Silhouette is at anchor in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on Isla San Cristobal in the Galapagos. After a long, 23-day passage from Mexico, we are finally here! It usually doesn't take this long to get here, but after encountering winds under ten knots most of the way, a long stay dodging squalls in the ITCZ, and winds on the nose after that, that's how long it took us. We traveled a total of 1907 nautical miles on a route of 1670 nm. The extra mileage was due to either dodging squalls or tacking because we couldn't make our course directly.
Ironically, about five miles outside of the port, a favorable wind came up for Silhouette to take us home, and it quickly built to 17 knots! (We only saw 17 knots three other times this entire trip---once, just after leaving Puerto Vallarta, and the other times during squalls!) The wind made anchoring in the crowded anchorage at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno a bit of a challenge, and we are situated on the fringe of the anchorage.
We arrived about 2:30 p.m. local time (an hour earlier than our last time zone in Mexico) on May 1, and within the hour, we were boarded by a party consisting of representatives from the Port Captain's office, Agriculture, the Galapagos National Park, and our agent in the Galapagos (who sent a representative because he is located on a different island.) These people were all business and did not give off a welcoming vibe. There was no, "How are you? How was your trip?" They just got right down to brass tacks. The Port Captain's office collected copies of our passports and originals of our vessel documentation, our zarpe (clearance) from Mexico, and our autografo (permit to travel in the Galapagos.) The woman from Agriculture completed an inspection in which she confiscated our remaining tangerine, our remaining chayote (a vegetable which is kind of like a cross between a squash and a cactus), and one of our apples (because it was "old?"). We think she was doing us a favor by leaving us our remaining apples, because they also contain seeds like the things she confiscated. (Since the Galapagos Islands are a world heritage site and biological preserve, they are on a mission to eradicate and prevent introduced species to the islands. Seeds are one way new species are introduced.) Agriculture filled out three different forms and left copies with us,with instructions to pay the $30 + invoice that she will forward to our agent.
Next, we received the disappointing news that our autografo, which we had gone to great lengths to obtain, will not allow us to visit the other islands without a park guide. If we want to pay $200 per person per day and take a park guide aboard, we can use it to visit the other islands; if not, we can stay in Baquerizo Moreno and visit the other islands by ferry. The whole reason we got the autografo in the first place was so that we could visit three ports instead of one on our own boat. We understood that there are a limited number of sites on each island that you can visit without a park guide and had planned on a couple of tours to see the rest. Now, the park representative was telling us that this was misinformation! We had done extensive research on the topic before applying for the autografo, but every source you consult gives conflicting information, and it's very difficult to get the straight story on traveling in the Galapagos. Ultimately, we relied on the information provided by our agent.
After most of the boarding party left, the representative from our agent stayed behind. She said that the National Park had just changed the laws again this year. She told us not to worry, that everything can be worked out so that we can visit the other islands on Silhouette. She will be meeting us at the boat this morning in order to help us complete our clearance into the Galapagos: visits to Immigration, the Port Captain, the Park Office, and of course, the bank, are on our docket for today.
Although we were told we could go ashore yesterday, we were exhausted; and we opted to stay on the boat and get our first uninterrupted night's sleep in three weeks. We will get the lay of the land today after the appointments with our agent. From here, San Cristobal is a low volcanic island covered in short, lush green vegetation. The black breakwater made out of large lava boulders stands in contrast to the white sand beaches. I'm surprised at how big Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is, since it is not the largest port in the Galapagos. The town is nestled on the southwest side of a shallow bay in an anchorage open to the north, and only slightly protected from the east and west. We are looking forward to exploring the volcanic landscape and seeing the wildlife once we navigate the labyrinth of bureaucracy awaiting us.