Balboa, March 16, 1997
We are getting ready to head towards the Galapagos Islands. The passage should take about six or seven days. We have picked Sergei up at the airport (a huge cab fare by the way, Ouch!) and brought him back to the boat which sits on a mooring off the Balboa Yacht Club.

Big Ol' Turtle

Over the last week, we have spent a lot of time shuffling around Panama City trying to get an Internet connection. We finally get all the settings correct and for $30 we get a connection with a local ISP called Sinfonet. The only problem is finding a phone jack that we can use for more than 20 minutes. We can use the line in the BYC, but only for short periods of time. We do manage to download around 300 emails.  We sure have been getting a lot of emails, thanks everyone!  We really try and answer each one, but connection time and volume is starting to hamper our ability to respond on an individual basis.

March 17, 1997
We slip the mooring line and are off to the fuel dock to fill up on the old go-go juice.  We wash the deck with the fuel dock water hose.  We nearly wash Al overboard with the first gush of water.  There is a ton of water pressure and we basically power wash the boat. We leave the fuel dock and motor out into the channel that stretches about 2 miles or so out into the Pacific Ocean. Thereís a great view of Panama City as we round the small spit of peninsula that flows along the port side.

Panama to Galapagos Passage
We toss the fishing line over the side and are rewarded with a huge mahi-mahi.  A good omen, we think, for the start of our passage. The fish is huge, over five feet long! Aldo promptly cleans and fillets it for dinner.  I should mention that Alex has acquired a number of nicknames over the last six months. We call him at various times: Al, Aldo, and Aldus.  As for me, JJ or Jeff will suffice. Bill gets Billiam, Wilhelm, and Billski (Sergeiís name for Bill. Sergei has Serge or Sergeiski (Billís name for Sergei).

Not really a lot of wind on the first night out. We start well and are gliding along at around 7 knots. Then, as soon as we decide to throw up a kite (spinnaker), the wind dies.  We pull the spinnaker back down and  prepare for our impending mahi-mahi extravaganza.  Alex serves rice and a nice salad.  The grill that we got in the BVI is holding up superbly. Nary a nick or scratch and it will still BBQ at 25 knots of wind and a good amount of heel.

Today we ran through a weird tide rip about 50 miles offshore. We spotted a slick of debris about a half mile ahead and couldnít figure out what gives.  As we got closer, we saw some standing waves and eddies roaring about with seaweed, garbage, and wood swirling about.  We tried to steer the boat around, but bounced off a number of small tree limbs.  The rip was only about 100 feet wide.  Very weird.

We nearly hit a large tree floating about 70 miles offshore. We just saw the tip sticking out of the water and were able to steer around the tree. We hear some bumps and groans in the middle of the night and I assume that we are bouncing off the remains of a small forest that got washed out to sea.

We have had no wind now for about 2 days and the heat is very oppressive. We are getting near the equator and we definitely can feel the difference.  We stop the boat on the third day and go for a swim. We thought we saw a whale and give chase but donít find anything.  While we swim, we also scrape the prop and prop shaft free of barnacles and scuze.  A lot of little jelly fish populate the ocean along with some very small fish that are enjoying our shade and barnacle remnants.

The wind starts to pick up as we get down to latitude 1 north. We are now reaching at 8.5 knots.  Great sailing!  We are all waiting anxiously for our equator crossing.  It was an old sailing tradition that when a sailor crossed the equator for the first time, he got hazed (basically got things thrown on him and whacked about a bit).  Bill wants to have Japanese Sake as we cross.  I head down below and cut out some cardboard tridents to put on our boat hooks. I plan on playing the part of Poseidon, God of the Sea.  At 10:17 p.m. on March 22, 1997, we hit the equator and hoot and holler for a good fifteen minutes.  We get a couple pictures of the reading of 000.00 on the GPS.

On March 23rd at 3 a.m., Bill sights land.  Under the full moon, we approach the Galapagos Islands. During the night, we receive a visitor on our bow pulpit. It seems a blue footed booby was a little too tired to make it back to the islands, so he hitches a ride.  He also fouls the entire pulpit and anchor area.  Oh well, we will just have to wash it off when we get to land.

As the sun rises out of the east, it illuminates the coastline of San Cristobal off our port side. We are all up and quietly watching this amazing sunrise. Off starboard, a huge rock island juts from the serene, glass-like water.  We are joined by seals and dolphins as we slowly motor around the rock island.  Thousands of birds circle the massive cliffs. I imagine that this scene is not far from what people saw over 150 years ago.

We check into Wreck Bay on San Cristobal Island.  To visit the Galapagos Islands for more than 3 days, you must have a special cruising permit issued by the Ecuadorian Government in Quito on the mainland.  I had written to the


Ecuadorian Consulate in Washington, DC back in January to get the necessary permit. Like all bureaucracy, we never got a specific yes or no if we were granted this permit.  The person I talked to in Washington said we had been approved, but could not send us the authorization paper. As Bill and I went to clear in, the immigration official simply said, ďHow long would you like to stay?Ē  Problem solved!


Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, March 24 to April 3, 1997
We left Wreck Bay about one hour after clearing in.  We happened to meet up with Paul Horst from ďEncoreĒ who is part of the Expo 98 Round the World Rally. Paul sent us a few emails back in November and December about what he was doing and where he was going.  I didnít think we would run into him, but here he was, along with his wife, son, and daughter.  He explained that the rally boats were in Academy Bay on the island of Santa Cruz which was about 30 miles NW. The anchoring was supposed to be much better along with better provisioning and restuarants. We headed over and dropped the hook.

On the way into Academy Bay, hundreds of seals play in the surf of a small island at the entrance of the bay. They sure can make lots of noise.  We find about 60 boats at anchor, all belonging to the Expo 98 rally.  We squeeze in between Maverick and Infatuation, two rally boats. We put out a stern anchor (a 40 lb. Danforth) and relax as the sun sets on our first day in the Galapagos Islands.

The next day finds us exploring the Darwin Research Center thatís just a short walk out of town.  They have some cool exhibits and the main attraction, drum roll please, big, giant turtles.  You walk along a path and see where they have the different age groups separated. The really big turtles are about 50 years old and can live to be over 100. They have one turtle named ďLonesome GeorgeĒ because he is the only remaining turtle from one of the small Galapagos Islands. He is a distinct species of turtle and the end of his life signifies extinction for the breed.  It really hits home when you are looking at the absolute last living example of a species.

Galapagos Seal
Charles Darwin Nature Center

We find a good watering hole named Kathyís Kitchen.  The ownerís 12 year old son is a budding capitalist and wants to know if he can arrange a tour for the four of us.  He also is in the business of providing fresh fruit and vegetables.  We think he can get us just about anything from the tone of his pitch.

As we walk towards the center of town, we run across a transplanted American named Tony.  He has a Ecuadorian mother and American father and holds dual citizenship. He is currently living in Santa Cruz waiting to get a job on a new cruise liner that will operate out of Academy Bay. We become good friends with Tony and his friend Fernando.  Tony introduces us to the mayor of Santa Cruz and also the Port Captain. He also translates for us and takes us about the island.

The best night club in the Galapagos Islands happens to be right in Academy Bay. The name is La Panga and we have a great time dancing and carrying on with everyone off the Expo rally boats. We decide to have a little get together the next day and invite a good number of people from the night club.

At around 7 p.m. towards the end of the week, we have our happy hour.  We never thought that so many people would show up.  We have dinghies hanging off the side of the boat from bow to stern.  Even some of the people from the Port Captainís office show up.  Thank goodness for BYOB, or all our Caribbean rum would be gone! The party breaks up and we head for shore to finish the night.

Billís friend, Leathem, pays us a visit for a week while we are calling Santa Cruz our home. Bill is going crazy trying to reach Leathem and get him from the airport to the boat.  Leathemís flight arrives and it doesnít seem heís on it, or so says the airport person Bill talks to.  Bill calls home and tries to find out what happened.  Anyway, to make a long story short, Leathem ends up meeting a guy on the plane that is meeting a boat that will be able to take Leathem right to us. So, half way through our happy hour, Leathem clambers aboard.

Brown Pelican

The best part of the entire stay in the Galapagos Islands is the underwater landscapes and aquatic life.  We meet Mathias from Scuba Iguana and we sign up for seven dives.  The best dives are around a bunch of rock outcrops called Gordon Rock about 2 hours from Academy Bay. On our first dive, we encounter numerous seals, sea turtles, sharks and even an octopus. The seals are very playful and come right up to your mask and then dive under you. They also nip at your fins and

blow bubbles at you. The sea turtles are very cool looking and we find one just sort of resting on the bottom at 60 feet. Aldo gets some great pictures.  We see some Hammerhead and Black Tip sharks swimming in lazy circles.  A stingray livens up the festivities some.

Underwater dance

As we prepare to leave the Galapagos Islands, a couple of things stand out.  First, since none of us are bird watchers or much into botany or other land related sciences, we find the islands a tad overrated. We also think that the underwater world is vastly underrated.  We spend 10 days in the Galapagos and head for the Marquesas Islands on April 3, 1997 (my Motherís B-day).  Ahead of us we have nearly 3000 miles and what will amount to be our longest passage of the journey. We pile supplies into every nook and cranny.

Jeff Johnson 1997


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Galapagos Link!

Check out this link to Terraquest. Lotís of great info on the Galapagos Islands. Excellent QTVR too.


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