved this entry and exit, becoming better and better at what I started called the real Hell's Gate. We never went without the computer in a dry bag or with too much weight. Significant previsions required that I hitch-hike with a fisherman while Max braved Hell's Gate solo. We realized that the entrance can be done well if you are patient and wait for the break between lines of swell. People like to say all types of things about waves. That they come in threes, fives, sevens. The truth is more variable. If you are surfing, the ones you can ride come in threes. If you are in a sturdy fishing boat with a lot of horsepower, you should wait out five. The waves that can sink a foldable dingy with a 3.5 horsepower engine, come in lines of 9-11. You have to wait and study the horizon. If you decide to go for it and another develops, it is best to whip around and hit it head on. I watched Max do this one day from the dock and saw our dingy almost totally airborne. After so many trips, Max perfected this technique to the point that the Rapa Nui men voiced respect. I must admit, I never drove the dingy in or out, enjoying the pleasures of back seat driving or rides with fisherman too much.
After the terrifying rollers, Max ties up next to a Maoi

The town of Hanga Roa is an easy-going paradise. The Rapa Nui are stunningly beautiful, happy, and kind. The kids are all little surfers running around town barefoot, their waist length hair tangled and ending in bleached brown curls. The women wear flowers in their hair and the older men wear ornamental necklaces. Most bodies are decorated with traditional tatoos of tribal designs inked precisely over shoulders defined by a dedication to surfing or long circulating tattoos winding around thighs and torsos. Something written out in Rapa Nui hyroglyphs. The Rapa Nui flag, white with a red curved image of two heads looking up, is omnipresent. We literally laughed all the way to the bank on our first walk through town, reminiscing about the dingy entrance, stunned by our luck. We found a terrace for our first beer and, looking over the menu, shuddered at the cost of things. I was sure that Max had the exchange rate wrong. In the end, the exchange was 650 pesos to the dollar, and an appetizer at a middle of the road place was 11,000 pesos. Town is very expensive, but there are a few gems that we found.

One of many street food options available in Hanga Roa

There's a sandwich place right in town where two guys make amazing food while blasting 90s hip hop and alternating breaks to share a joint they kept outside. The tables are saw mill cut boards hanging from the braided palm frond roof. We ate a fresh Tuna sandwich big enough for two that cost 7000 pesos, then ordered another of beef with onions and cheese with a fried egg on top. Unlike in other restaurants, where a waiter may approach and say, how is everything this evening?, in that false tone, our waiter, bopping his head to the music with heavy eyelids simply makes the Rapa Nui hand signal, thumb and pinkie out, twitching back and forth.  The gesture is returned to convey that your dinning experience is satisfactory.  He smiles, genuinely happy. The restaurant faces a large rugby field, the focal point of the town, that hosted a tournament for the Polynesians Islanders during our stay. We spent many sunsets there eating grilled meat kabobs for 3000 pesos and watching the games. People went by in cars, on scooters, or bare back on horses, but overall town is quiet except for the tremendous crash of the surf.

Up the main street a little more is Restaurant Chez Ramon where empanadas big enough to make you skip dinner are made to order by Ramon. His restaurant is tiny and nested into a vibrant garden of tropical flowers. He goes about his cooking thoughtfully and slowly, bringing little snacks to hold you over. Ramon has a big heart and an affinity for sailors so much so that this became our home base. We filled all our water jugs there, placed a very economical vegetable order through him, and ate many of his fresh Tuna and cheese empanadas. Ramon can do your laundry for less, rent you a car for less, and really get anything a cruiser may need, for less. If we ever did anything through anyone else, he would admonish us and say, why didn't you ask me

The remainder of the island provides vast landscapes of partly cloudy skies, green hills, and a coastline of lava rock formations being battered by waves. We drove around the entire perimeter in a couple hours. We climbed to the top of crater edges to peer at lagoons below, visited the ruins of ceremonial grounds, and stopped at many sites of toppled Maoi. The tour gets more dramatic as you continue from Hanga Roa around to the east, leading to the "Maoi workshop" where you can see the sculptures in all stages of production, some half carved out of a cliff face, and other toppled and rolling downhill. This site is halfway up a dramatic crater that rises suddenly from green fields where horses gallop in herds through the bent over grasses with the turquoise sea in the distance, darkening towards the horizon. I am not joking; it's that pretty. Towards the end of our road trip, we found the famous site of the 15 Maoi lined up at the edge of the sea. The site is as amazing as the cliffs and coastline that surround it. You will want to sit and stare for a long time noticing the slight differences between each of the 15 carvings and try to comprehend the scale of everything you are looking at. We sat in the grass and recycled the same conversation we had all week. I can't believe we are here. I can't believe we sailed here. and from Kingston. 

View from ceremonial town at the southwest of the island

Our off-road rental car

Laura at the edge of volcanic crater

We are preparing to leave Easter Island today and will spend one more night at anchor, casting off after breakfast tomorrow, December 1. This evening we will take a group of local kids sailing. We are not sad to leave. There is too much to look forward to. The anchorage here is dreadfully uncomfortable at times, dingy approaches leave our hands shaking and hearts racing, and town is just too expensive. Sometimes, just moving around the boat at anchor is a challenge. The hose on the mooring line chafed through and the boat looked like a giant shook it up every time we returned. Out of the six nights we spent at anchor, about half were peaceful with long dinners and bright orange sunsets. This island and people have nested themselves quite permanently in our hearts and we are thankful. For the opportunity to visit such a distant and special place, for the fishermen in feathered head dresses and Adidas hoodies who leave part of their catch on our decks and give me rides, for the little kids riding 12 foot waves like it's no big thing, and for the people who covered these hills in monoliths that remind me of something I am not wise enough to understand or articulate.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Our Longest Passage: The Galapagos to Easter Island

Tuesday, November 15th 

Yesterday we weighed anchor and sailed out of Puerto Ayora. It´s amazing to fall so in love with a place, and just as quickly decide to get out of there. We are determined to make haste and have begun to speak in numbers. 1945 miles from Galapagos to Easter Island. 1231 miles left. 15-18 days overall, depending on our average speed.  Max came to bed and whispered, We did 136 mile VMG (velocity made good) in the last 24hrs. What was our overall? I ask. I don't know, he says, but I didn't touch the tiller my whole watch. Me either, I say. If we are lucky, it will take us eleven more days to end up 2000 miles from anywhere. How had the Polynesians ever found this place? 

A port tack convinced us to abandon the v-berth and move into the main salon where gravity holds us in a space too narrow to at anchor. Everything else is uphill or insufficiently padded. Better to sleep like two sardines than suffer sagging lee clothes or boards in your back. This passage has been so serene we have taken to being below deck together for longer
periods of time, even dozing off for fifteen minutes as we switch watches. The boat just goes ever since we hit the steady South Easterly trades. There are no shipping lanes to cross and this wind should hold for days. Still, I am nervous. This time we are really venturing far out into the Pacific. That being said, I can't deny the obvious facts. The sky is partly cloudy everyday, it hasn't rained at all, and the temperature has cooled to that of May in New York. Could it be this easy?

There were times in New York when I would say things like, the passage from The Galapagos to Easter Island scares me, but by that time we will have sailed over 5000 miles. We will be different sailors by then. I bring up this memory at cocktail hour. Remember when I said that? Do you feel like a different sailor? We decide that in fact, we are different, but certain things are remarkably the same. I still wake up with a certain amount of anxiety and have to immediately find Max. Even his shadow will do. I am relieved when I see him go from fast asleep to calling my name, and know he shares that anxiety. I still look at the waves and imagine myself falling in and being swept away, but by now I realize that's not too likely and,

to a large degree, up to me. Max and I are only awake, together, and talking during meals and at cocktail hour when we discuss the looming feelngs and questions that have been developing in our minds throughout our separate watches. We talk about what worries us, what we have noticed about ourselves or the boat, and what we miss or look forward to. As sailors, we have begun to feel what the boat feels. We know its textures, its leaks, its splinters and sharp corners. We know how to keep the water in the kettle and the kettle on the stove. We know how to wedge our bodies into place to cut a clove of garlic without losing it. We have installed, inspected, and run our hands over every piece of harware, line, bungee, and know when they are under strain. We try to be a little paranoid. To notice. Sometimes we notice things a little too late.

Early in this trip we noticed two things: a crack in the tiller and three screws missing from the base of the roller furler. we discussed each in turn. Had the tiller always been cracked? Could we have not noticed that? We each traced our memories back to those early days in the woodshop. I could feel the sandpaper between my hand and the wood. No, I say, it was perfect. But Max remembered the sandpaper too, and could recall a small crack, something that the paper tripped over, toward the base. Regardless, what would we do if it broke? We discussed what would be necesary to fit the spare tiller, a long alluminum bar, into the space where the current tiller is. We would have to drill holes for the blocks that hold the self-steering system, the little nipple that holds the electronic autopilot, and then how to fit it tightly into the space in the back so that there would be no play would be an issue. We decided to put dots at the ends of the crack with a Sharpie, continue to mull it over, and see if the crack was existing or developing.

As for the furler, three screws of a certain thread and metric had wiggled themselves free reminding us that every screw, bolt, nut, inch of adhesive, cable, pulley, cleat, is under constant strain. They are all wiggling free, chafing, deteriorating in the sun, etc. Everything has a life expectancy, everything is breaking, all things fall apart, and it's our job to see it happening. Even today, a thin line was touching the top of the tiller, and as the boat drove itself by making small adjustments to port or to starboard, the line rubbed gently on the varnished wood. After a day of this, six layers of varnish are gone and the edge of a piece of bronze hardware was polished to a bright gold finish. Our problem with the screws on the furler system is that we have no more of that type, which is impressive considering the bulk of our hardware box, and didn't want to risk damaging the threading by using a different type of screw. Thankfully, Max had found one of the three in the scupper days earlier, and not knowing where it had come from, put it aside. So, one screw holds the furler in place. A wrap of Gorilla tape provides resistance. We furl gently and hope for a hardware store in Easter Island. 

Thursday, November 17

Going above deck this morning I am in awe of what has become normal. Our boat charges, rushes, plunges through the dark. The waves are just discernable, but I don't need to see them. I can tell that they are short and steep, heavily textured by the wind. I can sense that they are building and stick my hand outside the dodger to feel the cold sting of rain. The
 leeward rail dips deeply and clear, cold ocean runs back into the cockpit scrambling the sheets and flooding the cockpit floor. This is my cue to reef the Genoa and I go below to put on foulies.  

Full moon night photography

We are passing through endless squalls. Stripes of gray that reach down to the horizon. Evenly colored, thick as flannel, and smudged where they meet the water. We are constantly reefing in expectation of the weather and then shaking reefs once it passes. Between squalls the wind dies completely and the climate seems to be reeling from the storm. We dropped all the sails and motor. Another squall comes and we hoist enough sail to get through it. This is
the type of sailing that we find most challenging. Constant sail changes can exhaust even the most patient sailor. By the end of a six hour watch, I have reefed and shaken reefs, furled and unfurled, motored. I am wet and my hands are aching, lines of blood blisters have formed on the inside of my fingers. I go below to wake Max and say, It is with great pleasure that I hand over the sailing of Tortuga to you this morning Captain.

Friday, November 18

From Nuqui, Colombia to Puerto Ayora, Galapagos we almost caught one Tuna, so small we didn't even bother to get the gaff or a net. He threw the hook between the water and the cockpit, and we were relived because he was too small. Since The Galapagos, we have caught one shark, one coil of green line, a cluster of cassette tape plastic, and one half of a Tuna. The shark bit soon after we left Puerto Ayora- a last reminder of the abundance of life in those magical islands. We didn't want the shark of course, but thought we might be able to get the lure back, which would be mutually beneficial. Max reeled him in slowly and when he came alongside the boat I could see that he was a white tip shark, about five feet long. He swam steadily just below the surface and seemed unconcerned by what was happening. Terrific to watch, we tried to get him as close as possible before cutting the line. We hoped to leave as little as possible with him. We did our best.

A white-tipped shark on the line
Today we caught half of a Tuna. Max had been complaining all day about how many bites we had that didn't turn into fish, about catching sharks or bunches of plastic. He kept saying, I just want to catch one fish before Easter Island. When the reel went off, he wasn't taking any chances. We could tell it was a big fish and Max reeled in slowly, letting it run a few times. When it got close, Max took the pole out of it's metal sleeve and walked it forward. He sat down and kept reeling while I got ready with the gaff. We saw the dark blue back of a Tuna cut the surface of the water a few yards behind the boat. Then the fish dove and Max's shoulders and arms were shaking with the effort. He kept saying that it felt really strange. The struggle stopped and the fish came to the surface, apparetnly dead. I reached down with the gaff and noticed that something was very odd. Half of the fish was missing. After a second I yelled, Max, Half of the fish is missing! As I yelled that I saw a large shadow just beyond the Tuna and the brilliant,

unmistakable stripes of a TIger Shark. He had obviously helped himself to half our catch and was hungry for more. Gaff it!! Max was yelling while I was fixated on the vibrant shark moving himself towards me in that muscle bound way they swim. I pulled the half Tuna into the cockpit and Max and I collapsed laughing. The shark did us a favor actually. Even just the head is too much meat for us to eat, and it is so much easier to pull in a dead fish that has already bled out. No violent fish blugeoning in the cockpit with hard to clean blood spraying all over the place. Whenever a fish is caught, it means an hour of work for each of us. Tuna blood stains incredibly. We made delicious steaks for dinner and there is a lot left. 

Sunday November 20

I have been seeing the most amazing things. Last night I learned what the sky is capable of doing. The sun set in an almost cloudless sky. The where the horizon is hunting season orange and then above the first stars and planets are as bright as LED lights in a deep lavender
atmosphere. Max and I watched the sunset together on the cabin top while discussing the passage so far. Just as the sun sank I reminded him of the green flash, a phenomenom of light that appears just after the sun disappears and can only be seen by the dedicated and patient sky gazer. Max is a non-believer, so I covered his eyes and told him I would oncover them at precisely the right moment. Wait for it, wait for it, and Now! I yelled uncovering hs eyes. Just then a crown of neon green light shot up from the horizon. Did you see it? That was amzing! But Max hadn't seen it.

After dinner I had the first watch, 8pm to 2am. I dressed in my foulies, made a pot of coffee, and went above deck to watch the sky. On such a clear evening I could welcome each star to the sky and watch its constellation form, trying to remember the names and stories. With a six hour watch, there is time for this. Venus was brighter than I had ever seen. Such a diamond of sharp light I kept mistaking it for another ship very close to us. Orion appeared close to the horizon and I could see the face of Taurus rising. The scene of the great hunt I consider every evening. The sails were trimmed to a broad reach, seas were calm, and the boat was easily making 6-7 knots without my help. I pulled a blanket over my legs and got lost in a daydream. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bright green light and jumped up, thinking that I had missed the approach of a ship and that its starboard light was incredibly close. I stared into the night trying to decipher the even darker shape of the ship that must be there. But there was only the green light going quickly passed and my heart beating at the thought of who could be out here with us, and so close. When I was sure that the light was passed I relaxed a little, but then saw another coming. Another neon orb floating quickly across the water, the size of a basketball. I woke up Max for this one and we watched it together, and then another, and another. I guess there are glowing orbs in the South Pacific. Who knew? We stayed awake together for a while looking at the exceptional sky. The stars on the horizon were flashing red, blue, white. Venus, before deisappearing in its rotation was also flashing bold colors at the horizon. Max went to sleep and I spent the rest of the watch enveloped in my senses. Clouds covered the stars and vision was traded for sound. Beyond the leeward rail and the working and non-working lines, I could hear the rushing and collapsing sea. A pulley to my right clicked line in and out and the wind generator rushed and slowed with the changing wind.

It took 14 and a half days for us to reach Easter Island. When we left The Galapagos my neck was in a brace due to a pulled muscle, leaving Max with the burden of any heavy lifting. We kept pace the entire passage, motoring when necessary, and making incescant sail changes to keep up our speed. The South East trades treated us well and we sped over a large section of ocean while playing cards below deck, or reading for hours in the cockpit. There were a few days of hard work, squalls, and fickle wind. Overall, it was easy. It was easier by far than NY to Bermuda or Guadeloupe to Colombia. There were no big seas and no storms. Mostly the sky kept changing back to partial sun, fluffy cumulus clouds, and spring like weather. 

We passed Thanksgiving underway and managed to make potatoes, stuffing, and even gravy with canned Rouladen (pickles rolled in venison). We missed our families intensely and talked for hours about how much we love that holiday and why. We discussed each
recipe of our mothers in great detail. We carefully described the Christmas traditions of our families and what is eaten when. I began to realize that the holidays aboard the boat by ourselves are going to be tough.

Max and I are closer than we have ever been, though romance has given way to something more practical. We show our love through splinter removals, rash inspections, and small gestures that are so meaningful at sea. A pot of coffee for your watch. New sheets on the bed. A swept main cabin floor or cleaned head. I think Max's journal entries from the passage sum it up beautifully...


Night is settling in as an improvised boat dinner fades into memory.  The smell of coffee fills the cabin along with warm yellow light. Sam Cook plays in the background.  I put on my sweater, waterproof pants, and jacket.  I feel completely relaxed as if I have lived this momemnt a million times before.  There is no rush to go outside.  The wind is still blowing and the boat is on course as assured by her heel and movement.  She has found her groove in the south east trades. She keeps running and running pushing water out of the way like she never has before.  It´s as if she is chasing something.  Something tickling the dried up tuna tail tied to her bowsprit maybe. The woman of my dreams dreams in the forpeak leaving me with the main salon, cockpit and deck to myself.  My somatch tingles with anticipation as it does in a child retreating to a secret hiding place.  Anticipation for the place itself, for its potential, for the memory of this moment.  The perfect night in the South Pacific, a place I have always dreamed of exploring.  It seems I have it all to myself with the only company I will ever need sleeping quietly in the forepeak. 

I hate this picture, but Max loves it. I had to wear this neck brace for our fist week out from The Galapagos.

Night watch letter writing

Max sewing a new waterproof bag for his clothes

Finished War and Peace!

First sight of Easter Island


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Galapagos

 When I was sixteen, my dad gave me a copy of Dove. In the book, a young Robin Lee Graham, while circumnavigating in a small sailboat, makes a stop in the Galapagos. He and his girlfriend anchor along abandoned coasts, dive for endless lobster, and enjoy the natural abundance of this archipelago. If Max and I had sailed here in the 60s or 70s, I imagine we would've experienced something similar and even entertained the daydream that we were the discoverers of this benign and enchanting group of islands. Maybe if humans had behaved a little better, we could've had that experience. Sailing to the Galapagos in 2015 means passing a gauntlet of national park regulations, paying a high price to stay in one anchorage for no more than 20 days, and using an agent to navigate the complex regulations. For us it has also meant experiencing the most abundant and breath-taking biodiversity of our trip, the most colorful and imaginative landscapes, and interacting with an impressive community charged with the complex and difficult task of protecting one of the world's most valuable ecosystems from the tourism that also sustains it. Being here for three weeks, working with the students at the Thomas de Berlanga school, and doing some tourism of our own, has taught us that humans and nature can live alongside one another quite peacefully. The problem is that everyone has to follow a lot of rules.

Within a short time of arriving, we had a considerable number of people board our boat to complete paperwork and inspections. They vacuumed corners of the galley floor, looked through the boat, inspected the gray and black water discharge, asked to see a garbage and engine maintenance log, and then dove on our hull to make sure we were not introducing any new species. Our agent reminded us more than once that the US government spends millions of dollars each year trying to manage the zebra muscles and Asian carp in the Great Lakes. The process of passing the park regulations and being welcomed into the port took two days and cost about $1000. If you include the fumigation and the hull cleaning we had to do in Colombia, then the price is to closer $1200 for our three weeks in the Galapagos.   At times this did feel overwhelming, expensive, and time consuming. In the end it was worth it. These three weeks have taught us valuable lessons about how to build a culture that truly and deeply cares for it's ecosystem, provided us with incredible experiences, and changed our trip into an effort to build that type of culture wherever we travel, and hopefully where we settle when we return. That being said, it couldn't hurt the Galapagos to be a bit clearer about the rules (or enact a no wake rule in the harbor). Seriously, this anchorage feels like being in a blender at times.

Puerto Ayora, the main port of the Galapagos, on Isla Santa Cruz, is a quiet town hugging a turquoise harbor. All boats are anchored at the stern and bow, water taxis zoom people back and forth ($.80 in the daytime, $1 at night), endless tourism offices and restaurants line the streets, while seals and iguanas sleep on town docks and benches.  It is unquestionably safe, and the cleanest place we have been. The air is cool and dry which has been a huge relief after Colombia. For cruisers, the grocery stores are expensive, there is no pump out, there are laundry services all over town, and a vegetable market that is great (and pretty cheap). It is important to remember that you are on an island very far from the mainland and that everything has to be imported. The anchorage here is very beautiful and we have seen a lot of sea life just from the boats. Turtles, manta rays, sharks, and many swimming iguanas.

Our work with the Thomas de Berlanga school was so rewarding that we have decided to continue working with schools in each port we visit. We gave three presentations at the school that revolved around the idea of going out and accomplishing difficult dreams using our trip as an example. It was good, but we would like to make it more about the environmental history of the Hudson River and relate it to whatever human behavior, or past behavior, is affecting local waterways in the areas where we visit. This may be the impact of tourism, mining practices, toxins in the water, or plastic pollution. Hopefully, we will be able to get kids out sailing in each place that we go, teaching them to use their waterways, and that what is used, tends to be cared for more. We are excited and empowered by this project. It reflects something that Max and I really believe in and the philosophy that we would like to return with to the Hudson Valley. We are indebted to the community here for making this possible, and specifically to Luis Fernandez (aka Champi), his wife Cristina, and their awesome kids, Emilio and Adrian.

Election day in Galapagos

Max dives deep into the turquoise of Las Grietas, a sort of channel between cliffs where ocean water has been trapped. We found this at the end of a short walk that also took us by pink, orange, green salt pools and into a cactus forest unlike anything I have ever seen.

The iguanas on Tortuga Bay's long beach are completely unafraid of humans. They swim in the surf and sun themselves on the beach or the lava rocks which they quite resemble.
Blue-footed Boobie at Tortuga Bay

A peaceful lagoon filled with turtles and Boobies at the end of Tortuga Bay.

Our cockpit with Champi and his two sons, Emilio and a sea-sick Adrian.

Max teaches the local surf team about the points of sail before going out.

Max and I did three presentations at the Thomas de Berlanga school!!

And then we had a jugo at the school's outdoor cafeteria.

Emilio philosophizes at the tiller.

Father pursuing son sailing away on Tortuga

Son deep in concentration

White tipped shark

The man that made our stay in Galap. possible.  Champi and Fam

The threatened Land Iguana

Benefits of invasive species

Laura surfing with sharks, iguanas, seals, and sea turtles

First real tortuga encounter

The Famous Marine Iguana