Sunday, 1 December 2019

MAPS AND PHOTOS


Taipans Photo Albums 

This is the link to Taipans tracker. Its supposed to be live updates.  If you would like to see the weather live you have to go to the top left of the screen and the little cog will give you a drop down menu enabling you to load the current weather.

Heres another link to a tracker.


 Link to Taipans Anchorages and Map.

I will update our position on the map and produce an icon showing our latest anchorage position. The link to Vessel Finder will also be pretty accurate whilst we are within coastal VHF range.


Vessel Finder also has Taipans current possition. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

RESCUING RODOLFO 30th July 2019


A nice wave from the Panama fuishemen

Disaster struck without warning.  Anchored at Las Perlas to clean the bottom preparatory to a voyage to Galapagos. Michael and Corinne were preparing to undertake their first offshore passage. 

At exactly 01.06.57pm on the 17th of May, we were doing just 2.8knots when the unthinkable happened. Rodolfo went overboard, plunging 60 feet into the dark murky water and a watery grave.

We were dumbfounded! It was a travesty! How could it happen? Four anchorages ago we had cleaned and carefully checked all the equipment, disassembling it and reassembling everything.  The culprit was the stainless steel swivel.

It was a 2-year-old 15mm Swivel with a 10mm pin. As Rodolfo came over the bow roller the head sheared off the swivel pin and half the swivel, with Rodolfo attached, plummet to the bottom.  The other half was securely attached to our 10mm chain on the deck.

The culprit.
So we went to Galapagos and hung off our 15kg Fluke anchor for 3 weeks. We thought we would be able to purchase a replacement there but it was impossible. 

We had to return to Panama, as it turned out because we had a Battery meltdown. That's another story and recounted in a previous post.

While we waited in Vista Mar Marina for our French Long Stay Visas we decided to go look for Rodolfo. A friend here on the Marina is a divemaster and he offered to accompany us with dive gear. On Wednesday morning we set off back towards Panama. We motored 35 miles east to Toboga Island. Humpback whales in the distance and we caught a nice size Tuna. 


The new Rocna was baptized in 14 meters of water.  We were fortunate to find Distant Drummer, (Suzy and Neil Carmody,) on anchor there, so we had a very fun evening with them aboard Taipan. On Thursday it was another short hop, just 35nm to Contadora Island, one of the Northern Islands in the Las Perlas Group.

The recovery attempt was planned for Friday. The weather was not congenial, overcast and drizzly. There were whales in the anchorage and Jonny could hear them singing underwater. A few boats arrived during the day and they left.
We use Open CPN, a free navigation package, on our computer and this programme saves all routes and provides a very accurate log at 2-second intervals.


The bottom right is the Open CPN track with the line and the actual position of Rodolfo.

Our first task was to lay a line on the bottom along the GPS line we were on when the anchor dropped in. We used iPad with the Open CPN track imported into the Garmin App. It was a 50m line stretched between two buoyed anchors. We felt pretty confident that the line was accurate. Then Jonny swam the line twice in 60 feet of murky water with only 3 meters of visibility. On the 3rd run, he moved 3 meters away from the line and went only about 16 meters before he spotted Rodolfo looking very forlorn, laying partially buried and covered in barnacles, It appeared he'd been dragged off the line by an anchor chain as there were drag marks and marks on the steel shank. Its a popular anchorage and he'd been there over 2 months, so this would seem likely.


Rodolfo Jonny and David all looking very pleased!!

Retrieving him with floats and halyards was time-consuming. Now he sits on the deck. All 55kg of him. Tied to the Granny Bar. Keel hauling was considered but the damage to the boat would probably be worse than the punishment. His position upfront and centre has been usurped by the Rocna ( renamed Jonny) We will let him prove himself before deciding whether we put Rodolfo back.



The 65nm sail back to Visa Mar was fast and by Saturday 400pm we were tied up in the Marina. Mission accomplished.

Hi ho hi ho it's off to town we go! Dig the classy decor!!
Our Visas have arrived so we took the bus to Panama City to collect them, We've still got a few jobs to complete. Some new blocks are on order and the big Jabsco Pump is getting a rebuild. Lots of small sewing projects are getting attention.

No, we didn't go on this one. But there are a lot of them left from the Americans Canal building.

Stay tuned for the actual departure. We hope to stop in Ecuador for a bit of a break. 







Wednesday, 17 July 2019

FRENCH LONG STAY VISA AND OTHER DIFFICULTIES. 15th July 2019



Vista Mar Marina, new in 2018. Its an easy day sail from Panama City, roughly 45 miles to the north east. Entrance is very simple and the T jetty is usually available for arriving boats. There is loads of room. The docks are long and wide with nice big cleats and a variety of power options. Water is free. There is some surge but its not been a problem while we've been here. Rates are considerably better than Panama. The Marina is part of a larger Golf Resort Complex and there are some nice facilities available for marina guests use. Two restaurants, Tennis courts, Gym and a very nice swimming pool with a bar! In the hot humid weather of Panama in July, this is a welcome respite. 

There is daily transport available from the Marina to Coronado, the nearest centre, for $2 per person. Coronado has at least 4 major supermarkets, several hardware stores, and a small chandler.  There are a lot of Expats living in the area so there are plenty of choices.


To get to Panama city you can catch a big touring bus from the bus stop in Coronado for just $5 per person and after an hour and a half on the bus, you can be in Panama City's Albrook Mall. The traffic in Panama is awful so it's worth making sure you avoid the peak times. There is also a Mail Box Etc. facility with an outlet in Coronado making the purchase of tricky items, from the US for example, very simple. (You can google Mail Boxes Etc)

Janake, David. Kris, Leanne, Grahame, David and Trevor. Leela, Taipan Perigee and Red Skelton
Enjoying another evening at the French Restaurant in Visa Mar.
Vista Mar Marina, Panama, has been our home for the past three weeks. During the period we've ordered from Massachusets and received,  our replacement anchor, a Rocna 40.  Brian Edwards (507 66752254) made a timely modification to our bow roller to accommodate it. 



The wretched batteries were sourced locally, just a ten-minute drive inland. Casa de las Baterias in Coronado delivered very quickly and one of the staff spoke perfect English which really helped. 

Nice long dock. Forestay replacement and modifications to the battery area.

The forestay has been replaced, whether it needed it or not, and the Furlex was dismantled checked, cleaned and reassembled while we waited on the 18m of half-inch wire to be delivered from Florida. Yes at extortionate Fedex rates.. Mike Barker, Marine Scene (67276722) local rigger assisted and also did a rig check. 

During our first week here we had to apply for a Long Stay French Visa so we can stay in French Polynesia for longer than 3 months. This process was annoyingly complicated by language difficulty. No French. As luck would have it two other boats here had recently gone through the process and Leanne off Perigee offered to help me which was much appreciated. 

I will try to simplify the steps for anyone following me down this path.

We had made our appointment for the application before we left Galapagos so all we had to do was get the supporting documents, create an account on the website and fill in the application before the appointment date. (We each needed an appointment.) Link to make your appointment.

Step 1. Go to this website..


Step 2
Follow the instructions! (Don't be confused by the fact that it's a US website. All will be revealed.... just follow the instructions.)

Step 3
When you have filled in the form and checked and rechecked it you will submit it and its done. You will receive a confirmation email.


We went to our appointment on the big bus from Coronado and then caught a taxi from the Albrook Terminal. It's about a 20-minute ride if the taxi doesn't get lost. The Embassy is easy to find. The old town area where the Embassy is located is a tourist area and there are numerous souvenir outlets and some good coffee shops and restaurants. It was an easy and enjoyable way to fill in the spare time we allowed.

Enjoying the Old City


The interviews were conducted separately and it was all over in half an hour. Now we wait for the Visas.




Tuesday, 18 June 2019

2000NM DETOUR. 29th June 2019




Red Footed Boobies on the bow.


Wednesday 12th June. Great news! On passage again. 800nm to go! Champagne sailing with a nice 10 to 12 knots on the beam, clear star-filled skies, beautiful phosphorescence and a moon. 

Puerto Aroya Santa Cruz Galapagos.

There are, of course, the inevitable formalities to be worked through before departures like passport stamps and Zarpe. That’s foreign-lingo for “port clearance”. Three officers, one Navy, one Police and one National Park official, filled the cockpit with big boots and clipboards. Pages of Spanish later and several signatures by the captain, then they checked we hadn’t smuggled any tortoises aboard and that we had the appropriate life-saving equipment and we were declared clear to leave Galapagos. A yacht tried to smuggle out 100 baby tortoises recently so they’re pretty down on boaters. 

What started as a muggy overcast day developed into bright clear skies and a pleasant 10 to 12 knots of breeze on the starboard side. Most of our adventures on Galapagos were undertaken in company with Michael and Corinne and since they flew out it’s was mostly preparation for the very long 3000nm passage west to Marquesas. The whole fridge and freezer had been emptied to pass the biosecurity check-in and that took several trips to markets and supermarket to replenish. Fortunately, there is a very good farmers market in town on Saturday mornings complete with a massive food hall experience. Meats were a little tricky as it’s local and just the one or two animals, so getting a decent cut of beef or pork wasn’t happening. Lots of good chickens the size of emu, and loads of fruits and avocado by the thousands. It seems almost anything will grow here tropical and temperate. 


Saturday Farmers Market in Santa Cruz Galapagos.

It’s heavy work carting all that stuff, haggling with stall holders in Spanish and then getting the whole shebang into a taxi to the port, lugged to the water taxi and our to the boat, then all prepared and stowed. But we did it!! Weaving our way between the wildlife.

Common Sea Lion 

Lounging in the Dock area

Fishing boats bring their catch to the Fish Market daily.

Monday night we dined out for our last evening in Galapagos, arrived back to Taipan around nine for the regulation liquor and chocolate and were shocked to discover very depleted house batteries.


After some battery sleuthing and amp checking, swearing and cussing, we discovered another battery has collapsed. Batteries are integral to our survival on Taipan. Remember that big shopping? It’s all in the fridge and freezer and that requires batteries! Not to mention, pumps, water maker, navigation equipment, lights and more. 

Let me explain our battery system for the couch sailors out there. We’ve 800+AH in 4 x 6v batteries. So if we lose 1 battery that’s half our system down! If we lose 3 batteries our whole system collapses. You need 2 x 6v batteries to make 1 x 12v battery. So now we had just half our battery bank.

The wildlife waiting for a share of the catch.
In hindsight, we should have guessed we had a problem when one suddenly failed in Shelter Bay. We managed to replace it, thinking it was just a faulty battery. In truth, it now seems they’re all on the way out. At 4 years old and after careful testing in Panama we thought they would make it to Australia, a mere 5 months away. Wrong!! 

There is absolutely not a single deep cycle battery anywhere on Galapagos! Alternatives were risk trying to sail on to Marquesas and hope our remaining battery holds together AND, that it’s even possible to replace them there! (Getting an anchor organised was enough of a headache) or.... head back to Panama and abandon plans to be in Australia by end of October !!! (A very ugly thought)

After careful analysis, even given that we have a new generator which should be up to the job, we decided it would be verging on foolhardy at worst and at best be very demanding on us to endeavour that 3000 nm passage in the circumstances.

So we headed East, back into wet, stormy Panama to lick our wounds, get replacement batteries and an anchor and maybe look for Rodolfo! ( if you read my previous blog you’ll get that). We will get a Long Stay French visa (read..jump through hoops of fire) for French Polynesia. This will mean we won’t be forced to head into potentially cyclone infested waters because we have a visa problem. (Without it we can only stay for 90 days.)
So after all that hard slogging out to Galapagos it turns out it was just a 2000nm detour!! 
What have we learned about batteries?? Eggs and baskets!! More is better and not 6-volt monsters!

They are so cute.

Thursday 13th June
We crossed the equator again at 4.30am back in the Northern Hemisphere where the days continued to lengthen for another couple of weeks. Red-Footed boobies were clinging to the top rail leaving calling cards all over the deck while hitching a free ride all night. As the wind piped we were doing reasonable speeds in 15knots just forward of the beam. Whitecaps and ugly looking if you were going the other direction, which reminds me, we’ll be doing that AGAIN in a few weeks. Birds came and went but it seems the word was out. The Taipan Preening Lounge and Salt Spar was open for business. A very pretty Swallow-Tailed Gull took up residence on the dingy for most of one day so extensive bucket and broom work was required there too.


Friday 14th June
Nine Brown Boobies on the Bow! They’re silly young things all fluffy and with that look of surprised innocence when you walk right up to them. Like kid s, they can’t help fiddling with stuff. A couple of them set to work untying a small line on the furler and were indignant when I went to retie it. They moved off only when I gave one's tail feather a small tug! Soon they were back at it though. A Frigate bird attempted to land on the masthead occasionally because they wouldn’t share the pulpit with him. They even colonised the lower rail. Two story boobies! There was one near crash when an incoming Boobie missed his landing on the solar panel and had to abort, landing instead in an ungainly heap on the seat next to David in the cockpit where he sat to put to rights his dishevelled feathers. Then there was an equally ungainly take off through the jack lines and over the side before becoming airborne again. 
With 560nm to go, it was a far cry from the east-west leg thank goodness. Our new Autopilot, Jack. ( in honour of Jack Baxter) was very pleased with the new wiring to the old drive motor and we didn’t interfere with him for two days.



Saturday, June 15th
Those fluffy little hitchhikers were still there. Still messing up the decks and scratching their fleas. There was a bit of drizzle around early then it fined up and the wind blew and the seas went ugly and dark with white caps. Thank goodness we were not heading into that shit!! (Saving it for a few weeks time) sigh! 
We had a Venezuelan fishing boat 2 miles off for about 4 hours. They eventually pulled away ahead. I was a bit anxious for a while as Venezuela's economy has crashed, with inflation running at around a million per cent and some piracy incidents on the Caribbean side. But this one was properly lit and with AIS That’s actually a change for fishing boats. Most of them don’t display AIS. (Automatic Identification System. It shows us the name and call-sign of the boat, it’s size, speed, course and any potential collision) 
We were poled out for most of the day, making decent time but then the wind died. Thank god for technology! Then we had the pitter patter of little pistons ringing in our ears with 400nm to go. At least the water was full, the freezer was frozen and what batteries we had functioning, were full. Jack hadn’t dropped the ball once. He’s a great navigator and helmsman.


Sunday 16th June
Blue Footed Boobie!! Up front and centre. Spectacular day blending into a spectacular night. There was a beautiful moon and clear skies over calm seas. This, of course, means no wind but hey... we’ve diesel! 
The beautiful white Blue Footed Boobie joined is in the night and stayed all day. 
I had to go onto the bow at midnight to check that furling line the red-footed adolescents had been tinkering with and they were all asleep, crouched on the rail with red webbed feet wrapped around it and heads tucked under their wings. They woke and blinked bleary-eyed at me several times, then tucked back in under their wings right off back to sleep. Later I popped back up there to see if I could tempt any of them to dried up flying fish but apart from a quack and a sniff I didn’t get much interest. 
With roughly 250 nm to go we hoped to be in on Tuesday.

Monday 18th June
8nm offshore with 70nm to go, David got two big tuna but lost both and 2 lures! First one was at the boat. He went to get a camera and line chaffed through! doh!! The second one was eaten by something bigger on the way in. I’m not that partial to tuna but I did like those lures!


Lots of fish action and dolphins, also a shark or two cruising by. Boobies left at sunrise and we were down to one. We had a dark one with white feet and a white underbelly for a few hours. There was no wind from every direction and a full moon. We crossed the shipping lane with only one ship in sight.

Arrived Vista Mar Marina Panama Tuesday 5.30pm. Just when we thought it was all over the sea gods chucked 18 hours of strong bumpy counter conditions at us. The boobies abandoned ship sometime during the bad last few hours!

Now we try to unravel the web of bureaucracy for clearance back into Panama. Prepare paperwork for the French Embassy application for a Visa for French Polynesia. Our appointment is in one week. Batteries are ordered. There's a new anchor to order and get delivered from the USA and there are a million other little jobs.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

GALAPAGOS 11th June 2019


I'll let Corrine's posts tell the story. She has covered it all so well since our arrival in San Cristobal. The photos are a mix of mine and Corinne's

Sunday 26th May

This afternoon we headed into town to have a look around, it's a delightful little town and sea lions everywhere are so relaxed and unafraid. We were walking a boardwalk looking for a restaurant and there was a seal waddling towards us and went straight through us as if we weren't there.



A tour has been booked for Monday morning with Gian, to see the giant tortoises and the research facility, the only freshwater lake in the archipelago and a visit to a beach.  Monday afternoon they will bring 460 litres of fuel out to the boat by taxi in jerry cans so we can fill up the thirsty tanks. There is no bulk fuel supply available for yachties! We will also get our Zarpe, which is our check out of the harbour, and must be received from each island, then we will head out to Santa Cruz island 43nm to the west on Tuesday morning.




Monday After a quick wake up coffee at 7am we hailed a water taxi and had breakfast in town. I am still feeling like the ground moves under my feet when on terra firma, an effect of being on a boat. It feels really disorientating when every step I take feels like I need to ensure there is something solid under my foot before I put it down. This makes me look down all the time and that just exacerbates the sensation! Totally weird.

No. I'm not leaning on it!
After brekky we headed out on a 4-hour tour out of town and into the highlands in a local taxi, actually a crew cab, like all the taxis, our driver Carlos trying very hard to be the guide in his broken English. Our Spanish is getting better, and all the locals seem to appreciate an effort by us asking "how do you say... In Spanish?" The roads were pretty rough but the back seat was quite well padded and sprung so was surprisingly not a bad ride. As we left the coast and went up to the hills the terrain, vegetation and temperature changed dramatically to lush trees and grasses and cooler. We were supposed to stop at the only freshwater lake on the islands but the heavy mist meant there would be nothing to see so we planned to do it on the way back.


So first stop the Galapagos Tortoise research and breeding centre, not their natural habitat which is way down the other end of the island and not accessible by vehicle. It is kept isolated to protect this seriously endangered Tortoise. The centre has paid and volunteer workers and collects eggs laid by the females, incubated for 90-120 days and then the young take another 4-6 weeks to break out of their shells! The young are then grown out in various pens until 5yo when they are released at exactly the same place they were collected as eggs. The little turtles are cute as buttons and we thought they would make the perfect pet, however as they live up to a hundred years you would need to make provision for them in your will, and the wills of your children and grandchildren, so probably not a good option as a pet, more a long term liability!

Just babies.

Got up close and personal with some mature ones, although not as big as the ones in the Perth zoo, probably much younger. They were quite funny at the feeding stations, real attitude towards each other and quite a bit of posturing going on amongst them. There are 11 different species across the islands.

Various vegetation and landscape

Next stop the beach, on the other side of the island. A longish walk downhill through some amazing vegetation, acacia, candelabra cactus, hibiscus type bushes, and leathery coastal shrubs, all growing out of black volcanic rock landscape, lots of birds, finches and lizards. Lovely white sand beach flanked by same black volcanic rock and a lolling sea lion too sleepy to move when we arrived. Water too cold for my liking so just cooled the tootsies for the walk back up the hill. Radiant heat from the black rock made for a hot walk back to Carlos.


Tried the lake walk again and headed out for the 2 km walk up into the still persistent mist. Halfway we couldn't see anything off the track and decided that the barely visible summit, a crater rim, was probably not going to be any better, so came back down again.


As we had a bit of time Carlos took us to see a 300yo ficus which has a backpackers treehouse B&B in the top accessed by a swingy cable bridge. Scary bridge, funky tree house complete with its own cellar in the roots underground, shower and toilet (long drop) and awesome tree! We sampled a cup of organic Galapagos coffee, which was really delicious with some pretty good banana bread.

Headed back to town, lunch while the rest of town closes for 2 hour siesta, then back to the boat to await the fuel delivery. Fuel arrived by water taxi over an hour late and then David and Michael had to siphon 460 litres of diesel out of 50litre jerry cans finishing just on dark. Not a walk in the park!
Nothing associated with boating is simple, not every port has a marina (affordable or otherwise), not every port has a boat friendly fuel station (hence the jerry cans), try finding a supermarket in a foreign port, where most locals, even in hospitality, don't speak much, if any, English (we are trying with our Spanish!!!), try finding a hardware store to buy a bit of siphon hose, where would you get a local flag for the mast, as is the courtesy when arriving and staying in a new port?


Underground into the roots of the Ficus

We dined on board tonight, a yummy Thai chicken curry a la Kris, totally delicious followed by another Galapagos coffee with a dash of Chivas ( the only real way to drink whisky!) 
We head to Santa Cruz tomorrow after breakfast, about a six hour sail all going well, but then again we are boating, so who knows? 
Treehouse in a 300 year old Ficus.

Wed 29 May 11.50pm From Santa Cruz
Tuesday started earlier than planned when the taxi rocked up at 6am to pick up the empty jerry cans, we were still all asleep and not happy as we had a big day ahead. We arrived at Puerto Arayo Santa Cruz yesterday at 4.30 pm at low tide, once again a little later than I anticipated, partly due to my over-optimistic calculations and partly due to the now usual average seas and unhelpful wind and current. An overall pleasant enough sail but a whole day has gone just getting here and we have such little time left. Poor Michael was again under the weather as soon as we left anchor, sadly not as a result of the night before but due to the boat’s movements, the upside being that as he sleeps it off, the trip goes much quicker for him! We were shadowed for a while by the Ecuadorian Navy patrol boat, and although it was unlikely they would have boarded us, we watched them out of the corner of our eyes until it was clear they weren’t interested in us, nothing to hide, just didn’t fancy being invaded by heavily armed guys in hobnail boots looking for something to do!
We passed Santa Fe Island on the way, uninhabited and we can see why all we could see was sheer cliffs and pounding surf around the edges and dry parched landscape with candelabra cactus as far as we could see. If you managed to get on the island alive there would be no shelter food or water.

Various architecture on San Cristobal

The anchorage in Santa Cruz is sandy so our spare anchor should be sufficient to hold Taipan, it was an anxious first few hours until we were sure we would not drag in the swell and the incoming tide. The anchor alarm was set and it would go off during the night if we dragged more the 50m. The agent's man Gustavo, came on board with some helpful information maps and advice.
We anchored behind Blue Stag a 62ft catamaran from New Zealand probably worth a couple million, it is huge and looks luxurious and we ran alongside them for a while during the crossing from Panama City, in the middle of the night, we know this because of the AIS (Automatic Identification System) signal they sent out which identifies location, name, speed, heading and size of boats to others in the area. It was satisfying when they left us for another course as they were having just as hard a time of it as we were! A rough night had by all due to the incoming swell ALL night, Taipan rolled from side to side and we woke this morning feeling like we had been through the wringer. 

Taipan on anchor at Santa Cruz, Puerto Ayora.
The swell is constant and the wind heads us into it but when the wind drops. We roll!!

They are seriously into recycling here and all rubbish must be separated into plastic, cans, bottles and general rubbish. It is collected from the boat for a small fee as and when so we offloaded a teeny 3 coles bags which has accumulated for over a week by 4 people. While at sea anything organic goes overboard but everything else gets stored in the dingy hanging off the back of the boat until the next port.
Onshore it felt like everything was going from side to side, even David, a seasoned sailor could not remember the last time he felt like that. Today we had to book our flights out of Galapagos to the mainland to connect with our flight from Santiago on 1 June. Hoped it would be Saturday but sadly on Friday available so one less day here, our adventure is almost over! Bookings took 2 hours in a take a ticket and a seat and wait for your number to be called in Spanish system! I can count to 6 but not to 59, so we just watched the local girl who pushed in in front of us in the doorway, she knew she needed a ticket while we stood there gawking at the number of people waiting for the 1 agent on duty! 

The Iquana beach with Taipan in the distance.

David & Kris meanwhile, went anchor shopping but could only find one big enough for the QE2 or small enough for a tinny, so no luck there and they are still hopeful their diver friends may find the lost one in Las Perlas. As Taipan is holding on the one we have, it is not so urgent.

Charles Darwin

After some retail therapy, we headed to the Charles Darwin research foundation centre, next to the beach just out of town. Saw a huge land iguana and the famous marine iguanas in their natural environment, laying in the sun all over the path to the beach and on the beach and in the water. No desire to swim with them, near them or even close to them, ugh! But very interesting nonetheless.

Baltra Land Iguana

Amphibious Iguana

At siesta time here everything shuts at 12 until 2 or 2.30 incl the Centre, cafe and bathrooms, so we spent one and a half hours traipsing around in the very hot sun waiting for the Centre to open again, interesting but not sure it was worth the wait.

Baltra Iguana
Next stop, more coffee!!! Next stop very late lunch. Got a call from the agent to confirm our tour booking for Thursday, yeehaa, we are riding horses up the volcano, hopefully to the crater. We need to catch a ferry for a 2 hour trip to Isabella island at 7am (another early start) and then to meet the guide, get a car ride to the foot of the volcano (active) and meet our horses for a 4 hour there and back trek. Celebrated that with a happy hour strawberry Daqueri then back onto Taipan at 6.30 pm and thank goodness the rolling had stopped, enjoyed a David version of pina colada complete with ice crushed(smashed) by Michael with a hammer, some delicious Kris’s breadmaker fruit cake followed by a coffee and Chivas and a bit more fruit cake before heading to bed. Thank goodness we are not rolling tonight, we’ll not yet anyway. It's our last full day tomorrow and we plan to go out with a bang, ... damn, she’s rolling again!

Isabella

Thursday 30 May from Santa Cruz
Our last day with Kris and David on Taipan so we are cramming it all in! 5am rise to catch a ferry to Isabela Island, the largest island in Galapagos. Water taxi to the Pier then after a 1.5 hour wait for another water taxi to the ferry, what ferry? Its a sports boat, a really old and tired sports boat, with 650 hp motors and bench seats all around the edges, all stripped bare and a huge space in the middle, and except for the lucky 4 sitting across the back, everyone is side on. Without any to do the crew points to the roll of black doggy bags hanging from the roof and does a charade of someone puking into a bag ( we get the message) and we are off! And the ride is for 2 hours! It was one of those slam dunk slam slam dunk trips which lasted the full 2 hours, unlike any other sideshow ride you have ever been on. There is a toilet on board, but they would never have to clean it, as it would be impossible to leave your seat and get to the toilet alive enough to use it!

Still alive we Arrived at Isabela and were welcomed by a penguin popping out of the water to say hi then off again. Into another water taxi to the jetty, the pier would be an exaggeration and low and behold we have palm trees white sandy beaches and just need a pina colada to set the scene ( and after that trip across).
Our guide, Tanya, was waiting and we hopped into the bus to head to Sierra Negra the largest active crater by area in the world!


The drive up is pretty, very lush farmland, cattle horses bananas mangos maize citrus but quite primitive( think Bali style). We arrive at the ranch??? at 900m and there are the horses we will ride to the edge of the crater. We are very excited as it is over 10 y since Michael or I rode, a bit less for Kris and David. This is our pushing the boundaries activity (we try to do that on each holiday) there are 3 new hips between Kris and I so there are some extra boundaries we are pushing, it is also close to 20 years since Kris and I rode together from our dressage days. They are a pretty fine (thin) scruffy (unbrushed) bunch and as we eye them off we are all wondering which one we will get, we have booked “quiet horses for walking only” there is a flea-bitten grey, a couple of redheads and a dark bay.

They look quiet enough!

Hmmm, we didn’t look at the gear, holly molly that was something else, they must salvage the rope from down at the jetty cos each horse has most tack made out of green rope, and I mean hand made! Bridle- made of rope, reins made of rope, Stirrup leathers-made of rope, crupper- made of rope, hell even the stirrups were tied to the “leathers” with green rope! I know they are eco-friendly here and there is no greener way to get around than on a horse but I do like my horse gear in leather, oiled and clean rather than green (unclean plastic), maybe it was recycled milk bottle caps?

Fancy rope work!!!!

But jokes aside we did all fall over when we saw the saddles, various degrees of gaucho style x western saddles except for one which was more of a tree and less of a saddle, two pieces of wood, framed in reo bar, yes REO bar, it was simply indescribable, so now we are really sweating it- who gets that one?


Well we are allocated our horses and thank heavens the horse guide has got the short straw he gets the REO!

Boss horse hombre gets the reo bar!
We all manage to climb aboard with a lot of clutching and grunting we look at each other and it’s high fives all round we have made it so far. Up to the volcano we go, rising to 1100m and takes about 45 minutes, pretty views lovely sunny day and that irresistible horsey smell that I know now I have missed. This is a very special day and we are all grinning from ear to ear!

View of the crater is gobsmacking, the sheer size of it, sulphur plumes, just a tad scary as it is an active volcano having last properly erupted in 2015.


After a brief breather and some readjustment of the tights, leggings and the one-footed pantyhose (don’t ask) we headed back down, all secretly hoping we got more than we asked for and that our ponies would by some miracle lift themselves into a trot. Nope, wasn’t going to happen, they walked all the way back down, they weren’t even inspired by the sight of the home run the last 100m, but we had a safe, fun, lovely (green) ride.

Four Amigos!!

The bus trip back, we saw flamingos in the mangroves, blue-footed boobies dive bombing fish near the beach, more penguins popping up here and there and sea lions lolling about everywhere including under vehicles. What a day!

Flamingos are easier to capture on film than Blue Footed Boobies!!

Another long wait on the jetty for the taxi out to the “ferry” and finally we are on board a different sports boat! Looks in better condition and we are hopeful of a better 2 hours as we had fiercely elbowed our way into the back row of seats, knocking down a couple of Dutchies who had the same idea, and we are looking forwards so it should be more comfortable. No charades this time but we note that the bags are higher and right up the front so good luck getting them in time if needed.
Well the only way to describe the ride was that it was 10 times worse than our crossing to Galapagos, and on mega-steroids, the swell was big but we had a cowboy at the wheel who had no idea there was anyone else on the boat with him, The 3 huge motors were flat out all the way and he was either chasing or following his mates in the other boats, skipping the wakes and at one stage was playing chicken with another boat only 10m away at 25 knots, simply dangerous and very scary. Of all the things we have done this holiday, THAT was the most frightening, a white knuckle ride to be forgotten.

A quick shot while not hanging on.
As soon as we were ashore, and despite being quite smelly from our day in the sun in riding gear, we headed straight for the bar and had 2 huge pina colada’s each! Wandered to the street food market and enjoyed some BBQ octopus and a lovely paella marinara. By this time we are all pretty pooped and Michael and I still have to pack so back to Taipan which is hopefully not rolling. Very sad as it is coming to an end, one more post after this ( it has been such fun writing these)...watch this space.

Friday, May 31st
Well, this morning was a 6.30 start to be at the pier by 8.00 The atmosphere over breakfast was a little glum as I think we will all feel a sense of impending loss after being in such a small space with 4 people for so long. Kris and David will be able to spread themselves out again and the coffees and meals will be halved, but they will have to work twice as hard to have as much fun as we did during our time on Taipan. 

Anyway, on the pier at 8.00 for the 45-minute drive to Baltra Island airport, Kris and David are coming with us, not sure if it’s cos they can’t bear to let us go or to make sure we get on that plane! 


Baltra Island is very barren.


So basically from south to the north of Santa Cruz then walk 100m to another jetty for a ferry (small boat) ride across the channel to catch a bus (very old and scruffy) for the 2km drive through the long-abandoned US Naval base to the terminal. 
Check-in chaos, while Kris and David find a coffee shop and yes there is one, finally get to sit and enjoy our last Galapagos coffee and I must say they grow mighty delicious coffee here.

Michael Corinne and Gustavo our guide, driver and Agents man!

Bathroom stop, I haven’t shared this before, but one thing I won’t miss is the need to take your paper with you from either outside, or somewhere near the sinks, and then remembering that all paper goes in the bins, NOT in the toilet, as their drainage systems cannot cope.
The Author. Corinne.
It’s time to go to the gate. Hugs, kisses, tears and a final wave and we head home and so do Kris and David, by bus, ferry, car and water taxi....to Taipan which must be feeling very neglected as we have been away from her so much lately.

This was Corinne’s final post. Sadly they flew away home this morning. We all made the trek to the airport on Baltra island another ferry, guide drive, ferry, bus adventure taking about an hour. Last farewells and they are gone. We miss them already. It’s been fantastic.