Monday, April 27, 2009

more pics


Thinking back on the past week, there have been so many fun activities.  We explored 2 of the 13 major islands and one of the 6 smaller islands of the Archipelago de Colon (aka Galapagos Islands) the.  We also got to drive past 5 other islets and small islets of the Archipelego.  Two of these were Daphne Major and Daphne Minor.  I got to be reminded of my sister almost an entire day, every time I saw these big rock craters sticking up out of the ocean. 

On Thursday morning we took a ferry with 2 200hp outboard engines the 30-ish miles to Santa Cruz Island.  Interestingly, this was the slow ferry.  The one we returned on on Saturday had 3 200hp outboards and took half an hour less time to cross the same distance.  Thursday afternoon we toured the Charles Darwin center which has some science research facilities (didn't look at these) and the tortoise nursery which hatches, raises and re-patriates 5-year-old tortoises back to the original islands from which they came.  There are 13 different tortoise species here so they are careful to put them back where they got them.  Also, numerous adults are in large natural corrals.  People are allowed to walk in the corrals with the tortoises as long as they don't step on the feeding platforms or harrass the creatures. 
TORTOISE FACT:  females have very short tails that are almost impossible to see.  Males are larger than females and have very fat, long pointy tails (almost a foot long).  This is true for sea turtles as well.

Also on Thursday we took a taxi out of town to a lava tunnel whose entrance station reminded me of the tacky, faded get up you see at the entrance to "Trees of Mystery" in Northern California.  They even had the prerequisite large hand lettered sign that was confusing and non-sensical as well as old tortoise shells on the deck for people to crawl in and poke their heads out for photo opportunities.  (No we didn't try it).  We walked through the big tube that ranged from 20 to 40 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide.  It was about half a mile long and quite cool inside.

The next day we paid for a cruise out to Seymour Island, a small island north of Santa Cruz.  Blue footed boobies were nesting and doing their one-footed mating dances.  Sea lions were laying around with large black marine iguanas walking past their noses.  Frigate bird males were sitting or flying with their bright red chest balloons inflated, hoping to attract the ladies.  Our guide taught us a few things.
BOOBY FACT:  Blue footed boobies don't poop in their nests.  They either get up and walk ouside the indentation in the dirt that serves as a nest, or kick it out.  You can see the result in the booby photo in the previous entry.

Our tour on Friday included a snorkel session back on Santa Cruz Island.  Our group of 20 people got offloaded to a white beach with turtle tracks from surf to the top of the dunes.  There was a bit of a swell coming in and so the visibility was quite low.  Even so, we went out and saw some parrot fish and a pretty one I heard was called a Gobbin (something like that).  As I was snorkeling next to Brian, I heard him say, "Shark" GULP.  About 10 feet ahead of us through the murky water, I saw the neck, body, white-tipped fins and tail of a 5-foot reef shark.  You can bet  I was sticking next to Brian as it swam away.  Lucky for my peace of mind, I had looked up the stats on shark attacks for 2008.  Mexico is by far the most dangerous place with Australia and California coming in next.  No incidents in the South Pacific Islands, despite the thousands of snorkelers and divers here every year. So, our first shark sighting. 

Saturday morning we hiked out across hot lava rocks and through a salt flat with pink water to a place called Las Grietas.  Here, salt water and fresh water have filled deep sluices in the volcanic rocks.  The water is cold and clear clear clear.  Some reef fish are stuck in the pools and are beautiful and huge (no predators).  Kristin and I snorkeled to the end of the first large one, crawled over some rocks and swam under another rock to get to a second deep pool with different types of fish in it.  It was one of my favorite things we did. 

All in all, the trip to Santa Cruz felt like a real vacation.  No boat chores staring us in the face.  Staying on land at a Bed and Breakfast (La Peregrina-we recommend it!) and not having to cook or clean was also a big break.  Saturday we returned by ferry to San Cristobal and had a mellow evening since we were a bit sick.  Sunday,. the water was clear again and Kristin and I got in an early morning snorkel at the "turtle beach".  We swam with graceful soaring green sea turtles over plant covered rocks.  Under each turtle we could see small blennies swimming.  After that, we took Kristin over next to the pier to fulfill her goal of swimming with sea lions.  About 5 sea lions appeared when we got in the water and played hide and seek with looking at us under the water and then above.  They are as curious as a two-year old and as playful as labrador puppies.  None of them allowed us to touch them. 

Now Kristin and Justin are back home and we have to figure out our timing to leave.  Needs to be soon.  But we have chores to do!  Buying groceries, cutting out our spinnaker sock so I can sew it under way, attaching a block for the spinnaker, having water delivered, putting things away and catching a few more waves or snorkel sessions will keep us here until at least Thursday. 

100s of photos

Too many awesome photos to pick from. But here are a few.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Kristin and Justin arrived on Monday.  Yippee.  We have taken a hike, snorkeled a couple times, photographed a million sea lions and gone to a beach with large black marine iguanas sunning themselves on black volcanic rocks.  Today we went up to a rural reserve that is being privately re-populated with native plants by international volunteers who also cultivate their own produce to eat and eradicate invasive species.
Brian took Justin surfing early yesterday right before a massive swell hit.  Our previously calm pleasant anchorage has turned into a weeble wobble playground with the masts of boats swinging wildly back and forth as the huge swells move through.  Last nights sleep was a bit uncomfortable as a result. 

Tomorrow we´re taking a ferry to Santa Cruz Island to view things that aren´t on this island.  We´ll get to sleep in a hotel tomorrow night... no weeble wobbles. hurrah.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

San Cristobal

So far my favorite thing about this island has been getting to meet people. I know, I'm in the Galapagos, the focus is natural beauty. Well, I've been happy to see the volcano rock topography, turquoise water with seals and golden rays swimming past, and frigate birds reeling below clouds. But it's the stroppy American turned Kiwi citizen or the French gal, Virginia on a catamaran that have rejuvenated my spirits. I miss people. I miss relationships. These are what give nature its true beauty. Even the Creator was lonely after speaking his perfect Eden into existence. He made humans to share His masterpiece.

If I couldn't share my pictures of flowers, turtles, and whatever else with you guys, I would take fewer and delight less. But to be able to turn to a friend, spouse, the Creator, or stranger and say, "did you see that?!" That's the joy.
So, here's some pics. Would you take a look at that beauty! It's even more awesome in real life.
Frigate birds graceful and strong..
Tortoises feisty and irritable and surprisingly quick when food is at hand...
and a jewel of a natural harbor filled to the brim with boats of all types full of people pointing, looking and saying to each other, "that is beautiful."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Land Ho!

Brian has been reading a biography of the historical U.S. president, John Adams. Its amazing how much more educated those people were than us. Their vocabular and grammar are outstanding. Brian has been speaking in their lingo. when I cried "land ho" yesterday, he promised me 50 shillings. Im still waiting to receive them.
Nevertheless, we arrived and anchored right before sunset last night. We were instantly boarded by the port captain and a local "agent" who is required to drive you around and make photocopies for you at the huge price of 80$. Yup, another country that has adopted the U.S. dollar as its currency. We got a whole bunch of sleep and came to town with our agent, Bolivar. Who courteously allowed us to pay the taxi bills. We´re now officially checked in and about 200 dollars poorer. The town is geared to tourists, clean, cute, and lots of stuff available. It reminds us of a latinized Monterey. Brian is excited because, as reported, there are two surf breaks in sight from our anchorage. We'll save all the tour types of exploring till Kristin and Justin get here but even so there´snorkeling around the corner, an interpretive center, and the ever present boat chores to keep us busy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Entering King Neptune's Zone

According to the GPS we have about 161 miles to the anchorage at San Cristobal Island. In about 45 miles we'll cross the equator. We hope to celebrate in the traditional way of honoring "King Neptune" by dressing up in goofy costumes and having yummy food. We might also fit in a game of scrabble. Our ETA is after Brian goes to bed tonight so we might have an early party. Regardless of when it is, I'll capture the crossing on film.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

bananas for batteries

One of my favorite images this week has been the 40-odd bananas hanging in 2 different bunches from the solar panel arch on the back of Nomad. They are gifts in trade from Domingo of Bahia Honda. I've taken great pleasure in them aesthetically as well as conceptually. Aesthetically they look very cruiser-y; conceptually they represent one of my views on poverty.
One of my least favorite images this week was from a news blip I saw last time I checked my email a week ago. It had a picture of Obama with his new Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) puppy speaking to a crowd. The title was something like, "Obama reveals new plan to end Global Poverty while holding adorable puppy." Everything about this is at odds to me.

What all statesmen and orators know is that symbols and images are powerful. An 'adorable' puppy is not an symbol of compassion nor solutions. In an era when political analysts spend 5 minutes discussing the significance of the color of a presidential candidates tie, it is impossible to think that the puppy "just happened to be there". Having researched PWDs as an option for a boat mascot, I know that on the east coast they run about 3-5,000 dollars. That amount of money is more than many citizens of this world see in an year. Not to mention the cost of vet bills, food, trainers, shots, etc. over the life of the dog. I'm not saying people should never have pets and that would solve the world's poverty. I'm just quite put off by a head of state flaunting the symbol of wealth during a revealing of a supposed plan to reduce poverty. In my mind, that is NOT the right attitude to start with. Or perhaps it wasn't a symbol of wealth, maybe it was a symbol of something small and helpless. If so, that would be more insidious. The reason most of the poorest nations in the world are in that condition is not because they are poor and week. It's because the U.S. backed World Bank has filtered trillions of dollars to despotic governments for GOVERNMENT programs that never help the people. In fact, the resources of the citizens are signed as collateral for all of these loans. In this way, the means for self sufficiency are stripped from the individuals of the developing nations in exchange for larger and larger bureaucracies and wealthier and wealthier dictators.

One example of this occurred in Zimbabwe. When I was there and in South Africa in 1999, I heard story after story from Zimbabweans of century old family farms confiscated and redistributed to cronies of Mugabe, the president (who only after 30 years of such antics has recently agreed to share the rule with the opposing party). This "redistribution" happened about 3 times during his long rule. Each time, it resulted in more and more famine as the farms were turned over to non-farmers. The IMF loaned 42 billion rand to Zimbabwe "with full knowledge that much of it would be used for the resettlement project". (Page 99, The Creature from Jekyll Island).

Loans like this are handed out every day to governments all over the world famous for atrocities (Uganda-remember those government sponsored genocides?, Ethiopia- remember "we are the world"? government sponsored starvation, Somalia, Laos, Nicaragua-when it was murdering thousands of it's own people)that use them for their own betterment, not the betterment of their people.

That money that is loaned comes from the flow of American dollars that are the primary funds for these World Bank loans. So, not only is the Fed increasing inflation by printing more and more dollars for at home bailouts, but overseas government bailouts, as well.
So, in short, I'm not a fan of billion dollar loans from one government or one inter-government agency to another. I am a fan of true free trade (not free trade like NAFTA which has special loopholes for the US but not Mexico). What I am a fan of, is removing GOVERNMENT involvement in overseas governments. Many examples demonstrate that World Bank loans lower the standard of living in receiving countries. Mexico is a great example. Before its politicians received loans, it was more or less self-sufficient. With the billions of dollars borrowed from U.S. banks, the politicians built a monopoly out of the oil industry and other industries. "private business failed by the thousands, and unemployment rose...Mexico, once one of the major food exporters in the world was now required to import millions of dollars worth of food grains. THis required still more money and more loans.."

As Congressman Ron Paul puts it:
"Now, while free trade should be embraced, foreign aid shoud be absolutely rejected. Constitutional, moral, and practical arguments compel such a view. Constitutional authorization for such programs is at best dubious. Morally, I cannot justify the violent seizure of property from Americans [with high taxes] in order to redistribute that property to a foreign government-and usually one that is responsible for the appalling material condition of its people. Surely we can agree that Americans ought not to be doing forced labor on behalf of other regimes, and that is exactly what foreign aid is." (Pg. 99, The Revolution: A Manifesto)

By eradicating foreign aid of all types, we open up the option for private citizens and private organizations to aid as they desire! Not as our government or the foreign government desires. I'm reminded of the Asian tsunami in 2005. Private citizens and organizations donated many times over the amount of money that the U.S. government handed out AND, we were able to give to which organizations we saw best, not to the corrupted governments of Thailand, Burma, or Indonesia.

In short, I wish that the regular people of all countries could have access to their resources without corruption or inflation or government to government promises to take them away. Like Domingo in Bahia Honda whose son traded us plantains and pineapple for some size D batteries, I want all people to be able to use their resources to meet their own needs.

Ron Paul also says, "If Americans knew the real story of foreign aid and how it has deformed recipient economies, aided repressive regimes, and even contributed to violent strife, they would oppose it even more strongly than they already do. If they knew about the record of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank when it comes to helping developing countries, they would be similarly appalled. At long last, these seemingly untouchable programs need to be called into question, and then, in the name of liberty and humanity, discarded forever." (pg 101. The Revolution: A Manifesto)

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Over half way!

As of some time early on Thursday morning we passed the half way point to the Galapagos. Fewer than 340 miles to go now! We should arrive at San Cristobal island some time on Sunday.

The last few days have been amazing sailing. In general over 5 knots per hour of progress and often 7.2 knots. It feels like we're in a little space ship cutting through the water powerfully. It's weird to have Nomad take care of herself (hurrah for autopilots: we use the CPT wheel pilot when motoring and our Windpilot servopendulum auxiliary rudder when sailing) and allow us to cook, read, watch the water flow by, write emails, sew....Right now, Brian is sewing a hoist harness for our outboard motor. It will make it easier to lift the outboard on and off the dinghy.

Yesterday we spotted for the first time a couple of red-billed tropic birds with a long string looking thing off their tails. Also, we saw two Nazca Boobies. They're pretty. The day before we went through acres of clear and brownish jelly fish. I caught one in a bucket so I could watch it pulsing for a couple of minutes.

The weather is getting more pleasant and at night a long sleeved shirt and my pajama pants are needed against the cooler air. We're doing a 3-3-2-2 watch schedule. I take the first shift from 8pm to 11pm while Brian sleeps. Then we switch for 3 hours and I'm back on again for two hours and I sleep my second shift from about 4 - whenever I wake up. Brian has been getting about 5 hours that way and I get up to 7. We nap too throughout the day, as needed.

Our red bananas all came ripe today. Yippee. They make great 4-bite snacks.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Accept Deferred Message

Last night at 11 pm we were able to shut the motor down. Very nice as it is a heat and noise maker, we go slower under motor than sails, and it cost more money to operate. Now its 11 am and we are still flying along. The winds are sending us a good direction and the seas are fairly light. So far so good. We even have clear skies and moon lit nights to keep things light hearted. We don't seem to have the twilight despair that we have experienced in the past coastal passages. Nothing to hit and very very few vessels out here. May have seen one fishing boat in the distance last night. This passage has a reputation of being very light winds and confused seas. We are grateful for the contrary to that for now. From the looks of the weather files, we should have varying degrees of favorable winds for the rest of the passage. The days are starting move quick now. We are in the groove. It's like backpacking; the first few days seem to drag and then all the sudden a week is past and it's sad to have to stop. Keeping the sails trimmed, eating, reading, sleeping, cleaning, communication, navigation, and doing small unavoidable projects are about all we get done. We are keeping our eye on our little stowaway gecko and wondering if he's got enough bug life to sustain him. Put a small bit of sailfish in front of him this am. Showed some interest, but went on his way. Maybe the meat will attract some live food for him to capture the way he prefers.
We are nearly out of fish! One more sailfish steak and it's green lights on fishing again. Hoping to pick up a Mahi Mahi (Dorado or Dolphin Fish), or a yellow fin tuna. We acquired a few more classic/deadly lures while still in Panama. Looking forward to getting the lines back in the water.
Received good news that my sister Kristin, and nephew Justin, will be joining us in the Galopagos. We are really excited and happy that she was able to find last minute ticket prices that were less than half of what they were a few months ago. It's been a lifelong goal of Kristin's to visit the Islands, so it could not have worked out better on the timing of everything. We very much look forward to spending alot of time with the both of them, catching up, and establishing more history together.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

dodging container ships

Well, we're 12 hours into our longest ocean voyage ever. 692-ish miles in one fell swoop. We had great sailing for the first five hours and then as the wind continued to ease we took down the sails and turned on the engine. Our course is approximately 210 degrees.

For the past couple of hours we've been spotting massive container ships cris-crossing our route. They are all headed toward Panama or away, west up the Central American coast. I'm glad we get to pass this area during the day. At night they seem a bit more ominous.

So, how do we intend to pass the time? Other than dodging large vessels, we have lots of books to read, stainless steel stanchions to polish, bread to bake, weather to download, and cruising guides to peruse. And, Brian is always tinkering with sail trim or tightening this or that turnbuckle. Last night it was calm enough for me to get out my saxophone and play for a while. Fishing will get added to the list as soon as we eat up our Red Snapper packages tucked in the freezer. No sense in catching another fish when we have a couple pounds already.

As always, at the beginning of a passage, I'm lethargic and prone to queasiness. My priorities at this point are to eat mild food and stay hydrated. I planned ahead for this state by baking oatmeal cookies, quiche and making up a big batch of Ginger Sesame Noodle Salad. That way, my poor husband won't starve to death before I feel like cooking again.

The Galapagos Islands (also known as the "Archipelego de Colon") has two Islands called the Daphne Islands. Daphne Major and Daphne Minor are their names. One more really cool reason to sister is there! Other reasons to visit are the pink flamingos, large land iguanas, lava tubes (I can't wait to walk through one...Don't worry Mom, they're not active-they wouldn't be tubes if they were), and the gathering of other cruisers on their various routes through the South Pacific that meets up in the Galapagos.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We're leaving Panama!

tomorrow (Monday, April 6) we'll pull anchor before the sunrises and get started on the 692 miles between here and San Cristobal, one of the Galapagos islands.
details to follow!

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: