Thursday, May 10, 2012

Message in a Bottle - The Love Boat

Tonight marks the end of day 13 at sea. Today was a pretty exciting day- caught, killed and then released a massive Dorado (I shed a few tears for that fish), caught another fish which we actually ate,  and played truth or dare (less the truth part) with buddies on the boat Saltbreaker (they are about 1000 miles ahead of us) over SSB. Dares included drinking salt water, snorting pepper, push-ups- you know, the usual. However, the most exciting part of the day was the much anticipated Friday night date night, which we had on Sunday since the days blend into one out here.

We decided to have a date night once a week to have something to look forward to. The date starts off with salt water sponge baths which feel glorious. It is the only "shower" we have all week and we feel quite pampered after splashing ourselves with that cold salty liquid and then lathering up with some soap. We mark the special day by wearing clean clothes- well- a clean t-shirt and undies. Same pants. Now that we are dolled up, we eat a nice meal, drink wine, and watch a movie while cuddling under the stars. There was a perfect breeze tonight and it felt wonderful on our clean skin. Perfectly heavenly. There was also an incredibly golden moon accentuated by the clouds and just as it was emerging, a pod of dolphins surrounded the boat. On nights like this, it feels like I could stay out here forever!

Message in a Bottle - After 11 days alone at sea

We have been at sea now for 11 days and have been completely alone out here. We have not seen a peep of anything- only the occasional dolphin, whale, tweeting birds and flying fish that torpedo their way on the boat and sometimes at us in the middle of the night.

So far, we have experienced a very passive ocean. We have encountered some messy seas, some water in the cockpit, a bit of rain and hot sweltering days, but overall, the ocean and the weather have been very mild and nice to us. Almost too nice- we spent the last 2 days barely moving as the winds were too light to keep the sails full. This means we more or less drifted and bobbed around waiting for the wind to pick up. It is a tough thing to experience going as little as 1 mile an hour when you have over 1,800 miles to go…luckily, the winds have picked up this morning and we are sailing at a whopping average of 5 miles an hour which is actually a very good speed for us. Fingers crossed that this keeps up.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The day long bike ride that cost us a year

So, we decided, even though we hadn't biked in over 6 months and the most exercise we have had recently involves walking to ice cream shops and the occasional stroll here and there, that we would rent some bikes and explore the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos. Our first thought was to bike to the of side of the island… the island didn't look that big… stop at caves along the way, have a swim at the beach then bike to a turtle sanctuary on the other side of the island. Piece of cake. We wanted the exercise.

We set off and experienced our first uphill just outside of town. I was instantly 'ompa loompa' red in the face but loving the burn.  Many hills and liters of sweat later, we arrived at the lava caves. Not too bad. We are starting to feel the burn, no longer loving it, but still feels goodish. The caves were interesting but we had lots of sights to see. We walked through, ate some bananas, then were off! We saw a sign pointing uphill for what looked like a place the bike rental guy recommended to us (which was written ineligibly on our map). Looked about right. Vamanos.

This turn in the road is exactly the point where the burn did not feel good anymore. It was actually starting to really hurt.  The road taunted us with all its upwards slants. But the bike rental man recommended this place to us- we must endure. It will be worth it. After what felt like an eternity and we entirely drenched with sweat, we arrived at the end of the road. The name on the sign did not look like the name written on our map. Hmph. We took a wrong very long turn. Luckily we ended up at a reserve and it appears as though we biked up to on the highest peaks on the island.  It was just another steep road to the viewpoint- can't stop now. The view at the top was worth our effort so far. We ate lunch and freshly picked guava at the lookout, it was beautiful. And we had that long downhill road to look forward to. By this point we were beat. So of course the only thing to do was take a nice break then point our bikes to the Eastern side of the island- beach!

The next hour or so ride to the beach had its ups and downs- mentally and physically. At this point the burn ripping our petite muscles apart and giving us very tender bottoms. But we were there! A beautiful remote beach we had all to ourselves. I have never enjoyed a swim as much as I did that day.  I didn't want to leave the beach- but mainly, I didn't want to bike back! At this point we had biked 5 hours and most of that was uphill. But had more to see- to the turtle sanctuary on the other side of the island.

Luckily, we hailed a taxi after about 20 minutes on our bikes and for a steep fee (which was well worth it), he dropped us and our bikes off at the turtle sanctuary. In our limited Spanish, we announce to the unenthusiastic woman working there: " we would like turtles". So she directs to go a certain way, which leads us to another lava cave and she mentions turtles and a lagoon. We go in assuming the turtles are somewhere on the other side near a lagoon.  We get to the other side, no turtles. No lagoon. We walk back to the place barely finding our way in the maze of trails and the woman draws us a map which she doesn't give us. Great. We are set. We decide, since we are running our of daylight hours, to take the bikes down. So we set off downhill towards the lagoon. We find a small lagoony looking thing. No turtles. Keep going downhill. 1 Turtle! Laying in the mud. At the same time, a tour bus passes us coming from further below the hill. Excellent- there must be a road down there. We set off on the rocky dirt path looking for that road. Down we go. And down. And down. No road. The thrill of being able to move with pedaling is overweighing our logical thoughts- it must be around the next turn, or the next or the one after that.

It will be dark in about 1 hour. We, with heads hung low, decide to turn back and endure the painful ride uphill. It was brutal. We were both silent the entire way up. There was just enough light left to see that the turtle we saw earlier was still there. Lucky turtle. I wanted to be sleeping in the mud right then.

We make it to the road just as it is getting dark. The bike store closes in an hour and a half. It starts to rain, than it pours. We bike as fast as we can in the dark, with no streetlights and only a little tiny flashlight each. Mine is on the back of my bag so cars can see us which means- I can't see anything! The most terrifying part was when we passed a pack of dogs who started barking and jumping for our ankles in the dark. Those were mean dogs.

We, somehow, managed to make it back 10 minutes late ridiculously sore, tired, soaking wet, dirty and hungry.  What a ride.

Great property, weird security.

Complete exhaustion.


The beach we dream about.

Holy Galapagos Heck!

I wonder if Darwin realized what he would start when he wrote his theory of evolution based on his observations here in the Galapagos Islands - that the archipelago would become a massive and expensive tourist destination.

We have been anchored in the busiest town on Santa Cruz and were surprised to see how developed it is here. We are in the mist of a crowded sea of boats some of which decide it is okay to park their massive boats right on top of ours.   After we digested the whopping cost to be able to stay and that the landscape we could see in the anchorage was a concrete parking lot full of white tourists like us, we started to explore these beautiful islands. The more we explored, the luckier we considered ourselves to be able to be here.

We have observed amazing wildlife, swam with sea turtles and playful sea lions and walked in remote areas busting at the seams with marine iguanas, little penguins, sea lions, blue footed boobies, ginormous rays, things we couldn't identify and really spectacular scenery.  We love the Galapagos.

Sandy brick road to the beach

Beach on the back side of Santa Cruz, Galapagos

This is me, at a beach.

Marine iguana

Giant tortoises 


Best friends.

Cactus tree.  Not edible.

Amazing swimming hole

How do you cross the Pacific without starving?

Well, for starters, you buy more fresh food than you can manage to eat without it starting to decompose and pollute the cabin with a terrible odor. You also buy more of everything you can think of. More is better. Or so we thought.

When we bought our food in Costa Rica, we naively thought it would be our main source of food until we reached the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.  But regardless of the quantity of fruit and veggies you buy, it has a limited life. Without refrigeration and with the temperature in our cabin exceeding 35 degrees C (that is about 95 fahrenheit for our non-Canadian blogees), some of our fresh produce was more or less cooked before we ate it. The ocean received a nice big portion of our fresh food that was too rotten to eat. We learned that some things don't work- like wrapping oranges in aluminum foil. Have you ever smelled a basket or rotten oranges? You should avoid it.

I also made the mistake of assuming potatoes would last forever. So I ignored the big bag of potatoes we had stored in the closet until a smell so foul was emerging from that closet I had to check on them. They proved my theory wrong as I took a big whiff and the result was that I gagged for a solid minute. Lessons learned- don't take big whiffs of anything you think may be the cause of a rotten baby diaper smell coming from a closet and potatoes don't last forever.

We have managed to get through a good amount of the fresh food we bought, but the only thing left after the 2 week trip to the Galapagos were some eggs, potatoes and onions. Luckily we can buy some more fresh food here in the Galapagos before we head off for our 30 day trip to the Marquesas, but now we know we will survive off canned and dried goods cooked with potatoes and onion for a few weeks.  This will give us the opportunity to shed some of hundreds of pound of weight in cans we have stored on the boat and hopefully allow us to sail even faster to our destination to enjoy all that fresh food that we will be craving- we are already dreaming of all that French cheese and ice cream!

Messages in a bottle

Hey Bloggies,

Dan here, your trusty bloggor.  We are way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, approximately as far away as you can get from land anywhere in the world.   We are just about half way between the Galapagos and the Marquesas Islands.

We had a bit of a engine issue when we decided to leave the Galapagos.  We got up excruciatingly early (after a night of endless wine) for the Saturday produce market.  We provisioned up, watered up, fueled up and paperworked up.  We were outta there.  Everything is put away and I fire up the engine, red lights flashing, weird sounds emanating from bowels of boat.  Oh no. I open up the engine cover, I find a 1 cm layer of salt encrusting almost everything.  Oh god.  Mike, from S/V Andante, who happened to be enjoying the wine with us the previous night was within waving distance in the anchorage so wave to him I did as he's an engine guru.  We (well 90% Mike) discover that I've gotten diesel on the timing belt that turns the salt water pump, the belt has become too loose and has caused an oil seal in the water pump to fail, and something's gotten into the water pump and scarred the metal.  So I have some work to do.  I clean off the layer of salt, head to town, get a new oil seal, have the metal smoothed down and ask around for a new belt.  No, we don't have that belt but try this place... After an hour of running from place to place it becomes clear that this belt which I can't start the engine without is not going be available.  So I do what any respectable sailor would do. I beg.  I go from boat to boat in the anchorage on my surfboard with a diesel soaked belt in my mouth.  Boat 1, nobody home, boat 2, nobody home, boat 3, a French boat, great, let me whip out my high school French and give this a whirl.  What are the odds, not only does this boat have the same engine as us but they have two spare belts so I can have one.  Yippey kayey we left at 8pm that night.

We have now been sailing for 8ish days.  We headed straight southwest from the Galapagos on a close reach.  We we averaging 7 knots or about 150 miles per day for those first three days.  "Hey Sylvie, I'm pretty sure we're in the trade winds now, time to turn west."  So we turned the boat west, engaged our trusty windvane and off we went.  Seas have been a bit messy from all directions but the wind has been consistent (except for today, it died) and we're having a good run.   We have 2,000 miles to go.  Think windy thoughts for us.

So we have a basic form of email on the boat and I'm sending this and a few other blog posts, written by Sylvius Maximus, to my sister who will post them for us.  Enjoy these messages in a bottle.  Pictures to follow next time we have decent internet.


Dan, Sylvie & Ustupu