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Cruising the Pacific

Panama Canal was one of the
highlights of the first leg. Once we reached the Pacific side, Balboa, we
finished provisioning for the longest legs of the trip. In order to be self
sufficient for at least 2 months we had to pack in heaps of water, diesel,
propane, flour, rice, potatoes, onions, and canned goods until the boat was
about to explode. And the kitty was disappearing at an alarming rate. We took
off with about $4,000 to get us through the next 8 months.

We had to
have one last blast before our departure. It happened to be a birthday party
for Vitolly. He was our Russian raft-up partner thru
the canal, on his 24′ boat. Rather than wait for the Balboa Yacht Club launch
service to take pity on us and pick us up (you are not allowed to launch your
own dinghies), he dropped his mooring and motored around the anchorage picking
up his guests. He pulled up beside our boat and said, in his thick Russian
accent, "My birthday, you come now, ve drink wodka." It was hilarious. He picked up 12 of us off
our various yachts and then motored back and picked up his mooring. Who needs a
dinghy?

We set
off, Galapagos bound, 850 miles. Piece of cake, right?
Wrong again! Either all or nothing, but no in between.
We motored for four days – then it was blowing like stink, on the nose for four
days, then becalmed once again, and had to motor the last four days. Hey,
isn’t this supposed to be downhill all the way to NZ? It was blamed on El
Nino. I think he gets blamed for everything no matter what year it is.

Once we
arrived in the Galapagos, we spent three days reprovisioning fresh stuff, which
is plentiful, and not too expensive. Then on to doing laundry by hand, filling
jerry jugs full of water and diesel – a dinghy and taxi ride away. That
didn’t leave us much time to check out the island, but we made it to
Darwin Station, with the 100-year-old tortoises, and much younger iguanas. The boobies,
seals, etc. come right into the anchorage and check you out on your yacht. This
is a very cool place with all of its wildlife, interesting town, friendly
Ecuadorian people, volcanoes with big craters, and lava tunnels.

You can
take a flashlight and walk ½ a mile through the ‘Tunnel of
Love’, a pitch black underground tunnel formed by lava flows. You walk
over and around cave-ins. Not a pleasant feeling, thinking ‘great, are we
going to be here for the next one?’

You can
also go on a cruise on one of the many charter boats to dive, snorkel, and
explore the other islands. The boats come in a wide variety of sizes, comfort
and price ranges, and lengths of cruise, from 1 to 14 days. This is a very
worthwhile option if the kitty allows. You are not permitted to take your own
yacht, because the islands are under government protection. The port captain
will allow you extra time when clearing in if he knows you will be adding to
the local economy. Same goes if you have to make repairs. By hiring a local
mechanic, you are looked upon more favorably, and they can be very helpful,
procuring parts or labor. It is possible to have simple parts fabricated as
well.

Unfortunately,
we were bringing up the rear of the fleet with a group of small yachts, all on
shoe string budgets, who didn’t have enough of a kitty to splurge. It is
worth putting a little aside as mad money, so that you can afford a few special
extras. That way you won’t feel deprived, and get burnt out with the
cruising lifestyle too quickly.

Once we
were stocked and ready to go, we had a final bash with the other yachts. Then
at 7 AM next morning anchor chains could be heard clinking all over the
anchorage as everyone prepared to head to sea for another 3,000 miles.

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