L O G B O O K - by John Philp




SAILING THROUGH THE HEAVENS, Galapagos to Marquesas


Tau lies at anchor at San Cristobal Island, Galapagos.

MON 22nd MAY - The seals here in the bay are very active, at night you can hear them clearly across the water moaning and barking like dogs! Each evening we haul our dinghy up on deck as Tony is fearful of finding an entire family in it in the morning! I was out surfing alone this morning and paddling out after catching a wave I watched a seal streaking across the open face of a wave. Who said the dolphins have to have all the fun?

The rest of the crew visit the museum today, discovering that the first humans to set foot in the archipelago were Ecuadorian Indians, and not the Spanish as we were led to believe. The Spanish criminals who were incarcerated here knew this as the ‘islands of death’. Later Norwegian settlers came to farm in paradise, instead finding disillusionment, tragedy and death. None of them remain. In 1879 Manuel Cobo’s founded Progresso, the little township up the hill from our anchorage; he was known as ‘the dictator’. Exploited from the 17th to the 19th centuries for it’s timber and fish, ninety seven percent of Galapagos is now World Heritage listed.

TUE 23rd - Though the island chain lies on the equator it is kept cool by the frigid waters of the Humboldt Current. A complex set of currents and winds induce various upwells, bringing deep nutrient rich water to the surface. This explains why the fish life is so overwhelming. As we sail west past the uninhabited, barren island of Santa Fe - we see a proliferation of dolphins, manta rays, turtles, seals, and birds.

Ten miles further on, at Santa Cruz island we stop for the night, in time for a wander around town. It is far more developed for tourism here than on San Cristobal. They have neon lights! Monifa takes the opportunity to visit the Darwin Scientific Research Centre.

WED 24th - After a brief run into town for supplies we motor west into a weak breeze to Santa Maria, a rocky island crowned by a volcanic crater. As we are forbidden to go ashore without a permit, we use it as an overnight anchorage and remain onboard.

Four young men are collecting beche-de-mer in the cold water nearby, using air supplied by a rudimentary air compressor. As they set off for home they come alongside Tau and load some crabs and shellfish onto our deck as a gift, refusing the money we offer them.

That night as I lie in my cabin reading I hear a seal fishing close to the boat. If you enjoy sleeping on a cold rainy night snuggled up under a blanket, listening to raindrops on the roof, you would enjoy drifting off on a yacht with the sound of the waves lapping against the hull and a seal fossicking about in the cold water separated from you by only an inch of steel and fibreglass.

THUR 25th - After breakfast we set sail for Nuku Hiva Island in the Marquesas, at 3000 miles the longest passage on our circumnavigation.

On the way we pass we pass a rocky island called Tortuga which is the tip of a volcanic crater that has collapsed on one side forming a semicircle of very steep, prehistoric looking grey rock. It must be over a mile across, an imposing sight. Then onto Isabella island which boasts the worlds second largest volcanic caldera, though a view of it is denied us by the low cloud hugging the mountain ranges. A lava field here flows down to the waters edge, lifeless and dramatically black against the green mountain side.

It is a cloudless night, and the sky and sea are one tenebrous mass. Bright stars float above; it’s as if we’re sailing through the heavens. Even the shooting stars are dramatic tonight, ablaze like rogue spaceships re-entering the atmosphere.

FRI 26th - A steady SE breeze 15-20 knots , sunny. A good days run with the fisherman up.

SAT 27th - ESE 10 knots, another fine day. Sefo discovered that a small squadron of squid landed on deck last night. Seven of ‘em - straight into the frying pan!

We’d heard of the Fiji coup whilst in Galapagos and Tony attempts to tune into Radio Australia for updates, but the reception is frustratingly poor tonight.

SUN 28th - ESE 10-15 knots. Fine and seas smooth. Tony unhitches the mizzen staysail from it’s boom and secures it direct to the toe rail track through a block. It sets much better now as we can control the twist in it by positioning the block fore or aft on the track.

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