L O G B O O K - by John Philp




GALAPAGOS - SURVIVAL OF THE CHEEKIEST


MON 15th MAY - Since Panama we’ve been motoring on and off, heading south west into a light, fluctuating breeze. Galapagos was discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga, a Spaniard sailing from Panama to Peru who got caught in a current and carried to the islands.We haven’t found the same elusive current, though we’re sailing south of the true course to find it.

On the night watch, with the wind up, I’m perched on the bow leaning against the genoa, which is as tight as a board as we power to windward, the bow rising and falling majestically with each swell we meet. There’s even a dolphin escort for a time to complete this dreamy scene. Glancing back, Tau is a crew-less ghost ship sailing to windward with self possessed poise, bathed in the cold, ephemeral light of a near full moon.

TUE 16th - It’s a fine day with the wind from the SW at 13knots.The current unfortunately, is one and a half knots against us. A school of dolphins cavorts on our bow parading tricks, we watch, amazed, as one completes a full backward somersault. Later, we reel in a fat skipjack tuna that makes a glorious fish curry dinner.

WED 17th - The wind backs around into the south and we ‘off’ the motor and ‘hunt’ south again by sail for the favourable current. Pretty soon it’s grey again and the apologetic blue sky peers at us through the gaps in the clouds. Light drizzly rain materialises. It’s extremely slow going. At times the sails luff and we slow to one and a half knots. I say to Lydia, oh at this rate the passage from Galapagos to the Marquesas will take over a month! She jumps up exclaiming, “One month! Sa!”. He he, just kidding...

THUR 18th - The wind is oscillating again today. We are visited by two bands of dolphins; a large school of the easily recognisable bottle nose dolphin; and a small group of what Monifa calls button nose dolphins which are larger, with a rounded head, much like a torpedo. They swim like torpedo’s too, powering just below the surface in wide arcs. They have white mottled patches on them, some, so covered in this patchwork that they stand out for miles, even when they are fifty feet down, under our bow.

FRI 19th - The current, greatly diminished now, allows us to sail at speed. The main island of Galapagos - San Cristobal, hoves into view after lunch and we pass along it’s north west coast at sunset. It’s a beautiful island - ringed with white beaches, and lush, green, sloping plains punctuated by violent volcanic upthrusts.

Because we are so late in arriving we heave to for the night under watch. It’s now 2343 hours - Tau lays there on a still moonlight night, not a sound but the radar whirring around, and the gentle hum of surf on the shoreline. The masts resemble giant inverted pendulums, swaying elegantly back and forth in the gentle swell. A couple of dolphins migrate by, and we can hear seals coming up for air just out of eyesight.

At daylight we are treated to a breakfast view of the Roca Kicker - a spectacular, needle nose rock upthrust, half a mile off the island. We motor into the port at Naufragio Bay. There’s a small, friendly weathered town here built around a Navy base, small craft fishing fleet, and restaurants.

SAT 20th - The cheeky seals seem to rule this harbour, popping up onto the unattended fishing boats and lying there sunning themselves as if they owned them. When you motor past they glance at you casually, looking for all the world like royalty! The locals even have to share the best beach in town with them.

SUN 21st - It’s election day here so it’s an especially quiet Sunday. I discover that the best surf point on the island is on Navy property. When I attempt to pass the checkpoint, surfboard in hand, they explain that there will be no surfing today because of the election (security reasons?). So a local friend and I walk the long way around and enter the back way. It’s a wild beautiful coast walk, big swells thundering onto black volcanic rocks, sending the seals scampering as we trudge past. We see large specimens of the famous local iguana, so rugged and black they look like severely over-done meat on a BBQ. Our reward for an hours hiking is an empty lineup and long, wrapping waves.

Back in town at sunset the locals are promenading on the sea front, kids swimming, fishermen coming and going, and the ever present seals sunning themselves on the rocks or on the bow of their favourite fishing vessel. It’s one of those tranquil scenes an artist would relish; and a tourist is more than happy to just sit back with a cold cerveza and soak up.

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