DAY 6 – Wednesday May 24, 2017

13.00  02° 09 N 084°36W  35 Nautical miles away from our destination. We call Freja on the VHF but there’s no reply, probably the distance between us is too great. We send them our position with iridium satellite mail.

14.00 With the existing weather conditions, it’s really hard or, I should better say, impossible, to keep the 235° course to San Cristóbal and the XTE (deviation from the rambline) reading on the plotter, shows that we are 12NM west from our course. It is impossible first, because the current pushes us north – west, and so to keep 235° one must steer 210°! Second, because the wind is always against us, to our nose. The waves are big and we are bouncing on them, like a little paper boat on a water stream. The spray makes us wet us, again and again.

15.00 We have a water leak, salt water coming in the bildge under our bed, at the bow cabin. We empty the water with great effort, as the motion at the bow of the boat is horredous. We fill many buckets of salt water. I empty the buckets in the WC1 and realize the toilet seat broke. No wonder. The strain on the boat is very strong. Captain Yorgos is worried about this, inside this bow bildge is the side thruster engine and it’s batteries. And everyone knows how corroding, salt water is. In WC 2 there’s also water on the floor, and the sails stored inside the shower cabin are soaked. The maintenance needed is  endless

16.00 The crew is tired and hungry, we missed breakfast today. As cooking is out of the question, we eat peanut butter and crackers for lunch, without regrets. Yummy! Yorgos sleeps two hours at the cockpit.

18.00 The wind is SSW 20-25 knots, not matching the weather forecast, that predicted a calm night for tonight. We take two reefs to both sails. The wind direction doesn’t help and the contrary current is invincible. It’s a great ride but we are 13,5 NM west from our course (XTE).

21.00 01°54N 085°17 W We received an email from Freja with their coordinates, they are 20 NM away from us. We sail into the dark, windy night. Suddenly we hear a thump and then another and another.

-“What was that?” Yorgos says, startled. We turn the flashlight on: a  flying fish is on the cockpit floor.

-“Quickly! Don’t let it die!”, I say. Yorgos tries to catch the fish. The fish fights to get away, its blue wings hitting desparately the deck. The next second Yorgos grabs the fish and throws it back into the sea. The fish stays still for two seconds. It looks dead. Then, with a sudden move it swims away. Lucky little thing.

23.00 Jogling in the galley like a circus acrobat, I make carot, lettuce and corn salad and serve it in two bowls. After dinner, I sleep at the cockpit from 23.00 until 03.00 am

Thursday May 25

03.00 Wind S 20-25 knots. I start my shift. Yorgos falls asleep, exhausted. Filizi sails with a very small angle- just 40°- against the wind. She’s making 5,5 knots speed doing her best but, as the contrary current pushes us north and so instead of 225°, we are heading 245°. “We are going to New Zealand” I think to myself.

04.00 Two white seabirds fly around Filizi tonight. The airy, delicate figures surround us with their graceful flight, like some kind of gardian angels. We need to go to Galapagos, not New Zealand, not on this journey!

05.00 The wind holds strong and our deviation to the rumbline reached 25NM. The sky is blanketed with clouds, we sail in the darkness but for the fluorescent wake around us. A total darkness until Venus appears, bright and lovely, bringing warmth to my heart. “Hello my friend. We’ve traveled many a long night together”I salute the bright star.

05.50 According to the plotter we are heading 255° but according to the Navionics map, we are heading 270°, which means west instead of southweast. We are being pushed north by the Humbold current and surely we can’t continue this way. I can’t wait for the captaint to wake up. Then we can furl the genoa and put the engine on. Oh, I can’t help myself, I worry too much. I take a deep breath and my mind flies to our destination, the Galpagos islands.

 06.00 A red footed boogie lands on our bow….

06.27 It’s a strange, a gray sunrise, this one today. Not one pink shade, nor purple, or golden. Just gray, gray and dark blue. Just like my mood.

08.30 01°35N 086°08W Yorgos wakes up and makes himself a nice strong Greek coffee. When he brings the coffee to the cockpit, the sweet temptations captures me and I take two sips. I know I may regret, drinking coffee, I never do during passages, because we sleep very irregular hours and coffee takes my sleep away. The captain goes to the bow to make adjustments on the rigging and  gets soaking wet from the spray.

I drink one more sip from his mug, but I should have known better. We prepare the boat to heel from the port side, which is complicated after a week heeling to starboard. We tack and set the sails. Slowly the XTE deviation from the rumbline starts to decrease but still we are heading SE at 150­°. That is better, but it’s not enough.

We have a delicious breakfast, eggs and home made bread, and I’m totally convinced nothing can beat that. Freja sends us satellite mail, they are 24NM away, more east and more south from us. We agree to try and meet up, again. Yorgos offers to give them diesel when we meet if they need it, as they said they are short on fuel.

10.00 Tack was OK but the progress is not as expected and we decide to take more drastic measures. We furl the genoa in, start the engine, setting 215° course on the autopilot and we are finally on the right direction to San Cristobal. Luckily the sea state is improving too, the waves are smaller and we are not terribly uncomfortable. I’m happy and relieved.

12.00 1°26’N 085°12W Engine on with main sail for stability. We covered 110 nautical miles in the last 24 hours and there are 250 more to go. I try to sleep, but can’t and I know it’s the coffee I drunk, silly me.

Sleep hours Day 6  Karina 0,30’+4,00 =4,30’ Yorgos 1,15’+2,00’+2,45=6,00 

DAY 7

14.00 I lay on the cockpit cushion trying to get some sleep but it’s useless. I can’t sleep. Actually we are both very excited for getting closer to our destination. The Galápagos islands are unique. They are known worldwide as the place where Charles Darwin was inspired for his book “Voyage of the Beagle: On the origin of species by means of natural selection”, a revolutionary book that changed scientific thinking forever. The Galápagos, 13 major and some smaller islands that lie on the Equator, about 900 nautical miles from the coast of Equador, on the Galápagos platform. Around this platform are the Nazca tectonic plate, the Carnengie Ridge, the Cocos tectonic plate and the Cocos Ridge where different water masses like the Cromwell Equatorial Countercurrent, the South Equatorial current, the Peru Coastal current, the Humbolt current all confluence. The islands’s geologic morphology, the geographic isolation and the remarkable pattern of cold waters around them, a pattern that drives the Galàpagos’s exceptional climate, create its unique ecosystems.

In 1959 the government of Equador declared the Galápagos islands, its first National park, and scientists from all around the world created the International Charles Darwin Center. Scientist like Peter and Rosemary Grant, have been studying Charls Darwin’s finches on the islands, for 25 years, on an effort to find an answer to “that mystery of mysteries, the first appearance of new beings on this earth”. The evolutions of the species still happens and in Galápagos it is evident.

In the Galapagos National Park 97% of all land areas will be preserved forever. Yorgos and me bring our amazing coffee table book GALAPAGOS – Preserving Darwin’s legacy, the one that our dear friend Dan, brought from NYC. We look at pictures of marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, sea lions, hammerhead sharks, giant tortoises and active volcanoes and think about the wonders we will soon see with our own eyes.

-“A paradise for biologists and scientists in general. Vasso will be thrilled!” Yorgos says. Our friend Vasso is an accomplished doctor and biologist and she has dedicated her life to genetic research.

-“As for us, we’ll have our personal biologist on board. We’ll have private lectures just for the two of us!” I say happily

-“Since I can’t sleep, I should cook something special. Any ideas?” I ask the captain

-“How about mexican food? We have some tortillas and chilly beans…” Yorgos says. This man is my isperation. After one hour the food is served: tortillas, chilly con carne (vegetarian), salad and double baked potatos. My captain deserves the best.

18.30 Thus falls the final curtain of a beautiful day, a glorious sunset of magnificent colors and the few white clouds in the sky, all turn bright pink and magenta.

Three seabirds are with us, they stay close the mast and then they level with the waves, or glide with motionless wings in formations. I try to capture them but all I get is an image, with just a fraction of its actual grace.

20.45 01°.00.03N…01°.00.02N..01°.00.01…00°.60.00 086° 46.93W We monitor the AIS screen, looking at the coordinates change. We enter the 0° latitude!!

One more degree, sixty nautical miles and we across the Earth’s Equator, going to a different place and to a different season: to the South Pacific, the South Hemosphere, in the beginning of the austral autumn! The sky is filled with zillions of stars

-“I’ve never seen this many stars in my entire life”, Yorgos says

The Southern Cross is on our port, the constellation Carina is allways beside it, Scorpion rises from the horizon. We sit together looking at the stars on this beautiful, this amazingly beautiful night. We open the bimini, we need to see the whole sky above us. Five white sea birds fly above us, they look so etheral, in the darness of the night.

Suddernly a flutter is heard. We turn of the flashlight. A flying fish has landed on the deck and it’s struggling to breath, struggling to survive. I try to catch it but it struggles and slips from my hand again and again, until I grab it. I throw it back into the water. In the light of the flashlight, we see one more fish ahead, already dead. This one was unlucky.

23.00 I sleep at the cockpit and captain sails us safely to our destination

Friday, May 26, 2017

03.00 I open my eyes and stretch my body. The sleeping bag is cosy and warm. The night is a bit chilly.

“Rise and shine, chief mate! You slept four hours!” Yorgos says. My darling, he let me rest real good,  once more. I still feel soooo sleepy though. I get up, wash my face with water and wear my gear. After two minutes, Yorgos is inside the sleeping bag, sleeping deeply. The wind is S3, the main is on first reef and genoa is full. The engine is on. Still going 40° with the wind, still the current send us north-west. I’m sleepy. I get up and walk around the cockpit table and stretch. I sing Let’s sail west. Singing is good, help me stay awake.

04.00 I hear a sound, then another and then the flutter of wings. I turn my headlight on and search: a flying fish is under the sprayhood, just above the head of Yorgos! I try to catch it, the fish writhes, twists and then slides under the sprayhood opening and falls back into the sea. The luckiest of them all… Unbelievable.

06.45 The dawn is breaking on a cloudy sky. We are surrounded by sea birds. I check the navionics map, we are only 155 nautical miles away from San Cristobal, Galapagos. It seems like a dream. The sonar shows 6,6…7,5…10,00… there’s something underneath us, a fish? A pilot whale? The water temperature is 22,8°, significantly lower than Panama. I’m feeling all awake, all rested and energetic. We are sailing on 0° latitude and in a few hours we will cross the Equator! We are almost there. Oh boy!!!

11.00 Perfect sailing AT LAST!! Sunshine, clear blue sky and perfect wind angle. We are sailing fast with 6.5 knots! The water

12.00 We are hungy!! I make pasta with sun dried tomatoes for brunch. We have showers and captain Yorgos shaves his 6 day beard! A different man. Today is an historical day for Filizi. We change the time on our watches -1 hour. Galapagos time is UTC+6

Hours of sleep Karina 3,45′  Yorgos 3,30′

DAY 8

14.56 0°00 S 087°04W We cross the Equator and enter the waters of the South Hemosphere… The South Pacific Ocean, the austral autumn…

Yorgos opens a bottle of champaign, a Spanish one, though, as we have a crisis in Greece.

We drink a toast to the Ocean and one to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea that was so good to us, until now. I take a sip and immediately feel intoxicated. Yorgos the same. The rest of the bottle goes to Poseidon. Better safe than sorry

17.30 This is the perfect afternoon of a perfect day. Or was. We sail fast, on the smooth ocean water with the big smooth ocean swell, when suddenly we see a small fishing boat, 200 meters away. Yorgos disengages the autopilot and grabs the helm. He turns the boat, but it’s too late. We caught a green fishing line.

-“We must stop the boat. Furl the genoa in, fast!” Yorgos says, and I quickly furl the sail. The fishermen approach, and after a few minutes they cut the line. They say something, which I don’t totally understand, something like “the fishing line is 3 miles long”, and they go away. I put the gopro in the water to check the propeller.

-“OK! We are free. If you had the propeller turning, though, we would have been in serious trouble,” I say to Yorgos, very relieved. How easy it is for a perfect day to became a mess.

In the next 30 minutes, our keel catches the green lines two more times and the fisherman cut them. Very annoying.

21.00 The stars shine bright on the sky and the temperature has dropped significantly as we are sailing into autumn. We are sailing fast and smoothly with 6,5 knots and we are both really tired. I notice a faint green light in the distance.

-“Could this be Freja?” I ask my captain.

-“It is possible. Imagine meeting them again after so many days” he says and he goes to sleep the next second.

22.00 I check the AIS and it’s true. Freja is 3 nautical miles away from us and they are coming closer. Freja is a fast boat.

22.30 Yorgos wakes and he takes charge. We sail with 6,5 – 7,0 knots speed and it looks like we’ll arrive early tomorrow morning.

 

27/05/2017 LAND HO!

03.00 Yorgos wakes me up, I slept four hours and I could easily sleep 10 more. He’s very tired. The wind is 15 knots from 60° angle and we are sailing beautifuly with 6,6-7,0 knots speed, on an almost flat sea. Fantastic,. It looks like we’ll arrive earlier, and this is great. I wash my face with cold tap water to help myself wake up. Cold water? When I go at the helm, I check the sea water temperature: 21,6°! When we left Panama the sea water temperature was 27,5. So we are in Galápagos, after all. Yorgos lays down and he’s immediately asleep. I stand behind the helm, I can’t sit down or I’l fall asleep, I;m afraid. Freja’s navigation light is slowly closing in. She’s a fast boat. I check our positions on the AIS, in the darkness one can not easily tell the distance…

05.30 The night gives way to day and the new day breaks, wearing a cloudy gray blanket. In the dim light we can see at last the low outline of San Cristóbal. Just 2 miles away.

-“Land Ho, baby! Land Ho!” we say to each other. My heart is beating fast.

-“I’m going in to make Greek coffee for two. We deserve it” I say. It’s a big day today. And it might be a long one, too. We need 20NM more to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the port of San Cristóbal.

06.30 With 20 knots of breeze and flat sea, and we are going fast and steady close to the island. The land is dark, barren , and there are formations that look like volcanic craters.

07.00 “There is a big whale on our right!” Victor says on the VHF. Freja is 200 meters ahead and we can’t see. I take the binoculars and search the waters.

-“Look, left!” Yorgos says. Two pilot whales swim slowly past Filizi, heading north. The breeze dies out. On the calm, silky surface of the sea, sit dozens of tiny birds, while others fly above us. Suddenly there’s more movement left, the back of a big whale immerges on the surface, and then it dives again, leaving a big, a very big bubble. The whale dives under Filizi and appears again on the other side. We are holding our breath. We have never seen a whale as big, and never been so close to one of course. In the distance, “Freja”’s whale is exhaling water, creating a jet of spray. A flock of beautiful white birds fly over our heads. The miracles of nature are unraveling in front of our own eyes. We are speechless

08.00 We now sail slowly past the impressive Roca Pateadora, a big rock The sails are hunging empty from the mast. I write an email to our agent, Bolívar Pesantes. “Llegamos al Puerto Baquerizo a las 10 am- We are coming 10 am”. All vessels that wish to visit the Galápagos islands need to obtain an “Autografo”. The Autografo is a cruising permit for two months, allowing us to visit only three islands: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabella and to get it we are obliged by law to use a local agent. Our agent is Bolívar and he is expecting us. We wish to meet him soon, finish with the formalities, and then go ashore. Until then we ‘ll be in quarantine. The formalities are many and complicated, the authorities will send divers to check if our hull is clean and if it isn’t we’ll be obliged to take a local diver, sail 50 miles far from the island, have the diver clean the hull and come back. I don’t want to even think this possibility. that  would be a nightmare. But our hull is very clean, at least it was when we started from Las Perlas. Then they will search the boat, check our food and I don’t know what else. Hopefully it will all be over as one more taste of South-american burreucracy. Thinking of all this, I go in the boat and start making preparations. After all these days of sailing we are kind of messy, and I have a lot to do, before the authorities come. I clean both refrigerators, the galley, tidy up. I separate the recyclable garbage to different bags, plastic, paper, glass, that’s how we were instructed to do it. I’m so happy that can’t stop for a second. I’m on a turbo mode.

10.30 The wind is blowing strong on the nose, when we enter the small bay of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Freja just dropped their anchor and soon we do the same. The engine is off, the instruments are off.

-“We’ve done it, captain. Thank you!” I say to Yorgos feeling proud of him.

“Galapagos! We are finally here, chief mate, after so many years talking about it” he says. The place is relatively green, compared to the rest of the island with the dark, volcanic baren soil. The building on the shore are somehow ugly, different shapes, different colours, a cacophony that looks kind of cute, though.

‘Lovely place. Reminds me of Kalymnos, in a way” Yorgos says

-“You are right. I was trying to find which Greek island it resembled” I say laughing.

A blue inflatable boat approaches. The passengers are a white haired man and a baby sea lion, sitting next to him!!

“Καλώς ήρθατε! Έλληνας?» (Welcome! Greek?) he says pointing at our flag. The man has a non-Greek accent. Surprised we greet him, too.

“Yes, we come from Greece” The man continues in Spanish, he worked in Greece for some years he said. The baby sea lion is sitting beside him, as naturally as if it were his pet, which it probably is. The man says “Geia sou” (Goodbye) and leaves. That was kind of crazy. The first person to talk to us on the island, talked to us in Greek…

10.45 A red and yellow boat approaches. Onboard is a man, the driver, and a woman

-“Do you need agent?” the woman asks us.

-“We have Bolivar” we answer.

-“Bolivar will come in a few minutes” she says and the leave. We then see her, get on board Freja. She’s probably their agent.

11.00 Short, a bit overweight, with kind eyes and big smile, Bolivar is the kind of man one likes immediately. He arrived with another water-taxi and calling us out loud:

-“Yorgos! Karina! Bienvenidos!” He comes onboard and fills the place with his presence. We offer him a juice. He asks questions about Filizi, asks for our passports. and the yacht registration. When Yorgos hands him the documents he says:

-“I have been here in Galapagos for 30 years and it is the second time I see a Greek flag. The first time was a long time ago, maybe 15-20 years”, he says. And we wonder who that may have been. The diver will be on Filizi very soon. Me, I’m coming back at 3 pm with the authorities, the port captain, the immigration, the health director…”

15.00 The red and yellow boat flying the big Equador flag is approaching and, Bolivar is the first to come on board. After him follow two boys, about 4-5 years old, a young man, presumably their father in his thirties, another young man, dressed with a white uniform, very clean and official looking, all of them in their early thirties. They all sit down, and I offer to bring drinks.

-“Jugo, por favor” a juice, says the first. “Una cerveza” a beer, says the second, “Cerveza” says the next and the last. We bring the drinks and also lollipops for the little ones. They hand me some papers to fill out – as the one speaking their native tongue.

-“Nice beer!” the men say, for the French- actually Alsace beer we gave them. Everyone is talking at the same time, the men are taking photos of us, we are taking photos of them, the one sitting next to me, the father of the boys, puts music of Equador loud on his mobile phone, the children are happy because inside the lollipops they discover hidden bubble gum. I show the kids a trick with my fingers :

-Where does the rooster lay his eggs?” I ask the trick question. I realize that all the men stopped their job and try to do my trick with the fingers. Yorgos and I, we look at each other and burst our laughing. Everyone laughs too. The situation is sureal. In the Caribbean the authorities were always rough and tough. One wouldn’t ever dare smile to them, sort of speak. Now this is like a movie. The man in uniform, asks for one more beer

-“I’ll take it home, for my wife” he explains.

-“By all means”, I say.

After 30 minutes they all get up, thank us and get on the water-taxi. Bolivar, stays last.

-“Everything is OK. Soon the health department inspector will come. And after him the Fumigation agent,“ he says, stepping on the swinging bow of the water-taxi. They all wave to us, and the whole thing reminds me of a Emir Kustouriza film. Never, ever have we experienced this kind of behaviour from the authorities. Never. They were all adorable…

17.30 The inspector searched thoroughly our food supplies, took some of our pasta away, gave us advice how to consume the food we have and left. After he left, the Fumigation agent sprayed the interior with some kind of pesticide and in a few minuter we all get on board a water taxi going ashore. We stop at Freja and our Danish friends come on board the water taxi, too. We all embrace, happy to be together again.

–“Let’s go for ice cream!” little Anna says

“Let’s go” Yorgos, agrees

Arriving at the port pier, the sight is amazing: five sea lions are lying on the pontoon, and a few more swimming around in the blue, transparent water. We walk on the seaside, looking at the small restaurants. The place is just lovely

-”Welcome to the Galapagos, my darling”