News Letters of POGO II

2002

Home

Galapagos, August 1, 2002

We arrived in Isla Isabella, Galapagos August 1, 2002 in the early afternoon. Although the anchorage is not "crawling" with unique wildlife, we saw sea lions, a sea turtle, several rays, storm petrels, and pink flamingoes within the first few hours. This was a great follow-up to our departure that started with breaching humpback whales off Salinas. To our surprise, the rest of the passage was almost devoid of wildlife and flotsam.

All in all, the passage here was very nice with 10-15 knots of wind from the southwest and south most of the way. With just Craig and I (and Tootsie the dog) aboard we stood 4-hour watches. This seems to work well most of the time, as it is fairly easy to get 2 90-minute sleep cycles each off watch so we were both relatively well rested. The tough part was the cold. The Peruvian current comes north this time of year and the water temperature was 60 degrees the first night. We were very glad we had our thermal underwear and fleece to put on! With the current helping us, we averaged 6.4 knots and got here in 4 days, 4.5 hours (658 nautical miles). Cars and planes sure are faster!

We spent the next day resting up and straightening up the boat. We expect to spend a week or so here and then maybe sail over to Isla Santa Cruz or Isla San Cristobal. Because most of the area is a national park, yachts are only allowed to anchor in 4 ports (not necessarily the best anchorages). These are areas which have Ecuadorian towns. This is off-season for tourists and there are few other transient yachts in the area as far as we know. Most yacht traffic is vessels on their way to the South Pacific. They mostly come in January through June in order to have time in the South Pacific islands before they have to worry about the hurricane season there. There are still a few stragglers in Ecuador and Panama saying they will leave any day now. In past years those that did leave at this late ended up turning around and waiting for the next season. The anchorage we are in now had 30 boats as late as June, but is now empty.

August 2, we went for a brief outing to take Tootsie ashore to meet the sea lions that hangout near the small pier for the fishing pongas.. She was very unsure what to make of them, and they to make of her. They look very fat and lazy as they sun bathe on the moored fishing boats. We also saw about 100 marine iguanas. They have a snub nose sort of head as opposed to the pointy 1 of the lizards at PCYC and a very small spiny ridge down the back. They are very black and blend right in with the lava. There was also a spectacular display by many blue-footed boobies dive-bombing a school of small fish. Landing of dogs is not allowed by Park Regulations …. We found a tidal shoal for dog beaching purposes, and no one seemed to make an issue of it, though Tootsie did miss going on the adventures.

Saturday, August 3, we went ashore expecting to speak briefly with Port Captain Christian Gomezjurado and pass on some information about another yacht. We expected him to be quite busy as an Ecuadorian Navy Corvette had arrived during the night and was anchored in the outer area.

After we passed on our information he invited us to join him, his wife, and about 30 sailors off the Corvette for a cookout at a finca up the side of the Sierra Negra volcano. Despite being totally unprepared, we eagerly agreed. After Christian raced around making arrangements and picking up several people, we piled into his small truck along with about 8 sailors and some equipment and headed out (and up).

We proceeded out of town and up the hill through incredible lava flows along the main lava gravel road. After a few kilometers, the soil became rich volcanic ash with lush vegetation. About 20 minutes up the road we turned onto a dirt road. Soon we turned again, this time onto a farm track. Eventually we can to a lock barbed wire and pole gate. We all piled out and waited for the farmhand to come unlock for us. Meanwhile the truck and Christian returned to town for more people.

The “asado” event turned out to be a most incredible, unexpected experience. We got to see part of the highlands and cattle ranch life up close. We also had an opportunity to talk at length with several sailors including the Captain. On the short walk into the farmhouse from the gate we got a very close look at a male vermilion flycatcher; later we saw another male and several females.

Arriving at the 2room farmhouse, the sailors built a fire from wood lying around the area and played various games with the soccer ball and volleyball they brought. After a short time, the farmer and several other men arrived with a young steer in tow. This animal was quickly tied and laid on the ground. They then cut its throat and butchered it on the spot (a new experience for me). The women took one haunch, cut it in thin strips, and marinated the meat. The marinated meat and 1 side of ribs were eventually cooked over the open fire along with a big pot of rice.

Dinner was enjoyed by all with many also enjoying the strong vodka and grapefruit juice punch passed hand to hand. Conversation ranged from ships to sailboats to problems in and plans for the Galapagos. As the air cooled the mountain, clouds came over us briefly and then moved on down the hill. The temperature, mist, and wind chill made it too cold for us during dusk, but this only lasted a short time and by the time real darkness was upon us, the wind had died and the mist was below us. We were treated to a magnificent night sky with millions of stars and a few fine meteors.

After a very tasty dinner and a fine social time, all were ready to head back down the hill. Adventure was not over yet, however. On the second trip up the hill, Christian’s truck had had a tire problem which put it out of action. Craig and I were invited to join the Corvette Captain and several others in a 2-door jeep-type vehicle. Little did we know it had no (I mean NONE) lights! The Captain and 1 of his men did a great job moving slowly ahead of the other truck down the farm track. Once we made it to the dirt road, the vehicles changed places and we followed the other truck’s taillights. All in all, it was quite an experience and goes to show what surprises life has in store if you can just “go with the flow”!

On Wednesday, the Spanish vice consul to Ecuador, his wife and 2 teenagers arrived to visit with Captain Gomezjurado. We had hoped this would provide us with a wonderful opportunity as Christian had planned to take them in this fiberglass ponga on an overnight circuit of the top sites and had invited us along. Unfortunately, the family had a rough ponga ride over from Isla Baltra and was not interested in a whirlwind ponga tour. Nevertheless, we had several nice evenings with them. We also were invited to join their tour of the land attractions around Villamil. These include the tortoise research and incubation center and the National Park trail along the beach area.

The trail was so interesting that I decided to walk it myself and take some time to really explore. It starts out along the large white surf beach to the west of town and passes the cemetery. This is actually the trail that leads to the “wall of tears”. There are numerous short trails which branch off to various sites including several small beaches, some ponds formed in lava holes, a mangrove tunnel and pool, a lava tube, and a salt water lagoon. The last part of the trail leaves the coast and heads inland to the site of the old penitentiary. This stretch is quite long and boring; many will not find the effort worth the reward. The “wall of tears” is made of flat lava rocks and is about 200’ long, 25’ high, and 20’ at the base. Apparently, its only purpose was to keep the prisoners occupied. This walk can easily take 5-6 hours if you visit all the sites. 

Another enjoyable activity near town is the trail that leads to the tortoise breeding center. This includes several stretches of boardwalk that pass through the lagoons where flamingos, ducks, and stilts are seen; then passes on through lava and forested areas. At trails end, you arrive at a well laid out tourist center in the turtle breeding station. There are station guides who will explain the center’s activities and tell you about the tortoises. This walk and the tortoise center will take half a day or  more.

Saturday, August 10 we took a tour up the Sierra Negra volcano with 3 German tourists and “guide” Joseph. This started with a truck ride up the side to a finca. Here we waited for the horses to be “saddled” and brought to us. The “saddles” were made of steel “re bar” and were padded above and below with woven plastic rice bags. I (as well as 1 of the German women) had never ridden a horse before and was quite nervous, especially as these seemed to like to gallop along for short distances at unannounced times.

However, we all had a very enjoyable time. The trip takes you along the rim of the crater that is quite large (the second largest in the world according to Joseph, 15 kilometers across) as you continue toward Volcan Chico. Near the edge of the lava area you leave the horses under a large tree where we encountered a Galapagos hawk hunting in the surrounding fields.

A 30-minute (each way) walk takes you down through an assortment of lava, several small fumaroles, several small craters, and some sulfur deposits. The views of the northern part of the island (including both coasts) are wonderful. Although we never saw the top of the volcanoes from the anchorage due to clouds, the high areas seem to be above the clouds during the middle of the day this time of year. (Everyone we spoke to had the same clear views during their trip up the volcano.)

All in all, we had a great time and felt the $25 a person was worth it. Joseph did a fair job of arranging the truck up and down, and the horses. Unfortunately, he knows very little about the flora, fauna, and geology of the area. Had we been able to find someone with more knowledge, the trip would have been much more interesting. If you take this trip, take plenty of water, lunch, a hat, and a warm top (the upper part of the truck ride and the lower section of the horse ride is in the clouds and is cool.)

The next few days were spent doing boat projects and house chores. Laundry was taken to Hotel Ballena Azul who did a great job. Groceries are a bit hit and miss; there are 2 stores, 3 bakeries, and a couple of stalls in the market; all are within 2 blocks of each other. A supply boat is scheduled to come each Sunday from Guayaquil. Everything is open Sunday, so Sunday afternoon is often the best time to get supplies. Island grown supplies (raw milk, beef, eggs; in season fruits and vegetables) need to be grabbed when you see them. One day 3 pineapples arrived in 1 of the stores and I was lucky enough to get 1; it was really sweet and delicious.

Sunday we were again invited on an outing with Christian and Angela. This time we went for Sunday lunch on a dairy farm  accompanied by Niki and Jaime off Siandra who had arrived with their cruising boat from Baquerizo Moreno several days before. The farmhouse was a very modest with a main room, kitchen/eating area, and a sleeping area.

Lunch was hose stew (sopa de mangera ….a delicious thick broth filled with blood sausage and intestines stuffed with green plantain), fried pork, and boiled yucca. After lunch most of us went with the farmer to see him milk several of his cows. This turned out to be quite a treat for all the kids involved (8-10 of them!) as they got to skim off and eat the foam from the buckets of fresh, warm milk. I have never attempted to milk an animal but it was quite clear from watching the farmer’s hands and arms, it takes a lot of endurance and strength. After heartfelt thanks and many good byes, we headed back down the hill for the harbor.

On Monday we pulled anchor and headed out to sea. After an hour of motoring, the south wind picked up enough to sail and we headed NE through the islands. On our way out we saw tropicbirds, all the different boobies, sea lions, petrels, storm petrels, and albatross. The islands we passed by were similar to Isabella in that they were volcanic and had sparse vegetation.

All in all, the trip was well worth the extra sailing miles. Galapagos and its unique wildlife is extremely interesting. As a cruising yacht and thanks to Captain Christian’s generosity, we got to see many sides of life here. It is a very delicate ecosystem that has been severely damaged by man and his introduced species. Fire ants, goats, rats, cats, pigs, and guava all have caused much damage. Over fishing and other activities of the local population and of tourists also harm the area.

If you do plan to visit these islands, come prepared. Decide before you get here what you really want to see (do some research). Be prepared for very cool weather and (if you want to dive) cold water. If you take a tour be prepared for wet landings that require a fair amount of agility. Bring sturdy shores that will take repeated wetting and can withstand sharp lava.

The sailing adventure from Panama to Ecuador to Galapagos is very time dependent. You leave Panama near the end of March, or mid April, to go to mainland Ecuador. One then leaves the mainland for the Galapagos after the southeast winds (trades) finally set in after June. From the Galapagos one wants to get back to Panama while the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) is still about the coast of Panama.

This plan allows one to sail the whole course with the wind over the beam or shoulder. Fast moderate sailing in breezes of 10 to 20 and seas of 1 to 4 meters. For those not going on to the S. Pacific it is a wonderful way to see everything in the offshore area, sailing an easy 2100 miles.

Galapagos Information, August 2002

This is information we gathered while in Galapagos in August, 2002. Only the information concerning Villamil, Isla Isabela is from our first hand experience. Other information is based on conversations we had during this same time with other sailboats.

            There are 2 set of regulations that have pertinence for visitors of the Galapagos. One is the regulations governing vessels visiting Ecuador and the other is the Galapagos law. Ecuador law requires you to notify the Capitania (Port Captain) and Migration (immigration) when you arrive. Some fees are fixed and some are based on tonnage. There is an entry fee, a contamination (oil pollution fund) fee, and a lights and buoys fee. Migration is $15 entry and $15 exit per boat and when entering a mainland port you can get up to 90 days (but you must ask for 90 or they may put only 30 or 60 in your passport). You can then get up to 90 more days extension in Guayaquil or Quito only. Galapagos law stated that vessels may stay for up to 20 days to effect repairs and take provisions. There are 4 “approved” anchorages where yachts may enter and stay: Baquerizo Moreno (Wreck Bay), Isla San Cristobal; Ayora (Academy Bay), Isla Santa Cruz; Velasco Ibarra, Floreana; and Villamil, Isla Isabela. Although the laws seem clear enough, the reality is that each port captain has his own interpretation.  While we were there, boats that entered Baquerizo or Ayora were charged all fees and told they could no visit any of the other 3 anchorages. Despite this, some did visit Velasco Ibarra and/or Villamil without problem.

            Some boats are arriving in Galapagos with zarpes for Galapagos while others are arriving with zarpes for elsewhere (mostly Panama and Marquesas). Neither seems to cause a problem. There does seem to be a problem getting a zarpe from mainland Ecuador to Galapagos. The current port captain in Villamil considers entry with a zarpe for elsewhere to be an “emergency stop” and does no paperwork and charges no fees; he simply takes a copy of your zarpe and returns the original to you. Unfortunately, he is due to be replaced in November/December, 2002. The current port captains in Ayorra and Banqeriizo charge you all normal entry fees regardless of where you are coming from or where you are zarped to. These 2 ports are the only ones with Migration. If you enter Villamil, the next port captain may required you to send your passports to 1 of these ports for entry/exit stamps.

            As you can see, there is some on-going confusion concerning entry formalities. We zarped from Salinas, Ecuador to Panama  and we also obtained exit stamps from migration in Salinas. When we arrived at Villamil we called the Capitania on channel 16 and then went in to pay our respects. Captain Christian Gomezjurado Devine was extremely friendly. He took a copy of our zarpe, charged us no fees, and said we could stay 20 days. When we informed him we would be departing for Panama, he said there were no formalities necessary as we already had our zarpe from before. Villamil has no migration office and we were never told to do anything about migration.

            We talked to a boat that zarped for Marquesas and entered at Ayora. No questions were asked about the zarpe; it was handed in to the Capitania. He charged all the normal Ecuador fees (lights and bouys, fumigation, etc.) The master was told he could stay 20 days but could not visit any of the other approved anchorages. The master also did normal migration check-in. This vessel later decided to return to Salinas and did normal checkout procedures in Ayora.

            A third boat we spoke to went to Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal arriving with a zarpe from Panama to Galapagos. They followed normal Ecuador check-in with the Capitania and migration. Their only complaint was an unexplained additional fee at both migration and the Capitania. When they pressed hard for an explanation and a written receipt at each place these charges disappeared. They were told 20 days and they could not visit other anchorages. The spent 2 weeks in San Cristobal, cleared for Marquesas, but then came to Villamil needing engine repairs. This was acceptable to Port Captain Christian who asked for an estimate for completion of repairs and for notification when repairs were done. There is no way to tell how this would have played out in peak season or with a different port captain.

            The allowed ports are all quite different. Baquerizo is the provincial capital and is a fair sized town. The anchorage is calm and well protected. There are many sea lions and birds but the relatively large resident population has had a very negative impact on some of the more delicate species. Ayora is the center of tourist activities and has several banks, Internet cafes, and a variety of hotels. This is probably the best place to top up provisions. The anchorage is very busy with tour boats and transients. There is always a swell but this is reported to be easily handled with a stern anchor during the normal season. (We were told in August the swell was dangerously high) Floreana is a very small town which welcomes yachts. (Because it is so far from the other hot tourist spots, they no longer get many tourist and are eager for visitors) It is reported to be well protected. Villamil has a middle sized town and a fair anchorage. You anchor in an area protected from swell by a semi-circle of lava islands and shoals. Although rocks obstruct much of the area, shallower drafts can work their way in through and get better protection. A weekly supply boat from the mainland brings some supplies. None of the ports have docking facilities. Fuel and water are available at all but Floreana; you can jug them yourself or pay for delivery to you boat.

            One further note of uncertainty: while we were in Villamil, we met a man who was doing a survey for the government. He was attempting to collect data about the current variations and apparent vagaries in an attempt to establish consistent application of regulations. As the Ecuador government has little money, this project may flounder or may result in more consistently applied fees in an effort to raise funds. Only time will tell.

            Yet another note: Most of you will be coming from and heading to warm climbs. Galapagos is quite cool. We had water temperatures as low as 61 degrees Fahrenheit on our sail from Salinas to Villamil and average water temperatures in Villamil of 64 degrees. The weather was often misty. Conditions may be a bit warmer “in season” and during “El Nino” years. Also the “soil” is mostly lava and the roads are lava gravel. Wear real shoes and expect a lot a wear and tear.

 

Date Line Mid-July Ecuador Road Trip to the altiplano (parámo) by POGO’s crew.

We finally got to see some of the interior of Ecuador by renting a car for 7 days so we could take Tootsie (our 11 year old husky dog) with us. Travel agents and most guide books will tell you, this is not the recommended way of seeing Ecuador; speaking Spanish and with lots of driving in Central America, Ecuador was a breeze.

Although the road system is quite extensive, much of it is poorly mark; maps are hard to come by and are out of date/wrong. The country is prone to mud slides, flooding, and earth quakes. Although we didn’t really need to have a 4x4, we are glad we rented one as we frequently found ourselves on rough roads where clearance was a definite plus. This costs $100+/day. It is cheaper and easier to hire a driver with a car, but that is a bit limiting.

We had the car delivered to Salinas Saturday night so we could make an early morning departure on Sunday. We headed out for Guayaquil about 0730 and struggled through the city in light traffic (there is no good way around Guayaquil). We then headed east via El Triumfo and La Troncal hoping to visit the Inca ruins at Ingapirca on our way to Cuenca.

As we proceeded through Cañar province we discovered the locals had the road blocked in almost every town to protest lack of funding by the federal government. There were rocks, tree trucks, and people stopping through traffic with tires being slashed and windshields broken. After some discussion with the locals about the issues and with the occupants of another car about the prospect of making it through, it became clear we could not get to Cuenca this way.

We turned around and headed back to La Troncal to take the road to Cuenca through Las Cajas National Park. This route was open and we arrived at our destination about 1900 having driven an extra and irritatingly unnecessary 120km.

The road through Las Cajas is quite rough from the lowlands to above Molleturo; there have been many slides in the past which have been cleared so traffic can pass but real repairs don’t seem to get done and dense fog often adds to the excitement. Once you reach the park the road is quite good the rest of the way to Cuenca.

The park’s main ranger station is next to Laguna Toreadora at an altitude of 3,850 m. This is high Andean parámo country with frequent fog, few trees, and lots of water. You can fish in the streams and lakes for trout if you have the fishing gear and don’t mind the cold. Although there is a ranger at the station and there is supposed to be a park entrance fee, it is not being collected at this time. It is possible to sleep at the station; prior notification is requested if you are coming with a large.

We spent 2 nights at the Gran Hotel in the center of Cuenca. This inexpensive hotel is a converted house with rooms set around a courtyard that is now a covered restaurant and bar. Basic rooms with private tepid showers are $14 including an American breakfast. The two negatives are; the hot water isn’t very warm and it is a bit noisy due to the interior setup and street noise. The pluses are the price, the friendly atmosphere and being in the center of the town.

We spent Monday walking to the market where we did much of our Christmas shopping. (Bargain hard; they are used to dumb foreigners and are tough bargainers. We bought several blankets for $15 each which we later saw in a Cuenca store for $13.) Most of the Ecuadorian textiles are available in the market; other craft items can be found in the numerous shops. There is also a very colorful local market with beautiful fruits and vegetables, hats, basic baskets, prepared food, and great people watching. In the afternoon we walked down along the river and browsed in the shops. One could easily spend 2-3 days in this lovely colonial spot.

On Tuesday morning we headed north on the Panamerican highway for Riobamba. We had hoped to get to Ingapirca from this direction found the road in from the highway was still blocked. We soon discovered that the Panamerican was also blocked and the only way to anywhere else was through Cuenca. Rather than get to Riobamba by going back to the now too familiar La Troncal, we decided to head into the southern Orient and go via Santiago de Mendez and Macas.

The section of road from Pauté to the Palacios dam is very poor and the our map was out of date but the scenery is spectacular. Although the terrain is quite vertical most of it is cultivated. When the dam came into view, we encountered three trucks coming in the opposite direction. The drivers waved us to turn around. They informed us there had been a big slide up ahead and there was no way through to Mendez. We turned around and headed for Cuenca. This time we stayed at the Hotel Italia on the rotary. This is a mid-range hotel. We had a very nice room with a large private bath and good cable TV (4 channels in English including CNN International) for $38 including an American breakfast and tax. There are even nicer rooms for about $10 more. The rooms on the lower floors are noisy due to street traffic.

In the morning we headed back through Las Cajas for La Troncal, El Triumfo and the Panamerican Highway for Riobamba.  There was a lot less fog through the high section this time so we really got a great view of this section of the parámo. Once again we went through the familiar banana and sugarcane plantations of the coastal lowlands. As we started back up towards the highlands, the scenery became very vertical and the road got rough. Although this road is not as high as the road through Las Cajas it still goes through parámo before descending into the central valley. Laguna de Colta is very picturesque; it might be worth the several hours to walk around the perimeter. Although the reeds are a harvested crop, it should be a good local birding.

On arrival at Riobamba we searched for a place to stay. We first stopped at the Albergue Abraspungo outside of town. This is a very nicely done, fairly new hotel created around an old hacienda. The décor includes some very fine photography of the local volcanoes. The rooms with private bathe are about $50. We decided to look elsewhere due to the price and the fact they would not let Tootsie stay in the room. Our next stop was the Hotel El Galpon. Rooms here were $25; although the rooms are good sized, the whole place is quite worn and Tootsie was refused entry. We then headed up the hill 2 doors to the Hotel Chimborazo International. Once again Tootsie was not welcome in the room. We decided to stay anyway and let Tootsie sleep in the car. Rooms with private bath (lots of hot water) and cable TV were $35 including tax and breakfast. They are refurbishing the rooms but the baths are very small and worn. They do have a mirador (a glassed in area on the top) from which you can see the valley and several volcanoes if the sky is clear. We had a wonderful view of Volcan Carihuairazo, but Chimborazo, Tungurahua, and El Altar were hidden by clouds.

After a breakfast and walking Tootsie to Quito Hill, we headed for the volcano Chimborazo (6300m at crater). Once again we had a false start heading north for a secondary road that appeared on our map. After searching up and down the Panamerican in the indicated area we asked directions and found the preferred route. The road goes west out of Riobamba to San Juan where you turn right at the cement factory. There are road signs and a well-paved road up to the reserve and the lower base camps. This area goes through parámo which is much drier than elsewhere becoming a desert on the apron of the volcano; there are numerous easily seen vicunas. (these are reintroduced animals from Peru and Bolivia; they are new world camels)

From the lower camps, the dirt road heads up toward the lower (Refugio Hermanos Carrel ) of the 2 high base camps (at 4,860m). This road is good enough that numerous groups arrive via minivan, 4x4, and even occasional buses. From this camp you can walk up to Refugio Whymper at 5,000m. All 3 of us made it up the hill. Many other climbers we encountered were having a very difficult time with the altitude; we were thankful we had spent several days in the highlands before our climb. We were also very lucky to have an exceptionally clear day.

Both Craig and Tootsie drank from the melt-water stream that flows along the path while I collected volcanic rocks (a good collection for a boater, don’t you think?). This volcano is the highest in Ecuador and the most easily accessed. It is covered with snow and ice so a full assent requires ice gear. The day we visited, 7 climbers made it to the top. To cross the snow bowl near the top before the snow softens in the sun, climbers leave the base in the middle of the night. In good weather, it is not a particularly difficult assent except for the altitude. Once again, we found no entrance fees for the reserve are being collected. Climbers can arrange to stay in the Whymper base camp at the Whymper Hotel in Riobamba.

After stopping for many photos of the volcano, we arrived in Ambato. This is even less of a tourist town than Riobamba. We stayed in the center at the Gran Hotel. Rooms with private baths (hot water) and cable TV are $15 including tax. The rooms vary considerable although the price seems to be the same so view several if you can. It is a bit of a dump but it’s clean, the price is right, and it’s in the center. In the morning we walked to the market and the museum of natural history.

The photographs in the museum are quite good but the stuffed animals are very ragged and poorly marked (in Spanish). Entrance is $1. There are several stalls on the main street selling Ecuadorian textiles; asking prices are more realistic here as the vendors deal mostly with local clientele rather than tourists.

At midday we headed west for Guaranda. Once again we climbed out of the central valley and headed down the western slope. On the way to Guaranda we turned right off the main road down the rugged dirt road to Salinas. It took us 45 minutes to cover the 20k road covered in large gravel. Salinas is a mountain town that has set up a cooperative to attract tourists. There is a store across from the plaza that sells locally made hand knit sweaters, delicious chocolates, dried mushrooms, fresh trout, fresh sausage, and aged (Andino) cheese. Baskets made from parámo grasses and knit goods from other locations are also available. Prices here are fixed, there are no great deals but prices are fair. (Hand knit wool sweaters and ponchos are $16.) If you have time (we didn’t) you can visit the workshops where they make chocolates, the dry mushrooms, and make cheeses. If the fog lifts enough to see the countryside, the scenery is beautiful and the people are very friendly. We really enjoyed finishing off our Christmas lists here.

After bouncing back down the gravel road, we headed for Guaranda and checked in to La Colina. This is a “tourist complex” on the hill just above town. Nice rooms with private (hot water) bath, small balcony, and very limited cable TV are $40. A continental breakfast (if you want eggs you pay a bit additional) is included and there is a Turkish sauna, a Swedish sauna and a heated swimming pool at no extra charge. All in all, this is an excellent value and was a great treat for our last night on the road. The town is quite small and is a very short walk from the hotel. There are several vendors selling woven and knit goods. The prices are quite good as few outside tourists reach this area. One note; the only bank machine in town is at the Banco Pichincha and uses the BanRed system.

Saturday morning came all too soon. We wished we had more time and could have gotten to Cotopaxi (especially as this day was the clearest we had!). We headed down hill to the coastal plain via Babahoyo and back for Guayaquil. According to The Lonely Planet Babahoyo means “slime pit”. I’m not sure if this is an accurate translation but this was the worst area we saw. In general the coastal plain in this area is very flat and crisscrossed with rivers and streams. It looks like a malarial heaven! The houses and shacks are all built on stilts at least 8’ high. About the only positive comment I can make about this rice-growing country is the birding seems good. AS the road gets closer to Guayaquil the crops change to sugarcane and bananas.

Arriving at the Guayaquil-Duran Bridge, we both became anxious of the impending transit of the city. There is no way around and maps are of limited help as there is a lot of roadwork going on with attendant poorly marked detours. We managed to get through with minimal loss of time and only 2 wrong turns. Thanks to Craig’s good (somewhat insane) driving we arrived back in Puerto Lucia in mid-afternoon in time to get the car cleaned out, some of the laundry done and most of the purchases sorted before dark.

All in all, we had a great time. A week is definitely not enough time. We could easily have enjoyed another day in Cuenca. We wanted to see some of the Orient and more volcanoes. We missed Quito (we hear this is worth several days), Otovalo, and Banos. Many Ecuadorians recommend Vilcabamba and Puyo. (The Lonely Planet has little good to say about the later but apparently it has a relatively large foreign [ex-pat] community, good scenery, and lovely climate.) Traveling by bus is inexpensive and comfortable deluxe buses are available for most of the long hauls. Keep your plans flexible; mudslides, floods, community unrest, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are very real possibilities. Get a good guide book (more is better) and if you go to Quito you might want to get the topographic maps available there. Get cash in the larger towns and count on taking more stuff back than you came with. Bottled water is available almost everywhere. If you are from a low area allow several days to adjust to the altitude of the highlands. Several light layers work well with the outer ones being cardigan or jacket type of ease of taking on and off. (We were really glad we had flannel shirts.)

 
Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, La Libertad, Ecuador ..... June, 2002

Mid March we pried ourselves free from PMBC, transiting the Panama Canal south bound and sailed to the Perlas. On board POGO II for this year’s adventure, Capt Sarah Terry, Commodore Craig Owings, Claus Madsen crewing and Tootsie the PUP guarding all.

After several days of R + R and re-stowing things, we departed for Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. The 4.5 day sail was very nice (quite a change from last year’s Caribbean trip). We sailed all but the last morning with northerly winds and mostly well-spaced swells and a full moon.

Bahia de Caraquez is a small beach town on a point at the month of the Rio Chone. The entrance is only about 10’ deep at high tide and is not marked. The local Ecuadorian Navy Port Captain seems to be in cahoots with the private pilots and is requiring boats to take a pilot in and out at a current price of $30 each way. (This is a $5 increase since earlier in the year)

The Ecuadorian regulations state that while pilotage is highly recommended it is not required, the US Sailing Directions for S. America make the same statement. We spoke with the Port Captain on this subject, and with other Navy personnel that were on board for our departure, to show them the current capabilities of most modern boats to track and duplicate their route. We explained that this information is easy for boats to share so pilotage is really only necessary for the first boat or two and should be voluntary; our hope is that they will be forced to re-think this “requirement”.

We also had a Navy man ask for a gift of a decal of the Statue of Liberty for his truck and later for a flashlight. While these are small items, it is an awkward position to be in. This is the only person so far to “hit” on us this way.

Other costs for entering Ecuador included $30 at immigration. This seems to be the fee per boat as others with 2 on board (we had 3) also paid $30 and gives you 90 days. The closest Immigration office is in Manta, a 2 1/2 hour bus ride away and should be done within 7 days of arriving. Manta is also center for the fishing fleet and is reputed to be a good place to get parts. There is also a fee for buoys and lights of $0.33/ton, a radio fee of $9.24, and a $3.96 “contamination” fee (we think for an oil pollution fund). All in all, it cost about $100 to get in and out of this port. We are also told that when you make your third port, that fees are waived for that port and additional ports; this came from Don on Starship as he made Puerto Isabella in the Galapagos this 3d port and was not charged.

Bahia (as the locals call it) is a would-be resort town. The last president had a weekend place here. This caused some real growth and many improvements in infrastructure. That was until the 1998 El Nino washed the beach away and then an earthquake caused further damage to buildings and mudslides.  The town is now a sleepy place with a wide ocean-side beach at low tide. Boats anchor in front of the Port Captain’s office and go ashore by dingy. The best place to tie is alongside the Navy landing craft ferry, which is usually bow-in to the sea wall. The difficulties in this anchorage include strong outgoing current especially on spring tide with heavy rains up-river. Heavy rains can also mean a lot of floating debris.

There is no easy source of drinking water and all water and fuel is jerry jugged. At this time there is only 1 guy providing any service and that is a costly laundry pick-up. With some hunting, you should be able to find cheap services, as the labor market is extremely depressed. There is a hotel next to the Capitainia where you can shower for $1. Some of the pluses are local restaurant close-by with “almuerzos” for $1.50 and 1 liter beers for $1. There is also a video rental and several Internet cafes close by. There is a local market open every morning with fresh produce and several stores that have most essentials.

A number of boats have been left at anchor while crews visit inland Ecuador. There are usually other boats nearby to watch the empty boats and being in front of the Capitainia helps. Despite this several dingy motors have been stolen, though from dinghies left in the water. There is a gringo (Gary Swenson) starting the paper process to establish a “marina” here. Initial efforts will probably be moorings, services, and a haulout. Due to current and 2-meter tidal range, building docks will be costly. 

After several laid back weeks in Bahia, Craig, Tootsie, and I headed for Puerto Lucia near Salinas arriving April 24. Again we had a nice moon and smooth seas. Unfortunately there was little wind so we motored most of the way. Many boats anchor off Manta and/or Puerto Lopez and/or Isla Plata. We came direct in an overnighter. Because we had paid the initial fees in Bahia, entrance fees here were only $6.79 and included another “contamination” fee.

Puerto Lucia Yacht Club is a fairly new facility on the outskirts of Libertad. It is a complex which includes 2 large condo buildings (more are under construction), a clubhouse, pool, hotel, bar and restaurant. Boat facilities include slips, med-moor to a seawall (you use your dingy to get ashore but you do have water and electric hook-up), several moorings, and a storage area for boats hauled out by a 50-ton travel lift.

Unless you pay a $6/day/person fee for use of the clubhouse/pool/bar/restaurant ($3 in off season) there is no real place for socializing. We have been told there is currently no fee for resident boaters for attending happy hour Mon-Fri from 1700 to 1900 hours.

The pluses here include excellent security; it’s a good place to leave you boat on the hard and go traveling. There is very little rain here as the Santa Elena Peninsula is a desert. There is a reasonable laundry service on premises (they charge by the pound @ $.39) but it seems to work out to be about $3 to wash, dry and fold each load. The negatives include lack of parts supplies and quality technical work.

The worst thing for us is that the owner is very anti-dog and is very capricious; the rules may change at any time. While the marina is called a Yacht Club, and is “non profit” it is really “owned” and rules made at whim by a committee of one. One boat was not allowed to land because there was a dog on board. This was quite a blow as they had come to haul out prior to heading into the Pacific. For

Tootsie we keep her on the boat most of the time Friday afternoon to Monday morning when the owner is here. Although the official word was dogs could be in the haul-out area, he complains to the manager anytime he sees Tootsie on the ground even under the boat. Weekdays we seem to be able to take her out the gate for a run with no problems. The worst part of this is we don’t feel comfortable asking someone else to care for here while we go traveling. We have asked to speak with the owner or someone who has the authority to work out a solution up have been ignored. In fact, the owner seems to speak to no one except his managers. As a visiting Commodore, Craig finds this treatment offensive. Fortunately, the owner seems to be the only really unfriendly person.

We hauled out the day after arriving; our plan had being to travel for a month, or more, in Peru & Bolivia while George (a Canadian who runs a crew here) supervised work on POGO. Due to the Tootsie dilemma and a shaft problem, our only traveling has been a weekend in Guayaquil.

We are still on the hard, going a bit stir crazy and are not yet on our "tour". We may take a short trip via rental car next week to southern Ecuador (Loja) taking Tootsie with us. We are still looking for a solution to the dog sitter problem for a Peru trip. We may end up going for only 10 days instead of the 25-30 days we had hoped. If we are away only 1 weekend maybe someone can manage Tootsie here.

The real problem here is the owner who is here Friday afternoon to Monday morning. As long as he is not here we can take T out the gate to run, etc. This seems to be the way here …. it's ok as long as you don't get caught (whatever "it" is).

We are also slowed by the shaft problem. Craig took ours to a shop here to have a small area built up. After an in-depth discussing, he was convinced the machinist-welder would so the job right and he left the shaft there. As I'm sure you've guessed, he screwed it up. We have had a new shaft brought down from Miami. It arrived yesterday. After a lot of banging and heating Craig decided to measure the shaft and discovered it is 5/1,000 larger than the coupling. Of course, this place is called "the black hole" by the cruisers and has a reputation for being difficult to impossible to get away from due to screw-ups, delays, and unexpected equipment failures. We have wanted to get this resolved before leaving for areas inland. 

Craig’s commentary on the shaft:

Some mechanics ya never know about .... Ya never know .... I just pulled the original bronze shaft from POGO ... 24 years in service and a little wear in the packing area. So I decided to have the wear welded up and machined to size; done it myself in my shop in Panama on other shafts ... no sweat, easy work.

I carried the shaft to the shop in La Libertad, Ecuador and spoke with the owner of the shop. He pulled out the electric arc rod I wanted used, and we discussed the fact that the shaft needed to be heated black hot before an attempt at electric welding the bronze .... heads shook affirmatively; my Spanish is very good ... no misunderstandings.

When I returned, I found the keyway recut with an end cut mill bit (no up taper in the end of the cut); I ask why they were messing at the end of the shaft. Well it seems that they could not get the bronze rod to weld correctly ...... you did heat it black hot? .... well not actually, we could not find the "rose bud" tip for the torch ...... but you cannot weld bronze arc rod cold ...... yes we found that out, so we decided to gas weld the shaft ..... but the shaft "sagged" 3/8ths of an inch. We then welded up the sag and machined the shaft true again ..... what rod did you use to weld up the shaft? .... on inspection it was common brazing rod.

But that OK señor, it will work just fine ...... trying to control my temper, I ask if he would come tow me in when the shaft cracked off .... he smiled a and shrugged.

Life in the fast lane with faster mechanics .... :)

The brighter side is that it only cost $700 in Miami for a new Aquamet 22 shaft ( the old one probably needed replacing anyway ... auto-justification) and $200 to hand carry it to Ecuador. The shaft is a work of art ..... but its OD is 1.505" and the ID of the coupling is 1.500" .... +.005 interference fit is just not possible .... so guess who the only machine (& welding) shop is in La Libertad :(} .... some days .....

Of course I can get the coupling done in Miami ..... and hand carry it to Ecuador ..... and sometimes I think farming would be easier .....

As most of you know, we are not good at making decisions about future plans but here goes. We have decided (at least this is today's plan) to sail to Galapagos on the July full moon (provided we can escape the Black Hole) and then head back to Panama. Gae has invited Sarah to go to Australia with her in November.

Craig will make sure PMBC is ready for the “high season” and take one last look at the marina project possibility. If things still do not look hopeful we will head into the Pacific with a tentative plan to head to Pitcairn and the southern Gambiers.

We do not expect to go around but we will see. It has become apparent to us that Ecuador, Peru, and northern Chile are a lot of miles with no places to gunk hole. Facilities are few and far between and they are set up on the Latin model; the local boat owners want lots of service and do no "labor" themselves; they do not understand gringo "do-it-yourselfers".

The sailors here do not even furl the sails themselves when they come in from a day sail! We went to the Salinas YC last week for a "visiting commodore's tour". They have over 3,000 members and a waiting list to get in and another waiting list for slips. They are in a pickle as they have no place to expand but the by-laws give sons of members a right to become members. They also have a swimming pool, tennis courts, "all game" courts, 3 restaurants, and 2 bars.

They say foreign yachtsmen are welcome, they have no place for them as all slips are full (and are owned by individual members) and the traffic at the fuel dock is very heavy during the "temporal" (their high season which corresponds to the season foreign boats are here-January through April). Puerto Lucia is the only yacht facility in Ecuador that has any room or interest in outsiders at this time.

As for Peru, there seem to be some places to go in but the port captains are very corrupt and want a big bite. The YC near Lima is very expensive. One boat here is planning to go to Chile along the coast but will by-pass Peru to avoid the port captains. Here to Arica turns out to be a 1,800-mile sail! All in all, it looks like a lot of effort to sail some place you have to wear sweaters and thermals.

We just got word through the radio nets that a single-hander has drowned at Flamenco Saturday night. He was Bob off Orion. Apparently he was ashore when a squall hit Saturday night. His boat broke loose and he tried to swim out to it. It's unclear if he died trying to reach the boat, trying to get a line from the boat to some place, or if he tried to tow the boat by swimming. In any case it seems a tragedy that shouldn't have happened; a boat is not worth your life no matter how little you have.

I also hope the ACP and Panama Government don't use Bob's lack of common sense as an excuse to shut down a very useful anchorage. It has become very clear to us there is no place like Panama for provisioning and preparing for the jump into the Pacific (or the Caribbean for that matter).

Craig Says:

Of the systems on POGO, the most useful to date is the HF radio and the Pactor radio modem. It keeps us in communication with the world and friends. It is a must for anyone traveling worldwide. A HAM license is another great thing to have ….. then the Winlink email system is open for non-commercial traffic … for commercial/business there is Sailmail (http://www.sailmail.com), a non-profit association that runs Pactor email stations worldwide. For radio gear the ICOM 710 with AT130 tuner and the Pactor IIPro w/ the Pactor III update is the way to go. The new firmware upgrade to the Pactor II that takes the system to the Pactor III format is GREAT. I am currently downloading 50kb weather files in a little over 10 minutes via the Winlink system …. Of course this requires a HAM license and is not possible over the SailMail system as they do not allow attachments. So get that HAM license.

On our list of “things-to-have” we want a gyro compass autopilot; the price is now affordable and from the incoming reports, these will steer in almost any weather. Raytheon, WD, and others now make yacht versions of these. The other item is a watermaker … reports are the Village Marine, Spectre, Pur are the way to go.

The new (1000 hours now) Yanmar 4JH3-TE is running like a top …. Good fuel economy and great power/speed when you need it. The only criticism is the factory paint job, just pure crappy. I am spot painting all over the engine as the paint flakes off.

I am currently using (testing) 3 electronic navigation programs; MaxSea, Nobeltec Visual Navigation Suite, and Raytheon’s RayTech Navigator. All have great features, but the Nobeltec is the hands down winner in most areas. The MaxSea has the best weather display, but the rest is a bit clunky. Raytech is up an coming and should be there soon …. With the new HSB2 for their radars and the interface with the navigation computer, they have a real winner. You can do mini-marpa on the radar/chartplotter/laptop with no difficulty to 10 targets. The only thing is that you need to have the new Raytheon radars with the HSB2 port … the good thing is that you can upgrade the old HSB system to the new HSB2, hardware and software for around $700 by sending the old unit back to Raytheon.

 

All is well on POGO and the days slide by in retirement.

 

Home