The Roaring World – Galapagos #4

5815_DR_275By the time you read this,  I will have landed in Panama and commenced the next phase of the journey… traversing through the Panama Canal.

From the amount of large shipping traffic I have been seeing the last few days, I fully expect the experience to be very different from that of the Galapagos Islands, where so much work is being done to better understand, research and protect the islands.

Here in Panama, over 100 years ago, it was of the highest importance for the governments of the world to find a quicker and safer passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The amazing canal that was created up and over the wild Isthmus of Panama profoundly changed the course of world commerce, travel and development. Both of these desires – the one to preserve nature as it is, and the other to remake nature to human purposes, are important – though oftentimes, they stand at opposite ends of a lively and ongoing debate.

So by now, you have hopefully had a chance to check out Tegan’s excellent Science Notes on the Galapagos. Before I begin to explore Panama, I have a few more observations to share on the Galapagos.

While I have sent along updates on my initial visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, and my subsequent visit to North Seymour Island… not to mention my close encounter of the near disastrous kind… my time on the Galapagos Islands also provided me the opportunity to meet quite a few interesting people and to learn something about their particularly unique and passionate pursuits.

While visiting the cafés of Santa Cruz in the evenings, I met turtle experts, tour guides, and other global citizens, not so different from myself… as well as several scientist/sailors who were researching local sea life.

One interesting encounter was with a crew member with the Sea Shepherd organization, widely known for their activist opposition to commercial whaling, who educated me as to some of the organization’s less publicized efforts. As regards the Galapagos specifically, Sea Shepherd has given assistance to local authorities in two different areas; the first was in providing trained sniffing dogs to detect the illegal smuggling of exotic pets like iguanas and sea cucumbers, and secondly, by providing local commercial fishermen with AIS (Automatic Identification System) transmitters so that the authorities, as well as other local fishermen operating legally, can better enforce fishing regulations in their territorial waters and thus better promote the health and vitality of the regional fishing stock.


As Tegan explains in her report, there have for long been a variety of research projects going on in the Galapagos. She points us to one that our colleagues at Earthwatch are undertaking with the island’s famous Darwin finches.

bottlenose_275Once in Panama, we will be close to another great Earthwatch Research project – this one involved in safeguarding whales and dolphins in a still remote southern bay of Western Costa Rica, with the intent of protecting them when tourism starts to expand in that area. The project monitors three species of cetaceans in the gulf: the pantropical spotted dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, and the humpback whale. By focusing on these cetacean species, they hope to gain knowledge on how to more effectively preserve this beautiful marine ecosystem.

While the Galapagos are a special place that has in recent times become a “hot” destination for the eco-tourism industry, the fact is that places just like the Galapagos exist in one form or another just about everywhere in the world. Most, if not all of these under-developed areas are under similar pressures to withstand the immense pressures put upon the local environment and their populations.

Think about the Galapagos going from 600 residents to 20,000 in less than four decades all the while working to accommodate the growing stream of tourists that come – all of whom need food, lodging and services. Imagine the effect this has on indigenous populations and their traditions, which can easily be overwhelmed by such demands.

One last memory of my time on the Galapagos I would like to share. Last week at the end of a long day working on the boat (and in the rain…) I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with how long it was taking me to get things done. At the end of the workday, as I stepped off the water taxi, I suddenly knew I had to take a walk to Turtle Bay – some 40 minutes away. I had only an hour before public access to the beach was to close, so I hurried off.


The hike took me through a broad patch of cactus and trees, then through low brush and across lava fields at which point, l cleared a rise where ahead of me opened up one of the cleanest and longest stretches of white sand beach I have ever seen.

4838_beach_550Turtle Beach

With only a few moments until I had to turn around and walk back, I dug my feet in the sand and watched as surfers rode the waves, hikers walked along the beach, photographers with extra long lenses looked for epic photographs and ghost crabs played tag with the waves and with each other. In just a few minutes’ time, all the frustrations of the day evaporated, and I found myself tucked under nature’s wing … preserved there at the shifting border between sea and shore.

Turtle Beach – Santa Cruz Island – Galapagos

It struck me in that moment how very important it is that places such as Turtle Beach be allowed to exist – specifically such places that still ROAR with a natural beauty that has not yet been compromised and transformed by commercial development, excessive tourism or resource extraction.

How can we keep these places as natural and undisturbed as possible yet still allow them to be publicly available to all? How can we maintain their raw and yet fragile beauty so that they might remain pristine for generations to come?

It’s places like Turtle Bay that help to keep us in touch with our natural world – and with our natural selves! We are not separate from the natural world. Rather we are an absolutely integral part of it – the world’s fate is our fate. As the great Henry David Thoreau famously wrote… ”In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

As the miles click off behind me and I near my transit of the Panama Canal, I come to the close of my time traversing the Pacific Ocean. I know that the crossing of the Canal will be another amazing experience and of an entirely different nature than any that has come before it… but an experience entirely new and unexpected I know it will be… which I suppose is what people like myself awaken each morning intent upon experiencing.

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and (the ready-for-anything) Franklin

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Tegan’s Science Notes #9: The Galápagos

Dave RearickAs I write this, I am less than 100 miles from Panama where I will commence a whole new adventure by traversing the Panama Canal. 

I do have a few more observations to share about my time in the Galapagos, but while I write those up, I’d like to hand-off here to our ocean scientist colleague Tegan Mortimer, who will share with us yet another in her wondrous series of “Science Notes” (See them all here!) – this new one on the Galapagos, naturally… as seen through the awesome lens of science! Take it away Tegan!

:: Tegan’s Science Notes #9 – The Galapagos

Tegan MortimerSailors called them the Enchanted Isles because strong currents and swirling mists could cause the islands to disappear and reappear right before their eyes. The Galápagos were made famous by Charles Darwin’s visit in 1835 during his voyage on board the HMS Beagle. The observations Darwin made on the islands had a direct impact on the development of his theory of evolution. Today these islands are still an unmatched source of biological wonder and continue to contribute to our study and understanding of the process of evolution.

Despite straddling the equator, the Galápagos do not have a tropical feel. In fact this archipelago is home to the northernmost penguin colony in the world, the only native penguins to be found in the Northern Hemisphere (though the penguins do spend most their time in the Southern Hemisphere, as only the most northern island is above the equator). You’ll remember from my African Penguins post (again, they are all listed on the Citizen Science page) that the KEY is in the water: cold, nutrient-rich water.


The Galápagos Islands are located in a unique area in which can be found the convergence of several currents of tropical and subtropical waters that upwell around the islands. For a long time oceanographers thought that the cold waters surrounding the Galápagos came from the Humboldt Current (also known as the Peru Coastal Current) which runs along the western coast of South America carrying cold Antarctic water northward. However another type of current, called an undercurrent, which runs below and opposite to a surface current, was discovered in 1956. This current, called the Equatorial Undercurrent or Cromwell Current after its discoverer, is now seen as the reason for the island’s cool waters. The Cromwell Current flows eastward the entire length of the equator in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of about 100 meters below the westward flowing surface currents. As the current approaches the Galápagos, it is forced upwards by underwater seamounts forming an upwelling system. The waters then flow westward again as part of the South Equatorial Current.


There is a reason why Darwin’s visit to the Galápagos (as well as other islands) had such an effect on his ideas about evolution and natural selection. Islands often have a large number of endemic species, i.e., those that are found nowhere else. The Galápagos are no exception to this. But why do islands have so many unique animals? Geologically, the Galápagos are fairly young, they are volcanic islands formed sometime between 80 and 90 million years ago. In that time animals had to colonize the newly formed islands from the closest landmass, which is the mainland of South America, over 500 miles away. Of all the animal colonizers that reached the Galápagos, only a few would be able to survive and establish populations, which are the animals that still survive today – many of which Dave talked about in his updates.


When animals colonize islands, a few things often happen. These animals have been ‘released’ from pressures like competition and predation that they were under in their original locale. so they can quickly diversify to take advantage of the many different ecological niches that are available in their new home. These animals often don’t have to worry about predators any longer so they lose many of their anti-predator behaviors. Dave’s story about the baby sea lion illustrates this very point. The parent seals can leave the babies alone while they go hunting, knowing that no predator will attack the vulnerable babies. It may also help explain why the baby sea lion in Dave’s story came right up to the tour group without any hesitation. Among birds, this absence of predators can account for why birds may become flightless (like the cormorant) or lay their eggs on the ground, just as the blue-footed booby does.

These traits make islands very susceptible to the effects that follow from introducing animals like cats, dogs and rats which can easily prey on native animals. Humans too have had a heavy impact on island populations by hunting some animals to extinction. Luckily, today we have come to realize just how fragile these ecosystems are, which has caused many people and organizations to take up the work of protecting such special and “endangered” places… including the Galápagos.

Darwin’s Finches

There’s one group of animals from the Galápagos that needs a special mention. Darwin’s finches are a group of 15 species of birds found throughout the islands which Darwin specifically mentions in his Origin of Species. In this way, these birds became an important part of the scientific history of evolutionary thought, and as I will explain still maintain an important role in our modern understanding of evolution and the ways humans can impact it.


These birds are the classic example the adaptive radiation I mentioned earlier. A colonizer species to the island, the finches diversified into these 15 species all of which have different shaped beaks, each of which is related to what type of food that particular species eats. These birds are thought to be the fastest evolving animals on earth, which means that researchers can follow them, year to year, and track the natural selection pressures which define which species thrive and which do not.

However, another pressure is being placed on them as well. Human foods, like rice, are now widely available in much of these finches’ range. Birds that feed on human foods can lose the characteristics that make them evolutionary ‘fit,’ as earlier selection pressures are no longer being placed on them. The loss of these characteristics can erode the differences between the various species of finches leading to a loss of biodiversity. So instead of 15 different species, which are highly evolved to eat different food sources, it’s possible we may end up with just a few species that feed on human scraps. It would be tragic loss of such an amazing group of birds.

This study of the finches is actually a research project that my colleagues at Earthwatch are conducting in the Galapagos not far from where Dave moored Bodacious Dream. You can find out more about their project called Following Darwin’s Finches in the Galapagos at the link.

- Tegan 

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Stalking the Wild Galapagos #3

Blue Footed BoobieIt seems to me that there are three things that people most immediately associate with the Galapagos Islands; 1) Charles Darwin, 2) Giant Tortoises and 3) Blue-footed Boobies!

Since I’d already made my pilgrimage to the Charles Darwin Research Station to meet the giant tortoises (and land iguanas,) the next stop on my tour was to track down the blue-footed boobies!

At 8AM last Tuesday morning, I (kinda sorta) sprang from bed to meet the bus that would take a number of us visitors on a day-long excursion to North Seymour Island, one of the more ecologically-important islands north of the central island of Santa Cruz. Sparsely populated as it is, North Seymour is famous for its many blue-footed boobies along with its equally legendary frigate birds, land iguanas, marine iguanas and sea lions. We would also have a chance to snorkel along the shoreline. Needless to say, I was pretty excited at what the day would bring.

My fellow touristas on the bus seemed to be from everywhere in the world – South Africa, Holland, New Zealand, France, Texas, London and Indiana (no, not me, someone else!) – all of us equally intent on spotting a blue-footed booby. George was our guide and the boat; the Galapagos Shark would be our vessel.

The Galapagos Shark

The bus ride to the north end of Santa Cruz Island took about 30 minutes. As we drove up and over the center of the island, we rose up to a height of 1600 feet… from which we could see across the tops of the ancient volcano craters out of which the island had originally formed. Then we headed back down to the shore on the north end where we left the bus and jumped into a small inflatable dingy that took us out to the awaiting Galapagos Shark. Once on board, we were given a brief safety talk and description of our day. We learned that the trip to North Seymour would be another 40 minutes passage along a beautiful shoreline pocked with small sandy beaches. Let me tell you, I made the most of my time having someone else drive the boat, by just riding along, sitting on the bow and watching the world roll by!

4883_tree_275At first look, North Seymour looked none too inviting. Dark reddish brown lava rock met us at the difficult landing spot. Once on land, we were introduced to an array of scruffy trees, all about five feet tall… that looked next to dead. We were told that the environment this time of year is very dry and desert-like, and that this is as tall as the trees grow. It was good to know that they weren’t dead at least, but simply in a state of “summer hibernation.”

4880_sea_lion_275Once we were all regrouped on shore, we were in short order greeted by a small and precocious baby sea lion, barking as if insisting that we all come and play with him – right now! Our guide George explained to us that mother and father sea lions travel long distances out to sea during the day to feed and to bring food back for the little ones who stay behind on the island were there (lucky for them) there was an absence of predators.

Soon after commencing our walk, we began to see frigate birds – another iconic species of the Galapagos. These birds are known for their exceptional ability to float and soar for long periods of time, as well as their unique mating habits, all of which are observable there on North Seymour.

A fully inflated frigate bird …

One fun thing about the frigate birds is that the male bird has this bright reddish-orange sac under its chin which once engaged in its mating rituals, he inflates to a disproportionate size all in the hope of attracting a female, while they in the meantime, are soaring overhead scanning the group of puffed-up male birds looking for the one it finds the most attractive. Once paired off, the male presents the female with a stick as a sort “down payment” gesture to signal his readiness to begin nesting and breeding.

At this time of year, you can see a number of young in the nests who wait for the mother to bring food back to them. At the same time, other frigate birds were just initiating new mating cycles. So, there was quite a visual and sound mix of bloated red chins and chirping baby frigates going on as we tramped about the island.

Towards the northern side of the island, we at last happened into a blue-footed booby neighborhood. I am happy to report that these birds do indeed have very blue feet. I mean it … really blue! I’m not talking blue-ish or fill-in-the-blank blue, but blue like a robin’s egg blue!

A blue-footed boogie avec œufs …

We walked through their nesting area and among the many nests, there were a number of birds actively incubating their eggs. The boobies use their blue feet to roll the eggs directly beneath them and then cradling them with those big blue feet, they lower themselves right down onto the eggs to warm them and so incubate them to hatching.

While the frigate bird nests up in the trees, the blue-footed booby nests on the ground. As we walked along and encountered both species, it was hard not to see them as eco-friendly collaborators, what with the boobies nesting on rocks just a foot or two off the ground and the frigates nesting in those tress, closer to five feet off the ground!

While it was fascinating to see the bright red necks of the frigate birds and the bright blue feet of the boobies, it was extra exciting to see these fairly substantial creatures ascend to the sky and fly with such grace and power over our heads in ballet-like formations of ten to twelve.

4961_birds_550For these formidable aviarians, the sky’s the limit …

4717_land_iguana_275As if the blue-footed boobies and red-necked frigate birds weren’t enough, from time to time, we’d see large land iguanas as well, moving around under cactuses. As you can see, these creatures are vibrantly colored yellow and orange to blend in with their surroundings. Many of these iguanas live to over 40 years old!

Having had my curiosity about the blue-footed boobies satisfied, it was time to head back to the boat and see about doing some snorkeling along the shore of the island.

While the past several years, I never seem to be far from the ocean, the fact is that it has been many years since I’ve snorkeled – and this didn’t look to me to be a very inviting area to make my underwater comeback. But what the heck… ever the good sport, I donned my mask and flippers and slipped into the warm waters along with everyone else.

Starting in about 25 feet of water, I could see below me some rays slipping along the bottom. As I swam closer towards the rocks nearer to the shore, the water got shallower, and as it did, more and more different kinds of fish started to appear. From tiny darting fish to bigger, slower moving and more brightly colored fish – it was quite the sight to be down there swimming right alongside them. Darn! I’d forgotten how much fun snorkeling was!

eagle_ray_275We had been snorkeling for half an hour or so when out of the corner of my eye I saw something large coming up right alongside me. Suddenly there appeared a rather large and very beautiful Eagle Ray propelling itself along so very gracefully – as if it were a bird in the air. So mesmerizing it was – its body black with white spots on the top and lightly colored underneath. I just floated and let it swim around me, as if I wasn’t even there! Alas, I had decided earlier not to risk bringing my camera … but that was at the cost of not having any photographs to show you of that magical Eagle Ray – except the one above, graciously provided by our dear been-everywhere seen-everything friend, the Internet.

As if this wasn’t enough, and after a great lunch of grilled fresh fish onboard the Galapagos Shark, the Captain steered us towards a sandy beach where we landed and began to investigate the lagoon just inside the shore. On our way there, we saw the remains of a sea turtle nest. These were fairly large craters dug into the sand – some maybe 5 feet in diameter. This is where the sea turtles lay their eggs and from where new hatchlings scurry (if turtles can be said to scurry) across the beach and out to sea.

4985_flaming_450At the lagoon, we were also treated to the sight of two pink flamingos. Elegant and long-legged, with one leg artfully pulled up under its body; they rested and preened their feathers, as all in our tour group fell over each other in the rush to take photographs.

The Galapagos is such a unique marine environment that I would have to say that just showing up by boat on a random Tuesday without some kind of plan in place is not exactly the best way to take in all that’s there. As it was, by the time I began to call, many of the tours were booked and I was lucky to get on the one I did. Should I return, I’ll be sure to plan ahead so that I can catch even more of the deep-in-time experience that awaits you there.

On the bus ride back to town, we stopped for a moment at a huge sinkhole in the middle of the island. It was explained to us that this was not a volcanic crater, even though it looked like one. Nope, this was an actual sinkhole and it was no less than 1000 years old! The ground around it was a honeycomb of volcanic rock, and it was an earthquake that caused the ground to collapse. What a beautiful and amazing site it was.

So much to see on these islands that has remained largely undisturbed for thousands of years – an amazing place to explore… a place where you get the curious feeling that time has slowed down perhaps to better accommodate the great turtles.

Now that I’m back on the water and continuing my sail to Panama, I continue to reflect on the beauty that I witnessed on the Galapagos Islands. I hope that I’ll get the chance to visit once again and to see more of it all at a more leisurely pace. Until then, memories of blue-footed boobies, red-breasted frigate birds, eagle rays and giant tortoises will have to suffice.

- Dave, Bodacious Dream (and the sea lion) Franklin
3.67462N, 83.3392W 

A Close Call in the Galapagos #2

It’s been quite the eventful 24 hours since I began my final preparations for leaving the amazing Galapagos IslandsBodacious Dream and I departed yesterday, Wednesday the 7th about 14:15 hours from Puerto Auyro on Santa Cruz Island, and headed west and then north around the western side of the island through the late afternoon and evening. No particular reason to go that way instead of the shorter, eastern way other than after so many weeks of sailing through vast oceans with vistas of only ocean and sky, I thought I’d like to sail along the shoreline for a while. That and the fact that Panama, my next destination, is only 935 miles away and I’m not feeling super rushed to get there! A short hop to be sure, compared to all the others!

Crossing the EquatorThe “Ballboy” and I cross the Equator … 0.29718S , 88.84146W

While my list of typical pre-departure “things to do” like closing out my bills, shopping for fresh food, clearing out of customs and immigration, packing and stowing things on the boat, checking the gear and the engine usually go on without too much fanfare, yesterday wasn’t to be such a day.

Santa Cruz, Galapagos
An overcast morning looking out on the harbor of
Puerto Auyro 

:: Early Wednesday morning, I met up with Peter and Diego who run Galapagos Ocean Yacht Services, who have not only been great hosts but a tremendous help in guiding me through the local bureaucratic requirements. Diego and I were headed out to Bodacious Dream to put the fuel onboard, which meant we had to have a water taxi come over and pick us and the fuel up and then take us out to the boat. That part went smoothly. After securing the fuel on board, we called for another water taxi to come take us back to shore.

While waiting for the taxi, we noticed something strange. It’s that kind of slow to dawn on you change in your visual field that suddenly causes you to wonder… “Hold on, wasn’t that boat over there before?”

Sure enough, we were moving… and Bodacious Dream had come adrift from it’s mooring! Yes, we were still tied to it – but we were both adrift! The mooring had broken its anchor which meant we were loose and drifting backwards towards the surf and shore that was less than 75 yards away – maybe less than five minutes away from the rocks!

Mooring Broken
Just before this, we were moored right between these two steely dudes! 

5026_sc_moorings2Thankfully, Diego with his command of the native language was able to raise help from the water taxis as well as from the crew of one of the large steel research vessels next to us.
In short order, we were unhooked from the floating mooring and secured to another mooring, while others stood by scratching their heads and wondering how that happened! Had we been just a few minutes later to arrive, who knows WHAT might have happened.

As I counted my blessings and made my final preparations, I noticed the two 100-foot steel research vessels disconnect from the moorings they were attached to and instead set their own anchors! I guess if you’re that big a boat and you see a little 40 foot boat that weighs less than a 10th of what you do, break a mooring, you wouldn’t trust it either!

Once secured, Diego and I headed back to shore to finish up my to-do list, so that I could get underway as soon as possible. It was obvious to me by then that Bodacious Dream and I were both ready to leave the Galapagos!

:: So, now after having run steadily through the night, we are on our course toward Panama and the Panama Canal, which I expect will be quite an experience on its own.

3278_200_32.333568S_103Checking the log and distances, here are the interesting numbers for today! Panama is less than 900 miles away. Bodacious Dream has sailed over 40,000 miles since she was launched in Wellington, NZ in November 2011. I’ll have to do the math on the circumnavigation totals, but off the top of my head, I’d say it’s around 25,000 miles since Newport. As I write this, I am just north of the Equator. If my mental maps are correct, you can ONLY cross the equator in two oceans. This trip, I crossed going southbound in the Atlantic, and have just crossed going northbound in the Pacific!

:: I learned a lot in the Galapagos Islands. There was so much more to see that I just didn’t have time to do. In my next update, I will share with you some observations on the incredible wildlife I saw, but for now let me share with you here a bit of what life is like in the in the Galapagos Islands, and specifically in the town of Santa Cruz where I stayed.

I learned from locals that in the 1960’s there were only 600 people in the Galapagos. Since then, the population has risen to over 20,000. As Peter told me, it is famous now as an eco-tourist destination. You can see that the locals must struggle to both capture the tourism economy and to manage the growth that has come so quickly to the islands.

Santa Cruz, Galapagos
The Tourist’s Main Street

While walking along the newly built promenades, you see restaurants, jewelry shops, art galleries and the inevitable t-shirt shops. Just a few blocks away though are the older buildings with apartments and storefronts of a more local nature. All these buildings are built with concrete! Wood is scarce here and has to be imported from the mainland, while concrete can be made from the volcanic ash of the islands.

4852_sc_volleyball_550Volleyball and Socializing … 

The weather while I was there was hot and muggy, so many businesses observed siesta time by closing up for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and then reopening in the afternoon and evening. As they have for years long before the tourists showed up, it is a tradition for the locals to come down to the waterfront in the evening and to enjoy each other’s company in the town square. Every evening about 6 o’clock, the men began to gather at the volleyball court in the center of town for a pick-up game, while many of the families sat around the perimeter and watched, and the children played. It seemed to be quite the town event.

4770_sc_cafe_550Music and Talk in the Cafés …

:: By this point many of us touristas were wandering back to town from either a tour or a local hike, stopping by the small sidewalk café and enjoying a cold drink before heading our respective ways. In these impromptu gatherings, I heard a full range of languages… from German and French to Swedish, English (in several varieties) to Polish and Russian. I experienced so many great conversations through the few days I was there, but the one that I will share with you here sheds some light on one of the more memorable events in my circumnavigation.

If you remember, back in the Southern Ocean east of the southern tip of the African continent, I encountered a night with floating bioluminescent globes in the water – hundreds of them as I sailed through this area. Well, one of the folks I met at the sidewalk café was a scientist and captain of one of the sailing boats in the harbor, and they were conducting research for a magazine story. Somehow, we got onto the subject of the bioluminescence and he thought that what I had seen might have been bioluminescent squid that sometime float with surface currents.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 2.17.47 PM

He told me of an experience they had one night while sailing. Apparently, there is only one type of seagull that feeds nocturnally and there are many of them around the Galapagos. (In fact, just last night, I had two of them flying around the boat and playing in the slipstream of the airflow off the sails.) Anyway, he described a night when they saw one of these bioluminescent squid flying through the air… obviously in the clutches of one of these nocturnal feeding gulls. Now wouldn’t THAT have been a sight to experience?

Sitting in the cafés at night, I was enthralled listening to scientists, researchers, and regular folks like you and me sharing with each other their own unique experiences and stories of the oceans and the earth.

Blue Footed Boobie:: Over the next couple of days as I make my way towards Panama, I’m setting myself the task of writing down some of the amazing things I witnessed and learned while exploring the Galapagos Islands. I’ve got some great photos of the wild life too … and believe it or not, if you haven’t seen a blue-footed boobie, they actually do have blue feet! I can confirm that as fact!

So, as I make my way north, I’m hoping for gentle days of sailing and some better weather. It rained every morning in the Galapagos, and I can still see showers around me on the horizon here. The locals kept saying that the rains were unusual this time of year. Normally, it’s dry and getting a bit cooler by now as the sun makes its way towards the Tropic of Cancer. Actually, I suppose it’s not so curious but one of the consistently reoccurring stories from each place I’ve stopped on the voyage is that the weather systems are different this year. It’s a great and mysterious world we inhabit … full of telling signs and full of deep wisdom, if only we take the time to listen.

- Dave, Bodacious Dream (and galloping) Franklin!

P.S. While I was in the Galapagos, While he was there, the Jamestown Press back in Rhode Island caught up with me and got the updated story on the circumnavigation.

In the Galapagos Islands #1

Time sure does fly. I arrived here in in the Galapagos Islands and moored Bodacious Dream in Santa Cruz Harbor on Thursday morning. It took a bit of time to get settled before I could grab a much-needed shower and a great local breakfast complete with passion fruit juice and delicious fried plantains. The rest of Thursday and Friday were taken up with governmental errands, working around their annual May Day Holiday, catching up with emails and tracking down the best Wi-Fi hot spots!

crab2_550Red Rock Crab - Lives along the shore … used mostly for bait …

Each day I must take a trip out to Bodacious Dream‘s mooring. To do this, I need to take a water taxi; these boats run by locals hold about 12 people. There are probably a dozen working at any one time, wandering around the harbor moving people and supplies to and from boats, as well as to one of the farther corners of the harbor where people can land on a beach and hike inland. There are no roads to these beaches, so your only option is the water taxi.

A fancier Santa Cruz Water Taxi

I have to visit Bodacious Dream each day to check the lines and gear and to make sure that nothing is rubbing or wearing out that could cause big problems if undetected! This slow rubbing action is called “chafing,” and it’s one of those nagging and ongoing problems sailors face. A line rubbing back and forth across a hard surface doesn’t take long to wear through!

In the few days I’ve been here, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of other sailors from around the world. Most are headed where I’ve come from – deeper into the South Pacific or to New Zealand or Australia – so we’ve have had fun exchanging stories and information. As you might imagine, they come from all walks of life. Some are life-long sailors, some are new and have dropped out and are cruising around the world. Some are doing research on various projects, but each one had an interesting tale to tell, which has made evenings hanging out the local sidewalk cafés very lively and rich with conversation!

station_darwin_550Entrance to the Estacion Charles Darwin

Saturday afternoon, I took a walk up the road about a kilometer to the headquarters of the Park Nationale and the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is where they do much of the research on the giant tortoises and land iguanas, and where they have been able to hatch, incubate and raise tortoises in captivity and so help to keep the range of the various species strong on the islands.

A Land Iguana… 3-5 feet long – weighs up to 25 Pounds – can live 50-60 years!

Being more than a bit nosy, I tagged along with a tour group, eavesdropping in on the guide’s talk to pick up a few facts.

tortoise1_550Galápago is the Spanish name for Turtle … some of these near 500 pounds

Years ago, the tortoises were hunted by sailors who killed them for the meat and took them with them on the boats, keeping them alive until they were needed later for food. As a result, the tortoise population was nearly wiped out; hence, the need for a protected preserve and research area. One of the most famous turtles from around here was named Lonesome George. He was over 100 years old and the only surviving giant “pinta” tortoise. He died in 2012 and sadly, with him went extinct that entire species of tortoise.

tortoise4_550The number of tortoises on the islands today is around 15,000.

Most of the tortoises look the same until someone explains how they have each adapted to their various habitats. The most obvious differences in the tortoises I see are in the size and patterns of their shells and the lengths of their necks. Their necks range from short to medium and to long. They think this is because of the height of vegetation in the various islands and habitats from which they come. Low vegetation favors short necks; higher vegetation requires longer necks. Much of this is what Darwin discovered and documented during 1835 when aboard the HMS Beagle; he landed here for five weeks and studied various species of birds (finches in particular) and other wildlife.

There is so much to see here. Unfortunately, time is passing quickly so I won’t get the chance to do too much exploring on this trip. I am taking a tour on Tuesday to the island of North Seymour where I should get a chance to see all sorts of interesting and infamous species of birds and wild life. I’m especially looking forward to encountering the Blue-footed Boobie … that, believe it or not, actually does have blue feet! I’ve seen pictures before; now I can’t wait to see them in real life!

Giant Prickly Pear Cactus - Iguanas love their fruit

For now, I’ve got more chores to do with the boat today. As you can imagine, using the water taxi to get fuel and provisions to the boat takes up a lot of time. Then I hope this afternoon to get the chance to explore one of the other beaches that is close to the downtown area of Santa Cruz. I know I’ll enjoy the hike, since my legs don’t get all that much exercise when I’m on the boat.

By later afternoon on Wednesday, I hope to be back at sea, headed to the Panama Canal. So, we’ll update you before I leave and along the way.

Thanks for following along!

- Dave (on land with no Bodacious Dream and no Franklin with some people!)