|s/v Nine of Cups
|Galapagos Islands (Archipiélago de Colón)
Capital: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (Wreck Bay)
Area/Geography: 3,029 sq miles comprised of 13 volcanic islands and 40-50 islets
Language: Spanish, though English is spoken widely
Currency: US $
High point: Volcan Wolf (~5,600 ft) on Isla Isabela.
|See John Santic's website on our
visit to the Galapagos and Easter Island
|The Spanish word for sea turtles, galapagos, gave the islands their name; they are also called the
Archipielago de Colon and were also once known as the Enchanted Isles. Pirates buried their stolen
treasure here, castaways found the islands a refuge and mutineers were sometimes marooned here.
Actually, most of the islands have two or even three different names. The earliest charts gave the islands
both English and Spanish names and then the Ecuadorian government gave them “official” names in 1892.
So Isla Santa Maria (official name) is also known as Floreana and/or Charles. The five largest islands of
the group Isabela, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Fernandina and San Salvador. Cruising yachts are limited to
4 anchorages. We were able to visit 3 of the 4, Isabela being our favorite.
|Follow us now to mysterious Easter Island
|Belonging to Ecuador since being claimed in 1832, the Galapagos Islands lie in the Pacific distributed around
the Equator about 600 miles west of Ecuador. The were discovered by accident in 1535 when the Bishop
of Panama drifted off course while sailing to Peru. They were officially declared a national park in 1959.
|Our passage from Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, LaLibertad, Ecuador to the Galapagos was uneventful, but
very pleasant lasting 5 full days. For the first time ever, we had crew with us. Having John aboard to
share night watches was terrific and no one appeared to be sleep deprived when we arrived at Puerto
Ayora. The rules in the Galapagos and their enforcement change frequently depending on the Port
Captain at the time. We read that there were 4 ports which were legitimate stops for yachts, but upon
arrival in Academy Bay, the Port Captain informed us that if we stopped here, there would be no other
ports of call in the Galapagos. We opted to stay as this was the site of the Charles Darwin Research
Station which was high on our list of “to see” spots. There were not many private yachts in the
anchorage, but the number of commercial cruise boats was astounding. Tourism is the number one
industry for these islands, but there is a fine balance to be kept between preserving the natural inhabitants
and allowing tourists to view and enjoy the area.
|The first order of business is always the
check-in with the Port Captain. The anchorage
at Santa Cruz is called Academy Bay, but the
town is Puerto Ayora. It is a beautiful little
town though touristy and fun to walk around in
|X marks our anchorage; white/red labels show points of interest we visited.
|We travel to and from the
boat via water taxi (taxi
marino) and get off at the
little dock to the right. As
you can see, the little
inner harbor gets pretty
busy with boat traffic
going to and from the
|The anchorage is beautiful, but we rock’n’roll
due to big rolling waves that come in from the
southeast. Most boats, including us, have both
bow and stern anchors deployed to try to
minimize the roll. There are not that many
private yachts here. Most that you see are
actually commercial cruise boats, dive boats
and local tour boats. The water is cool, but not
cold. It is aquamarine, but not particularly
clear for snorkeling or diving.
|It’s hard to think of the Galapagos without thinking of Darwin. Charles Robert Darwin, (1809-1882), was a British naturalist who became famous
for his theories on evolution. Like several other scientists before him, Darwin believed that, through millions of years, all species of plants and animals
had evolved (developed gradually) from a few common ancestors. From 1831 to 1836, Darwin served as a naturalist with a British scientific
expedition aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. The expedition visited places throughout the world, including the Galapagos Islands which he found
particularly fascinating. Based upon his studies, he developed several theories concerning evolution. They were: (1)that evolution had occurred;
(2)that most evolutionary change was gradual, requiring thousands or millions of years; (3) that the primary mechanism for evolution was a process
called natural selection (survival of the fittest), and (4) that the millions of species present on earth today arose from a single original life form through
a branching process called speciation, by which one species can give rise to two or more species. Darwin set forth his shocking theories in his book
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859).
|For more information and reading on Darwin
and the Galapagos, the crew recommends :
|After checking in and removing a mile of
fishing line from our prop, our first order
of business was to find the Darwin
Research Station and check it out. This is
the stuff dreams are made of. Who ever
would have thought we’d be walking
around in the Galapagos Islands one day
in search of giant tortoises?
|There is no entry fee to the National Park
and the Research Station. You can come
and go as you please as often as you’d like.
The hours are sunrise to sunset. The trails
are well- maintained and easy-walking.
Guides are located at several areas and
provide interpretive information and talks,
but in general you can just wander and
enjoy at your leisure… and we did!
|The park is located in an arid coastal
area called “littoral”. There’s a lot of
dense mangrove, low brush and cacti.
|David and friend, a marine iguana,
take a walk along the pier at the
|The giant tortoises are one of the main
attractions at the Darwin Station.
Whalers and sealers killed thousands of
tortoises in the 18th and 19th centuries
when they found the tortoises could be
stacked in their holds several high and
stay alive for up to a year, providing
fresh meat for the crew.
|Giant tortoises can reach a weight of over
550 pounds…3000 times the weight of a
newborn hatchling. They are vegetarians
and scientists estimate their lifespan to be
about 150 years…but of course, no one
scientist has ever lived long enough to
|. One of the outstanding things about visiting
the Research Station was our ability to get
up close and personal with the tortoises. We
were amazed at their size and also their
slowness. But then, that’s why they
probably live so long!
|Giant tortoise in training!
The giant tortoise species was divided
into 14 subspecies of which 3 are
extinct. There are now about 15,000
remaining tortoises here, thanks to the
Research Station’s efforts
|The word “galapagos” is actually refers to a type
of Spanish riding saddle. Early Spanish explorers
thought the tortoise shells resembled these saddles
and named them accordingly.
|Everybody needs a nap!
|Your Picture (napping) Could Be Here!
|A visit to the highlands … El Chato
|We met a “camioneta” driver in town by
the name of Jose Jimenez (not related to
the Jose of Ed Sullivan Show fame).
Camionetas are small pickup trucks used
here for cabs. Jose offered to take us to
the highlands for a tour of El Chato, a
wild tortoise reserve and location of lava
tubes. There are several distinct
vegetation zones on the island: arid,
coastal, highlands and we wanted to visit
all three to observe the differences.
|Our guides, Victor (12) and
Ingrid (6) were charming.
|All tucked in
|Great road sign
|From the tortoises, we moved on to lava
tubes. The lava tubes were formed
thousands of years ago during a volcanic
eruption. The huge lava flow cooled on
the outside forming a hard outer crust.
But the inside was still molten and the
lava kept flowing, leaving a hollow tunnel
in the middle. There are several of these
tunnels on the island and we decided to
|At first, we used our flashlights, but soon a
line of dim overhead lights came on. We
could feel our way along..Jose told us there
was one “low” spot, but how low can you
go? We were on our bellies crawling through.
At last, we saw the light. Jose offered to take
us to more…we politely declined.
|We descended a narrow, steep
|From El Chato to Los Gemelos (the
twins), craters formed thousands of years
ago by the same volcanic eruptions that
caused the lava tubes. There are two of
them, on opposite sides of the road, with
a small footpath to each. The bottom of
crater is full of “mora”…local blackberry
bushes. This zone in the highlands is noted
for scalesia growth, a type of woody
|Los Gemelos, the twin craters
|This is for the birds!
Literally speaking, of course.
We saw lots and lots of birds,
but photographing them was
another story. They weren’t
still for long and getting clear
shots was a challenge. We
concluded that the most
common bird on the island
was the “blurry bird” of which
there were lots.
|Great blue heron
|Lava heron - endemic
|We also saw mockingbirds, many
different types and colors of finches,
frigate birds, tropic birds, boobies and
many, many other blurry birds. The
blue-footed boobies were fairly shy and
though we saw them flying overhead, we
rarely saw them on land. The waders
and shore birds were the easiest to
capture by photo .
|One of the most enjoyable parts of exploring
this island was taking hikes through the
National Park. We were required to check
in at the Ranger Station. The 1½ mile path to
Tortuga Bay was a well-marked, bricked
trail through arid brush and cacti.
|Boobies, pelicans and great frigate birds
swooped overhead as we walked along the
beach enjoying the surf, the cooling breeze
and fine white sand between our toes. We
could see the turtle tracks from the sea to
the protected mounds along the shore.
|The trail brought us to Brava Beach , a surfing
beach. Tortuga Beach was a bit further down
the coast aways and around the corner, calm
and protected from the big waves. Small
shorebirds dodged the incoming waves as
they looked for snacks along the wrack line.
|At the beach, it took us no time to
dive into the cool refreshing water.
We found a tree for shade and
munched apples while watching a lazy
sea lion do the back float across the
bay and a large ray float gracefully by.
|This marine iguana, sunning himself on
lava rock, posed handsomely for the
camera. He never blinked or moved as
we approached and knelt down beside
him to take this shot.
|The bleak dryness is offset by the
blue, blue sky. Even the cacti work
hard to contribute color to the scene.
|The arid zone seems a contrast to
the vast ocean which lies beside it.
Lava rock is strewn everywhere
interspersed with fine beach sand.
|We weren’t the only ones who
needed to take a dip to cool off.
This is the only place in the world,
by the way, where marine iguanas
|A brightly colored lava lizard watched us
carefully as we slowly hiked back.
|Another hike in the national
park took us to Las Grietas.
A “grieta” is a crevice or crack
and this hike took us past a
“salina” (salt pan) and to a very
picturesque rock crevice
where the water played with
light and rock to form a surreal
The salt pans were no different
than we’d seen in the Turks
or Bonaire. this salt pan just
conjured up images of dying of
thirst in the desert.
|This salt pan just conjured up images of dying
of thirst in the desert. There were bags of
salt lying on the edge which we, of course,
tasted. Tasted like salt! Go figure.
|This picture may appear unreal or
touched up perhaps, but this is just
what we saw when we peeked over
the edge of the crevice.
|As we wandered around the town of
Puerto Ayora, several things caught my
eye including these very large carved
Galapagos animal furniture pieces.
|Super-albatross sits in the middle of the
|A colorful art gallery caught our attention.
|This upscale, custom jewelry shop had a
great entrance gate.
|Crossing the Line - 00.00.00 / 90W05.40
|Because John had never crossed the Equator,
we opted to make the 45+ mile trek north to
“cross the line” before heading to Isla Isabela,
our next island stop in the Galapagos. Since it
was in the middle of the night, no pics.
Crossing the equator has always been a ritual
for sailors. Sailors who have never crossed
are called “pollywogs” and are assigned
certain tasks to be completed before crossing
the line and becoming “shellbacks”. We
weren’t held to strict rules, but wanted to
make it fun. John performed the following:
1)Made and served breakfast to the crew and
cleaned up the galley after (in lieu of crawling
through garbage on a traditional Navy ship).
2)Named “animals” on the boat
3)Wrote and performed a “Crossing the Line”
4)Kissed the fat belly…in this case Jelly’s, but
it’s supposed to be the fattest man on the
|Crossing the Line by John Santic
(Sung with feeling to the tune of Suwanee River)
Way down upon the South Pacific
Far, far from home.
There’s where I became a shellback
That’s when I crossed the yellow line.
All the world thinks it’s not yellow
Little do they know.
Sailing Nine of Cups proves this for certain
The equator’s a yellow line.
|Name all the animals on the boat?
“Goose”neck Wind”lass” Bullwark
Gun"wale” Shaft “bear”ing Wildcat
Clamshell “Fowl” weather gear Sea cock
Duck tape Horsehoe buoy Sole
“Tern”buckle Engine crane Leech
Pelican hook Hatch dogs Sail slugs
Rail (a bird) “Ant”enna tuna(tuner) Jelly
| Crossing the Line
TO ALL SAILORS WHEREVER YE MAY BE and to all Mermaids, Sea
Serpents, Whales, Sharks, Dolphins, Skates, Suckers, Lobsters, Crabs, and
other Living Things of the Sea, GREETINGS:
KNOW YE: That on this the 8th day of April in the year 2004 in Latitude 000º
00', there appeared within Our Royal Domain the good ship Nine of Cups
bound for Easter Island.
BE IT REMEMBERED: That said Vessel, Officers and Crew thereof having been
inspected and passed on by Yourself and Our Royal Staff,
AND BE IT KNOWN: By all ye Sailors, Mariners and Land Lubbers, who may be
honored by his presence, that JOHN SANTIC, second mate, having been found
worthy to be numbered as ONE OF OUR TRUSTY SHELLBACKS, has been
gathered to our fold and duly initiated into the SOLEMN MYSTERIES OF THE
ANCIENT ORDER OF THE DEEP. BE IT FURTHER UNDERSTOOD: That by virtue
of the power invested in me I hereby command my subjects to show due
honor and respect to him whenever he may enter Our Realm.
DISOBEY THIS ORDER UNDER
PENALTY OF OUR ROYAL DISPLEASURE.
Neptunus Rex ,Ruler of the Raging Main
|Isla Isabela - Puerto Villamil - 00S57.906 / 90W57.803 - 16'
|Isla Santa Cruz - Academy Bay - 00S44.90 / 90W18.476 - 25'
|Isla Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago,
is 4,588 sq km. The highest point in the
Galapagos is located here, Volcan Wolf, at
1707m. There are six volcanoes here which are
intermittently active, the last eruption being
recorded in 1988. We anchored in a bay
surrounded by reefs just east of town shown by
the red "X" on the map. The best part of the
anchorage was the sea life around us. Frigates
and blue-footed boobies soared overhead before
making dive bomb attacks at the fish below. Sea
lions swam around the boat, hacking, sneezing
and coughing. Galapagos penguins swam around
the boat and on the nearby reefs.
Shaped like a seahorse, Isabela offered lots to
see and do and was even more special because
there weren't many tourists here. Funny, when
we're on the boat, we never think of ourselves as
|The main town here is little Puerto
Villamil with a population of ~1200. The
people are welcoming and friendly.
|A view of the anchorage from the end of
|The streets are not paved, but wide and
tidy, lined with palm trees. The view of the
shore from the malecon was beautiful.
|A “mirador” (lookout) affords a splendid
view over the bay and the beach.
|The town park was pleasant and very
inviting with shade trees and park benches.
|Our first task was to check in with the Port
Captain. He was helpful and friendly and
welcomed us for a 15 day stay. We
wandered around town for a bit and it
didn’t take long to get our bearings. We
found the fresh market and bought a
squash to have with our Easter Sunday
dinner. A young man on a bike, Richar (no
“d””), introduced himself, told us a bit
more about town and offered his services
as a guide to the highlands and the Sierra
Negra volcano. We had heard about this
tour and decided to take it later in the
week. There were also several other hikes
we could take ourselves and lots of reefs
to explore with the dinghy.
|I wanted to find PENGUINS!
We thought they might be hard to find,
but they found us. Swimming all around
the reefs and right past the boat!
A penguin living on the equator? While it
may seem strange, this is exactly where
you find the Galapagos penguin, third
smallest of the world's 18 penguin
species. This penguin lives on the
equatorial shores of Isabela and
Fernandina Islands, where upwellings of
cool, nutrient-rich waters provide an
abundant supply of small fish. The
Galapagos penguin moves around the
rocky coastal terrain by using both its
feet and flippers. When on smoother
surfaces, however, the penguin hops
forward in a series of small jumps.
|How does an equatorial penguin keep cool?
All penguins typically have thick layers of fat,
covered by protective, waterproof feathers.
While this is great insulation for their southern
relatives (in the colder Antarctic region), it
poses a definite challenge for the Galapagos
penguin. To stay cool on land, they either hold
their wings out at 45-degree angles to increase
their body surface and release heat as air
passes over them, shade their feet with their
bodies as the breeze helps cool them down,
pant rapidly and head for the shade, or best of
all, go for a nice, cool dip!
|But there is little rest for the Galapagos penguin. In the water, they are preyed on by sharks, fur
seals and sea lions. On land, major threats include overheating, starvation, or predation by
introduced cats, dogs, and rats on Isabella Island. To avoid terrestrial enemies, penguins simply
turn their backs and let their black coats blend naturally into the surrounding black lava rocks.
|Birdlife and wildlife on Isabela is
remarkable. John commented that in most
places, wildlife is allowed to live at the
whim of people in the area, but here the
wildlife seems to be on their own turf and
we just share a small part of it as temporary
|We watched as boobies circled
and began to dive, becoming more
and more streamlined and
bullet-like until they hit the water
with a splash.
|Boobies, sea lions, penguins, gulls,
frigates, and petrels all seem to
live in a competitive harmony.
They all feed on fish, but food
seems to be abundant. There is
enough for all and life is good.
|So what do you snack on in
the Galapagos? Galapaguito
animal crackers, of course!
|Sea lions are everywhere here. We hear their
breath sounds during the night as well as
coughing, hacking and sneezing. They occupy
fishing boats when the fishermen are away and
cruisers with swim platforms on their boat usually
have sea lions lazing on them.
We wondered how they climbed aboard the
boats but soon found out they were very versatile
in and out of the water. As a dinghy approached,
they would stick their noses out of the boat,
curious to see who was coming and what sort of
a hazard it represented to them. Though they
were somewhat wary, they didn’t seem too
frightened of our presence.
|Our trip to the highlands and volcano,
Volcan Sierra Negra, with Richar was
interesting, fun and very, very wet. We
left the dock on an overcast morning via
truck, then transferred to horseback for
8km. We left the horses as a light rain
began and walked the final 7km
roundtrip in the rain. This is the season of
the “garúa”, a misty, drizzle that for us
quickly turned into a downpour on the
volcano. Needless to say, not much
|Volcan Sierra Negra
|The western islands in the archipelago are
more active volcanically, than the eastern
islands, Isabela and Fernandina being the most
active of all. Fernandina’s last eruptions were
in 2001 and 1995. Isabela’s last eruption
occurred in 1988. Of the 6 volcanoes on the
island, 3 are accessible, Sierra Negra being
the most accessible of all. The topography
went from the coastal arid sand to highland
grass and green to desolate lava fields where
little grew or survived.
|Gray ash and lava as far as we could see.
|We saw the 10km wide Sierra
Negra crater, the second largest
volcanic crater in the world. We felt
the hot air rising from fumeroles on
the volcano. We saw sunken lava
tunnels and the devastation caused
by molten lava as it demolished
everything in its path. We trucked,
we rode horseback, we hiked, we
learned lots, we got very, very wet
and finally we rested and ate.
|Isabela's National Park Trails
|The National Park trails on Isabela were
terrific. There were several of them, all
well-maintained and well-signed. We
walked first to the turtle breeding center,
not far from the town center. We had a
closer look at the little fellows which
would become the huge tortoises we
saw at the Research Station in Santa
Cruz. Along the trail to the breeding
center, we went past a flamingo pool
and were delighted to find several pink
flamingos feeding. Everywhere we
walked, we saw new animals or birds or
flowers. There was always something to
delight us and catch our attention.
|Above, cotton in flower...obviously an
introduced plant. To the right, Darwin's daisy,
endemic to the Galapagos.
|At the end of 1945, a penal colony was
established on Isabela. A sad monument
to the terror of this prison is the “Wall of
Tears”, constructed by the prison’s
inmates. The lava rock wall, 10m by
120m, is so-called because of the tears
shed by the prisoners who died during its
|Muro de las Lagrimas
|Peaceful town cemetery
|One of our favorite trails, Las Tintoreras (blue sharks), was accessible only by dinghy. A short ride away, we maneuvered between reefs and
rocks and found a stone stairway leading out of the tiny bay up to a trail through the lava rocks. We had been told that white tipped sharks were
caught in the tide pool during low tide, but none of the cruisers who had been there had been lucky enough to see any. It was our lucky day though
as the pool was full of them. Can you see the white tip on his fin below left? There is also a white tip on their tails.
|Isla Floreana - Puerto Velasco Iberra - 01S16.593 /90W29.53 - 50'
|Isabela was a paradise, but as always we were itching to leave. We were told by other cruisers that the island of Floreana, once a viable yachtie stop, was no longer allowed so we planned
to head directly to Easter. HOWEVER, it never hurts to ask. Right? Well, we did ask the Port Captain, Victor Gomez, if we might stop at Floreana for a couple of days and lo and behold
he said “Claro” (Of course!). In order to stop, we had to have his permission, as well as the permission of the port captain at Floreana. He called the other port captain while we waited and
even wrote out a little slip of paper with the information and stamped it with his official seal and signature. We were legal to go where few yachts visit any more. Because we are now more
fuel-conscious, we opted to leave in the late afternoon from Isabela and sail the 34 miles overnight against a current and headwind.
TWENTY FIVE HOURS later (whew!), we arrived at Puerto Velasco Ibarra, Floreana, after motoring 6 hours straight. We figured at the rate we were going (backward mostly), we might
never have gotten to Floreana at all! The highlight of Floreana is Post Office Bay. Since the mid-1700’s, whaling boats would stop here and leave mail or pick up mail to deliver at their home
ports. The polite, but firm, Port Captain told us we were welcome to stay at anchor here, but Post Office Bay was open only to tourist boats. Bummer! He would gladly accompany us for a
rather large fee ($300US). No thanks! We decided to take quick look around this tiny town, then head out. We did meet Erica, the granddaughter of Margret Wittmer, the woman who
wrote the book “Floreana”, about her life on the island from 1932 till 2000 when she died. We wandered around town and took some pictures and also enjoyed the flowers of Floreana.
|Floreana is the 6th largest island in the Galapagos and boasts a population of about 70-80 people. There wasn’t much to see. There is a
hotel (owned by Margret Wittmer’s progeny), but little else is available. They did have electricity via generator which is available from 6am
till midnight daily. Above from left, Cups at anchor off Floreana; the dock; the electric company and Main Street (Via Principal).
|Time to move on. At last, we’re heading to Easter Island. We spent nearly a month
in the Galapagos and they are indeed enchanting. The effects of tourism are
indelibly evident even though the Park is working hard to minimize the impact.
Reflections on what impressed us most…
|Read Marcie's SSCA article:
Update on the Galapagos