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Archives for March 2010

Water water every where, and quite a lot to drink.

Well we were one of the last to leave Puerto Ayora, us and Aqualuna. If fact Aqualuna just towed Moonshiner back in with engine troubles as we left. They'd been about a day out when their engine gave out. Unfortunately it took them 3 or 4 to sail back. I know what its like to knock around the Galapagos for days going nowhere. Ironically I did it with, like them, a foul tide and very light head winds on the opposite side of the Galapagos.

Goodbye Puerto Ayora

The reason we were equal last to leave is the water maker, its newest spare part was brought from America by Alan one of Aqualuna's crew. He got to the island on Saturday at about 14:00. The bloody water maker is a bitch. Its a sensitive hi tech piece of kit that uses reverse-osmosis membranes to covert sea water to fresh. How come it requires dangerous amounts of brute force and ignorance to dissemble? I do mean brute force.

Tis working - at the moment, even after showers last night we've a full tank of water and it only ran for about 1/2 an hour. We're sailing along at 5 knots, very light winds, heading SW to try and pick up the trades, there's still a hint of current with us I suspect like last night we'll have to motor through the night again as the wind drops after sunset. But we're going the right way.

The radio net has so far been a disaster, the boats mostly left Wednesday or Thursday, with only Mercury Rising us Aqualuna and Fugue left on Friday. Mercury rising and Fugue went on friday, both as and the Aqualunies didn't get away as intended on the Friday, but left on Sunday morning. Whats more the rest of the fleet not only have a head start, but are into the trades, we won't have much opportunity to reel in even the slower boats till we're in them too. Another day at least.

Many boats have been reporting heavy rain, stair rods, that probably means thundery showers and the like not good for radio propagation that sort of weather.

Well the fleets spread out in front of us. Aqualuna's still the nearest. She's a well crewed Disco 55 with twin headsails and slab reefing you get more sail area with slab reefing than in mast furling - not to mention less weight aloft - so we weren't expecting to hold onto her.

S**t Happens

Behind us are Scott Free (retuning to Puerto Ayora), Moonshiner (returned to Puerto Ayora), Lorigray (returned to Panama and dropped out of the Rally. And poor old Dan on Roundabout. Dan was sailing with the boats owners, and their kids, David had a very mild stroke. After deliberation and a cruise they've gone home, leaving Dan with a massive list of things to fix (they had a fire on- board on route from Panama). A professional skipper is on route - probably sans luggage this appears to be a feature of travels to the Galapagos, you have to over night on the mainland and then your luggage goes awol.

Alan who brought our spares in, knew this and was carrying out spares as hand luggage. nice man. He's a bit miffed, he's got bits for other boats, more troublesome and heavier than ours. All the boats have left on the largest passage of their lives, without waiting for him. They obviously didn't need them that much. He was a bit miffed. Its all right cos we've invited him over for a drink of water  from our water maker.... He looked horrified and said, "never touch the stuff".

Position: 2° 25' S, 92° 27' W | Posted: Tue 30th March 2010


Those of you who've been reading this may remember I had to cancel my trip on Thursday. Was told that this was "the best Island" by some of the grand tour mob. So was really looking forward to it when I managed to re-book yesterday. It was a bit damp but not as rainy as it was back here in Puerto Ayora.

It was fab. You can see the Gallery here and the snorkel video bellow

Right click here to download


Has some interesting history, murder, piracy and post offices. Some cool snorling can be found around the Corona de Diablo - Devil's Crown which is the jagged edge of a volcano just poking out of the water.

One of the bay's I've not been to contains the post office barrel a ramshackle driftwood barrel and marker where you can still drop off mail, with no postage to be delivered by who ever's passing. The Barrel was put there by whalers in the 1800's so homeward bound boats could pick up mail. Its a fabulous tradition. Camomile are on route to New Zealand, have retrieved a postcard addressed there. They are planning to hand deliver it when they get there. I hope the recipients treasure it, how fabulous would it be to leave post in the barrel and have it delivered as was originally intended half way around the world by sailing boat. Another rallyist has one for Singapore on board.

I reckon if you still want your Blue Peter badge you should just drop one in there addressed to them. If it gets there I'm pretty sure it 'd make the program.

Between the wars 3 German families settled on floriana, mystery still surrounds much or what has happened since. Steve's book describes one of them as "a somewhat crazed German Philosopher, Dr Friederich Karl Ritter" another as "the self styled 'Empress of Galapagos'.... and her three lovers." four possibly violent and unexplained deaths occurred. The "Empress" and one of here lovers disappeared without trace another lover died in an open boat trying to get to another island. Dr Ritter, a vegetation, is officially listed as having died of food poisoning from eating spoiled chicken.

My sources, wikipedia and "Galapagos a natural history guide" make no mention of the locals. The Ecuadorian population of  Floreana is 90, + 2 soldiers. The population is so small because according to the guide many died of what they believe to be poison after being invited to dinner by the Germans. The Natural history guide(1990) says that one of the original Germans her kids and grand kids still run a post office and a café on the island. Our guide said, and there's clearly no love lost here, that they have 4 large tour boats and a hotel. He didn't say "murdering scum" but I got the distinct impression that he thought they got the where they are today the same way the old school aristocracy did in the days when nobility got noble out by carving its own dominion with fire and of course the sword.


The exodus is beginning, Aspen and Angel have hauled the Anchors and are heading out in to the (very) wide blue yonder. We're hoping to leave on Saturday, when our new(ist) water maker filters.

The forecast swell is here, yesterday our landing on the west side of Floreana was "interesting". What with breaking swells hitting the wall and the stone steps. It isn't made any easier by the fact that stone steps of ordinary size are about the right size for one sea lion. The result being that any steps on a dock round here become bunk beds for sea lions. No they don't get out of the way you have to step over them.

As the last two galleries and the home movie above show. Its not hard to be a wildlife photographer here. All that guff you get on the end of Blue Planet or South Pacific Sunday night BBC documentaries about how hard it is, starts looking awful suspicious here. I think Attenbourgh probably hires a bloke with a pointy stick to prod the wildlife into actually doing something interesting. if you watch any of these programs can you have a gander at the credits, see if there's a "cattle pod operator" or "penguin pesterer" listed. Maybe they hire football fans, those that still have passports, to bait the animals into reacting. I doubt they'd feel exploited just tell them that the animals are foreign, that should set them off. Since football supporters are, in evolutionary terms, well down the tree from even crustaceans it shouldn't be a problem.

As I'm writing Gaultine III called up to say goodbye 10% of the rallyists are now under way.

M.C. Esher, yacht designer

We thought we'd a buggered bilge pump, then 2 buggered bilge pumps, then 2 buggered bilge pumps and a buggered bilge alarm. Surprisingly enough this isn't the case. What we have is insanity in the bilges.

Bilges are the bottom of the boat where water accumulates. Well I say water, what with gravity and entropy everything eventually ends up there. If you want to know what they're like I produced this handy guide on how to simulate them at home The only problem is we appear to have bilges based on M.C. Eshers perpetual motion water mill, the bilge pumps, automatic switch and the alarm are all working fine - there is no water there. However the area under the engine is full to the brim. No connection can actually be located but we know that, previously, when you pump the water does leave that area. Not any more. We've located a pipe at very bottom of the boat which appears to inexplicably go right under the engine bilge (full) to a lower bilge further forward. Which in its self makes no sense. Another pipe who's end we can't even guess at, may appear somewhere in accessible under the engine and be blocked. This is only a theory, I've prodded a piece of wire up it approximately 2 feet, but then it stops and no sign of it appearing anywhere.

I'm reading (read put down for a month now) a book on Super String Theory, even that's no help. I admit I did consider kidnapping the Miss Tippy kids and sending them down there, Victorian chimney sweep style, its too cramped for us adults. Think I'd have been busted what with their white dresses and that.



Position: 1° 18.1' S, 90° 25.8' W | Posted: Thu 25th March 2010


Been a dull day, last night was fab, kindly invited to dinner on board Perigrina. Apologies if I've misspelled your boat name, it could be worse I have a friend called Virginia i once mispelled her name. Lovely. They've got a cracking parking place, almost no swell.

Wreck is visible just left of the motor boat

Obviously there was rather a nice gap next to her. The wind put me off the idea of moving Island Kea there this morning, that and rally controls warning about happy surfers, they're expecting a nice swell on Monday and Tuesday. Rather not be in shallow by the wall. That side is more sheltered though.

What makes surfers happy doesn't make yachties happy. Steve and Katrin should be back by then. And with the wind gone round a bit the island off the entrance offers a little protection from the south east. That's all you get round here. Shit anchorage.

The little island has got slightly bigger, a large three masted local schooner. Big old boat. Went aground yesterday. Man in fatigues was arguing with a water taxi on route to investigate. Will hope to get more info from the bar tonight, but its a loss, I believe. Boat that size'd have a lot of diesel on board and apparently they've taken that off for environment reasons and to lighten her and owt else not nailed down, but she appears from here to be well stuck, her masts are standing and she's heeling. I've heard she won't float even if the could get her off the rocks too big a hole. If this swell is bad and from that direction - nobody's told us where this swell is coming from in the pacific it could be any direction. She might even break up. I assume the swell is from the south east, right in to Academy Bay, because despite the fact its an El Ninio year. Apparently that means the trades will be light and the weather variable. I think it might actually be an El Ninio year, I've heard from one person or another its an El Ninio year for the last 5 years. The water here is apparently warm so it might really be an El Ninio year. Apparently in further support of my argument the trades are apparently well established and blowing harder than I expected. Or were for the world arc boats. Hence proving it isn't an El Ninio year, so it must be one. Or something.

Click to Embiggen 

If you don't know what a trade wind is they're an area of steady reliable wind either side of the equator in oceanic areas at any rate. North easterlies north of the equator south easterlies to the south.  When I say an area I am not kidding. I mean a big area bearing in mind looking out the window in Brighton is no guarantee of weather in London 50 miles away. See the picture (screen shot of ugrib) for a sense of scale, the same weather is currently driving the same smooth wind from here to the Marquesas islands. Our next hop is about 6 times the distance from Lands End to John O'groats. Right now the same wind would carry us all the may there.

Bet its not there when I leave. Oh god I'm paranoid. Sod that weather's ok now I'm going down the pub.

Position: 0° 44.7' S, 90° 18.4' W | Posted: Sat 20th March 2010

Its just another day for me and me in paradise

4KSB 1

Today I'm on a tour of Floriana one of the other Galapagos islands. Except I'm not. There's only a few people left in the fleet, not on the grand tour are: me Duco off Briet and maybe the Miss Tippys and "rally control" aka Tony left. Plus about 5 on the way to Floriana for the day. I'm alone on Island Kea, having had about 2 hours sleep. 50ft in front of me is a couple of hundred tons of noisy floating generator. Before last night it was about 100 yards away. It's noisy its exhaust stinks and its already dragged its anchor once.

Even if I was able to get the stern anchor up, and manoeuvre and get the main anchor up on my own, a daunting prospect. I'm not sure I could. I suspect my main anchor is about where the lump in front's rudder post is.

 "The Boat in front is a Toyboata" So is in need of break pedal2

$500 Dollar bar bill outstanding

So here's me, Dave's already commented in the South Pacific Welcomes Careful Drivers blog post that I wasn't selling the dream of sailing very well. Here's doing it again. I admit last night was unpleasant, scary and unnerving. As was the Plyita indecent. I was in serious need of a night sleep as well. Too many parties. The Blue Water Rally is band from leaving the islands at present (no Zarpee for us) due to the overwhelming success of the one on Tuesday night. Now dressing up in women's clothes is a tradition for crossing the line ceremonies. But the rallyists have taken it to heart. There were only a handful of us NOT in women's clothing on Tuesday. There is apparently a $500 bar bill outstanding too. Hence the ban on us leaving. Port captain says we have to sort it out.

He's, apparently, on his way out now to sort out "Angaligue" as we believe the boat in front is called. Predictably some clouds just come over and were both now rode away a little so it doesn't look so bad. Some time I can't catch a break. If this wind stays like this and the swell dies down I could have gone on my trip after all. Damn.

Now to Dave's very valid criticism of my dream salesmanship, no ones said it was going to be easy. Many people have said, mostly in movies rather than the offices of respected psychiatrists I'll admit. "You can only feel alive when your close to death" or words to that effect. I'm not really like that, I've no real desire to die, nor is it likely to happen. Probably not anyway. I mean even if the big metal lump did hit me he won't sink us. Make a hell of a mess yes, break bits, drag us crunch us splash us yes. But it won't kill me. It won't be repairable here though.

He who stays awake a night still has a boat to sail another day.

I may not enjoy the bad bits when they happen but the lows are the price you pay for the highs. Oh god I've pretty much just quoted Robbie Williams. Tomorrow I will look back on this with a wry smile a sense of relief and hopefully if it all goes well, as it probably will, with pride. So Dave and anyone else who's been reading the more fraught tales. I'm not mad or depressed or insane, well not too insane. And I am proud of my achievements in these trips. When I'm at home I often remember my travels with a gold lustre, I forget the stressful moments or make light of them  feeling the water slopping against my feet in the middle of the night a couple of hundred miles from nowhere in the mid pacific last time is a favourite story of mine, it was a truly unpleasant 5 minutes till I realised we weren't sinking.

On the bright side dawn was beautiful

I guess what I'm saying is its not all fun and games and paradise, but Neptune extracts his price. Or Karma or bad luck [insert superstition here]. I'd be quite happy to have spent last night in bed and today snorkelling with sea lions and tortoise prodding. Some people sail off to blue water expecting nothing but sun an flowers. Often it's hubbies idea. The story goes there used to be a divorce lawyer in Barbados who specialised in exactly this sort of misunderstanding. The Atlantic crossing can teach that. Presumably he got the boat and she got the house.

I've heard on the radio that my ticket's been re-sold and I can have my money back, so tomorrow or Saturday I will got to Floriana and snorkel (if they tell me it was any good). I will come back and still have a, afloat, dry laptop to blog about it on.

Did I mention the grand tour? Most of the rally are on a very expensive tour boats around the islands, at the party Tuesday by sheer luck they found out the UK travel agent hadn't paid. No trip. In the end the trip has been guaranteed by the rally, but their credit card ain't good for $40k so bridging loans have been chipped in they've all gone off on there cruise. Steve and Katrin won't find out about last night till they get back. Hopefully they're having a fabulous time and I won't have to lie in front of any more coaches to stop them leaving.

Island Kea Out.

1 4ksb = four knot s**t box
May also have been built by Jeremy Clarkson

Position: 0° 44.7' S, 90° 18.4' W | Posted: Thu 18th March 2010

Meat Pie on Legs

The wild life here is spectacular. Spectacularly lazy that is. Fear of man, nil. Top speed less than Sinclair c5 with a flat.

Right Click and save as

Evolution definitely works mind, there's a lizard that's evolved to eat ketchup (red beard). The Heron's have adapted to their environment, in this case striding around the fish market. Sealions sleep everywhere, hotels (after a cooling dip in the hotel pool) Natiboo a Swedish cat on the rally heard sounds on deck stuck his head up and went nose to whiskers with a sealion. Breath reportedly smells of fish. Pelican are everywhere, big bugger sat on our boom. See the Survival of the fattest gallery. Anyone can be a wildlife photographer here, nothing runs away!

And as for the meat pie's on legs, most of 'em can't even be arsed to lift their heads, let alone put them away. The one that actually moved made a grating noise - it couldn't be bothered to lift its shell off the ground.

Position: 0° 44.7' S, 90° 18.4' W | Posted: Tue 16th March 2010 | content/down/meatPie.wmv

Any one want to buy some diesel?

WTF? Day one, good northerly, day 2 good northerly. Ran 380 Nautical Miles in 48 hours which is bloody excellent. Now the guide says expect a "light and variable winds and contrary current" the reason we ran 190 miles a day on white sail and windvane is we had 2 knots of current with us.


Where about 36 hours from the Galapagos, or the middle of tomorrow night. 200Nm to go.

What the hell happened to the doldrums? See I've been round here before. last time it was post after depressing post of 10 days and about to run out of fuel. We did. Such titles as:

  • Doldrums
  • More Doldrums
  • Yet More Doldrums
  • Still in the Doldrums 
  • We're not going to make it....
  • Nail-biting Stuff
  • heartbreak

In the end we made it after running out of fuel. This time we've motored for about 4 hours. We're currently doing 6 knots in a southerly (I.E. almost certainly a southern hemisphere wind) a degree or so north of the equator. I mean read this account of this passage on Ornen. In summery it too 23 day to make the 900 odd miles. Or longer than any of my Atlantic crossing of three times that.

I am shocked and stunned. in 4 days we've moved from steady wind from  the north (end of the north east trades) into a steady southerly flow (driven by the the south east trades). With only one hour of engine in the middle. Damn!

Booby on Board.

Bali Blue

First booby on board last night, a pink footed one. Slightly more attractive than a brown booby but still never had a blue footed booby on board. I'm banging on a about attractive brown boobies, what will Google search engine think.

We've Bali Blue to leeward, Fia Tira now somewhere off our s'tbd quarter, Aspen ahead and Angel behind. We're mostly going to arrive close together, even though the fleet left over a spread of three days. Given most of the boats around us left a day before us, at least. We're cool with it.

Position: 0° 42.5' N, 87° 88' W | Posted: Tue 9th March 2010

Optimists, Pessimists and Sailors

Optimists and pessimists are usually defined as those who see the glass as half full and those who see it a as half empty. There is of course a third category. Sailors. Most sailors don't give a damn as long as the half full or empty glass is still in the glass, not in their lap, on the chart making new islands (its tricky to pick up a coffee stain on radar) etc. etc.

An optimists airport

I suppose that if the glass was full and now half of it is in your lap it would be unfair to call them a pessimist if they said "damn now its half empty" since they've lost half a precious beer and have dampened their precious bits and they're shorts which they may not have enough water to wash.

Still, and this has happened I'd be happy to have my half beer. Point? You were expecting me to get to the point in only three paragraphs?

Ok we have a half working water maker. Grrr despite the new membranes one of the 2 tubes is brackish. We've hooked up only the other one and there is a tinny crack in the end cap of that one, which leaks. So hopefully the new end cap in Galapagos will fix it. Since more water appears to come from the broken tube we hope its leaking in and the membranes fine.

After a motor from Contradora, and the water maker, which runs of 240 volts and therefore the generator out batteries were full. However the alternator wasn't charging this morning. Now sorted loose connection.

 Yes the alternator was touched by the hand of the Caribbean yacht industry, that's why during the dismasting the engine went - it shares its belt, which it shredded, with the water cooling pump. It may have been us when we tightened the belt, but since we were rectifying their F up in the first place I'm not taking the blame. In there its hot (try sitting on a turbo charger) cramped (you couldn't even cram a hobbit in there.

Errm yes the crack in the watermaker is in the bit levered out by a man from the Caribbean island of Martinique, funny that, looks like its been leaking a while.

 The main trouble last time I was in the Pacific was Jackal's autopilot, the only bit of the boat known to have been repaired in the Caribbean. Draw your own conclusions. Then do it your self. The wind generator, not fixed in the Caribbean, but they did move the wiring around...

 "Golf is a method of ruining a good walk."

Runway Altitude Calibration

 That's a miss quote, the exact wording and originator I forget. Possibly Wilde? Well golf (and by inference golfists) can ruin a good island too. The bank of the, we thought, deserted island yesterday grew a car an a plane landed on it. Rather an optimistic runway. I believe it is "the law" that you have the runway's altitude clearly marked, you see it on control towers sometimes. For calibrating the aircraft's altimeter.

This strip didn't have a tower, it did have potholes, you can see one in the picture right, click it to embigen and you might just make out the elevation.... The runway had a sign saying "Golf Club ->", this is an optimistic golf club, these islands have a very low rain fall during the dry season, more brown than green. Not good for a golf lawn. The sign itself was far from las Vegas standard. More farm shop than golf club. Next to it almost illegible, in faded white on faded board about 6 inches long was a sign saying max speed 20kmh. On that track? You've seen the air strip, imagine how bad the road was. Any one stupid enough to drive fast down that sort of track isn't the sort to take notice of speed signs. Even if they have got reading glasses.

Extensive diggings parallel to the runway I suspect are the foundations of a post WWII runway. Shame another island falls to the golfists, not an extreme sport golf, not sure golfists would like the landing too exciting for them. Hmm hope my Aunt and Uncle aren't reading this - they're golfers.

Good luck to the golfers, I've heard the current sets north up the east coast of the golf of Panama, its been pushing us south on the other side all day. Gone are the rubbish and logs of the last few days. They are I assume still all floating in the gulf of Panama's own version of the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex. If you don't know what that is look it up, its interesting. AKA Viveros Golfist Island Resort.

Dolphins this morning, taking the piss out of me and Steve clambering in and out of the hobbit hole. A hot sweaty hole, filled with noise a Hobbit hole means discomfort.

My watch soon, gotta load the IPod with Drop the Dead Donkey. Its one of the ones with an auto rotating screen, It will not work soon as I have the Northern Hemisphere version and soon It will flip upside down all the time as I cross the Equator. I was looking forward to Jonathan Creek but I've inexplicably left it behind..... NOOOOOOOOOOOO


Position: 7° 36.3' N, 79° 24' W | Posted: Fri 5th March 2010

Trouble Shooting Guide to Glass Bottomed Boats

  • Glass is disgusting shade of grey-brown. - you are aground on mud.
  • Stars or Sun visible through glass - boat has capsized, get out and swim.
  • Feet are wet and glass has crazed pattern - you are sinking.
  • Fish all leaving very quickly. - Shark(s) approaching do not go swimming.
  • Glass is yellow and granular, guy behind you has just splashed you with beer.- You have hit the beach.
  • Upside down fish, and old boots crisp wrappers are moving slowly passed the glass, but side to side or back to front. - Engine is broken use captains crutch and wooden leg to paddle.
  • Bad smell, glass appears cloudy brown and odd white bits flit into view. - you are passing the sewage outfall, wait before opening sandwiches.
  • Huge black shape slides into view - Nuclear submarine, ring CIA or KGB depending on inclination.

You may fly from here

We are cruising at last - not that we didn't do a lot of work today, but yesterday we sailed to the picturesque Las Pelas islands. Today we tidied up and fitted the new iPod compatible stereo (the old one had a cassette). Listening to the news quiz on podcast. Having checked out the local bar and had a swim.

Arrrrhhhh, anchored off Contadora - posh. Looking it up on Wikipedia may result in a history of South American politics. Since its so nice and away from prying journalists that its been frequently used for summits.

Position: 8° 37.3' N, 79° 21.8' W | Posted: Tue 2nd March 2010

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