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SV Taipan: Passaging from Panama to Galapagos

by SV Taipan 10 Jun 2019 09:08 UTC 5 June 2019
08 38.0231N 079 02.3338W © SV Taipan

16th May. The day dawned bright and sunny with a gentle southeasterly puff now and again. The anchor was weighed and WHAT!! Just as it rose over the bow roller the big Stainless Steel swivel (2 yrs) snapped and our treasured Rudolfo, plunged to the bottom in 14 meters of water! We were speechless!! Rudolfo was designed and built by a Fremantle fisherman and purchased secondhand by us in 2002. It was even signed!!! He's never let us down in the entire 17 years we've been using him. Some say a CQR copy but you can see how different they are in the picture. Now laid to rest at 08 38.0231N 079 02.3338W and we're feeling bereft!! Also now what to do about anchoring in Galapagos?

Without the wherewithal to dive to that depth we sadly said farewell and sailed west towards San Cristobal Island. Galapagos.

The first 24 hours were quite rough with a short choppy swell, counter current and wind on the nose necessitating lots of tacking. Thunderstorms and associated rain squalls were accompanied by lots of ship traffic, including a tug towing a very large dead ship. We have seen hundreds of Pelicans, dozens of dolphins as well as a huge shark.

And from the crews perspective...

22 May
It is 10pm via satellite, Hi all, once again an update from 400nm out from Galapagos. Our progress has not been as good as wished for due to some very shitty seas and less than favourable winds. In one day we only travelled 30nm closer to our destination!

Other factors are the loss of our autopilot drive motor which David pulled out after an hour down a two-foot square hole in one of the rear lockers. Lucky he lost all that weight he put on over summer in Perth or he would never have got down there(or back out again) a real Houdini act.

We then broke the swivel on the mainsail thingamy (Main sheet Track Car) but that was fixed in an hour or so. The whole shebang was saved by the fixed double preventers. If you are tracking us you would be able to see each of these events by the wobbly lines and circles we did each time! It looks like we amateurs were at the wheel!

Live track
It seems that breakdowns on boats are par for the course according to the stories heard and shared among the boaties and it doesn't matter whether your boat cost 200k or 600k or is new or 30 years old. They say that BOAT means Bring On Another Thousand!

Weather forecasts have changed daily and it's like following the bouncing ball, not knowing what the wind will do only what it is expected to do then it changes its mind.

No one has been really seasick, although Michael has been less than great for a few days, I have been slightly off for a while on some days and even David has had an off half day.

None of us has missed too many of the delicious culinary delights coming out of the galley, Kris seems to be able to create anything from the tiniest kitchen you could imagine. The pantry fills every nook and cranny in the walls and floors (bilge) and would put a well-stocked mini-mart to shame. We had chunky chicken soup last night, beef stir fry the night before and chill con carne tonight. Even on the "galley is closed cos it's too rough" day we had 2-minute noodles topped up with chicken chunks and corn and it was a huge feed. We have an ample supply of delicious fruit cake made on a regular basis in the bread maker while under way. I have added it to my recipe book.

Krikey!, a flying fish just flew into the cockpit, gosh it stinks but was quickly dispatched overboard and the seat where it landed has had a lemon fresh spring clean.

We have been followed by a couple of white birds tonight and they have been fishing next to the boat in the phosphorescence created by the tiny plankton type creatures, quite speccy. There has also been a beautiful clear sky to the south for a while and the southern stars display is nothing short of amazing. The Southern cross in all its glory!

We have just had a watch change, Kris gone to catch some zzz ss and David on watch, I will stay up until Michael gets up as we are hot bunking at the moment, as the front cabin is not comfortable for anyone, that is Kris and David's cabin and they have been hot bunking in the aft cabin which was our cabin. It means they are guaranteed a good sleep while Michael and I are getting what sleep we can on the couch in the saloon. It is too hot for two people to sleep in the same relatively small beds so we all sleep alone when we do.

I am sitting in the cockpit with only a $5 Panama City sundress on, it is pleasantly warm and it is 10pm! Most of the clothes I brought have been too warm as the humidity is very high and the sea temp is a constant 32c.

Well, hope this gives you all a snapshot of life on the Pacific Ocean, still looking for that elusive pina colada under the palm tree watching the sunset, but this is a pretty good second option.

Sat 25 May
Via satellite,12.30 am
Hi all, It has been quite an eventful day today with better seas and more favourable winds. We have been able to sail quite a lot and so conserved some fuel by not motoring and saving it for our entry into the port later today. ETA at Galapagos is 1pm, yippee! We are nearly there.

A small squid landed in the cockpit this morning, made a mess and died, so back into the sea it went!

We were joined by a 19m catamaran which overtook us then crossed in front and finally dropped back out of sight later in the afternoon. He was probably enjoying the same problems we have had, not!

The highlight of the day has to be the arrival of the red-footed boobies on our bow rails. First 1 then 2 then 4 and finally by nightfall there were 22 of them sitting across the bow with their webbed feet wrapped around the top rail, balancing tenuously, rocking with the motion of the boat. We think they were mostly juveniles and some were fed by parents who flew in front of them, hovered and fed them, then peeled off to catch another fish.

They stayed put even when sails or ropes flapped, David went up front to do something at the mast or Taipan dipped into the waves and sprayed them with water. We have renamed Taipan the "Taipan boobie preening lounge and salt spa". We think they come from Galapagos so it is fitting that we are bringing the boobies home and have them as an unusual if somewhat quirky escort if they are still there.

The moon is just rising, there is phosphorescence in the water again and the southern sky is clear and full of stars, what a sight to see.

The fridge has been emptied in preparation for the bio-security inspection in port on arrival and we will have a couple of hours in the morning to tidy and clean everything so we are ship shape for the up to 10 officials who may board us for various inspections.

The washing machine is loaded and ready to go and the deck will look like a Chinese laundry by the time we tie up at the mooring (we can' t anchor as we lost that in Las Perlas!).

We are all looking forward to sleeping in our own bed, on clean sheets and in clean pj's for a full night sleep tonight, having had at best 4-hour snatches for 9 days.

It has been a more arduous trip that any of us expected and for Michael and I, something completely out of left field. Would I do it again? Probably not. Would I have missed it or do I regret it? Absolutely not. It has been an amazing part of our adventure.

It is not over yet, and we look forward to seeing what Galapagos has to offer in the short time we will have. We all deserve it after the trip across.

26 May
Via satellite from San Cristobal Galapagos 10.30pm

Well, our last day of sailing (25th) was just as eventful but in different ways, Saturday at 5am we crossed the equator into the Southern Hemisphere and the South Pacific time ocean. We were all awake and excited about watching the latitude click over to 0.00.000 (The Equator), and I captured it on video just to prove it.

At about 1pm we sighted land, the northern end of San Cristobal Island, and the winds and seas had not let up all that time, nothing in our favour.

The sail down the length of the island took another 3 hours and saw heaps of different birds, a couple of dolphins and what I thought was a floating tyre turned out to be our first sea lion lolling around in the now calm windless waters (at last!). But even now we did not relax as the boat needed to be washed down from bow to stern and top to waterline to get that disgusting salt layer off and make a good impression on the inspection we knew would happen on arrival. Every nook and cranny was washed or wiped down including the pile of guano deposited by our boobie passengers during their all-night stay, we have renamed Taipan as "Boobie Couch Surfing and B&B".

Then our first glimpse of civilisation for nine days and four hours and we were greeted by the agent in the harbour at 4pm. As we had lost the big anchor and only had the spare anchor as a backup we had requested a mooring which is not usually available. They directed us to the mooring and as we were approaching it, the disabled autopilot chain jammed and David lost his left direction steering, which made parking tricky to say the least.

Once stopped we all gave a huge sigh of relief and we realised how exhausted we all were. The agent came on board and to tell us that we would have the authorities arrive at 8am in the morning for all the immigration, quarantine, health and whatever inspections, up to 10 persons. After a couple of drinks and a snack dinner we had our first shower were we didn't have to lean on a wall, legs at 60 degrees with feet wedged into the corners for balance. The washing machine was going and there were 2 loads on the lines before we fell into bed about 900. Who needs flags up the mast when you can have socks jocks and undies flying in the breeze?

Sure enough at 8am eight officials arrived in the water taxi and squeezed themselves, with us, into the cockpit which seats 6 with comfort, and for 30 minutes they checked the hull for barnacles by diving under the boat, the passports and Taipan's paperwork, the galley for any fresh prohibited provisions (we ate them all over the last couple of days which resulted in some interesting combinations of food!), the wastewater holding tanks, the medicine supplies and first aid kit, Safety equipment, PFD's, Fire extinguishers, the fumigation certificate from Panama City, the rubbish recycling system which required labelled buckets for plastic, glass, cans and general waste, signs all over the boat reminding us not to throw rubbish overboard. There are signs made by Kris everywhere just in case we forget. Finally, we got the tick of approval the boat was very clean and we could stay!

Thanks, Corinne for the insight from the crew. Its been more than eventful enough and far from the most pleasant passage. The upside was the wonderful company and help throughout.

Next episode... Galapagas Islands. Wildlife and more adventures.

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