Wednesday 27 February 2019

Fresh Face

Hello, Steve here adding to the blog for the first time.

I arrived 2 days ago from home on three flights which all went smoothly until the end.

After the 1 1/2 hour flight of the last leg from Guayaquil, the approach seemed a bit lumpy and the pilot then soared away to go round for another go, This happened twice more after which he turned around and went back to the start. Information was scarce, but we gathered in the end that we were refuelling and going back to try again.  All communications were meant to be off during refuelling so apologies for the lack of information to anyone following my progress.

Second attempt was fine and I was met by Rob who told me that everywhere had been under water at the time of the first attempts and they had not actually seen the plane at all, just heard the attempts. 

Rob and Jo and in fine form and, of course, very welcoming. I find I have a reputation to live up to as a bringer of fair winds that avoid the need for tacking. I have perhaps 4,000 sea miles in my history and only one (at most) tack in the lot of it.

The Galapagos are both similar and different to what I was expecting. The town of San Cristobel, where I landed, would remind you of a small, low key, slightly touristy, Mediterranean coastal town. 

The other areas, though, are exactly what one would expect. There is wildlife everywhere.  Virtually no mammals, but vast quantities and varieties of birds, fish and others. 

The group though is much larger than I had expected. The island where we are now, Isabella, is the largest and is 100 Km from North to South. I am informed that only 0.01% of the total area is accessible to tourists.

Yesterday we had a trip further along the island for a walk, beach swim and snorkelling. A hard life indeed. The snorkelling was particularly special. At a place called Kicker Rock fish were evident in their droves, like a huge aquarium. This was combined with sightings of sharks (not aggressive or hungry), turtles and sea lions. 

I should say that sea lions are everywhere. They will come and plonk themselves on any comfortable surface they can get on. You can't leave a dinghy tied to your boat; it will end up swamped with them.

The distinguishing feature of the wildlife seems to me to be that it just ignores you.  It isn't scared of you, but neither does it come up to you for food. It might land on something you bring, as with the sea lions, but then you have to be persistently noisy male yourself known to them to shift them off.

We travelled overnight, mostly motoring, to our current location in Isla Isabella and the morning is being occupied by catching up on sleep and similar activities.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Steve has joined the crew

It is brilliant to have Steve with us on board. His journey from Dalston to Galapagos via Colombia and Ecuador mainland took a few hours longer than planned due to the torrential downpour here on San Cristobal this afternoon.
His plane made 3 attempts to land but pulled up each time due to poor visibility ( there are no lights at this airport), turned around and returned to Ecuador.
After refuelling there the pilot tried again later in the afternoon, with success.

So here he is in the cockpit with a cup of tea...and Rob. We are set.

Monday 25 February 2019

Exploring San Cristobal

We had the chance to get up close and personal with the giant tortoises of San Cristobal today. They can live to 170 years old...
Swimming off a beach we didn't appear put the blue boobies off their stride. They were diving like gannets for fish right next to us.
An insect eating finch showed us his catch for lunch.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Galapagos Arrival

San Christobal, Galapagos

We dropped anchor in Wreck Bay, San Cristobal, early yesterday morning.  During our final approach, as the shapes of the hills became clearer in the early dawn, we could smell the island. A warm and earthy, almost orangey sweet smell.
We picked out the light marking Five finger rock, turned to port and crept into the bay. It was so still and calm. Anchor down and it held firmly first time. Rob said  “Welcome to Galapagos, Jo!” and it was an amazing feeling. Tintin has brought is safely and happily over many thousands of miles to this incredible place on the earth. 

Sailing just the 2 of us over the previous 6 days had been a new venture. There were no difficult conditions for us to manage on our maiden 2-up voyage. We divided the night into four 3 hour watches and used the day to catch up with sleep if needed, and usually by the afternoon we would both be up and about. Occasionally we would need to wake each other mid watch to help with sail changes, but not often. It worked well, but I’m glad that we will be three on board for the next stage, which is longer than our Atlantic crossing.

Having been led in to port by a booby flying just in front of us, the next welcome was from a lithe sea lion who jumped up onto the steps at the stern just after we anchored. He gave us a look as if to say,” aren’t you going to welcome me on board?” before thinking again and slipping back into the water.

We weren’t allowed ashore until Tintin had been inspected by the authorities. How many people do you think were involved?


A dive boat with 3 on board came by first to inspect and take photos of the underwater part of the hull. No barnacles found - all good.
Next a heavily laden water taxi boat with the Galapagos agent Antonio and 11 others on board.

11 trooped on board with as many clipboards with forms to complete.
They checked our fresh food and removed some cheese that was past its sell by date, askEd if we had any beef on board, asked to see some pasta and checked the sell by date on that!
They checked our flares and life jackets, and our first aid kit looking at the expiry date of any medication.

Antonio the agent liked the name of Tintin. He said you should play that music that goes Tintin Tintin, Tintin Tintin ...and hummed ( can you guess the tune?) Carmine Burana! So we played it loudly for him and he beamed.

Many questions later (and even more signatures), we were deemed to have passed and they all trooped off to the next boat awaiting its check.

Today, the final ARC boat has arrived safely in. The community of sailors are getting to know each other better and better and there is a lot of care and concern for each other, so it is a cause to celebrate when we are all gathered again after a leg of the voyage.

After a wonderfully unbroken long night of sleep last night, we have started to explore the island.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Galalagos by moonlight

It's 5:00am and we're motoring down the N side of San Cristobel in the
Galapagos. The moon is amazingly bright - almost full - and the sky
completely clear. The ecliptic here stretches from east to west
diectly overhead. Venus has just risen above the shadow of the
horizon, a couple of hours after Jupiter.

Kicker Rock, a rocky outcrop about 100m and 200m across and teeming
with wildlife is a mile to port. We'll probably arrange a day diving or
snorkelling here before we leave.

The favourble current has faltered over the last few hours, so we'll
probably be anchoring in Wreck Bay as the sun rises. Pretty Cool!

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Hitch-hiking on the equatorial current

It's sunrise over my left shoulder and the moon is gently coming down
to set in front of my right. We have had the most amazing and
unexpected last 14 hours of sailing with steady winds of 10-12 knots
from just west of south. Tintin is creaming along close hauled in
flat waters making 7-8 knots over the ground thanks to the 2 knot
westbound current.

We will need to alter course if the wind doesn't change - even tack -
to make the Galapagos, 140 miles to landfall. Before then we will be
crossing the equator!

It has been a glorious moonlit night with much friendlier clouds than
the night before, and lightening visible in the far distance only. Maybe
we are through the ITCZ (Doldrums) now?

A red footed booby who had been perched on our mast spreader for
several hours has just preened himself and flown off into the dawn.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Dodging lightening in the doldrums

It is 6:15 am but it is still jet black outside, apart from the
occasional flashes of lightening which are lighting up the whole sky.
They are coming from a huge thunderstorm cloud to our right which is
clearly visible on the radar screen and appears to be a couple of
miles wide. Using the radar we have managed to find our way through the
squall clouds over the last couple of hours and it is quite
reassuring to see the dark blobs on the screen moving behind us as we
put more distance between them and us. It is raining and the decks have
had a good rinse; the wind freshened a few hours ago and has veered 180
degrees in the last half hour, and Tintin's motion is a bit more rocky
than it has been for days in the lumpy seas produced by the squall.

Yesterday evening we were treated to a beautiful calm sunset, with two
shearwater seabirds flying in perfect formation around us for almost an
hour. We saw a couple of anvil topped towering clouds in the
distance and wondered if we might encounter our first doldrum squalls

After the sun had gone down, out of nowhere we suddenly found ourselves
passing through a band of drifting branches and logs, coconuts and a
small amount of rubbish. Rob went to the bow to point out the
ones to miss... Looking around it was clear that the currents of the
ocean were at work - the water looked smooth in some places and
ruffled in others (with no wind to speak of). Maybe it was some sort of
eddy produced between the south equatorial current (taking us west)and
the eastbound equatorial counter current to the north. It is easy to
see how a tortoise might have made it from the mainland to the
Galapagos Islands all those years ago, clinging to a log. What tenacity!

Monday 18 February 2019

Bobbing towards the Galapagos

All is very gentle in this part of the Pacific as we slowly make our
way towards the Galapagos.

After a good sail on Saturday the wind died overnight,and yesterday we
had enough wind to help us along for a few hours in the afternoon. This
morning when I took over from Rob at 6am there was just enough of a
breeze to use the sails again. Turning the throbbing engine off is
wonderful. Then you can hear the gentle slap and ripple of the water on
the hull.
But as the wind drops, then so does the lovely sound of the water
slipping by. It is replaced by the snap of idle rigging as Tintin rolls
gently in the small swell, and an annoying rattle from within the boom.

Rob's head pops up the companionway and he suggests it is time to use
the engine again. And our speed in the right direction leaps from 3 to
6 knots.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Preparing to visit the Galapagos Islands

You can't just rock up in a boat to the Galapagos Islands. The
Ecuadorians work very hard to look after this unique archipelago and to
protect it as far as possible from the impact of humans, balancing this
need with allowing visitors to come and see its wonders.
The World ARC team have taken on the administration of our visit to
make it as simple as possible for us. But it still feels like preparing
for a test!
Crew lists have to be submitted months in advance, with 5 paper copies
(at least one in colour) of each crew member's passport. The ARC team
apply for cruising permits which allow us to visit 3 designated
anchorages within the island group.
We have been extensively briefed about the rules and regulations that
apply to visiting yachts. We have to make sure that the hull of the
boat is squeaky clean, and it will be inspected by divers on our arrival
to check that nothing is growing there. If it fails inspection we have
to turn around immediately and leave Galapagos waters (50 miles
offshore) to clean the hull and then return. Best avoided.

This photo shows Tintin being fumigated to make sure there are no bugs
on board. Every visiting yacht needs to show a recent certificate of

We also need to make sure we carry no prohibited food items on board, to
protect the ecosystem there. Most fresh fruit and veg is banned, no
fresh milk or cheese, no eggs or meat, and the list goes on... no
bovine sperm either!
We are expected to use only ecologically friendly detergents, fair
enough. Buy shares in Ecover.
On board we are expected to use 3 rubbish bins, each labeled
appropriately, for organic/recycling/non recyclable. We have been given
signs to stick by our oil stores (Contaminated items!), by the heads
(do not discharge the holding tank within 3 miles of shore!), and in the
cockpit (do not throw rubbish overboard!).
It is great to see that protection of the environment is taken so
Upon arrival, we need to hoist the quarantine flag under our Ecuador
courtesy flag. We have to stay on board and await inspection by a team
of 5-6 officials. They are:

The Galapagos Agent
Port Captain & Navy
SICGAL - The Galapagos Inspection and Quarantine System
Health and Narcotics (!)
Galapagos National Park

And when all is done, we can go ahead and explore! Can't wait...

Settle down now...

After the ups and downs of the last couple of weeks, it may disappoint
some of our readers if things get somewhat more samey for the next week
or so. I'm afraid that I'm rather looking forward to some plain sailing
for a few days.

We started stage 3 from Las Perlas to the Galapagos islands
yesterday. 850NM direct, but we will probably have to do more miles in
order to keep the wind for as long as possible. The tactics are to head
slightly west of south from the start, using the last breathes of the
Atlantic trade winds that make it over the Panama Darien Gap in the
Pacific. These will peter out within a couple of hundred miles of the
coast and from there on we will be in the doldrums (or the ITCZ as it's
proper;y known). This is the area between the NE trades in the north
and the SE trades in the southern hemisphere where winds are light.
From then on it will be a motor or drift SW to the islands,

It's now about 4:00am and we are just about clearing the shipping lanes
leading to the Panama Canal. The wind and sea are very gentle and
we're bopping along at 6 knots SOG, helped by some current, I think.
The moon has just set and I now need to start to orientate myself with
the changing night sky. The Pole Star isjust above the horizon still,
but not identifiable and the sky to my south is all new to me.

Thursday 14 February 2019

Richard’s recovery in Christchurch NZ

Richard's recovery programme is starting with a chocolate ice cream!

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Nicki Murray <>
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2019, 11:08 pm
Subject: Richard's recovery
To: <>, Christine Martin <>, Matthew Shaw <>, <>, Dave Hepworth Yahoo <>
Cc: Matthew Welch <>, <>, Annie Le Pine <>, Richard Shaw <>, Rob and Jo Withers <>

... starts with chocolate ice cream on a hot afternoon!
All being well he should be discharged tomorrow around lunchtime

Sent from my iPad

Tintin wins....

Prize news

The WARC has a number for prizes for each leg including:
1st, 2nd,3rd for each class of boat
accurately estimating your finish time
a fun prize - this time guessing the total age of all crews crossing the start line
We weren’t mentioned in the ETA competition results,which was a shame because we thought we were only 10 mins off and  the winner was over an hour off! We was robbed... but felt it would be churlish to complain so we took the honour quietly ourselves instead.
Next, the total age competition. The answer was 5000 and we were runners up with our guess of 4986. Yay!
Then after the position results ( you’ve guessed it, no prizes for Tintin there) Hans and Astrid from Zwerver took the floor. They are leaving the ARC as they sail direct to the Marquesas next, and they wanted to thank the yellow shirts and say goodbye. They had also got together with George and Bobby on Cabana to work out a fitting goodbye to the fleet, and to do this they decided to award a perpetual trophy, like you have in other sporting events. It is to be awarded at the end of each leg by the previous winner to the most deserving boat, overcoming adversity or being heroic or really any reason you care to invent.

They produced a smart blue blazer with “ Good luck jacket” embroidered on the top pocket. The shortlist was Aurora B for the steering problem, Hope for their engine troubles, and Tintin for Richards injury and the anti fouling debacle.

And the winner was.....
a little tight across the shoulders....

We are honoured to be the first recipients of this, and will give careful consideration to how, and to whom we pass it on in the Galapagos.

Incidentally, it was really sad that 'Hope' a Hylas 49 with a a lovely US couple on-board, have had to retire from the ARC.  They have had water in their oil of their engine for a few weeks now and thought they had fixed it while in Shelter Bay.  However, the problem has returned and the diagnosis is a cracked engine block - which is about as terminal for an engine as it's possible to get.  So they remain in Panama, downhearted, while the caravan moves on....

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Can you find Tintin?

Las Perlas pictures

Update about Richard and Nicki

Nicki and Richard are now in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Richard is due to have urgent surgery at the hospital very soon.
Sending him our very best wishes for a straightforward operation and a smooth recovery

South to Las Perlas

We have left Panama City behind us, and are exploring Las Perlas islands in the Gulf of Panama.
Treated to a spectacular diving display by hundreds of brown pelicans, we made our way past all the tankers and cargo ships that await their turn going north through the Panama Canal. The sea here is the calmest we have seen yet, and we had a very gentle sail yesterday with the blue cruising chute up for the first time. A kind day for our team of 2 on board. Boats just behind us reported seeing an enormous whale with her calf. The sea here is almost opaque green (plankton?) and there more seabirds than we have ever seen.
Last night we were anchored off Isla Mogo Mogo, a small uninhabited island where the reality TV series "Survivor" is filmed. Exploring ashore we found a couple of camps with rudimentary tables made of driftwood, and a water collecting system. It's a beautiful island but we were very happy to choose when to leave!
The ARC fleet of 28 boats is now gathered at anchor off Isla Contadora. A BBQ on the beach tonight and prizegiving for the leg from Santa Marta to San Blas. On Friday we will all set off for the Galapagos, 850 miles to the southwest.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Smiles in the inland waterways of Panama

From people of a traditional village up the Chagres river and from members of the huge team of 'advisor'/ pilots during our transit of the Panama Canal.

Some flora and fauna of Panama.....


Remembering the friendly people of Panama - San Blas Islands

Nicki here,
Unfortunately our time in Panama came to too abrupt end, nonetheless our key lasting impression of the country was of welcoming and friendly people wherever we went, quick to smile (and very tolerant of my poor Spanish language). This was especially appreciated when in the hospital!

Here are some images of the lives of the Gunas people in the San Blas islands; fishermen awaiting their licences and in action on the water, it appeared to us that some of their their homes are almost awash on very low coral atolls. Many of the men and women we met there were adorned with lots of gold jewellery - the area has a lot of alluvial gold in the rivers.

Monday 11 February 2019


We are waiting to be cleared out of Panama by customs before we depart. There has been a bit of a delay so we will need to change our plans slightly for today's destination , heading to Tabogo island 7 miles away rather than 35 miles to Las Perlas.

The World ARC team do a huge amount to help us through all the required bureaucracy, coordinating with agents to manage customs clearance and the canal transit. I believe this aspect of their work becomes more and more challenging as we head further west. When entering the waters of a country by boat, we have to "clear in" to customs and then " clear out" when we leave. This can only be done in a few designated ports for each country. If you have not done the required paperwork and got your " Zarpe" from the previous country then you may be refused passage in the next, being sent back to the previous Port to sort it out. This is good to avoid, as a passage back to the previous country would likely be upwind!

Panama City

Panama City

We have seen Panama City's old quarter, in stark contrast to the forest of skyscrapers that makes up the modern city, the old town is a maze of narrow streets lined with churches and old Spanish colonial style buildings. Most have wide eaves sheltering ornate wrought iron balconies, with plenty of potted palms and ferns in hanging baskets. Many tourists in Panama hats!

La Playita marina is situated at the end of the Armador causeway south of the city. For any of you who do cycle training on Zwift, Panama City and surroundings is a bit like Watopia complete with causeways and islands.

Game fishing is big here, the Hannibal Banks 70 miles away are famed for marlin fishing. Along the pontoon there are several huge games fishing boats. You can imagine that Richard liked the look of them very much! In his absence Tintin Angling Society is depleted but not short of enthusiasm (Jo) and technical support (Rob).

Great News

We are thrilled - Rob's brother Steve will being standing in at very short notice to sail with us from the Galápagos to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas.
This is the longest leg of the trip at just over 3000 miles and it will be so good to have him on board with us.

Thank you Steve!

Onwards into the Pacific

We waved goodbye to Richard and Nicki yesterday and they are en route to Christchurch via Houston and Auckland. We felt really sad to see them go, but clearly that is the right answer for Richard's right arm.
We have spent the time here at La Playita preparing Tintin for the next stage: the Pacific Ocean. This is the last big town (2 million in Panama City) we will see for a while!
The usual jobs have been ticked off the list: engine checks, rig check, filling tanks with water and topping up the diesel, filling up with provisions. Here's Rob with the supermarket till receipt!

Panama Canal photos from Nicki and Richard’s transit