The Enchanted Islands – Galapagos.

Galapagos comes from the Spanish word for saddle, which looked like the turtles shell and the Enchanted Islands was the islands name for hundreds of years, where the were seen as a remote scary and exciting place. Home to lots of animals, pirates and people, who was trying to get away from the rest of the world – trying to make a home here. The environment is harsh and difficult for man, as there is a great shortage of freshwater and we are 500 nm of the Ecuadorian coastline. For the animals it has been paradis, until we arrived.

But many have been here! Germans, English, Norwegians and of course the queens ship the Beagle with Charles Darwin. The stories are many. There have been lots of people here who thought they could create their own kingdom and suppress everybody else. There are murder stories and there are the story about 2000 norwegian’s, who moved down here to test their luck and failed.

But the most famous visit was the four weeks visit of Charles Darwin, who ended up changing the world when he 20 years after his visit published his thoughts on the species development – only the most adaptable survive!

We have been fortunate to be allowed to visit three islands, San Christobal, Santa Cruz and Isabella.

We checked into San Christobal, arriving late afternoon seeing lots of Mantas, dolphins and more, when we in the last light of the day, passed down along the North western coastline of San Christobal. In the mid afternoon the following day, we were visited by 12 inspectors, who were checking everything. We knew about most things. The bottom needs to be clean, there are certain vegetables and fruits you are not allowed to bring and the lists are available on the internet, and they are changing often.

But the new for this week were – you are not allowed to bring medicin which has passed the due date and no red meat, ONLY chicken and fish…

As we had provisioned and have a good size freezer this was clearly a problem, if it was located on the boat!

Galayachts representative was extremely helpful and came to our boat before the visit and helped us with the last details, so the inspectors visit would not reveal anything, which would hinder our stay on the islands. Our bottom was inspected by a diver and was cleared in a few minutes. Others were turned away for cleaning 40 nm out. I think most where hiding behind the next corner and cleaned. In generel, the authorities are very cautious of protecting their waters against the introduction of new species. And it is fair to say, that there are many examples of introduction of new species, which have  disturbed the equilibrium between flora and fauna on the islands. The goats, rats, pigs just to mention a few have really disturbed the original Darwin environment a lot.

They got their expired medicin and the meat had left the freezer for a short while and as said, chicken and fish was approved.

We enjoyed being ashore again after 6 days sailing. Beer, fresh fish, ice cream and just walking around. 

Christobal is known for its Sealions, and they are everywhere. Already the first night they had found there way into the cockpit of Greyhound next to us – they smell, so we protected our entrance with lots of fenders.

The plan for our tour of these fantastic island was to visit San Christobal where we could check in, then visit Santa Cruz and finally go to Isabella from where we would leave. We planned to stay for two weeks and then start the long crossing to French Polynesia. As usual and we should know by now, write your plans with a pencil and be flexible. We had ordered a new 24 v alternator, which broke two days out of the Pearl Islands and we were confident it would soon reach us so we could install and get going. Not having that, our battery charging was left to the generator, which is somewhat risky, when you are sailing in these rather mighty waters.

In our first anchorage at Christobal we were surrounded by swimming mantas, sea turtles, small black tipped sharks and more. On the island we visited the dive site Kickers Rock which was fantastic, and of course we toured around on the island and enjoyed the relaxed little village, which is the only settlement on the island. After four days we left for a nice 40 miles sail to Santa Cruz and anchored up in a very busy and rolling bay where, we were to stay 5 days and ended up staying more than two weeks. From here we saw the wonderful landscapes of pure volcano, we saw the giant turtles both in breeding centers and in the wild – 250 kg and moving about 10 km a month. Much slower than a sailboat, which is slow. We explored the underwater world and dived with sharks, turtles, sealions, manta rays and many many others. We took boat tours to the inhabitant islands such as Seymour Norte, which you can only visit with local guides and saw Blue Bobbies, frigate bird and Iguanas – also the Marine sort which have mutated into an underwater Iguana. But I think you should look at the pictures of all these wild animals – they say much more than words

And finally we were sitting idle here in Paradis waiting for our alternator!

Again it was a local women who helped us out. Again we met only friendship and unconditional help. It turns out that packages from US ends up in Equador and are stock in custom for weeks. So the lady told us, to ship it to Equador to her friend and he will pick it up and put it on a flight to Santa Cruz, that way it is not going to get lost in transit…. Of course the first reflection is, can you trust this completely stranger and her friend in Quito. We did and they made good on their promise – our package arrived and we got a new friend whos name is Stefanie. THANKS.

So finally moving on to Isabella, which is the real Galapagos, where Greyhound patiently had been waiting for us for some days. Isabella is very rural and very laid back as I believe all of these Enchanted Islands were 50 years ago, before the tourist boom. 

Unfortunately it was getting late and French Polynesia was waiting. So after a few tours, the instalation of the 24 volt alternator which Greyhound was more than able to make happen, THANKS, and suddenly we were on our way after nearly a month in Paradis.

Arrived to the Enchanted Islands


We have arrived to Galapagos after 6 days and 14 hours journey, where we were blessed by being whales, dolphins, Boobies with red feet, manta rays and probably more. But we did only catch one very small tuna – I need to work on my fishing skills!
We arrived into St. Christobal late in the evening, around 2200 and sailed very slowly into the big bay among the tour boats and a few other yachties and hang on to the bottom on just our anchor together with Greyhound. It was a fantastic feeling to have done the first part of this massive ocean. %2 engine hours in the beginning and else we were cursing along on 60 degrees to the wind at 7-8 knots – rather fantastic to feel North Star at her best.
We did only have one breakdown with the alternator, which is now ordered in USA and it will over the next weeks find its way to Maimi and on to Equador and further on the Santa Cruz Galapagos! So when, we do not know, but we are not leaving without it…
We have toured Christobal and seen turtles, sealions, Frigate birds and we have dived at Kickers Rock with sharks, sea turtles and reef fish. Everything is bigger here and the current makes it demanding, but we are getting the hang of it and enjoy big time. You feel that the islands have a big place in human discovery history.
The internet here is not worth speaking of so pictures will have to wait, until upload times are better. The only technical improvement we have made is our investment in Iridium GO with predict wind, and we have not have reliable internet on board and we can communicate easily – a big change and just in time for the Pacifico.
More to come in writing as we explore the islands over the next weeks.

Soon on Galapagos

The watch has just changed and Marie has briefed me and gone to her bunk and I have taken over the night watch from 12-4 in the early hours. The breeze comes from SE and we are sailing with 6.5 knots towards SW – The Enchanted Islands, Galapagos. The night is tropical and magical. Stars above, fire in the water and a lonely moon trying to keep up, but slowly fading. A couple of miles out, I can see the comforting green light from Greyhounds top lantern – and that is about it. It is vast and deserted, except of course for the crazy wildlife under the calm sea floor. I hear the occasional noise from a flying fish arriving on the deck and I nod good evening to six red-footed boobies, sitting on the anchor in front of the boat; hitch hiking through the night. They are sound a sleep and once in a while, one of them looses balance and fly around the boat and take up there spot again, and sleep. I am truly blessed, that I get to experience nights like this.
It is now the second night of the pleasant ones and North Star have excelled on an South easterly wind on her left shoulder for about 48 hours and she is enjoying every moment. Our first days were windless and when the wind arrived it was on the nose! It felt like Mother Nature had decided, that we were not allowed to visit these old islands, and they were still moving around as it was believed, when they were first discovered by a Bishop from Panama. Yes you are right he was just not a great navigator…They have actually been there for millions of years and the first islands, products of volcanos, have already disapeared under the surface. We are sailing on top of the Nazca Plate, a teutonic plate, creating a lot of noise in the areas. The latest was as late as 2009, right in the middle of Galapagos, where one of the volcanos erupted and that is also how the 30 Galapagos islands was created some millions of years ago.
Anyway, back to sailing. Our noon runs (miles sailed from noon to noon) have improved from 125 to the latest of 165, and this current run will be even longer, so we have started to look out for the islands, in spite of our 135 nm to go! It is going to be good to feel land again and have a cold beer, even though we had half a beer and steaks for dinner tonight in celebration of our equator crossing tomorrow morning, where King Neptun will visits us and see if we are worthy of passing into his kingdom.
Yes, even though nothing happens for hours or days, when you sail across an ocean, something happens all the time. And if nothing happens you make something happen – like nothing, for a while. And nothing or action in slow motion is something we are not too used to, living in our current world.
So there you have it and when we reach Galapagos we will upload pictures of our six red footed boobies and save our 100 usd for the tour going to see them in the wild. We have seen them for 24 hours right in front of us.

A night on the Pacifico

A moonlit night on a vast ocean – it is beautiful and with no skies -just stars to show us the way. We are cruising with 6 knots and listen just to the speed of the boat hitting the waves – everything else in the world is quiet and crew sleeps in your bunk – and I am in the grove for much more sailing – finally. I do not know, why but the first three days seems to be an uphill battle every time. We have finally past the ITCZ and the doldrums, so at least for now the evening lightshow on the sky, which scares the s….out of me is over and no more engine or drifting for now – just pure exhilirating fats sailing. It does not get better than this and maybe the expectation of a cold beer when we finally arrive.
AS you will observe from our postion, we are closing in on our first passage of the equator and the are at least a couple of first timers on board. Accoring to the ritual the need to be baptized and make their peace with King Neptun, to secure the boat safe sailing, and we will certainly arrange accordingly.
Our position is 01 46.557 N and 085 33.478 W, cog is 221 finally south east and sog is 6.3 with much less counter current than in a long time. 289 nm to go – which is about two days – so we are soon making landfall, at these fantastic islands, we have all been reading about.
Looking forward to thread lightly in the footsteps of Darwin and see the turtles, which caused a revised view on our story of creation.
Life is good,

The start from Panama – Pacifico

The biggest ocean of them all, the most deserted, the ocean with some of the most desirable cruising grounds – The Pacific. And today it is living up to its name! It is vast and deserted and not many boats come here exactly because of that, I guees. That is why we are here to take on the challenge, see the spectaculars – together with our buddy boat Greyhound.
We have taken up the challenge and have just started to cross the 9000 nm towards New Zealand. We left this morning and the ocean is like a mirror and the engine is running at 1300 rpm, very quit in the background. We have 840 nm left to Galapagos and we hope to arrive on the 17th of April – but only if King Neptun will let us pass the equator!!
We have used the last weeks preparing the boat and boat supplies for our 3 months crossing to the next supermarket on Tahiti, where we underway will visit Galapagos, Marquesa, Tuamotus and finally Tahiti. From here the plan is to continue to New Zealand.
I still have a few updates from our trip from Grenada to the crossing of the Panama canal via Aruba and San Blas, but have not been successful uploading the pictures – so they will come later – for now it is the Pacific, without pictures as this post is uploaded vis sat connection.
This morning just after we came out of the bay of San Jose, the last of the Pearl islands, we heard the blowing sound of a whale, and a few second later about 50 meters behind us, we saw a big whale greeting us welcome into the Pacific. Shortly thereafter, we were followed by a large group of dolphins, who I am sure, will bring us luck on our journey. Kim, our crew for this leg, was happy and claims he now only need to see pingvins on Galapagos!
Unfortunately our luck did not last for long. At least late afternoon we noticed that our 24 v alternator did not charge the batteries and frankly out here, you want to be able to charge batteries. We decided to continue to Galapagos and will amke repairs there. Until then we will make due with generator and solar power as I was unable to fix it.
But except these trivials, we are settling into a quiet rhyme and in a couple of days, the days will just pass as we enjoy our slow ocean travel towards one of the most fantastic place on this globe.

Getting ready for the Pacific

It was a tremendous feeling of accomplishments to arrive into Shelter Bay in Panama after 780 nm and called first Christobal Control tower on vhf channel 12 and then Shelter Bay Marina at 14.

The Shelter Bay marina – and right here it feels like home
And more shopping

We are now far away from home

We had been talking, planing and dreaming about this, for so long.

We were awaited as we had reserved and received a very pleasant welcome. We did hire an agent Roy Bravo, who is also the agent of the World ARC fleet and did help us in so many ways. Can you do it yourself, yes some does but in South America a local representative is often very helpful to avoid the worse pitfalls. And Roy is good, he knows his stuff.

Shelter Bay is a kaleidoscope of sailors from around the world. All have sailed a long way to get here and all are good sailors, because else they would have given up long ago. There is a great restaurant, bar, swimmingpool and a twice a day bus to Colon for the provisioning for the long trip to Tahiti. So it is a nice place to make friends, get ready and relax for a week or two. Most hang out a while and most are waiting for crew and spareparts.

We welcomed a very good friend, who was going to sail to Galapagos with us, did our provisioning, relaxed and sailed back up to the Sant Blas island for a week, while we waited for our slot time to go through the Canal.

As you can see on the pictures from San Blas Islands, it is paradis – it is exactly what most people imagine before the visit the Caribbean for the first time.. We visited Cayos Chichime, Coco Banderas, and East Hollandaise and enjoyed the swimming, the sea turtles the lobsters and just being in Paradis with no communication to the outer world.

On anchor in San Blas
San Blas
San Blas

You need to buy the Panama Guide and the digital maps from Eric Bauhaus, as these are the only maps which takes you around the reef safely. Lots of stories of ship wrecked sailors, so be safe and follow the instructions.

We did all our check in for immigration and custom in Shelter Bay, including the Cruising Permit and Immigration. You can also just go there and stay for up to 72 hours or you can sail to Puerto Linton for immigration and take the bus to Portobello for the cruising permit. Both works well and depends on your agenda.

On the 30th we had arrived back to Shelter Bay and the big day for the crossing had arrived. We started the morning with Fumigation of the boat. It was Roy our agent which arranged this for 150 usd and it was done with smoke. If you do not have a certificate when you arrive in Galapagos it is done with spray and it sticks. So get it done in Panama! Then a couple of good friends and fellow sailors from Loki arrived to act as line handlers and the the big lines and fenders. By 1430 we were out in the bay, awaiting the advisor for the crossing. 

The Calibru Cut
The Gatun Lock
Miraflores lock
Fumigation of North Star
The transfer crew with the Pacific in the background – the last chamber of Miraflores

After a small delay it all went really well. The tension on the boat faded away and we realised all that it was happening. The transit from one world to another, we were crossing the line for sailors. Those who have sailed the pacific and those who have not – yes it was a really big moment. We were rafted up three boats together just befor the Gatun Lock, with a big Catamaran in the middle – a very good sailor, who took us through the locks very safely. By 2230 we were on a bouy in the man made freshwater reservoir Gatun Lake and enjoyed the sounds from the loud monkeys and watched the crocodiles – no one felt the need for a swim during the warm moonlight night.

It was impressive to go through this massive construction site, which cost a bankruptcy in France, and 22.000 peoples dead before it was finished. Finally at the beginning of the last century, the American President Roosevelt I, saw the strategic importance of the channel and made a deal with the Panamanien resistant movement against Columbia and helped them become independent. He then acquired the rights to build the channel rather inexpensive and keep it as American soil for 110 years and before actually according to the original contract to hand it over to the State of Panama a few years ago, in 1999. 

The big challenges in the beginning was the big Culebra Cut before the Pacific locks, Miraflores, where the channel had to cut through massive granit hills and of course yellow fever and Malaria.

It is one of the big wonders of the world and during the last years, it has further been expanded to another set of even wider locks, so today the traffic is expanded to more than a million ships a year.

We made it to the Pacifico

For us, to finally stand on top of North Star and look out of the last of the Miraflores chambers and see the Pacific ocean, was a fulfilment of a dream we have dreamt for a long time. Right there the real adventure started and the challenges for a cruising sailor multiplied. What a wonderful opportunity to be allowed to grasp.

Shortly we checked into La Placida Marina and prepared us for a few days sightseeing in Panama City, and the final repairs and provisioning before setting out into the big blue.

Service information:

We did buy a number of things in Flamingo Bay, where also the Flamingo Marina is. It is about ten minutes in taxi from La Placida. Chandlery and electronics were available and everything can be shipped in from US in a week. There is also a provision shop for boats, where you can but lots of speciality food we had not seen in a while. There is a market about an hour in a taxi from the marina, where you can buy eggs, veggies and fruits fresh from the farm – none refrigerated and a great shopping center and super market REYS. I would think there were 250 different shops and no shortage of variety. We ended up buying most of our stuff in Bonaire, Shelter Bay and Panama City for mostly the fresh stuff.