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Day 12: Floreana Island, Galapagos

Friday, May 18, 2001. Sunny 86°

We sailed west all night to get to Floreana Island, west of Española. Again we were up at 5:45 AM so we could explore the island before the heat and the arrival of other tourists. Just before we dropped anchor, the crew caught a yellow fin tuna for dinner that night. Our first stop was Punta Cormoran. The bay already had two sailboats - one which looked like an old Chinese Junk with red sails that Jorge said was built in 1922. The other was an ugly motor sailer for people who can't make up their mind. Also in the lagoon were dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, and Galapagos penguins. Yes, penguins at the equator, enjoying the cold water of the Humboldt Current.

Flamingos on Floreana Island of the Galapagos, EcuadorThe beaches at Punta Cormoran contain green sand because of the presence of olivine crystals. The goal of this landing was to see the famous flamingos in the back lagoon. They were exactly where they were supposed to be. Unfortunately, the flamingos are decreasing in numbers do to predation by feral animals.

We hiked over a rise and down to an absolutely white beach, called flour sand that comes from coral. Along the trail, Jorge picked up what looked to be a rock and put it in his mouth. Out popped a hermit crab. Better his mouth than mine. Also along the beach were more colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs. Overhead were frigate birds, cruising along and looking for turtle nests and eggs. We could see where the sea turtles had crawled up the beach to lay their eggs. It was like being live on the Discovery Channel or the Animal Planet Channel. Back at the beach while waiting for a dingy, we spotted a Long-Beaked Whimbrel.

The boat was then moved a short distance away to Devil Crown for some snorkeling. It was once a small volcano, but the surf has transformed it into a series of jagged peaks. As a result the site really does look like the Devil's Crown. Some of the group went snorkeling to see the famed hammerhead sharks - that Jorge jokingly said were vegetarians. We didn't see a hammerhead shark, but we did see a gray-tipped shark about 8 feet long. When asked how big it was, Don said, ”Big enough to scare the s--- out of you.” In addition to seals they also saw more rays. The currents were quite strong and we came to admire our dinghy driver's expertise.

Friendly Galapagos Flycatcher Catching a RideOur next stop was called Post Office. In the mid-1800's, a huge barrel was placed inland for whaling ships to deposit mail for the next ship to pick up. Today's visitors are invited to do the same. Leave a post card and take one to mail when you return home. The area is strewn with pieces of wood with destination posts (e.g., Ukraine) and a big wooden barrel with about 100 postcards inside. While we didn't have any to leave, we did take a few to mail once we got home. While there, we were visited by a female Galapagos Flycatcher who was fascinated by Joe's camera bag. She would land on Glenn's hat and then jump into Joe's bag. Wonder if she was looking for a place to nest or just get out of the noonday sun. /p>

That afternoon, the captain finally unfurled both headsails, but kept the motor on. Now we understood why we didn't sail more - the sails were almost rags. Furthermore, the captain didn't know how to trim the sail so they luffed badly. Too bad. With all the sail up and properly trimmed, this boat could go faster than under power . As we were sailing, we were joined by a school of dolphin that played in the bow wave.

Later that afternoon we pulled into Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island that is the economic center of the Islands with over 8,000 inhabitants. In addition to the many cruising boats in the harbor in Academy Bay, power and sailboats from all over the world various sizes and condition were also anchored there. There also was a small freighter off loading cargo, including the basics of cement, lumber, and food.

Charles Darwin Scientific Research Station at Galapagos Islands, EcuadorAfter landing at a small public dock, we boarded a bus for the Charles Darwin Scientific Research Station, run by the Galapagos National Park Service that was established in 1961. We first saw a video which described the efforts of the Center to solve the problem of wildlife conservation in the islands and were encouraged to contribute to their efforts. One of their most successful efforts to date has been saving the Española (Hood) Island tortoises. In the early 1960s only three males and eleven females remained. Since then, the Center has successful raised over 1,000 hatchlings that have been released into the wild.

We then hiked our way up a hill to see the island's most famous resident - Lonesome George, the last-surviving member of the Pinta Island subspecies of tortoises. His species was wiped out when feral goats were introduced who ate his food. Because George is still young (80 years old), they hope he will breed with a different, but closely related subspecies. They have placed two amorous females in the enclosure with him, but so far, he has ignored them. While we could not get into the enclosure with Lonesome George, we were able to get into an enclosure with four other large tortoises. When Jorge approached one called Pirata (the Pirate) and raised his hand, the tortoise raised up on cue, and stretched his neck out. Very exciting.

Dining after a day on the Galapagos Islands, EcuadorWe walked back to the dock and passed many t-shirt shops. The selection was some of the best we'd ever seen, including some that were embroidered and painted. We especially liked the one showing two tortoises that said, “I know I was unfaithful, but it was 150 years ago.” Later, we noticed that Pedro had one on, but because it was in English he didn't know what it meant. He got a good laugh when Linda translated it for him. We went into the local food market and noticed that the meat counter was almost empty - only four small chickens and one turkey breast. Hope the freighter also brought meat. Everything was very expensive, except for sardines. While waiting for the dinghy, we spotted a Great Blue Heron walking in the shallows looking for fish. The sight of the boats in the harbor with their anchor lights on was very pleasing. That night we had the fresh tuna caught earlier that day. Yum, yum. Both the Captain and Jorge live here and were off the boat as soon as we were finished eating.


Maybe it was a good idea we didn't sail, because some of the rigging was in very poor shape. Lines were badly chaffed and the mainsheet traveler line had separated the core from the covering. As a result, if we had sailed and put any pressure on the mainsheet traveler, it might have failed and resulted in an unintentional jibe. The chain plate for both port and starboard backstays were showing serious wear. The starboard upper lifeline was rusted and needed to be replaced. The anchor line was knotted (rather than spliced) in three places which substantially reduced tensile strength.

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