From our special reporter Frank Lawrence.
What follows is a brief description of the voyage from Arica, in Northern Chile, to the Galapagos Islands, a distance of approximately 1600 miles, and intended to take 10 -12 days, nonstop.
This text is for those deficient in the French language, of which I am one!
Pour le Français, je recommande « Google Translate » – Voila!
Arica is a small town very close to the border with Peru, which has Commercial harbor which provides the only access that Bolivia has to the sea. The town and it’s attendant ‘Yatch club’ is dominated by a truly enormous rock, several hundred feet high, and of volcanic origin on top of which is a war memorial which also a giant Chilean flag, as a reminder to Peru that this is now Chilean territory (Chile captured the place from Peru during a 19-century conflict, but they try not to be too bellicose about it, if you are blind and cannot see the giant flag on top of the giant rock! Arica’s other claim to fame, is that it has not had rain for 14-years
So much for the backdrop…..
Plan A was that we would depart Arica on the afternoon of March 26, as soon as I arrived and we did some last minute shopping for fresh provisions. Plan A didn’t survive until lunchtime. The ‘Armada’ had closed the port & small harbor due to big waves at the harbor entrance….nobody’s putting to sea, mañana! Ah yes, Armada is what the Spanish speaking Navies calls themselves – history lesson required? Armada equals Spanish naval disaster at the hands of Sir Francis Drake and the weather, for English speaking people…..maybe not the most auspicious name for your Navy.
So nothing to do, except retire to the yacht club for lunch & a beer (or two).
Next day, more of the same. Visit to the Armada offices for a prognosis, mañana! In fact the waves didn’t look too bad (except the occasional whopper), so we did what all good sailors do – have lunch – terrific empanada’s and Pisco Sour at the local bar.
So far, not much progress, and to boot, the local police closed the access road to the yacht club, as the waves were now in the process of demolishing the harbor walls (no kidding!).
Still, we had provisions to get, in anticipation that mañana would eventually come, so we walked past the police guarding the closed access road carrying our empty shopping bags and were duly noted and waved through – easy!
Loaded with many bags, we took a taxi back to the access road and started walking past the same police we had passed coming out. He looked at the mounds of shopping bags and decides we can’t go back in – huh? Only way back to the boat is down this access road. We protest and point to 2-weeks worth of fresh groceries – absolutely no joy. Fortunately, two naval officers pass by and we remonstrate with them, point to the provisions, point and then to the boat…..they wave us pass the police line – lucky! I take it all back, the Armada is great!
We get permission to sail, two days later than planned, and after much pleading by Claude & Andre, citing domestic discord if we are not in Galapagos by April 10 to meet the ladies. This seemed to work.
So, eventually, we set sail, pointed the boat Northwest, and basically maintained the same tack on a broad-reach point-of-sail (« Allure », pour le Francaise) for 7-days, while doing three hour shifts at night. Sea state was much calmer than I expected, with a good steady northerly wind of 10-15 knots and clear moonlit nights.
Few incidents, apart from twice catching floating fishing lines (in reality, more like ropes) 100 yards long, necessitating Andre diving under the boat to release them (really bad if you operated the engine and foul the propeller with these things).
Claude had me convinced we could see the mountains of Peru at dawn one morning, until we realized we were 250 miles off shore – too much rum the night before.
A little fishing, sometimes successful, (tuna and dorade) supplemented the provisions, except the one I call « Jonah », a ~10kg tuna that managed to slip the hook as s/he was being brought on-board.
« Jamaica Day » (or so I choose to call it) comprised eating « Stew Peas & Rice » to the sound of Bob Marley’s « Legend » album on a French boat in the Pacific. Only the Red Stripe beer was missing, but we had an adequate supply of rum to compensate.
Five hundred miles from the Galapagos, conditions changed, with lighter winds and a negative current, slowing our progress and necessitating occasional use of the engine to make any progress, until our arrival at the port of Baquerizo Moreno, capital of the Galapagos and point of entry to clear the official immigration & customs paperwork.
The ladies arrive tomorrow, so best behavior!
So endeth the crossing, 1658 nautical miles, 11-days, average speed 6.5 knots. Now to check out the islands and it’s famous wildlife.
One bit of advice: if you plan to visit the Galapagos, bring copious quantities of cash (US dollars) – you will need it, and then some more!