The Blue Hanamoenoa Bay in Tahuata

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Across from Hiva Oa, only 2.5 NM away, is Tahuata- the smallest of the inhabited islands in the Marquesas.

We sail to Hanamoenoa Bay- a pretty little bay just for cruisers with a nice glittering beach once visited by Captain Cook. The bay is shallow with white sand and warm, completely transparent turquoise water, like liquid glass. A few other boats are already here and a few more are coming behind us. It’s the time of the year when cruisers are crossing the Pacific Ocean and the Marquesian bays are full with arriving yachts.

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It has been months since we have last anchored in a bay of such clean warm water. I am trying to think… Las Perlas in Panama or San Blas? More than one year? We jump in as soon as we drop anchor and first thing’s first- Ivo starts scrubbing the hulls from all the nasty stuff – algae and barnacles- which have colonized the bottom of our Fata Morgana.

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The boat arriving shortly after us drops anchor and the guy jumps in the water with a spatula to clean the hulls too. EVERYONE with no exception comes to Hanamoenoa Bay on Tahuata to clean the hulls. Spontaneously, this place has become “the cleaning station” for all cruisers.

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While Ivo is busy working, Maya and I snorkel around. It’s such a pleasure to swim in 31C waters. There are a few corals near the rocky shores and colonies of tropical fish. But mostly the shallow bay is covered with white sand. Perfect holding for yachts. We swim to the beach.

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While Maya is joyfully playing with the waves I walk around. We heard that a really friendly guy named Steven lives here alone in a shack on that beach but he is not home. Maybe he gets really bored spending all his life on the beach with cruisers coming and going, so he went to visit his friends in the village further away. In any case, he didn’t come back the entire time we were in Tahuata.

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His house is just a basic wooden construction with open veranda raised from the ground about a meter. There is an outside table, a kitchen area with open fire, containers for storing water and other household stuff.

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There are also lots of fallen coconuts lying around. With a friend from Lithuania- Rugile sailing aboard S/V Moonshine, we decide to try and open a few. But these coconuts are Steven’s and he is not home. Maybe, he wouldn’t mind if we open a few, especially if we leave something in exchange? We bring canned beans and tomato paste which we leave on the property and with clear conscious we begin operation “Girls with Machetes”. Rugile hacks away pretty skillfully for a girl. Four of the big coconuts fill a 1.5L bottle. We stock up on delicious coconut water.

Rugile S/V Moonshine

Rugile S/V Moonshine

Tahuata bacame Maya’s favorite place in all of the Marquesas. Not only because the water is like a swimming pool and she spent more time in the water than outside the water- playing on the beach or snorkeling around, but also because here Maya met a couple of boat kids from Belgium- Tom and his sister Sam, cruising aboard a Catana catamaran Mercredi Soir.

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Here, we met another family aboard a 52 lagoon catamaran Invictus. With S/V Mercredi Soir (Belgium) and S/V Invictus (Germany) we became pretty inseparable and cruised together as a community from one island to the next, sharing fun and beautiful moments and helping each other in times of need.

Maya

Maya

Here, we also met for the first time S/V Moby and S/V Excalibur- two cruising families from France. We became good friends with them too and kept meeting them here and there on the Polynesian islands all the way to New Zealand.

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We shared our most beautiful memories of the South Pacific with our friends- stories and adventures in beautiful places I can’t wait to tell you about.

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tahuata*Watch our 10-minute YouTube video The Girl With The Machete in Tahuata for more beautiful views of the Hanamoenoa Bay and our time there snorkeling, playing on the beach, jumping from the rocks and KILLING COCONUTS WITH MACHETES!

Find us on Facebook @The Life Nomadik
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Since you’re here …

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… we have a small favor to ask. More people than ever are regularly reading our stories, but far fewer are supporting us. We have no regular income. And unlike others, we haven’t made our content private – we want to keep posting free stories for everyone. So we think it’s fair to ask people who visit our blog often for their support. Our efforts to research, write and post pictures take a lot of time and hard work. And it’s even harder to do it from a boat with limited internet and electricity. But we do it because we believe our journey and way of life matters – because it might inspire you!

If you regularly read and value our hard work, consider becoming one of our patrons for as little as $1 or $5 dollars a month and help us in our future travels. Thank you!

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Checking-In in Hiva’Oa. The Island of Paul Gauguin

Atuona Bay, Hiva'Oa

Atuona Bay, Hiva’Oa

From Fatu Hiva we sail to the next Marquesian island some 45 nautical miles away- Hiva Oa.

Hiva Oa is one of the largest and most populated islands in the Marquesas, and the Port of Atuona is one of the official ports of entry for yachts and ships. Here we check-in officially in French Polynesia. The checking-in procedure for French Polynesia is different for different people. If you are traveling with a European passport- it’s free to check in at the local Police station and you can stay 6 months (or forever if you are French). You go to the local Gendarmerie with your passport and boat papers and you sign a form- it takes 15 minutes.

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If you are traveling with Canadian, American, South African and other not so lucky passports- you have a few options: to pay a deposit at the bank (which will be returned to you months later when you leave French Polynesia; payable ONLY by credit card) and show that you have funds (around US$5,000 for a family of three) in case something happens to you and you have to be put on a plane and flown out of the country; or you have to show that you have bought a return airplane ticket- even if you are sailing with a yacht; or you have to hire an agent who will become your guarantor. Americans and Canadians can stay for maximum 3 months, while South Africans- 2 weeks only!

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You lose money in all cases. In the first one (security deposit)- you lose mainly from the money exchange fees and bank fees (over US$150, depending on money exchange rates at the time of the transactions). In the second option, if you buy a ticket for a plane- you can cancel and refund it right after you check-in with a cancellation fee (this is the cheapest option- about US$20-25 cancellation fee). If you hire an agent- you have to pay US$300 for his service and you have to have a valid health insurance.

Aranui

Aranui

Ivo and I are born in Bulgaria (Europe) and Maya is born in Canada, but our Bulgarian passports have expired and we couldn’t renew them, because there were no Bulgarian embassies nowhere on our way. We tried in Panama- at the Bulgarian Consulate, but they don’t have passport service there- so no luck. We are traveling with our Canadian passports.

The guy at the Police station in Atuona tells us, that they cannot recognize our European citizenship which we have by birth right, unless we present a valid European passport (not expired). So we need to go to the bank and pay a deposit, buy a plane ticket or hire an agent.

Our ordeal begins. We start going between the bank, the police and the agent; friends are trying to help us with the many issues that come up.

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At one point, about two weeks later (still not checked-in), I ask at the Police station what will happen if we don’t check-in at all and keep sailing from island to island? Will they arrest us, confiscate our boat? Put us in jail? – No, says the police officer, I don’t know what will happen…

Nothing will happen, most probably. Later we met a couple from the United States who have never checked in and have remained for three years in French Polynesia planning to stay for at least two more.

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Finally our only option is to hire and agent. But we don’t have health insurance. So we get DiverDAN for the family- recommended cheapest option. And we pay the agent fee which is killing us… For a second time we regret not having valid Bulgarian passports- the first time was in Colombia.

More than two weeks after our arrival, we are finally legally checked-in and free to keep sailing and exploring the rest of the islands and atolls of the South Pacific.

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We use our time while stuck on Hiva’Oa to walk around the island and chill.

We hitchhike from the port to the village almost every day. Everywhere in French Polynesia hitchhiking is the best, fastest and free way to go from one place to another (if the island is big enough to have roads). Friendly people on all of the bigger islands gave us rides all the time.

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In the village of Atuona, we marvel at some awesome sacred wood and stone  carvings called tikis. Tiki in Maori and Polynesian mythology, is The First Man- half human half god- created by god Tumatauenga.

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Tikis are protective statues considered the “patron of sculptors”, with huge head, symbolizing power and big eyes representing knowledge. Every tiki has its own personality- some are evil, others are benevolent.

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Tiki is a powerful icon of Polynesian culture, symbolizing spiritual strength, and visitors of the islands buy small tiki figurines or pendants as souvenirs- to protect them in their journey.

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The largest ancient tiki ever discovered is on the island of Hiva’Oa in the Bay of Oipona Puamau.

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The Moai- monumental stone statues on Easter Islands- is a variant of the Tiki.

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As we walk around Atuona marveling at the majestic scenery all around us, we hear music- wild rhythms that make you want to start jumping and dancing around the fire. The kids in the local school are practicing for a school celebration and they let us watch. This is our first glimpse of Polynesian dance and music- savage, sexy and full of stories.

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How awesome is that these kids get to learn to play the drums and belly dance in school since age 5!

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A short hike away through the outskirts of the village at the foot of the volcano is the old cemetery.

Old cemetery, Hiva'Oa

Old cemetery, Hiva’Oa

But another cemetery attracts far more visitors.

Paul Gauguin's grave on Hiva'Oa

Paul Gauguin’s grave on Hiva’Oa

On a hill overlooking the bay is the grave of post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin. Calvary cemetery  has become a major tourist attraction, besides the Gauguin Museum down in the village with reproductions of his paintings. All tourists coming here climb the hill in heat or rain to pay homage to the famous painter who “escaped western influences” and returned to nature to find paradise lost. Yet, the locals are not too sure about Gauguin and his legacy. What were this French man true motives to buy a house and live in Hiva’Oa?

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The Marquesan islands became famous shortly after their discovery by early European explorers as “haven of free love”. The islanders’ unique culture and way of life included a very different attitude towards sexuality. Children and parents shared quarters and it was OK for kids to witness their parents having intercourse. The adults even found it amusing and funny when children simulated sexual acts, and encourage them to do so from very early age. This explains why European ships were met with swarms of young girls, for whom virginity or chastity was not a social construct, climbing aboard to have sex with the sailors. It also explains why a middle-aged painter whose many Marquesan lovers were barely adult girls, died of syphilis in 1903.

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.*Watch our 10-minute YouTube video More Sushi in Hiva’Oa for more stories from the island- meeting a guitar maker, the arrival of Aranui, looking for an ancient petroglyph in the forest and sharing some MORE SUSHI with friends!

Find us on Facebook @The Life Nomadik
Support us on Patreon @The Life Nomadik
Watch us on YouTube @Fata Morgana


Since you’re here …

.

… we have a small favor to ask. More people than ever are regularly reading our stories, but far fewer are supporting us. We have no regular income. And unlike others, we haven’t made our content private – we want to keep posting free stories for everyone. So we think it’s fair to ask people who visit our blog often for their support. Our efforts to research, write and post pictures take a lot of time and hard work. And it’s even harder to do it from a boat with limited internet and electricity. But we do it because we believe our journey and way of life matters – because it might inspire you!

If you regularly read and value our hard work, consider becoming one of our patrons for as little as $1 or $5 dollars a month and help us in our future travels. Thank you!


 

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Back to Nature in Fatu Hiva

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We sailed 3000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean.
Our average speed- about 5-6 kts- the speed you have when you go jogging casually in the morning. We honestly thought that upon our arrival in the first of the Polynesian islands, we will have “crossed the ocean”. Not really.

After 23 days of uneventful sailing, a few squalls, too much sushi, and the most spectacular sunsets, we arrive in the middle of the ocean- a tiny speck of land that you can’t even see on the map without a magnifying glass. Fatu Hiva- the first land on the path of sailors doing the Pacific Crossing from Galapagos- a place beyond reality.

Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva

Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva

We arrive at night and drop anchor between few other sleeping boats in the Bay of Virgins. The moon is full and bright and we can make out silhouettes of tall cliffs all around us. The smell of flowers and green earth. For the first time in almost a month we sleep at anchor, the boat still, land right next to us.

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In the morning we wake up in the shadow of a strange Jurassic world. Maya says it looks like the Khajiit Realm from her favorite game- Skyrim. The Khajiits are cat people who live in a place called Elsewhere and their king has three sons who are the three moons of this magical world. Fatu Hiva is much like Elsewhere of the Khajiits.

Jagged cliffs of frozen magma plunging into the sea; jungle-covered mountains bathed in pink morning mist rising over a thousand meters; soft folds of green valleys carved by rivers and ancient waterfalls.

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We won’t be surprised if a bunch of dinosaurs pop up from the forest. Actually, a velociraptor just swooped over the palm trees and we saw King Kong climbing up the cliffs on the west side of the bay!

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Right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 12 degrees south of the equator, Fatu Hiva is the southernmost island of the Marquesas island group at the north-eastern extremity of French Polynesia, and the most isolated one. It is only 85 square kilometers in territory with two small villages of a few hundred people and there is no airport. The island is accessible only by boat and tourism is virtually non-existent and limited mainly to cruisers, like us.

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We jump in our three-person awesome kayak and paddle to shore. Land feels strangely new and shaky. It’s hard to keep the balance. Our knees are startled. Our joints awake with disbelief. Our legs are utterly surprised at the forgotten act of walking.

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The dry warm air full of exotic smells is overwhelming.

The village near the bay is but a cluster of a few neat houses almost hidden behind drifts of bougainvillea and hibiscus. Lush gardens with papaya, banana and palm trees, large flowers the color of fire. Pigs, goats and chickens looking at the ground in search of goodies, a sleepy dog walking aimlessly under the bright tropical sun.

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The first Polynesian we meet is a woman sitting on a low concrete fence near the road. She looks like a mixture of Latin-American and Asian race, yet distinctly particular for the Marquisan islands. Dark long very thick hair, a large red flower behind the left ear, she smiles “Bonjour, bienvenues a Polynesie Francaise!” and asks us if we have some perfumes or makeup to exchange for fruits from her garden. Her French has a distinctive islanders’ accent. On these remote Pacific islands with small populations and no shops, where all goods arrive by boat a few times a year, people need all sorts of things, so easily obtained in continental countries. Anything basic- from makeup, clothes, household objects, food and spices- is difficult and expensive to get, and cruisers are always welcome to trade whatever they can spare in exchange for local fruits, vegetables and fish. But we didn’t bring anything to trade.

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We keep walking up a steep road looking for a small waterfall in the forest. Right before we left the boat, a fellow cruiser told us how to find the waterfall. You take the main road and walk up until you reach a curve. Keep walking on the path to your left, past the school and the bridge, through the forest. The path will get narrow and steep and difficult at places. You can’t get lost.

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We got lost. We keep walking on the road up the mountain under the burning sun and it feels the wrong way. There is absolutely no one to ask if we are on the right way to the waterfall. Maya is tired, complaining that her legs hurt. My legs hurt too, and the pain is intense- it has been 23 days of sitting on our butts most of the time and zero walking.

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We reach the top of the hill overlooking the village and the Bay of Virgins. Fata Morgana and her friends look like toy-boats in a calm blue lake below us. The view is spectacular. White birds with long tails like bridal veils soaring among majestic cathedral-like volcanic pinnacles gathering clouds in their crowns, dramatically shaped red and grey cliffs, lush green forests and valleys, and beyond- the endless blue of the ocean.

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Here, in 1937, Norwegian explorer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his wife found paradise. Here, they lead for one year and a half “a primitive life in the wilderness, away from the artificial civilization, independent of everything except nature”, as he wrote in his book “Fatu-Hiva: Back to Nature”- an experience for which I envy them.

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To our left, far in the distance on the opposite side of the mountain we spot the waterfall. We have been walking away from it for the past one hour and a half but the view from this hill is worth the detour. And now we have a better idea where it is. We go back down and meet an old guy walking next to an old horse carrying heavy bags full of dried coconuts. He tells us how to find the way.

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An hour later and one more time getting lost this time in some farmlands, we are finally on the right path.

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It has been a wild dream to see this place, to walk among a jungle full of flowers, to reach the waterfall. And now we are here. Bathing in the cool sweet waters of the deep green pool of our dreams.

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There are not so many places left in the world- awe-inspiring places of extreme natural beauty, unspoiled by civilization and mass tourism like the remote island Fatu Hiva and its elusive waterfall.

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*Watch our 10-minute YouTube video Fatu Hiva- Back To Nature for amazing views of the island and the waterfall!

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Watch us on YouTube @Fata Morgana

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Pacific Ocean Passage Days 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 5, 6, 7 & 8
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 9, 10, 11 & 12
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17

Day 18

May 15, 2016 – S 09 21’ 50’’ W 127 05’ 28’’ Dist to Dest 690 NM, GPS heading 265, wind E8-10 kts, cloudy, air temp 28 C

Very calm sea. Slow progress with 3-4 kts. No fish.

I cook potatoes with corned beef for lunch. We wish we had some fresh fruits and vegetables. Some fresh meet. Almost nothing left to eat, except canned and dried foods. Most of the 100 eggs we got in Galapagos have gone bad, even though I kept them in the fridge. I think, half were already bad when we bought them. Who knows how long they have been traveling before reaching the small stuffed shop on Isabela Island. The fresh stuff finished after about 10 days of sailing, except the potatoes. We love potatoes. But they are starting to go bad too- soft, wrinkly, with dark spots and some stink like hell- these go in the ocean.

Cabbage, carrots and onions keep the longest, as well as apples and oranges. In the fridge, they can easily last for over a month, but outside the fridge, when the air temperature is 30 C day and night- couple of weeks is the max. Too bad there is not enough space for all fresh provisions in the fridge. Our boat fridge is not the same as your fridge at home. Our boat fridge is a box half the size of normal fridges and you have to open it horizontally. If you need to take out something from the fridge (like a block of cheese), you have to remove all the stuff that’s on top (like cartons with eggs, bottles, salads, tomatoes, open jars with olives or strawberry jam) to reach the thing that you need on the bottom. Because the thing that you need is always at the bottom of the fridge.

Good thing we have tons of flour- I make pretty good bread.

No fish.

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Day 19

May 16, 2016 – S 09 27’45’’ W 129 03’42’’ Dist to Dest 573 NM, GPS heading 265, wind E8-10 kts, a few clouds, air temp 28 C

Another beautiful night with bright moon. Calm sailing. It’s getting too hot.

Ivo pulled out a nice tuna! Sushi is once again on the menu today! And tomorrow…

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It feels kind of lonely in the middle of the ocean, yet, we are never alone. We’ve been seeing birds- day and sometimes even at night- almost every day of this passage. We thought there will be no birds in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but there are. Not many- just one or two at a time. And they don’t seem lost or tired. They fly low, looking for fish, or float on the water and rest; they even come to check us out with curiosity before flying away to wherever they are going.

Even when there are no birds in sight, we know the sea beneath us is alive with creatures. Dolphins come up for air every now and then and play around the boat, even whales occasionally. Entire schools of flying fish suddenly emerge with panic from the sea surface all around the boat. They fly in long curves sometimes up to a meter high like huge dragonflies making helicopter sounds and splash with tiny belly flaps as they enter the sea again. We find dead flying fish and squid all dried up on the deck almost every morning. And then there are all the fish and other sea creature which we never see but we know they are there, right under the boat- fishes of all kinds and sizes, and sharks too. Deep underneath us.

Hostile environment in which humans are unable to survive, the sea is vastly unexplored. It’s unnatural for people to be in the sea- we need air and land. Yet, here we are.

Day after day- in the sea.

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Day 20

May 17, 2016 – S 09 45’09’’ W 130n52’47’’ Dist to Dest 464 NM, GPS heading 260, wind E6-8 kts, clear, air temp 28 C

Slowest progress since the beginning. It has been 19 days. Alone in the ocean. With only birds and sea creatures around us.

We’ve been moving the watch adding an hour every few days a few times already.

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It somehow doesn’t feel like we’ve been moving at all, or going somewhere. Not because of the slow speed. It’s as if we are staying in one spot- at the center of a big blue never-changing circle defined by the horizon. Never getting closer to or further from anywhere.

The blue circle around us doesn’t move; remains the same day after day. Sometimes it feels as if the Galapagos Islands are just behind the eastern horizon, and it was yesterday we last saw them. Or that the Marquesas Islands are just behind the western horizon and we will spot them any minute now. And sometimes it feels like there are no islands at all and we are sailing forever on a planet made entirely by oceans. We have lost the sense of time and distance.

Imagine… Some things are hard to imagine- watching out of a window of a slow-moving train crossing an endless desert.

If it’s not the GPS to determine our position on the chart, we would be completely confused about time and space.

The art of determining your exact position by looking at the stars have been almost entirely lost our days. And many other arts… The connection Man-Nature has been replaced by Man-Technology, and sailing has become so much easier, but also- we have become so much more dependable on gadgets that can break any minute.

Maya finally finished her math book and all 23 tests at the end- a huge accomplishment! It’s been two years of torture with this thick boring math book we got in Trinidad and Tobago and now it’s finished. No math for Maya for the next few weeks.

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Day 21

May 18, 2016 – S 10 02’37’’ W 133 05’40’’ Dist to Dest 332 NM, GPS heading 265, wind ENE 12-14 kts, clear, air temp 29 C

Good progress with 5-6 kts and smooth sailing. Spinnaker day and night.

We are washing the boat, cleaning, doing laundry (by hand in the big orange buckets). Our freshwater tanks hold 800L and the Catalina MK II Spectra Watermaker desalinates 42L drinkable water per hour. We keep the water tanks half full in order to reduce the weight on the front, but we still have enough water for cleaning, washing and showers. The solar panels produce enough electricity for the watermarker and all other electronics aboard, so we haven’t used the engines at all, not for a single second.

Last time we used the engines was in Galapagos, during the tsunami alert. There was a major earthquake in Ecuador- about 500NM away and we had a tsunami warning just after sunset one evening, so we had to evacuate the anchorage in a hurry with all the rest of the boats- about 20-30 vessels of all sorts- and wait for a few hours in deeper waters away from land. The tsunami never reached us, or was so insignificant, that we didn’t feel it, so we all motored back to the anchorage, and went to bed. That’s the last time we used the engines.

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Day 22

May 19, 2016 – S 10 21’07’’ W 135 11’38’’ Dist to Dest 207 NM, GPS heading 270, wind ENE 14-16 kts, cloudy, air temp 29 C

We are getting really close to the Marquesas, it’s exciting.

Six squalls one after another. We call it “the squall tournament”. They are not too strong and now we have the beer crates ready, so we are not worried.

After the “big squall”, we attached long ropes to the two yellow plastic beer crates we got in Galapagos- big and sturdy , for 1-litre bottles- and we used them as drogues deployed from the stern in strong wind and waves to prevent surfing and stabilize the boat. We prepared them after the big squall a few days ago and we tried them already in one squall. They perform amazingly. I wish we had them ready earlier.

It’s extremely hot. Suffocating. The thermometer reached 31 C. it’s not much cooler at night. We are cooling ourselves pouring buckets of seawater on our heads.

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Day 23

May 20, 2016 – S 10 26’52’’ W 137 56’08’’ Dist to Dest 44 NM, GPS heading 275, wind E6-8 kts, cloudy, air temp 30 C

At noon, there are only 44 nautical miles left to the first island of the Marquesas.

A strange thing is happening with the three of us. We are kind of nostalgic, rather than excited. Instead of happy and ecstatic, we feel profoundly sad and reluctant at the thought of land and civilization. Maya even cried a tiny little bit. We wish we could just keep sailing. Maybe there is some scientific explanation for this unusual psychological state of mind.

Ivo pulled out another tuna. Two others got away.

The wind is dying out. We are slowing down. We can see a mysterious, almost transparent silhouette of an island slowly emerging from the western horizon. Our perfect blue circle has suddenly changed to become a diamond ring. We are staring at Fatu Hiva shining not too far away.

Sunset. We will arrive at night.

In a place beyond reality.

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Watch our newest YouTube video: Pacific Ocean Passage

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Pacific ocean Passage. Days 13, 14, 15, 16 &17

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 5, 6, 7 & 8
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 9, 10, 11 & 12

Day 13

May 10, 2016 – S 07 55’40’’ W 115 40’34’’ Dist to Dest 1373 NM, GPS heading 245, wind ESE 16-22kts, clear, air temp 26 C

We are in the middle! Maya released the bottle with the messages (in four languages) shaped as a scroll wrapped in a fake 100-dollar bill to attract attention, in case someone finds the bottle and decides not to open it.

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The wind and waves have picked up a lot. We are sailing with 7-8 kts. It’s bumpy now with 4-meter waves and it’s getting uncomfortable.

When it’s bumpy and you try to sleep, bouncing up and down in your bed, you wake up and your whole body hurts and it feels bruised, as if you have been in a fight, and lost. I can’t sleep well in bad weather; I wake up with panic at every sound and I tend to dream a lot if I fall asleep at all. There is so much happening and so many people visiting me in my dreams; I wake up exhausted.

When it’s bumpy and you try to cook, you have to be really careful not to spill things or cut yourself, as the whole galley becomes alive and everything is in motion- the dishes, the food, the stove. Making soup or anything liquidy is impossible and ridiculous. Even poring water in a glass is a challenge. Once, an entire bottle of oil fell down and the floor became deadly for a long time.

When it’s bumpy and you try to go to the toiled, you have to be really careful and skillful too, or you might hurt yourself. I have developed a strategy. First, I stand outside the tiny toilet with my back propped on the wall opposite the open door. Now, with both my hands, which until this moment I have used for holding on while walking towards the toilet (you can’t stand up or move around freely on a shaky boat without holding on to something), I pull down my pants without falling. With my pants down, I use my hands for holding on again, and I make the step inside the toilet. I flush while I am still sitting (we have two electrical toilets and flushing is easy enough with a push of a button), and I step outside to pull my pants up with my back to the wall again.

Ivo decided to restart the Iridium Go Satellite and now it works just fine! We can finally not only receive but also send messages!

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Day 14

May 11, 2016 – S 09 01’54’’ W 118 18’32’’ Dist to Dest 1210 NM, GPS heading 230, wind E 20-30kts, cloudy, air temp 27, barometer dropping

The wind picked up even more and worse is predicted for tomorrow. The waves have built up and are coming from all directions. The main is reefed and we are moving with only 6 kts.
Squalls. Gusts to 32 kts. I am scared. In such moments I think I should stop sailing.

The sky is dark, covered in thick low clouds and there is a strange glow in the distance- some orange-pink light. Looks like fire on the water. Could be some opening through the clouds and the sun playing tricks on the sea, but I don’t know…

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Day 15

May 12, 2016 – S 10 11’57’’ W 120 36’54’’ Dist to Dest 1068 NM, GPS heading 275, wind E 20-26kts, cloudy, air temp 26

We are tired. Didn’t sleep much last night and the night before. The sea keeps building up; we are kind of used to the constant movement now.

At 05:00, still dark, a squall hits us with 40 kt winds and rain. We ride it with the main and jib reefed. The waves are huge- they are the scary part. The autopilot fails and Ivo is hand steering through the shit. A few times he thinks the boat will turn over and cannot hold her. Surfing with 12 kts.

The boat is too heavy on the front. It’s filled with books. Hundreds of books, which I couldn’t throw away (because I love them too much- pathetic) and we are carrying them around the world like idiots for four years now. And now we are in big trouble. When the boat is heavy on the front and the waves and wind are pushing from the back, the bow could dive under the water and we could turtle. We need something to stop us from surfing and going so fast, like a drogue or sea anchor, but we don’t have anything.

We decide to drop the main and leave just a bit of the jib out. But this means turning against the wind and waves quickly. Big waves, as big as the boat. We do that successfully.

I send messages to Mel and Krisha with our position, in case of search and rescue. 40 knots wind for one hour is not a huge deal, but for me is supper scary and seams like a deadly storm. For a more experienced sailor 40 kts is “a fresh breeze”.

One hour later, the storm has passed. Sunrise. We are OK. Ivo is fixing the autopilot.

Squalls all the rest of the day, but nothing over 25-30kts. We prepare two big plastic yellow beer crates we got in Galapagos (now empty) attached to long ropes and we use them as drogues in the next squall. They work perfectly, stabilizing the boat and prevent surfing. Now it feels much safer.

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Day 16

May 13, 2016 – S 09 22’58’’ W 122 35’33’’ Dist to Dest 955 NM, GPS heading 305, wind E 16-20kts, clear, air temp 26 C

A fishing boat 11 NM north! Yahatamaru. GPS heading 182. We are not alone for a few minutes!

Finally smooth sea and gentle slow sail. Spinnaker is up again. (It took a while to lift it, but we are getting the hang of it.)

Ivo and Maya are fixing the old jib (16-years old, original sail), which got another 40 cm gash during the big squall. This is the eightieth time we are fixing the jib since we got the boat so the sail looks like an abstract quilt now- patches all over it. Definitely need a new jib.

Another day in the Pacific.

We need fish again.

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Day 17

May 14, 2016 – S 09 23’22’’ W 124 36’13’’ Dist to Dest 836 NM, GPS heading 265, wind E8-10 kts, cloudy, air temp 27 C

Ivo slept all night, exhausted after the storm and squalls and bad weather in the past few days.

I stay behind the wheel trying to remain awake for 6 hours. I don’t mind staying awake; I just don’t want any more storms and squalls. We are moving slowly, the wind is calm and that’s OK.

The night is spectacular. Tiny organisms explode with green light around the boat and in the foam behind it, flickering magically among the reflections of billion stars. We are in space, suspended in the center of a black glass sphere filling with bioluminescence, when you shake it gently.

The moon in this liquid universe is bright and friendly. When the moon is round and big like that it feels like there is someone watching over you and you are not alone. The moon is also the saddest most tragic of faces I’ve known. I have always talked to the moon, since I was a kid and my dad was away on a big cargo ship for a long time, somewhere on the other side of the Black Sea. I used to send messages to the moon and she would relate them to him. That’s how we used to communicate, me and my dad. With the help of the moon. That’s how we still communicate, me and my dad, now that he is no longer with us…

“Tell him, that I miss him…”

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DAY 18
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage Days 9, 10, 11&12

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 5,6,7 & 8

Day 9

May 6, 2016 –S06 26’28’’ W 105 43’06’’ Dist to Dest 1974 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 12-14kts, few clouds, air temp 27 C

One third of the way!

We are now time-traveling, going back in the past.

2012 nautical miles to destination- the year we left Canada and started this journey around the world.
2003 NM to destination- the year Maya was born. It was a rainy afternoon and she came out all purple and hairy- the most beautiful thing!
2001 NM to destination – terrorist attacks in USA.
2000 NM to destination – the year we left Bulgaria.
1997 NM to destination – the year Vik was born. Our son. We miss him so much…
1994 NM to destination – the year Ivo and I met.
1989 NM to destination – the year Bulgaria stopped being communist.
1976 NM to destination – the year Ivo and I were born.
1944 NM to destination – Second World War

We will keep counting nautical miles through, the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, the middle ages, the foundation of Bulgaria, all the way back to the beginning of time- our destination.

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Ivo is trying to hoist the spinnaker. We got it second hand from a loft of a marine shop in Martinique two years ago for 150 Euro. We tried to bargain down the price- it’s a second hand undersized spinnaker. A new spinnaker can cost a few thousand dollars and the guy at the loft knows that. He is laughing at our bargaining attempts. We won’t ever find a better price for a spinnaker. So we bought it.

It’s the second time Ivo is trying to hoist the spinnaker, which is very particular and can only be used in specific weather conditions: when the wind is behind you and is not too strong. In such conditions, it’s hard, sometimes even impossible to use the jib and mainsail. So that’s when you need the spinnaker. The spinnaker is made of very fine light material, it’s big and colorful (ours is yellow and blue and has one 15×20 cm patch), and looks like a parachute – catching a lot of wind. If the wind shifts from the side, the spinnaker will collapse, as it can only be filled from behind. If the wind is too strong- the spinnaker will explode, or burst and tear, as it is made of very thin fabric and cannot take a hard blow. But in light winds from behind, which are the prevailing trades in the Pacific when sailing west, the spinnaker is the ideal sail, especially for a catamaran.

Ivo has to figure out how to hoist it. The thing is in a sleeve and has to be pulled all the way up to the top of the mast, and two ropes are spreading it on the sides. It’s a three-people job. One pulling up, the other two cranking the side winches. But the whole operation is a big epic fail. The ropes are all messed up, the thing is twisting at the top inside the sleeve and will not open, Ivo is bitching, trying to blame Maya and me for everything. No one ever showed him how to hoist a spinnaker, so he has to figure it out by himself and this will take some time. So no spinnaker. Gloom.

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Day 10

May 7, 2016 –S 06 49’12’’ W108 00’ 40’’ Dist to Dest 1835 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 27 C

The wind is picking up a bit. We tried the spinnaker again. It took us half an hour to finally hoist it with lots of drama again. We are screaming at each other, accusing each other, offending each other not even caring if the neighbors will hear us. I truly hate this fucking sail. I am planning to secretly cut it in shreds with the scissors.

We lost another lure. No sushi on the menu for the first time since days. We celebrate this event with baked potatoes and sausages with Galapagos beers. Chocolate muffins and orange sunset for dessert.

Ivo and I are sitting on the trampoline staring at the western horizon and laughing at how much we hated each other a few minutes ago. Maya thinks we are crazy.

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Day 11

May 8, 2016 –S 07 06’ 56’’ W110 24’ 37’’, Dist to Dest 1691 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 27 C

Smooth sailing and another calm night. I slept all night in our cabin, while Ivo slept all night in the cockpit, checking the electronics and sails every now and then. He has moved out in the cockpit since the start of this passage and has furnished the long bench with pillows and blankets – made a cozy bunk for himself.

To imagine sailing at night- imagine driving a car (a convertible; slowly and on cruise control) in a vast, uneven, bumpy field, in complete silence and in complete darkness, with no headlights or any other lights. And the field is soft, reflecting the stars, smelling of seaweed.

In the afternoon we pull out a beautiful mahi-mahi or dorado or dolphin- all names used for the same golden-green-and-blue slender fish of white juicy flesh- our favorite. Maya, who didn’t like fish at all, is now eating grilled tuna and breaded dorado and loving it!

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Day 12

May 9, 2016 – S 07 27’ 37’’ W 113 00’ 20’’ Dist to Dest 1535 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 26 C

Approaching the middle.

Maya is preparing a message in a bottle in the four languages she knows: English, French, Spanish and Bulgarian. The message is to be released in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and to be found on the shores of any English, French, Spanish or Bulgarian-speaking country. The release is scheduled for when we reach 1500 NM to destination, which is not at all the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but rather- the middle of the passage between Galapagos and Marquesas. Actually, when we reach the Marquesas we will be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a few more thousand nautical miles to go before we actually cross it. But for us, 1500 NM to destination represents The Middle right now and the message in a bottle will then be released, as it is the custom. Considering that oceanic currents pick up trash and debris from the east coast of Asia and west coast of the Americas to bring them in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean where they swirl eternally in a big garbage gyre, there is less chance our message in a bottle to ever reach any shore and more chance our message in a bottle to get stuck in a big garbage patch. There, in the huge vortex of trash- as big as a continent- swirling and swirling among fishing nets, Coca-Cola bottles, left flip-flops, milk crates, kids’ toys, and old fridges are probably millions upon millions of messages in bottles- a whole library of friendly notes and desperate calls for help- stuck forever, swirling and swirling, round and round, bumping into each other, never to be found, never to be read. I will name this gyre of millions of messages in bottles: The Pacific Ocean Message-in-a-Bottle Vortex.

We watch Werner Herzog’s Encounter’s at The End of The World. It’s an awesome surreal documentary about Antarctica- very intimate interviews with people who are stationed on the frozen continent for months to do all sorts of works- scientific and maintenance. Herzog is our favorite film director and we’ve seen most of his films- documentaries and fiction. He even has a film named Fata Morgana. We are also reading a great National Geographic-type of book about Antarctica, and now Maya is dreaming of going there some day. Maybe not with Fata Morgana. But Antarctica is definitely on Maya’s Bucket List.

It’s fascinating what kind of dreams people have, especially people who are living their dreams, like people sailing around the world for example. You would think that such people- those who have visited tropical islands, have tasted exotic coconut crabs, have met indigenous people and entered caves with them, who have observed anteaters in the jungles of Costa Rica- are all set and there is nothing more they would want from this life. But this is not the case. Such people- those who have traveled across Africa by train, those who have crossed Mexico by bicycles, those who have awoken in a rice field in India surrounded by hundreds of people squatting silently around their tent- have plans and dreams just like regular folks.

Our friend Rainheart for example, who has toured Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia on a motorbike (kids in Sofia stole his motorbike, so he has rather bad memories from Bulgaria) and is currently sailing around the world on a 40-foot catamaran S/V Runaway (that’s how we met him in Galapagos) is dreaming of –planning to – visit the moon. ASAP. This might sound insane to you but so are most of the things and places Rainharth has already done and visited! Just wait and watch! Watch towards the moon, and one of these days you might see a big smile shining down on you.
Dreams must be flamboyant.

We had to drink wine in order to have a bottle for the message.

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DAY 13
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage- Days 5, 6, 7 & 8

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4

DAY 5

May 2, 2016 –S 04 29’24” W095 55’23’’ – Dist to Dest 2572NM, GPS heading 245, wind ESE 10-16 kts, clouds, air temp 26C

The wind is picking up and we are making better progress with 6kts speed, the jib and mainsail on a broad reach. We headed more south the first couple of days and now we are sailing west. The seawater temperature is rising. The nights no longer cool and humid.

We had a few hours of stronger winds- over 20 kts doing 7-8 kts speed with bumpy sea. During that faster sail we hooked a heavy fish. Panic on board. Ivo holding the fishing pole and fighting with the beast; Maya and I handling sails and boat. We furl the jib and drop the main, as the fish is about to take all the line soon, so we have to really stop the boat, even follow the fish if we can. All that work and stress for nothing. Fish got away together with the lure. It was a good lure. Probably it was a good fish too. Wind dropped to 14kts.

We are receiving messages via the IridiumGo Satellite- a few friends are sending us the weather forecast: Krisha a Bulgarian friend living on a boat in Australia, Mel a friend we met in the Caribbean who is now also in Australia and another friend- Boyko, who we’ve only met via Facebook. The weather forecast looks good. Mel is somehow tracking us using the MarineTraffic website and knows exactly where we are, even though we cannot reply to any of his messages and cannot send exact position or let anyone know how we are doing. Bummer.

The booby is gone. He slept on the solar panels, made a big mess pooping all over the place and left in the morning. We are sad that he left us so soon.

On the AIS we detect a ship heading northwest, about 8 NM away from us- too far to actually see it. It’s a big containership Hanjin Isabel. The AIS gives us information about the ship’s name, position, dimensions, GPS heading and destination, speed and time to nearest approach. We also have an alarm that sounds if the AIS detects any vessel within 2-mile radius- very useful at night. We contact them on the VHF radio and ask them if they can send an e-mail to our friends Mel and Krisha. The officer on the radio has a funny accent and is really polite. He says, most of the ship’s crew are from the Philippines, that they are heading to Singapore and will be back home in a couple of months. And no problem, he will send our message. I spell our friend’s e-mails and a couple of lines: “We are receiving your sat messages, but cannot reply. Keep sending weather up-dates.”

In the afternoon, our booby is back on board! We are happy.

The night is calm.

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DAY 6

May 3, 2016 – S05 11’10’’ W098 13’35’’ Dist to Dest 2428NM, GPS heading 255, wind ESE 14-18, few clouds, air temp 26 C

Last night we celebrated one sixed of the way. We have divided the distance in small portions. First, we have rounded the total to 3000 nautical miles and then divided it in 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 equal parts. 2500NM left is a sixed of the way. 2400NM is a fifth of the way. 2250NM is a quarter of the way. 2000NM is a third of the way and 1500 is half. Counting nautical miles while crossing the Pacific Ocean is like counting the days in jail, I suppose.

It’s a nice calm perfect sailing all day, 1 meter waves, smooth, 5-6 kts speed. Sunny. Good progress finally! Also – fish finally! A small tuna. Sushi for lunch.

We got messages from Mel and Krisha. They got our news from MV Hanjin Isabel. Weather forecast looks fine.

Maya is reading a book in Bulgarian. She did an excellent job in geometry today too.

I have discovered about 30 packets of Betty Crocker cake mix deep in our stores- four different flavors: chocolate, vanilla, lemon and strawberry. We must have them since two years at least. They are all expired and smell of mildew- some more than others. But we are determined to eat as many as possible. Now I make muffins sometimes twice a day. The chocolate and vanilla ones are pretty good, only slightly smelling of mildew. The lemon ones are worse but I mix in large pieces of chocolate for better results. Maya eats them holding her nose. The trick is not to smell them. Taste is OK. The strawberry ones are beyond the beyonds, completely uneatable. I guess the strawberry mix has more moisture in it and has created better conditions for mold. Good thing we only have 3 of these. So we disperse the pink powder stinking of mildewed strawberries in the sea. The inner plastic packets from the cake mix we keep with the rest of the garbage in a big black garbage bag which we store next to the water tanks, and the outer packets made of recycled cardboard we tear in 2-inch pieces and throw overboard. There is not enough space on board to accumulate all the garbage we produce for a month. Any paper, glass or metal packaging and containers can go overboard and will eventually biodegrade on the bottom of the ocean, except plastic. So anything organic, paper, glass bottles and tins we send to the bottom of the sea legally and with clear conscience, doing our best not to pollute. But sadly, the ocean is already full with plastic due to improper waste disposal and waste management. Even though our path is not crossing the pacific garbage patch or trash vortex, we often see fishing buoys, plastic bottles and jerry cans floating on the current. Trash and manufacturing products, including plastics are being dumped illegally in great quantities on land at marinas, ports, rivers, harbors, docks, and storm drains, or generated at sea from fishing boats, platforms and cargo ships. The trash floats on the sea surface to create high concentrations of marine debris accumulating in regions governed by ocean currents. Today there are five distinctive oceanic gyres- the largest one being the North Pacific Gyre.

Another calm and uneventful night. We move the watch one hour.

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DAY 7

May 4 2016, S 05 36’ 45’’ W 100 37’ 56’’, Dist to Dest 2282NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20, sunny, air temp 27 C

It’s getting much hotter.

I am having lots of dreams at night.

In the morning, we found a few small squids and flying fishes on the trampoline, all dried up.

Ivo managed to hook and pull out a big tuna. No screaming this time. I made lots of sushi. Our booby bird is eating all the fish guts and skin directly from Maya’s hands. He is still with us, feeling confident, walking around the boat, leaving to fish and coming back after a few hours, and if we let him he will enter inside the boat. He is now acting rather cheeky.

The wind is getting stronger 20-24 kts, we are doing 7-8 kts with big waves. I wish the wind and waves drop down again.

Quarter of the way.

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DAY 8

May 5, 2016 –S 06 04’ 59’’ W 103 14’ 42’’, Dist to Dest 2123, GPS heading 260, wind SE 16-20, air temp 25 C

Choppy bumpy seas all night and morning.

Calm day with less wind.

I make bread in the morning and muffins in the afternoon. The boat smells like bakery, leaving a sweet, slightly mildew trail behind, and surely those following us will be wondering where this vanilla-chocolate smell is coming from in the middle of the ocean. We know there are other boats sailing west, so there must be someone not too far. The radar and AIS can detect boats up to 20-30 NM away, but there may be someone 40 or 60NM behind us. At this time of the year, from May to August, lots of sailboats are doing the passage west. Probably at least 20 boats are crossing the Pacific at the same time as us. But this ocean is so vast, the distances are so great and sailboats are so small and so slow, that even those who leave together get separated by the difference in speed after 1-2 days. Many cruisers keep in touch via SSB radio and now we have the affordable IridiumGo Satellite option to chat between boats. We don’t have an SSB radio and our IridiumGo is not sending messages, so our communication with land and other boats is restricted to receiving messages only. Ivo cannot figure out the problem. We feel pretty isolated and alone.

Our booby-bird is gone. We imagined he will sail with us the whole way. But he didn’t. Hope he will be OK and find another boat, as he is now too far away from land. We miss him.

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DAY 9
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage -Days 2, 3&4

Pacific Ocean Passage

Day 1

Cerro Azul

Cerro Azul

DAY 2

April 29, 2016 – S01 28’49’’ W091 25’ 40’’ Dist to Dest 2887NM, wind 6-8kts, clear sky, air temp 25C.

In the morning we can still see Cerro Azul behind us. The wind is too light and we are barely moving. All night we have been drifting with 1-2 knots. Sails are flapping. We furl the jib and leave only the mainsail up. Our progress is about 50 NM for 24 hours.

The sea is calm. A few booby birds are flying low looking for fish and one gentle storm petrel- the soul of a drowned sailor doomed to spend eternity flying over the sea – is fluttering on the water surface around the boat. These tiniest of seabirds have the elegance of flamenco dancers on water and I can spend hours watching them, their skinny legs barely touching the surface, skimming the sea for tiny planktons. It’s nice to see a living creature near us.

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DAY 3

April 30, 2016 – S02 44’ 06’’ W092 29’ 06’’ Dist to Dest 2811 NM, wind 1-2 kts, few clouds, air temp 27C.

Our speed is 1-2 kts, sails are flapping. We barely move. We had better progress last night with 4-5 kts and a bit more wind behind us. We are tired from flapping sails.

We have received a message on the satellite from our friend Scot on S/V Beach House. He is only 2 degrees south of us some 150 NM ahead and is sailing with 8 kts! We can’t answer back. Something is wrong with our IridiumGo and we cannot send any messages but at least we can receive messages and can download the weather forecast. No idea what is going on. This is strange. Ivo is trying to find out what the problem is and how to fix it.

I spotted a giant mantaray following the boat. At first I thought it was a shark- a big triangle fin sticking out of the water- but then I saw the whole creature- big and square as a table!

We are getting used to our new routine, which by the way is not much different from our routine when at anchor. Preparing breakfast, then school with Maya- she is doing one math test every day from the end of her math book- 23 more tests to go. We play cards, make food, sleep, talk, watch films in the evening with dinner. At night Ivo and I give 2-3 hour shifts, but mostly we sleep and check the electronics and chart plotter every now and then to see if something has changed or if there is another boat nearby. There are o other boats. We are alone.

Pacific Ocean Sunset

Pacific Ocean Sunset

DAY 4

May 1, 2016 –S03 29’08’’ W093 33’41’’ Dist to Dest 2738NM, ind 8-12 kts, few clouds, air temp 25C.

A booby bird landed on board! We are extremely happy to have a visitor. He is as big as a chicken but more slender and aerodynamic, grey, with duck feet and ugly face, mostly because of his bill- thick at the base, wide and long, getting thinner and pointy at the end like a grey carrot. A curious funny expression.

There are many species of boobies. There are blue-footed boobies, which have baby-blue feet as if they have stepped in a bucket of baby-blue paint, with snow-white bellies, brown wings and yellow eyes. There are red-footed boobies with bright red feet as if they have stepped in a bucket of bright red paint- with darker bodies (the brown version) or white bodies (the white version), their red feet contrasting marvelously with their blue bills and colorful faces- strikingly beautiful birds. Our friend Scot from S/V Beach House wrote that he has a red-footed booby resting on his deck since couple of days. Ours is neither blue-footed nor red-footed, but rather a colorless-footed, somber, uglier version of a more boring brown booby or some other uninteresting discolored kind of the same species. We like him all the same, even more, for being so ugly and in need of company and a place to rest. When a seabird finds you in the middle of the ocean and lands on your boat it’s a privilege. It kind of feels safer with a bird on board- because the bird thinks it’s safe and trusts the boat. It also feels like you are helping a fellow traveler – someone who needs a place to rest- an oasis in a vast blue desert of nothing but sea.

Our Booby-bird

Our Booby-bird

A whale passed directly under the boat. Another one took a slow breath in the distance. Wow! Seeing whales so close to the boat is a miracle and we are blessed to witness it. It’s also a bit scary- the story of Moby Dick always at the back of your mind.

Then we saw them. A small red one-person helicopter buzzing like an insect low above the sea- a spotter, and four speed boats racing under it. Further- a floating city- a big fishing boat with tall cranes reaching high up in the air- cranes capable of lifting heavy catch. They have no AIS. They don’t answer our VHF radio calls. We realize they are after the whales, hunting them in international waters, most probably illegally, unless there are tunas at the same time at the same place. The whales that we have just seen are probably fugitives from a horrible, illegal hunt. This is so sad. Our excitement and joy are drowned in painful mournful sadness. Damn you, whale-eating monsters!

Whale

Whale

DAY 5
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage – Day 1

Pacific Ocean Passage

Day 1

April 28, 2016. Position S 00 57’53” W 090 57’45” Isabela Island, Galapagos. Wind 5-8, swell 0, sunny, air temp 25C, distance to destination 2923NM.

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We are lifting anchor on sail, without engines. Mainsail up, bring the anchor, drift backwards to open the wind angle, open the jib, sail away. Pretty simple if there is enough space and enough wind. But the spot is tight, we are between many other anchored boats, and there is a shallow sandy patch not too far ahead. And no wind. The main is up and Ivo starts bringing in the anchor chain. Anchor out. No wind. We start drifting and the current is pushing us sideways towards the catamaran to our port S/V Free Spirit. I am freaking out, preparing a fender. The guy from Free Spirit is out looking at us puzzled, asking if our engines are broken as we pass by silently less than a meter away. I don’t know what to answer. The engines work fine, this is just Ivo’s stupid principle not to use them, including when dropping and lifting anchor. For me, these are the scariest moments of our life at sea, besides storms. I wish we are like normal people, motoring in and out of crowded anchorages and bays. I don’t think the risk is worth it. Ivo doesn’t think there is a risk…

Jib out. We are now picking up a bit of speed with very light wind and are heading directly for the shallow sand. S/V Free Spirit is now safely behind us, but I can still hear her skipper shouting in our direction: “It’s shallow there, you will run aground!” I am beyond freaked out, expecting the boat to bump on the bottom and get stuck any second now. We tack, just as I am about to faint, and we sail away from the dangerous shallows, passing too close in front of another boat, and then clear away, heading for the bay’s entrance and out to open sea.

The wind arrow on top of the mast is missing, after a frigate bird landed on it and broke it. Maybe the frigate bird chopped it off and stole it; maybe it flew away caring our wind arrow in its claws to his nest in the mangroves. In any case, Ivo couldn’t find it, even though he spent the whole afternoon the day before diving around the boat looking for it. Damn frigate bird! Hope he uses it as a Japanese sward to perform hara-kiri. This means we will be crossing the ocean without wind angle and direction indicator. We’ll have to rely on the good old ways- tying tale-tales (small light threads) on a few visible places on the shrouds. They will show us where the wind is coming from.

Frigate Bird

Frigate Bird

Thus, stressed, we begin the long journey across the biggest of oceans- the Pacific. We have been planning and preparing for this passage and we have been worrying (especially me) for many months now. We have been stocking up provisions since Puerto Rico- two years ago (some of which have already expired); we have been talking to more experienced sailors about strategies. We have been imagining how it will be. But some thinks you cannot imagine. Being in a tiny boat in the vastest of oceans, alone for over three weeks is one such thing.

A family of Galapagos sea lions are playing around the boat, escorting us. We will miss them so much. Maya said, on land they remind her of hobos- lazy, clumsy, dirty, rude and completely inappropriate. They sleep all day occupying the most comfortable benches in the park, stink terribly of rotten fish, poop in public places, make loud vomiting noises, fight for the best spots on the benches, act mean to each other and to random people, breastfeed their unruly kids on the steps at the pier, and always board- completely uninvited- people’s boats, especially at night. They will steel your fish, if you have any, they will bark at you, poop on your deck, sleep on your cushions, and runaway reluctantly leaving a trail of stink behind if you chase them (which is not easy to do), ready to return as soon as you are not watching. Yet, we never hated them for their trespassings.

In the water, they transform completely to become gentle, graceful, enchanted creatures possessing the agility of world famous aquatic acrobats. We love them.

That morning I realize that the hardest part about leaving Galapagos is not the fact that we won’t see land and civilization for many days- there will be no green trees, no brown earth, no red roofs, no yellow butterflies- only blue and black seas and skies. It’s not the uncertainty of what lies ahead- maybe storm will break our boat, maybe Fata Morgana will hit a sleeping whale or a lost container at night and will sink, along with her three helpless passengers. These are all things I have been worrying about for so long now that I am kind of used to, kind of accepted these ideas. I am ready for this passage, let’s get it over with. What is really making me sad right in this moment, when the sun is rising with purple light as the dark crater of Cerro Azul is shrinking behind us, is the fact that we won’t see the sea lions anymore… If I am crying, it is certainly for the sea lions.

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Day 2…
To be continued…

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Is Galapagos Worth It ?

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What to expect when visiting Galapagos especially if you are sailing there on your private yacht? What are some of the fees, regulations, restrictions and options? What are some of the animals you will see and which are the best places to visit? And ultimately, is it worth it going there at all?

  • Overview
  • The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of some 130 volcanic rocks, islets and islands over 500 nautical miles west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part. 97% of the land area of the Galápagos Islands have been designated a national park since 1959 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only 3% of the total area – Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Floreana and Isabela islands – is inhabited by over 25,000 permanent residents, with Spanish the official language, and these are the only islands cruisers can visit.

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  • Darwin’s Evolution
  • Isolated far from the South American continent, the islands have sprung a population of unique endemic species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. In 1835, during the voyage of the survey ship the Beagle, the young naturalist Charles Darwin collected and studied specimens of wildlife which led to his theory of evolution by natural selection, noting that the finches and the giant land tortoises have developed and adapted differently to the different islands and habitats.

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  • Popular Destination
  • Thanks to their extraordinary fauna and history the Galapagos Islands they have earned a status of a precious and fragile Natural Heritage for Humanity protected by the Park Service. The abundance of wildlife and its unique character has also transformed the area into a popular and very attractive tourist destination with ever-growing number of visitors in recent years, as well as ever-growing permanent population due to the booming economy and influx of tourist dollars.

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  • World’s Most Expensive Sailing Destination
  • This increasing popularity is endangering the local ecosystem and is leading to incessant national and international conservation efforts. Consequently, the Ecuadorian government has imposed a multitude of restrictions and fees to be observed and paid by those visiting and living in Galapagos, making it one of the world’s most expensive and at the same time most restricted places. As a result, the Galapagos Islands have become a privileged somewhat overrated tourist destination, affordable only for the rich, mostly elderly first-world tourists. Backpackers and budget travelers, as well as cruisers with limited means are not so welcome.

    We considered not going to Galapagos because of the high fees and the difficult and long process for obtaining permission, but we were fortunate. Thanks to the help of a few generous individuals who supported us, we managed to raise funds and cover part of the fees.

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  • A Strategic Stopover
  • Galapagos lies directly on the path of sailing boats between Panama and the Marquesas, which for sailors is the longest open-water passage in the world. It is a strategic point- the last land before the ocean- ideal for dropping anchor, getting fuel, provisions and water, and resting for a couple of days after 5-600NM of sailing from Panama or Ecuador (which in the doldrums can take over a week), before the long non-stop passage west. But unfortunately, there is no legal option to land in Galapagos even for a day without being charged amazing entry fees. We have heard from a few different sources, that the Ecuadorian and the Galapagos governments are NOT trying to attract and accommodate cruiser; on the contrary- they “don’t need us” on their territory. Which is a shame considering that the islands are far from mainland and should naturally act as welcoming refuge for boaters. Maybe this has been the case years ago, but today the situation has changes and is getting worse and worse. Most fellow cruisers we spoke to are similarly disappointed from this situation.

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  • Fees, Procedures, Options
  • There are a two option when sailing to Galapagos:
    1. Emergency Stopover – you can visit only one port with your boat for 72 hours up to 21 days for which you don’t need an official permission (Autografo). In this case, you cannot visit Isabela Island (which is the most beautiful one) because it is not an official port of entry. You can only arrive and remain in San Cristobal or Sanata Cruz.
    2. Multiple islands– You can sail to 2-4 different islands (lately is only 3- San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela), but you have to apply for Autografo with an agent 6-8 weeks before arrival.

    The following information is from www.noonsite.com where you can find more details about Galapagos procedures and fees:

    Various fees need to be paid and do vary from port to port and agent to agent. The most expensive port appears to be Santa Cruz. All official expenses have to be paid in “cash” on the islands, paying with a Credit Card is not an option.

    As a summary:-
    For a 1 Island visit – Expect to pay around $600 to $700 for a yacht with 2 persons on board. Each additional person on board will incur an additional $100 National Parks permit fee.[Will be increased to $200 in 2017]
    For a 2-5 island visit – this requires an Autographo which only your agent can obtain. Total cost, including agent fees, should be approx. $1,200-$1,500 for a 2 person boat (excluding zarpe fees). Each additional person will cost $100 for the National Parks permit. Normally an Autographo is obtained via e-mail well in advance of your arrival.
    In addition, there is a fee of $30 per boat (‘migration fee’) for moving between ports. This does not apply to a 1 island visit.
    Break down of Clearance Fees
    These are approximate, they do tend to vary a little depending on which agent you use:
    Port Captain Fee: US$12.50 per gross tonnage
    Clearance in and out: is US$25.00 each way [every time you leave one port to go another]
    Galapagos Migratory Cards: US$20 per person
    Quarantine/Introduce Species (ABG) inspection: US$100
    Diver for hull inspection: US$100
    Copies and transport for authorities: $50.
    Garbage disposal: $30.
    Immigration Fees
    A personal immigration card per person costs $15 and there are no costs for clearing out.
    Agent Fees
    The choice of which agent you use is entirely yours to make. The fees for the agent are not fixed.
    For a one-port stop (including port captain and Immigration, taxis and copies of passports), US$200-250 is the normal asking price for an average size yacht.
    Agent fees for an autographo are between $450 – $650.
    It is not uncommon to get fees reduced if you negotiate. If the fees asked for are unacceptable you may ask for another agent. Ask for a clear breakdown of which fees your agent is including in his total cost.
    National Park Fees
    There is an admission fee to the Galapagos National Park area of $100 per person ($50 per child under 12) and must be paid by anyone visiting the Park area. Ensure that your agent obtains your park pass and gives it to you to keep on board. [ This $100 fee per person is expected to double even triple in 2017]
    National Park Cruising Fees
    This is $200 per person, per day. You will hear this high dollar figure quoted occasionally. This daily fee DOES NOT apply to the average cruiser who is moving from island to island, anchoring in the major ports. It only applies to (typically) larger luxury yachts who want to actually cruise the park areas outside the major ports.
    These boats are also required to take on a licensed guide who will cost $350 or more per day for this service.
    Fumigation
    A fumigation fee of $70 may be charged on boats that stay longer than 72 hours. If yachts arrive without a fumigation certificate, the fee to obtain one in the Galapagos is $4 per metre of the yacht’s length.
    Other Fees
    Overtime must be paid if checking in outside office hours, 08:00-17:00 Monday to Friday. The overtime fees are almost double the normal fee. Request that your agent complete clearing DURING office hours.
    There are also municipal fees occasionally collected in the main ports and always collected from incoming passengers at one of the two airports.
    All fees quoted here are in US$ and are subject to change by the Ecuadorian government without notice.
    Last updated December 2015. (From http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/Galapagos )

    It doesn’t end with these fees. Even though there are many places on the islands you can visit for free, the most beautiful ones are usually off limits unless you join an expensive guided tour (or if you are on a special scientific expedition). For us, as for many other people, visiting Galapagos has been a dream-come-true. But it also was a bit of a disappointment due to all these fees, formalities, restrictions as well as the whole tourist aspect of it.

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  • A Difficult Choice
  • Unfortunately, many cruisers are faced with a tough choice to make when sailing west of Panama and Ecuador. On one hand, you have a rather large amount of cash in entry fees; on the other- the possibility to visit (maybe only once in your lifetime) this unique archipelago teaming with wildlife. Which one would you sacrifice?

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  • Galapagos Animals
  • The marine iguanas are so famously homely, even Charles Darwin piled on, describing them as “hideous-looking” and “most disgusting, clumsy lizards.” It’s true, they’re not pretty, with their wide-set eyes, smashed-in faces, spiky dorsal scales, and knotty, salt-encrusted heads. But what these unusual creatures lack in looks they make up for with their amazing and unique ecological adaptations. Scientists figure that land-dwelling iguanas from South America must have drifted out to sea millions of years ago on logs or other debris, eventually landing on the Galápagos. From that species emerged marine iguanas, which spread to nearly all the islands of the archipelago. Each island hosts marine iguanas of unique size, shape and color.
    They look fierce, but are actually gentle herbivores, surviving exclusively on underwater algae and seaweed. Their short, blunt snouts and small, razor-sharp teeth help them scrape the algae off rocks, and their laterally flattened tails let them move crocodile-like through the water. Their claws are long and sharp for clinging to rocks on shore or underwater in heavy currents. They have dark gray coloring to better absorb sunlight after their forays into the frigid Galápagos waters. And they even have special glands that clean their blood of extra salt, which they ingest while feeding.
    Their population is not well known, but estimates are in the hundreds of thousands. They are under constant pressure from non-native predators like rats, feral cats, and dogs, who feed on their eggs and young. They are protected throughout the archipelago and are considered vulnerable to extinction. (from www.nationalgeographic.com)

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    The Galápagos penguin is endemic to the Galápagos Islands. It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild thanks to the cool temperatures of the Humboldt Current and cool waters from great depths brought up by the Cromwell Current. They average 49 cm long and 2.5 kg in weight. It is the second smallest species of penguin after the little penguin. The Galápagos penguin is found primarily on Fernandina Island and the west coast of Isabela Island, but small populations are scattered on other islands in the Galápagos archipelago. The northern tip of Isabela crosses the equator, meaning that some Galápagos penguins live in the northern hemisphere.
    They eat small schooling fish, mainly mullet, sardines, and sometimes crustaceans, searching for food only during the day and normally within a few kilometers of their breeding site. They depend on the cold nutrient-rich currents to bring them food. It is endangered and the rarest of the penguin species. Because of the Galápagos penguin’s smaller size, it has many predators. On land, the penguins are preyed upon by crabs, snakes, rice rats, cats, hawks, and owls. While in the water they are preyed upon by sharks, fur seals, and sea lions. They face many hazards due to humans, as well as the hazards of unreliable food resources and volcanic activity. Illegal fishermen may interrupt the penguins’ nesting, and they are often caught in fishing nets by mistake. (from www.wikipedia.com)

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    Giant tortoises are the longest-lived of all vertebrates, averaging over 100 years. The oldest on record lived to be 152. They are also the world’s largest tortoises, with some specimens exceeding 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length and reaching 550 pounds (250 kilograms). There are now only 11 types of giant tortoises left in the Galápagos, down from 15 when Darwin arrived. Hunted as food by pirates, whalers, and merchantmen during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, more than 100,000 tortoises are estimated to have been killed off. Nonnative species such as feral pigs, dogs, cats, rats, goats, and cattle are a continuing threat to their food supply and eggs. Today, only about 15,000 remain.
    The tortoises are now listed as endangered and have been strictly protected by the Ecuadorian government since 1970. Captive breeding efforts by the Charles Darwin Research Station are also having positive effects.
    Galápagos tortoises lead an uncomplicated life, grazing on grass, leaves, and cactus, basking in the sun, and napping nearly 16 hours per day. A slow metabolism and large internal stores of water mean they can survive up to a year without eating or drinking. Spanish sailors who discovered the archipelago in 1535 actually named it after the abundant tortoises; the Spanish word for tortoise is galápago. (from www.nationalgeographic.com)

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    Darwin’s finches are a group of about fourteen species of passerine birds. They were first collected by Charles Darwin on the Galápagos Islands during the second voyage of the Beagle. The birds vary in size from 10 to 20 cm and weigh between 8 and 38 grams. The smallest are the warbler-finches and the largest is the vegetarian finch. The most important differences between species are in the size and shape of their beaks, and the beaks are highly adapted to different food sources- a fact that played an important part in the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
    The males of most species of finches are jet black; and the females (with perhaps one or two exceptions) are brown. With these beaks, males are able to feed differently on their favorite cactus, the prickly pear Opuntia. Those with long beaks are able to punch holes in the cactus fruit and eat the fleshy aril pulp, which surrounds the seeds, whereas those with shorter beaks tear apart the cactus base and eat the pulp and any insect larvae and pupae. ( from www.wikipedia.com)

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    The Galápagos lava lizard is a species of lava lizard endemic to the Galápagos Islands, where it occurs on several islands in the western archipelago. Adult Galápagos lava lizards range from around 50 to 100 mm long. Males are on average larger than females, being twice to three times as heavy. In addition to size, there are significant color and morphological differences between sexes, although color varies across islands. Galápagos lava lizards feed on insects, spiders, and other arthropods. Around human settlements they will also consume bread crumbs, meat scraps and other litter.
    Galápagos lava lizards are active during the day, emerging around sunrise, withdrawing during the heat of midday, and resuming activity in the afternoon. At night they burrow under soil or leaf-litter, submerged up to 12 mm (1.5 inches), often returning to the same resting area each night. Males are territorial, with home ranges averaging around 22 meters in diameter, and defend their ranges against other males with threat displays and fighting. Females have smaller home ranges of around 13 meters diameter, and a single male’s home range may overlap with the ranges of several females. (from www.wikipedia.com)

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    The Galápagos sea lion is a species of sea lion that exclusively breeds on the Galápagos Islands. Being fairly social, and one of the most numerous species in the Galápagos archipelago, they are often spotted sun-bathing on sandy shores or rock groups or gliding gracefully through the surf. Their loud bark, playful nature, and graceful agility in water make them the “welcoming party” of the islands.
    Galápagos sea lions range from 150 to 250 cm (59 to 98 in) in length and weigh between 50 to 250 kg (110 to 550 lb), with the males averaging larger than females. Both male and female sea lions have a pointy, whiskered nose and somewhat long, narrow muzzle. The young pups are almost dog-like in profile. Another characteristic that defines the sea lion are their external ear-like pinnae flaps which distinguish them from their close relative with which they are often confused, the seal.
    Feeding mostly on sardines, Galápagos sea lions sometimes travel 10 to 15 kilometers from the coast over the span of days to hunt for their prey. This is when they come into contact with their biggest predators: sharks and killer whales. Injuries and scars from attacks are often visible. To avoid overheating during the day, sea lions will take refuge from the sun under vegetation, rocks, and cliffs.
    On land, sea lions form colonies at their hauling-out areas. Not only are sea lions social, they are also quite vocal. Adult males often bark in long, loud and distinctive repeated sequences. Females and juveniles do not produce this repetitive bark, but both sexes the younger pups will growl. From birth, a mother sea lion recognizes her pup’s distinct bark and can pinpoint it from a crowd of 30 or more barking sea lions.

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  • Places of Interest
  • La Loberia Beach on San Cristobal is a long 40-50 min hike from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on a paved road under the heat of the sun, so bring water and snacks. This is one of the best spot to see colonies of marine iguanas sunbathing on the black volcanic rocks near the shore. You can swim and snorkel here and it is possible to avoid the tourist crowds and visit the place without a guide and for free.

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    The Interpretation Station on San Cristobal is also within a walking distance from the town and port. It is a museum explaining the significant natural, human and geological events of San Cristóbal Island and the surrounding archipelago. The hike is pleasant on rocky paths and boardwalks among lava flows and arid vegetation and the museum itself is most informative and interesting. Free of charge.

    La Galapaguera on San Cristobal is a breeding center for giant tortoises located in the northeast part of San Cristobal Island, about one hour by car from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Here in a protected area, giant tortoises live and breed in captivity. The admission is free but to get there is tricky. Most tourists join a tour or hire a 60-dollar taxi but there is a much cheaper option- once a week a bus goes to Galapaguera and back for about $5 per person (Ask a local which day, what time and where the bus stops. Ask another local the same questions, as you might get two very different answers). And if you want to check out the near-by white sand beach Puerto Chino (too crowded for our taste), you might miss the bus on the way back, but you can hitch a ride, as we did.

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    Kicker Rock is considered the local highlight, off the coast of San Cristobal, where you can dive and maybe see hammerhead sharks as well as many other species of sharks and marine creatures. But you can only snorkel or dive there on an organized diving tour in the company of a guide and a group of tourists. The tour costs over $200 per person, the water is extremely cold because of the Humboldt Current, the visibility is not always good and there are no guarantees that you will see hammerheads. If you do, they might be specks in the distance. Don’t think that what you see in the brochures will be what you see on the tour. We skipped it.

    The Lava Tunnels on Santa Cruz were once again within a walking distance from the anchorage and free of charge. As the outer layer of molten lava solidified, the liquid magma inside continued flowing, leaving behind these mysterious dark caves and the best part is- you can walk inside!

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    Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz is a beautiful white sand beach at the end of a 2.5 km walking path surrounded by great cactus trees. The entrance is about 20-minute walk from the main dock in Puerto Ayora. It is open for visitors from six in the morning to six in the evening. Visitors must sign in and out at the start of the path with the Galapagos Park Service office. Admission is free.

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    The Wall of Tears on Isabela is another access-free must-see place in Galapagos 5 kilometers from Puerto Amistad. On the way there we met free-ranging giant Galapagos tortoises. You can hire bikes or walk for an hour until you reach a massive wall built with heavy volcanic rocks. Between 1946 and 1952 there was a penal colony on this spot and the inmates were forced to build this wall under the burning equatorial sun. The only purpose of the Wall of Tears was to reform the prisoners and keep them occupied. A punishment for the strong, a death sentence for the weak.

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    The Giant Tortoises Breeding Centre on Isabela (on the edge of the town; free admission) is full with miniature giant tortoises as well as with giant giant tortoises- all sizes giant tortoises- lots of fun to watch. There is a boardwalk starting from the breeding center passing along couple of swamps- home of pink flamingoes. A short excursion which we really enjoyed.

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    Sierra Negra on Isabela is an active volcano rising at 1100 m above the sea. It has last erupted in 2005. The crater is enormous, filled with black solidified lava. Restricted to organized guided tours only. Cost $30.00 per person. We joined a group of about 20 tourists, some out of shape and unfit to hike. At the very beginning of the trail more groups showed up and merged into a human traffic jam up and down the trail. Not worth it.

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    Los Tuneles on Isabela is probably the most beautiful place in Galapagos accessible for tourists– an area of calm water behind the ocean breakers where broken lava tubes form natural bridges and underwater stone tunnels- home of thousands of sea birds and ocean creatures. In April, was the blue footed boobies mating period and we could watch the birds from up close dancing and singing in pairs. In the underwater caves, we snorkeled with sharks, sea turtles and penguins. The place is strictly off limits, unless you join an 80-dollar per person guided tour. Unfortunately, the rest of the tourist who joined the same tour were 90-years-old Europeans who didn’t understand the guide’s instructions, disturbed the sand and ruined the visibility of the water, could not keep up with the group and we had to wait for them constantly losing our time. They managed to appear in the background and foreground in almost all of our photos and videos. The experience was so utterly spoiled, we promised to ourselves never to join any guided tours anymore.

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  • So Is It Worth It?
  • If you are passionate about Nature and Wildlife, especially- marine and underwater animals (who isn’t?) – then you should probably visit Galapagos, just to check it off your list, even though you will still feel the pain when it comes to paying the exaggerated entry fees and tour prices and you might still ask yourself at the end: Was it worth it?

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    Let’s say money is not an issue for you and you don’t care about the prices. But if you imagine roaming alone on secluded beaches and frozen lava flows taking pictures of unique animals, or diving in coral gardens and underwater tunnels teaming with life, you might still be disappointed. Yes, you can take a walk on the beach or visit a volcano, but in most cases you will have to join an expensive tour and a bunch of elderly tourists will be all around you all day long. The most beautiful places on the four islands which you are allowed to visit are off limits unless you pay for a tour. Yes, you will take some pictures of unique animals, but in most frames there will be pink human legs in the background. Yes, you can dive in coral gardens and underwater tunnels, but ONLY if you join a guided tour and yes, the cold water will be teaming with life- mostly other tourists.

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    We were excited to meet the marine iguanas- “hideous-looking” yet gentle vegetarians, sitting in groups on the rocky shores motionless, spitting saltwater through their noses. We observed with amazement the giant land tortoises – ancient creatures slowly dragging their thick shells with the most serious expressions on their wrinkled faces. We were fascinated by the incredible agility of the little Galapagos penguins gracefully flying underwater, the enormous sea turtles, the many different species of reef fish and sharks. We fell forever in love with the adorable lazy and stinky sea lions and it was heartbreaking when the time came to sail away and leave them behind. But besides the animals, there were the humans with their greed and rules and this spoiled the entire experience to the point of almost regretting stopping in Galapagos. There are many other places on the planet where you can enjoy nature’s beauty and abundance of wildlife much cheaper, without the crowds, without the guides and the hustle, where cruisers are welcome. We kept sailing west. In the Polynesian atolls of the Tuamotus we went diving with hundreds of sharks, manta rays, sea turtles and the most beautiful tropical fishes abundant in the warm waters of the Pacific- we didn’t need permissions or guides and we could snorkel and dive in the clearest warm waters as many times as we liked free of charge. In New Zealand we met once again sea lions and penguins, boobies and many other animals and birds which were not surrounded by tourists with photo cameras.

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    It’s hard to say if Galapagos is definitely worth it or not. It is definitely overrated. We enjoyed much of our time on the islands and we are glad we did go, but we left if with mixed feelings, and somewhat disappointed- a place which is now off our list of Return Destinations.

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