The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bahia de Caráquez, Ecuador, Saturday, May 27, 2006

Strange to stick your head out of a window or door of your house and find that you are in South America! The tide is well up this morning but ebbing now rapidly and the lagoon, with a layer of light mist, seems huge off to the east. Fishermen is dugout canoes are sprinkled around especially over toward the sand bar where the current is perhaps not so fast. The shore of the town is about 500 yards away, close enough to see a lot of detail but far enough away to have our privacy and to prevent the traffic noises around the bus terminal and along the road running out of town from disturbing us. In fact, there is not much traffic at all. I turn back to start making coffee.

In the cabin belowdecks, everything is damp and salty after days and weeks at sea with blowing salt-spray. The forecastle stowage was not ideal and books and various others small items that are kept in place by a fishnet wall have all slid to port and are all at sixes and sevens. The settee covers, the bedding and all our clothing feel clammy. Dried salt is caked all round the skylight, attracting moisture in the night, and now dripping occasionally into the cabin. Around the companionway hatch water glistens. The pots and kettle on the galley stove are grey with salt. We feel salty and dirty and tired.

We had the anchor down about mid-afternoon yesterday off the town of Bahia de Caráquez in the huge sheltered harbour amidst a collection of other cruising boats, perhaps a bit over two dozen altogether. There is one Danish flag but otherwise all the boats here are American or Canadian. Whereas the Europeans we ran into in The Galapagos were all somewhat circumspect about approaching other boats, we are already getting regular visits from other boaters. David, for example, comes over in an inflatable dinghy to brief us on what to expect here from the Port Captain. He tells us about local services and Puerto Amistad.

We start cleaning up, stripping off bedding and gathering up items to send to the laundry over the next few days. In next to no time we have two stinking duffel bags filled and set out in the cockpit to be picked up. By some sort of miracle the propane tank has waited until we arrived before running out. As every cruiser can tell you, propane tanks normally run out during the preparation of a meal. We expect that. But we also know they are devilish enough to run out just at dusk, when a big sea is running and/or a rain squall is just beginning. Kathleen goes out with the 7/8th inch open-ended wrench and switches the tanks, setting the empty aside to be refilled.

Going ashore will require careful timing. In mid-ebb the current runs at about 4 knots. This will whisk us smartly along to the little floating dinghy dock provided by Puerto Amistad. The tide will reach high around 1400 and we plan to go ashore. For one thing we have to check in at the Capitania de Puerto. And we need to get some money from an ATM somewhere. Prior to that we have to visit an internet café, let our friends and family know that we have arrived safely, assess if there is any money on one of our accounts so we can pay our harbour and country entrance fees.

We visit Tripp, the owner of Puerto Amistad. He is an old-hand at cruising. But now he has “swallowed the anchor”, married a Columbian lady and bought the restaurant and mooring buoys. He focuses his business at cruisers, and provides a number of useful services for them: not just the mooring buoys, but laundry, book exchange, boat minding services and a whole network of contacts around Bahia de Caráquez. He spends about three hours of his time with us and we enjoy a very friendly reception and exchange of ideas.

Over the next few days we begin to recover our spirits after the voyage. We are still both a bone-weary and do some extra sleeping. But Kathleen has picked up some proofreading jobs so she is busy. I have lots of jobs to do on the boat but am a little slow getting started at them. Riding the ebb and floodtides means that, once we go ashore, the day is broken up and we will be gone for at least six hours. The tide runs too strongly to bother rowing against it.

Bahia de Caráquez

Bahia de Caráquez is a beach town with a row of modern, five-to-seven story apartment blocks on the point that we came around to get into the harbour. On the “outside” facing west is the Pacific. There are plenty of sandy shoals even out as far a nearly a mile, and you can see the waves breaking over them. These shoals are deposits of the silt brought down from the Andes by the Rio Chone. On the east side of the point, i.e. the inside of the lagoon, is another sandy beach. The “old town” in tucked farther back from the point, the point itself is occupied by a dozen streets of apartment blocks or small villas. Across the huge lagoon of the Rio Chone is San Vicente; water-taxis and car ferries --war-surplus, self-propelled tank-landing barges, by the looks of them -- ply back and forth at regular intervals.

The town has what in Mexico would be called perhaps a “colonial” look and feel about it. Kathleen thinks it looks “European”. The streets are laid out in a grid. There is very little vehicular traffic but lots of pedo-cabs (aka “eco-taxis”), which carry everything from passengers to freight around town. What motorised traffic there is consists mainly of small stake trucks. For walkers the pavements are generally in good condition (unlike, say, northern Mexico where you either fell into holes in the sidewalks while trying to avoid the head-level air-conditioning units or you cracked you skull while trying not to stumble into the mantraps in the pavement). The pedestrian sidewalks frequently have veranda rooves over them. The commercial streets are a myriad of very small shops, some basically no bigger than a closet with its front open to the street; there are no supermarkets, no big-box stores: all the shopping is still in the town centre and still in the “mom-and-pop shop” stage. There is no wandering the aisles and making your own selection; you ask the store clerk who might be behind a counter while you might still actually be standing on the sidewalk leaning in or who might be standing on the sidewalk with you. If inside the shop, you pay the shop owner who might be sitting at a desk handling the cash. Unlike those huge impersonal emporiums we are used to back home, where the only word you might exchange during your whole stay in the supermarket is likely to be only a routine “goodmorninghowareyou” with the checkout lady. Here, therefore, you still get to deal with real people. If your Spanish is weak you do a lot of gesticulating and struggling to make your needs known. It’s an adventure. The disadvantage is the time it takes and the occasional frustration. But, we have lots of the former and we can usually deal patiently with the latter.

There are no cash registers, for the most part. The Ecuadorian currency is no longer the sucre but the US dollar: the economy was “dollarised” after the sucre collapse in the 1990’s. Older Ecuadorian coins are still in circulation but simply assigned a US-dollar value (fifty centavos = 50¢). Change for your purchase is made from a drawer or a wooden box. Small change is hard to come by and, if you present a bill that is much larger than the purchase, the shop-keeper may have to dash to the neighbours, or even cancel the transaction because he cannot make change. In one case I just had pulled money from the ATM in tens and twenties and gone on to the auto-parts store for a metre of electrical wire to repair the solar panel. The transaction was worth, as it turned out, about 30¢. When I waved a US$ 10-bill the owner just laughed and said, “Pay me the next time you come in.”

There are a few modern administrative buildings owned by banks and the “canton” administration. But most of the building are non-descript or quasi-colonial. In many buildings the upper stories are sided in sheet metal or even, as in the case of one building we saw in the town that needed a little work, sticks and wattle. The well-kept, medium-large church is 19th century “gothic” and looks down at a square that slopes gently down toward the water a block or so away. Like most buildings here, the church’s roof is of corrugated iron. Unlike most other buildings, however, the church’s roof is robins-egg blue. Although it is has doors and traditional stained-glass windows, the doors and windows are set into the walls so that the balmy breezes are always free to blow through the church itself.

There is of course a mercado. The big day, we are told, is Saturday when fresh produce arrives, though when we visited it on Saturday morning there was so much by way of fresh fruit and vegetables one could hardly believe this is all just put out for one day. It is getting on toward month-end and we are as usual running out of cash and praying that the translation agencies will pay us a little more rapidly. The produce is cheap and we spend five dollars on broccoli, blackberries, mandarin oranges and bread.

The mercado, like the town, is smaller and quieter than anything we encountered in Mexico. Perhaps San Vicente across the water is different. But here, there is a certain general lifelessness. Bahia de Caráquez is by no means as bustling or busy as a Mexican town. Any Mexican town. There is a general quiet, even backwater feel about the place. Partly, I am sure, this has to do with the fact this is a vacation town for wealthy Ecuadorians. Many of the houses and apartments are in fact unused for most of the year. There is just not the press of people and trafico, the general hustle and bustle that you find in Mexico. Perhaps too we are used to the flashy look of towns with neon signs and bright lights; there is almost none of that here. The signs above the shops are painted and generally not even illuminated at night. After dark the streets are darker though there are lots of people about since this is Latin America and since it gets dark at about 1800.

Part of the low energy level here has perhaps also to do with other and bigger factors. At one time Bahia de Caráquez had an important shrimp-farming industry. It was totally blighted by a crustacean virus in the late seventies or early eighties. There is no sign of any fish farming that we can see. An El-Niño year occurred in 1997/98; it rained almost without interruption for six months, the river swelled with silt, muck and sewage that ran like a torrent through the town wreaking untold damage to its infrastructure. Then, the following year, there was a 7.2 earthquake. It was several years before the water and sewer systems could be rebuilt: the population had to be provided with water by tank trucks. You can see the damage still. There are some high rises, for example, that are skeletons, i.e. no windows or doors, probably so damaged that they are beyond repair and nobody is prepared to spend the money to pull them down. I saw some villas near the beach that had serious vertical cracks and were essentially vacant. They were padlocked and boarded up. Here and there you see damage to the facades of downtown buildings and you wonder if perhaps it was caused by the earthquake.

Taken altogether, these three events have nearly spelled the ruin of Bahia de Caráquez. It is only now getting somewhat back on its feet.

The cruisers who have been here speak highly of the town and the people though I cannot say to what degree they actually know local people. Certainly Tripp, the owner-manager of Puerta Amistad, an ex-cruiser himself, is extremely warm, charming and friendly, and pays good attention to the boaters. He is plugged in locally and speaks Spanish fluently. His business, surely, cannot survive on us boaters alone, many of us shoestring cruisers, after all. But he is a warm and welcoming interface to the community and, in the evening, we see local people at his pier-restaurant. For us the big draw is the community-centre aspect of Puerto Amistad and the really great hot showers, laundry and other facilities.

Bahia de Caráquez, Sunday, 28 May 2006

Vilisar badly needs her hull painted with anti-fouling paint, her sacrificial zincs renewed, any damage sustained in backing over rocks up in Mexico repaired and the topsides painted. The nearest haulout facilities (with a travel lift or a marine railway), however, are in Salinas, about 200 miles away. There they might be cheaper than San Carlos, Sonora, but we are still talking about several hundred dollars. On top of this comes the cost of bottom paint, which if you get Hempel-brand ablative or some other international brand will run about $135 and upwards a gallon (4 litres). We need about three gallons to put on two coats.

Jack and Monica aboard the Comox-based junk Bella Via, whom we met in La Paz and later in Barre de Navidad, Mexico, recommended using Mexican bottom paint and porch-enamel for the topsides. Jack has worked on boats all up and down the British-Columbia coast so he has some insight into these things. I followed his advice when painting Vilisar’s decks while in Barre and am glad I did. The enamel I bought from Comex (an Akzo Nobel subsidiary from Holland) was better and cheaper than the ACE Hardware paint I had used before.

I popped into a local paint store here and found that they carry a local brand of anti-fouling bottom paint at about $40 a (4-liter) gallon. I am sure they will have white porch paint of acceptable quality as well so I shall not have to go shopping in Manta or Salinas.

Tripp told us that he knows that boats have used the cement wall at the yacht club as a tidal grid. We would need to get permission from the club. They also have water and electricity there. Tripp knows of a man, a painting contractor, who can organise the work at about $10 a day per man. Yesterday’s high tide at mid-day was 2.9 metres, and 3 metre tides are not unusual. We actually saw an old wooden motoroboat cum tug being careened on the beach near Puerto Amistad. We checked the site at the Yacht-club out yesterday at both low tide and high, and we shall certainly be able to use it. We cannot get ready in time for this month (the tidal differences begin to decline now until next month) but we shall scan the calendar and tide schedules and pick another day.

While Kathleen rows ashore this morning to deliver her proofreading job to the internet café, I stay aboard to work on little jobs. I recover the corroded and broken bobstay chain. The lower links had corroded to half the thickness of the links that were out of the water. I have already checked out the possibility of buying the same type of chain at a local hardware store, but I think I shall simply use the spare anchor chain I am carrying around in the bilge. It is good quality though the links are a little smaller. There is plenty there so I can replace the boomkin shrouds as well. A stitch in time!

Then I wire up the second solar panel where the wire had ripped out. I am no great shakes at electricity, but I think I get it right. A problem here in Bahia de Caráquez is getting enough sunlight to allow the solar panels to charge the batteries. There is no loss of effectiveness here due to tropical heat. But the skies are cloudy for much of the time and this definitely cuts solar-energy collecting efforts. I hope we don’t have to start running the engine alternator to produce power. At least we don’t have a fridge or freezer to worry about; they take lots of power. But we do want to be able to charge the laptop on board and not have to risk water damage by carrying it ashore to charge it.

Then I spent an hour unpacking the bags of clean laundry and putting things away before sitting down to write. I hear Kathleen coming alongside in the dinghy. Time to stop.


Last week an old colleague and friend from Frankfurt passed away after a long fight with cancer. When we both started working at the same time at Citibank in Frankfurt back about 1973, Astrid had moved down from Hamburg and I from Stuttgart. She was a typical “Hanseata”, perhaps a bit distant and correct, but reliable as an atomic clock, ready for an earthy laugh and interested in so many things. It is hard to believe she is gone. Her friends will miss her. My thoughts go out to Norbert, her husband.


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more, day by day,
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be too late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

- Christina Georgina Rossetti

Monday, 29 May 2006

On the afternoon we arrived, i.e. last Wednesday, we were inspected by a petty officer from the Armada del Ecuador, Capitania de Puerta and told that we should come into the office to check in officially the next day. We had to go looking for money and were too late to visit them before the holiday weekend (Friday was Ecuadorian Independence Day). So, we go in today.

There had been some puzzlement that we arrived in Ecuador without a Zarpe, i.e. an exit certificate from somewhere and they seemed to be scratching their heads when I said that Canadian vessels leaving Canada do not get Zarpes. Nor did we have one from the U.S.A. We thought we might get a bit of flak for this but when we finally got to the Capitania de Puerto office, which is just opposite the anchorage, they filled out the papers and gave us our entry certificates. We paid a total of $23 of which $10 was for arrival processing, $6 anchoring and the remainder for something else. On Wednesday, we are sharing a taxi to Manta to visit Migración for our immigration visas.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

This morning, Kathleen more-or-less finishes the thankless job of cleaning and re-stowing the forecastle so that it is dry and roomy enough for us both to sleep up there again. She had completely re-arranged it for offshore voyaging- making the parachute anchor and storm sails more easily reachable, for example. With William and Antonia arriving from the U.S.A. in about ten days (we pick them up in Quito), we need to free up berths.

Meanwhile, I get into the dinghy and address the issue of the broken bobstay. I tie the dinghy to the anchor chain while the current presses the dinghy again Vilisar’s bows. Using tools, I remove the turnbuckle dangling lifelessly from the bowsprit, being careful not to drop the bolt into the water. Unfortunately, I cannot loosen the bolt on the bracket at water level while the current is running so strongly. Back on deck, I lay out all the bits and pieces and prepare to cut a piece of chain and fit the ends with shackles to be installed with the current is not so strong.

Our major job ashore today is to get set up with a cellphone. Leslie and Philip from S/V Carina told us they got a sim-card for their existing phone for only $8. I think they use prepaid cards. With the phones here, we don’t pay for incoming calls as one does in the U.S.A. And, of course, there is always the text messenging facility. This should make it easier to get translating business now.

While I am writing this blog, we hear a commotion on deck. I rush out to find a fish has leaped unto our deck and is flopping around wildly. I suspect this is a “cavina” but am not sure. He’s about 12-15 inches long and scaley. They were selling cavina at the mercado on Saturday. Will have to get some advice about its edibility.

Now this is my kind of hunting and gathering!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thursday, 18 May 2006 (First morning at sea some 50 Nm from Isla San Cristobal)

For some reason both Kathleen and I have been dreading this trip. True, we have become fat and lazy just hanging about in San Cristobal for our money to hit the chequing account so we could pay Miguel, the marine electrician, for the work he did on the alternator. But we also know that a passage of a week or ten days with no extra crew aboard will be exhausting even if the weather and waves and currents are all with us. It seems a bit daunting. But, as always, we set a date and a time and we get our minds around leaving.

Miguel and Tony help us do our final shopping. Tony has been a purser aboard ships and knows where to provision. He even gets Dos Hermanos to knock 20 percent off the price of tinned Pilsener beer. He makes the shop attendants go back into the storeroom and find still-ripening fruit and tomatoes for us. In return for this we take Tony and Miguel for almuerzos, a set lunch. Then, yesterday, Kathleen and I take our four 5-gallon diesel jugs and the four 5-gallon water jugs ashore. Miguel calls the water truck and gets the jugs filled while we check the internet for the last time. Then we get a camionetta (pickup truck cum taxi) and drive up to the petrol station at the edge of town. Finally, with all the jugs full, we taxi down to the jetty. “Tierra verde”, one of the panga taxis, is just coming in and, while he uses the outboard motor to keep the bow up to jetty steps despite the swell, we hand the eight jugs one by one onto the panga foredeck with the help of bystanders. Out at the boat, the driver pushes the nose of his panga up to our side deck and we transfer the jugs once more to Vilisar. We say Adios to the always cheerful young driver, telling him we are off for Bahia de Caráquez that afternoon.

While we empty two of the diesel jugs into the main tanks, we also talk about the rather upsetting news we heard in the taxi on the way in. An English yachting couple and their approximately 8-year-old son arrived from Panama last Friday. The man was a rather dour sort and in his rather dour way he asks us if we have heard of the incidents. In the bit of international waters between Ecuadorian Galapagos and the Ecuadorian mainland in their case about N 1º and about 250 Nm east of San Cristobal Island, they were swarmed by several pangas which showed up suddenly without warning and without being seen on the radar. The English boat immediately felt threatened and the skipper used his onboard satphone to call the UK Coast Guard. They in turn contacted the US Coast Guard or US Navy who offered to divert a vessel and to send a Hercules aircraft to their assistance. Meanwhile, the skipper told us he doused his sails and switched off his running lights and motored away into the darkness though not before the pangas, which all had big motors, shone big flood lights on them. “Three other boats were also buzzed and the guys threw a net over that French boat over there!’ he said. He warned us to travel with lights off at night and “keep a good deck watch at night.”

All this transpired in the panga on the way to shore and was unnerving since clearly the man and his family had received a fright. In fact, however, we had already heard about this incident from Annie Hill and Trevor Robertson a day or two earlier. They were appalled that the Englishman had set off his EPIRB (in fact, he said he called on his satphone and talked with UK Coast Guard). Annie and Trevor thought it totally over the top. They were sure that the pangas were merely fishermen trying to warn the boats of nets or drift-lines ahead. When I think about it, if they had been ”pirates”, why were they not able to catch the boat with their fast pangas? Why wouldn’t they go after the boat in the daytime? Why would they flash them with big floodlights, the sort of lights fishermen use to work at night? Commercial fishing is banned in Galapagos waters, but working in international waters is permitted.

Since we were loathe to leave anyway, this simply added to our hesitations. Basically, we had not been afraid of the passage; we were simply not looking forward to the hardship. Now we had an extra worry. I sent a message to Kathleen’s sister, who is the person NOAA contacts if our EPIRB is activated, and told her about the incident just before we left the island. Now I regret that, and I have probably only alarmed her.

At 1300 we start the engine and let it idle at low revs for a few minutes while we finish preparations. Then we use the engine to break out the anchor and, as the anchor is aweigh, Vilisar starts to pay off downwind and out of the harbour. We secure the anchor in the roller and hoist the staysail; it is plenty to carry us out past the other sailboats in the anchorage. Various people come out on deck and wave us goodbye.

Out past the reefs, we hoist the mainsail and turn to SW to round the point. I want to be clear of the point well before daylight ends and night settles in. Once around, too, we shall be heading E on a rhumb line heading straight at Bahia de Caráquez, some 552 Nm aways.

Getting round the point takes every last bit of daylight. There is a 2 knot current against us as well as swells and wind nearly on the nose from the SE. We wind up motorsailing all night, first against more currents running along the island and against the SE wind and waves. Sometime around 2200 a ¾ moon comes up over the horizon and picks its way between puffy clouds up into the night sky. The clouds thicken and at one point I get a little shower bath. It is not really cold tonight but we are going to windward and, just sitting still in the cockpit and tending the tied-off tiller, gets chilly after a while. We dig out our fleece jacket and Vilisar’s one pair of fleece trousers, which we pass on to the next watchkeeper. Kathleen and I decide to stand three hour watches if we can endure it: three hours seems interminable at night when you can hardly keep your gaffers open. I go below and make cheese sandwiches, a treat for us since we rarely buy cheese (too expensive; no refrigeration). We have also bought a loaf of dark rye bread from Angel at the panaderia. This cheers us up. I feel too overwhelmed to start heating the pressure cooker full of pork and mixed beans that will be our sustenance for the first few days. Tomorrow morning.

The night really is interminable. We are pitching into the waves, which slows us down and throws a bit of spray around and back to the cockpit. Occasionally, we take some slop down the side deck. I try reading but find it annoying constantly to have to correct the tiller. I curse that we have not yet found a user manual for our Navico 5000 tiller pilot. It works and we have a power supply for it. But we cannot figure out how to make it do what we want it to do. Maybe somebody in Bahia de Caráquez will know. For the moment, we are sitting all night in the cockpit instead of standing our watches below. The good news is that the newly-repaired and mounted alternator delivers lots of power. Of course, the starting battery is completely burnt out. But the two deep-cycle batteries are topped right up and we can charge this laptop and the rechargeable flashlight batteries. We have become so used to weak cabin lighting that we are nearly blinded even by the red night lamps because of the new levels of charge on the house batteries. We try to cheer ourselves up at night with thinking about positive things.

S/V VILISAR, AT SEA BETWEEN ISLA SAN CRISTOBAL, THE GALAPAGOS, AND BAHIA DE CARÁQUEZ, ECUADOR, Friday, May 19, 2006 (third morning at sea some 134 Nm from Isla San Cristobal and some 423 Nm to go to Bahia de Caráquez )

“… Salt water will wash it away. You will be amazed how unimportant it will seem in a week’s time – how everything will fall into place.”

It was a true word: once the Surprise had turned south about Ceylon to head for the Java Sea, the daily order seized upon them all. ………….. This life, with its rigid pattern punctuated by the sharp imperative sound of bells, seemed to take on something of the nature of eternity as they slanted down towards the line, crossing it in ninety-one degrees of longitude east of Greenwich. The higher ceremonies of divisions, of mustering by the open list, church, the Articles of War, marked the due order of time rather than its passage, and before they had been repeated twice most of the frigate’s people felt both past and future blur, dwindling almost into insignificance: an impression all the stronger since the Surprise was once more in a lonely sea, two thousand miles of dark blue water with never and island to break its perfect round: not the faintest smell of land even on the strongest breeze - the ship was a world self-contained, swimming between two perpetually-renewed horizons. Stronger still, because in these waters there was no eager impatience to see of the eastward rim: they sailed with no relation to an enemy, nor to any potential prize.

Patrick O’Brian H.M.S. Surprise

Kathleen is sleeping in the forecastle. The only sound I can hear as I drink my morning coffee is the water running down the hull a few inches from where I am lounging on the port settee and the occasional knock of the wooden jib block on the caprail. As so often, the noise of the sheets in the bigger blocks sounds like someone is talking: today it is a bass voice and it sounds like a radio left on in another room. We are heeled moderately to port; I am wedged into the settee, glad not to have to deal with the noise and heat of the Lister engine. We turned it off after some 41 hours of motorsailing since leaving Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal in the early afternoon two days ago. We spent several hours motoring against heavy currents to get well clear to the south of the island before turning due east. The winds and swells were on the nose back then, but during the night, they seem to have moved more SSE. After dawn this morning, we added the Yankee (working job) to the staysail and main that we have been using to motorsail, and we are now making at least as good and possibly even better time than when we were motoring.

As expected, the watchkeeping has been trying. Three hours at night in the cockpit is a strain. We can bungee off the tiller and that will hold her on course. The turn of the propeller wants constantly to turn the boat to starboard. We offset this using the sails and tying off the tiller. But it is not the same as a tiller-pilot since, especially when there is swell, the vessel will wander off course and you have to correct. Kathleen is much better at getting the tiller set up. But a lot has also to do with the fact that the seas have calmed down decidedly over the last few days – exactly as the internet weather forecast predicted. All night we motored and when I woke up to take my watch in the night, I found Kathleen reading on the starboard settee. The boat was staying on course.

This was good, too, because it is cold on deck at night in these waters. I should judge it is like British Columbia in the early summer. We are also going to windward and were getting some spray blown back when we shouldered a wave aside. Three hours of sitting meant getting into a couple of layers of clothing topped by fleece and a fleece ski toque. It was still twenty degrees Celsius by the thermometer. But the wind and spray makes you feel colder.

We have been experimenting with the watches. Three hours is too long to be out there alone at night and two hours does not leave enough time for the off-duty to get some deep sleep. We try two and one-half hours. Sometimes one or other of us will extend a watch if wide enough awake. During the daylight hours this is not so problematic. But at night! After two nights of disturbed sleep, we are both feeling grumpy and drawn.

Yesterday I decide to fight this. The skies have been grey but in the afternoon the sun decides to shine a bit more intensely and burn off the thin clouds. I give myself a bucket bath on deck and shampoo my hair and beard. Just the activity makes me feel better. Like the air, the water is cooler than in Mexico, but tolerable. I sit in front of the chimney to dry in the hot air thrown off by the air-cooled engine. Then I go below and get the bean stew cooking in the pressure cooker. For some reason the pressure aspect is not working and, hours later, though definitely edible, the beans are still crunchy. But, with flavourings and tomato puree added, it is welcome. We have been eating peanut butter sandwiches and muesli. Kathleen is suddenly eating again, her usual bout of initial nausea has passed. I shall continue my fight against passiveness this morning. Just writing this log helps. But later, when the sun comes out again, I shall wash down the deck: it is shockingly dirty with salt and dirt and hair everywhere. I know where the hair comes from: I gave Kathleen a haircut ten days ago on the foredeck on a breezy day and hair now seems to have taken root on the boat. But where does the dirt come from so far out to sea? The outside of the boat is covered in salt spray and it holds whatever dirt is around. Buckets of seawater will get rid of it and keep the wooden decks tight at the same time.

With these activities, made slightly more difficult because of the heeling of the boat and the slight pitching, I develop an on-board daily routine. While about it, I let my eyes run over the rigging and deck items. One of our solar panels is carried on the upside-down dinghy on our foredeck. The constant pitching at first caused it to slide back and drop with a clunk on the foredeck. This morning, I restored it to its original position and lashed it down. Our Ecuadorian courtesy flag, so wonderfully large, bright yellow-blue-red when it is streaming in the wind, is beginning to shred at the outer end. Although the colours are holding up very well under the equatorial sun (unlike the West Marine Mexican courtesy flag, which fades into totally bizarre colours), the stitching is not strong, and I suspect these may actually be “indoor” flags. I pull the courtesy flag down from the right spreader and tie it off on the fife rail. When I get a moment I shall see if I can repair it.

Proper courtesy says you are to carry your national flag at the stern and a courtesy flag on the right spreader. Technically, however, you only need to fly them when you are entering or leaving port, or when you meet another ship. Not that any cruising boat actually adheres rigidly to this etiquette.

Maybe we could get a small brass cannon and fire salutes when we enter foreign harbours or meet a warship. In the U.S.A., Homeland Insecurity would certainly send out a fast RIB filled with buffed-up “Coast-Guardees” dressed in jump boots and black combat gear and wearing bullet-proof vests. There would be a 50-calibre machine guns mounted on the foredeck, of course. I was actually boarded by one of these crews of GI-Joes back in Long Beach while I was just puttering about near the breakwall: after they circled me once they approached and asked if they come aboard to carry out a safety inspection. Before coming directly along side they also asked if I had any weapons on board. Totally over the top. I can see it all now: “Sir, do you have a permit for this cannon?” They are always so polite. They are on a mission.

I am reading Patrick O’Brian’s Hms Surprise, my first O’Brian. Thanks to Annie Hill. She said, and I agree, that good as E.S. Forrester’s Hornblower series is, O’Brian writes so much better. He certainly has the 18th Century dialogue down pat and a lot of the colour of the age, whether it be medical or maritime. A good read and speaks to me about the sea and sailing as we are doing now.

Annie brought over a pile of books to trade and to help me with some software “issues” (i.e. how to get photographs on the web) before they left in S/V Iron Bark II for the Tuamotos and eventually New Zealand and Australia. We were glad to have something else than shilling shockers to trade and we gave her a few favourites that they will certainly enjoy as much as we shall enjoy the books she gave us. I already miss them.

On the technical side, we are very pleased to have our deep-cycle batteries charged up to a peak thanks to our repaired alternator. They also seem to be keeping the charge. We shall see how we fare now that we are not motoring. The solar panels should keep the charge up during the day even though the skies are lightly overcast and their efficiency therefore much, much lower.

Friday, May 19, 2006 (fourth morning at sea some 209 Nm from Isla San Cristobal and some 353 Nm to go to Bahia de Caráquez )

I wake about 0500 just as daylight is showing through the skylight above the settee where I am lying. As we move eastwards the day is beginning earlier; at the mainland we shall move our clocks ahead an hour. Despite the continued greyness of the skies, it is a damned sight better waking up after five hours of deep sleep than being dragged out of Morphia’s arms after just two or three. The wind – and the windvane steering – make all the difference!

It was yesterday morning that we finally shut down the Lister and began to run under main, stay and jibsails and clocking in a regular 3 – 4 knots. Since we were not dong that much more while motorsailing, we are pleased. The great thing is not to have the noise and heat of the engine and not to have to sit out in the cockpit. We are heeled over enough to port that very occasional slop splashes up under the caprail. We have been standing three and four-hour watches from the settee in the cabin below and reading. Every twenty or thirty minutes we stick a head out of the companionway, scan the horizon for lights (we have seen nothing since a ship of some sort passed us in the opposite direction on the first night), turn on the flashlight and check on the compass that the windvane steering is keeping us on course, turn on the GPS to compare with the compass, look around the cockpit, bridge, coach roof and decks to see if there is anything untoward developing (something that needs lashing down, something in the rigging that might be coming loose, cast a glance up at the sails to make sure that they are not coming apart (the patches that Andrew and I made after arriving from Acapulco look great and the sail is setting beautifully) then go below to check that the water in the bilge is not getting ahead of us and that everything is staying where it should down in the cabin. Then, it’s back into the settee. If you are on the leeward side, just lean into the bulkhead; if you are on the windward side, rig the leecloth and wedge yourself in with a couple of pillows. Dig out your book and settle back. If it’s three or four in the morning and you are feeling peckish, the little packets of Oreo cookies are behind the settee back. Try not to wake up your partner when opening the crackling packages or when munching and crunching in pleasure.

We had agreed to three-hour watches but are actually sticking it out longer. For one thing, it is not nearly as stressful as sitting out in the cockpit in the dark of night and freezing your willy. Reading a good book helps pass the time, or writing. It’s just a lot more comfortable and we both lift benedictions to Ives Gelinas who invented the Cap Horn windvane steering. Of course, you will also be getting a few solid hours of deep REM sleep rather than constantly snatching only an hour or two before being wakened for your next shift. It’s also nice when you are both in the same spot: if one crew is in the cockpit and the other asleep below, you really only see each other for a couple of minutes before the off-watch dives below to get into bed. Now, if the off-watch wakes up there is a little conversation sometimes and you don’t feel quite so alone. I could imagine making a single-handed voyage; I mean, I think I could actually accomplish it. But why bother? It’s much better to be with somebody else especially when you get along as well as Kathleen and I do.

Bilge water

The one thing that is bothering me on this trip is that we are taking water into the bilge, and I do not know where it is coming from. Wooden boats nearly all take some water through the planking: the stresses with all sail up tend to open up the caulking a bit and let sea water in. It could also be the propeller-shaft gland, which needs occasionally to be tightened. It never has in my nearly five years aboard and I haven’t the foggiest idea how to do it. And, finally, it could be fresh water leaking from our tanks under the settee, though I think I have taken care of the one leak I found before we left Acapulco. Perhaps the stresses have here too caused a hairline fracture. I somewhat discard the latter cause and the packing gland argument as well; after all we are getting water even when the engine is not running. So it is likely the planking.

The problem is that the amount of bilge water seems to be increasing. We are close-hauled at present, which is probably the angle of sailing creating the most stresses on rig and hull. Of course, too, our bilge is fairly shallow so that it does not take long for water rising under the engine at the stern to start going forward. And, since, we are heeled to port, you can see some water lapping up under the cabin sole under the galley sink. Still, it bothers me that we are pumping out every hour or two. And not just a few strokes of the big hand-operated bilge pump mounted just inside the engine room either. (You can sit on the foot locker at the base of the companionway ladder, grasp the railing on the galley stove with your left hand, reach inside the engine room, grasp the pump handle and start to work.)

We do actually have two heavy-duty, automatic electrical bilge pumps that I had installed in Long Beach when I was planning to leave the boat in the marina for a few months to go up to Evanston, Illinois. They worked just fine for a while. The exit hoses that take the water up to the cockpit sole however are made of plastic and the man who installed them apparently did not realise he was laying them very close to the exhaust pipe inside the engine room. The hoses melted through, of course, and the electrical bilge pumps are therefore of no use at present. I guess I shall replace them with metal pipes. Of course, electrical bilge pumps assume that you have electrical power, which until we had the alternator repaired in The Galapagos, we basically did not, or certainly not enough to keep bilge pumps turning on and off.

That leaves our high-volume Jabsco bilge pump. It runs off a belt from the front of the engine and can dry out the bilge at a terrific pace. Mind you, although Bob Valine overhauled it and installed a new impeller back in Mosquito Creek Marina in North Vancouver in 2001, we have never had to use it since then. I tested it but only briefly and that back two or three years ago. So let’s hope it works if the need were to arise, which, pray God, it does not. You can see that there are times when I become rather pessimistic in my thinking.

Two minor catastrophes

As if the bilge-water situation were not enough to bother me, we were plagued by two other minor catastrophes. One we can repair immediately; the other we shall have to live with till we get to Ecuador.

The windvane steering has been handling things extremely well. It wavers only very slightly back and forth around the course we have set (basically due east). When we left The Galapagos, I had still not finally decided where on the tiller arm to install the attachments for the lines coming up from the windvane’s quadrant. These lines transfer the information from the windvane itself through the tab in the water up to the steering tiller. Or better, I was satisfied with the provisional positioning but never actually got around to making them permanent. When I went out for a check-round this morning, it occurred to me that the plastic-pipe clamps that were the core of the mounts were perhaps not strong enough to endure a week of windvane steering. So I went forward, took a spare line off the lifelines where I store them, went back to the cockpit and leaned out over the lazarette hatch to add an extra backup. My leaning on the tiller is what caused the pipe clamps to give way and suddenly we were without windvane steering. Fortunately, although we were close-hauled, the boat was quite well balanced (a windvane steering will not be able to function unless there is no weather or lee helm). I called Kathleen on deck and, while she steered, I replaced the pipe clamps with the line and got the windvane steering operating again.

While I am out in the fresh air I ask Kathleen to hand up the “chamber pot”. While I am dumping it overboard the wind takes the lid, blows it off the deck and into the water. It rapidly falls astern. Oh dear! A pee bucket without a lid! Not cool! The last time this happened was last year between San Carlos and Guaymas (Bahia Catalina) while Kathleen’s parents were visiting us in Mexico.

Leaving aside what we shall do with a lidless potty till we get to Bahia de Caráquez, all this is also problematical because it is nearly impossible to find a bucket with just the right mix of characteristics. It has to be big enough (and I am not talking necessarily about comfort here); it has to be strong enough not to buckle; it has to have a stout handle so you can drag the bucket in the sea water to clean it (though you could I suppose fashion a rope handle if the metal one breaks); it has to have a tight lid so there’s no spillage aboard; and it cannot be taller than 8.5 inches or it will not fit under the companionway ladder. That’s where it will be living on board. Don’t think for a minute that such an ideal bucket is easy to find! It is not and I do not fancy having to go through the search again.

With such things are cruising folk busy! Time to pump out again.

0100, Sunday, 21 May 2006 (Fourth morning at sea)

Yesterday passes uneventfully except for the repetitious pumping every thirty minutes. The weather remains dominated by SE to SSE winds 10-15 knots; the sky is generally grey with high cloud broken in the afternoon by a wan sunshine. It is pleasant to sit out in the cockpit though rougher than down below. We remain close-hauled on a starboard tack heading more-or-less due east. In the afternoon the wind picks up a tad and whitecaps appear. But, by dark, i.e. by 1800 or shortly thereafter, it has calmed down a bit and the sea has smoothed out too. We are making over 4 knots so that our day-to-day run is averaging now about three and a half knots. Because we occasionally shoulder into a wave that throws spray back over the cabin and superstructure we twice (slow learners) get a sudden cold shower down below through the partially open skylight. That gets closed down but the cabin is clammy and wet. The outside air is of course also full of blowing salt. It cakes on everything largely invisibly during the day. At night it draws moisture and drips.

The main cabin is becoming a little claustrophobic. Like a sick room, it is a little over-lived-in and needs regular straightening up. These longer passages are mostly just boring, like a long plane or bus ride. You just tick off the minutes and hours. Mostly we just read, although the off-watch sleeping on “Up” berth and the watchkeeper on the more easily exited “Down” berth means that watch-keeping from the “Up” berth requires dropping leecloths and re-rigging them later. It’s more work, so the watchkeeper normally lies “Down”. Although we had agreed three-hour watches, Kathleen let me sleep for five hours this evening before I came on watch at midnight a few minutes ago. I shall now let her sleep all night till dawn. Thank goodness for the windvane steering that makes this all possible.

Instead of meals we snack and graze. We have run out of the bread from Angel’s panaderia back in Baquerizo Moreno. We will soon have to bake a loaf. The evening meal is the remainder of a bean dish that I made as we were leaving San Cristobal. I usually make a big batch of something every two or three days, adding stuff to convert leftovers. The basic rule is that it gets eaten if it hasn’t grown whiskers. Making a meal aboard a sailing yacht, after all, is heavy going. This bean dish has gone through several transmogrifications, tomato sauce was added yesterday, for example, and different spices. We have some fresh veggies aboard that need to be eaten, so I consider undertaking a Chinese stir-fry tomorrow. On the other hand, the boat is heeling a lot and bouncing around so I might make something that can simmer, something that does not require me to stand over the stove for long.

These long passages, as I said, can be tedious. Basically you are just along for the ride and the boat, one hopes, will do its thing by itself. We motorsailed for the first 41 hours out of San Cristobal. Then, at our second dawn, we hoisted the jib to add to the staysail and main, and we have made no adjustments to the sails since then. Night and day Vilisar ploughs along, butting occasionally into the bigger waves and throwing around some spray, heeled over to port and water rushing down the side deck when the wind in the afternoon is a marginally stronger. It is treacherous to be moving about in the cabin and you obey the old seaman’s rule, “One hand for the boat, one hand for yourself”. The safest place abovedecks is the cockpit near the stern. You are seated, there are lots of things to hang onto and the pitching and rolling motion is much less aft. If you move about on deck you do so from one strategically placed handhold or railing to the next, crouching low and, if there is a job to be done, you find a place on the deck or coach roof to sit, kneel or even lie. And never mind the spray and water coming at you.

The best spot to be is below with a book, lying wedged into the leeward settee with pillows or blankets. Next best is in the windward settee with the leecloth rigged and lots of pillows to keep you from moving when the boat rolls. With wind and waves coming at us from the SE and our course to eastwards, despite the full set of sails up, we do plunge and pitch and roll somewhat as we angle into the waves. The windvane steering is handling things well but we nevertheless take a look around every half hour even during the daylight hours. Mainly it’s to check on obstacles or shipping but also to check for whatever might be developing outside.

But, mostly it’s just dozing and reading: I just finished Peter McCarthy’s McCarthy’s Bar. A great travel book about Ireland, and I am starting a thriller called The Analyst by John Katzenbach. Kathleen is reading The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood.

0930, Sunday, 21 May 2006 (Fourth morning at sea, continued)

Someone once described sailing as one-third fun, one-third boredom and one-third terror. I sit up till dawn so Kathleen could get some real shuteye. The pump-out routine – 120 double-strokes every half hour – is a colossal nuisance, boring really, but at least we are still bang on our course to Bahia de Caráquez, and the boat is thrusting its way to windward. It’s a somewhat rough ride even for a seakindly boat like Vilisar, but tolerable. If it weren’t for the pumping everything would be hunky-dory.

Kathleen and I switch settees when she comes on watch in the pre-dawn; it’s easier for the watchkeeper to get out of the leeward berth to attend to pumping and sweeping the horizon. On the windward settee it involves unrigging the leecloths to go on deck, at which point the pillows you have been using to keep yourself in position all fall out onto the cabin sole, getting dirty and damp in the process. Getting back into bed is a chore too, and I am usually sweated by the time I can say I am finally settled again. Now, however, I finally get onto my side with my earplugs in so I won’t be disturbed by any noises and collapse nearly immediately into a deep sleep. Not even the loud knock somewhere on deck keeps me from Morphia’s arms.

At about 0700 Kathleen shakes and calls me out of a deep sleep. “The starboard shroud has broken and is lying on the deck!” This has me awake instantly. I come flying out of the settee in a waterfall of pillows, blankets, books and clothing. I dash up the companionway ladder. Damn it! Sure enough, the starboard lower aft shroud is lying higgledy-piggledy on the deck near the mast and it’s two starboard buddies, the starboard forward lower as well as the starboard masttop shrouds, are flopping around. I rush forward. A first inspection indicates that the bronze collar where the shroud attaches itself by a shackle near the spreaders has broken off from metal fatigue; the shackle is still attached to the loose end of the cable along with a piece of freshly exposed metal. Later I realise the noise we heard in the early dawn was probably the metal bits hitting the deck. In the semi-darkness Kathleen had not noticed it until later.

The immediate issue is to get sail off the rig so that we did not break the mast or more fastenings. I have no idea how bad things are up there. As I work I think that we have probably been running for several hours now with one windward shroud missing. That strange noise was about 0500 and it’s nearly 0700 now. But I am taking no chances. The canvas will have to come off her, and then we can think about next steps.

We get the engine started, and Kathleen steers Vilisar up into the waves. I suddenly realise how big the waves have been the whole time. They were bad enough when we were sailing at an angle. Now, even at a deliberately slow speed to keep pitching to a minimum, it feels from the foredeck like are plunging forward into them at a high rate of knots and the foredeck, as always in these situations, is like a carnival ride. Kathleen is great at finding just the right speed and the right angle to get, first, the Yankee and then the staysail down so they are not flopping around in the wind. I still have to go forward onto the bowsprit to pull the jib down and then smother it with my body while I tie sail stops around it. Then I lower the main and leap onto the coach roof with sail stops to get the big mainsail tied to the boom. Finally, still steaming ahead, I go forward to examine the damage. Yupp! That’s the shroud all right.

At first I decide to take off the broken shroud altogether and get it stowed in the forecastle out of the way. With tools, a pocket knife and a hacksaw I start to work. I cut the lashings for the lightboard and stow it temporarily on the coach roof. Somewhere along the line, I realise that the mast is still fine but just a little unsupported to starboard (windward). The remaining shrouds seem a little loose and the mast is grinding a bit but everything is apparently holding. Perhaps we can get the staysail up again; that will help to keep her from rolling excessively, and also propel us forward however slowly. I attach the mainsail halyard to the top end of the loose shroud and haul away on it until it is as tight as I can get it. Of course, this will not hold the mast up if it decides to topple; the halyard after all only goes through a sheaf at the masthead, is at a weak angle to the stresses and is not attached to a strong collar. But it does perhaps add a little strength, and at least the damned thing is not tangling up around my ankles on deck. I would perhaps have used the topping lift for this operation and left the mainsail halyard for hoisting a storm sail. But, attentive readers of this log will recall that the shackle for some reason came loose one night and it will take someone to go up the mast in the bosun’s chair to get it back down. So far no volunteers.

Once this jury rig is set up, we hoist the staysail and sheet it off while going back on our eastward course. We are rolling and I keep looking skyward up the mast from its base to the various attachment points of the five remaining shrouds and the three stays. I am amazed that the damaged rig had supporting the whole suit of sails up until a few minutes ago, so it must still have a lot of integrity. While there was no sail on her at all, the mast was grinding and complaining, obviously crying out for sail (I think). Now the mast is still making some noises but it is apparently far more content. Missing one of its components, the tuning of the remaining shrouds is a little off. But things are holding. I start gathering up my tools and clearing away ropes and other deck stuff. Most of it goes down the forward hatch into the forecastle. It’s already damp down there anyway.

Back in the cockpit, Kathleen has been rigging bungee cords, which seem to be holding the boat on our old course. I am running the engine at moderate rpms to make it fuel efficient so we an be assured of getting to Bahia de Caráquez if we have to motor the remaining distance. A glance at the GPS indicates that we still have nearly half of our 560-mile voyage to complete. It also shows us tootling along at about 3.5 to 4 knots. That will give us about 85 miles day-to-day. Kathleen also breaks out the electronic-tiller pilot and begins to fiddle with it. Although it gets power and seems to work, it is 180 degrees off. Simply compensating for this in the bearing does not solve the problem, as the pilot arm pushes the tiller in the opposite direction than needed. Sure wish we could find a user manual or at least someone who knows how to operate a Navico 5000.

I go below to get out of my wet clothes. Before doing so we cheer ourselves up after our initial concern. Things are not too bad. The engine will get us there. We might even consider rigging a storm tri-sail and actually sailing it. That shouldn’t put too much stress on the rig. The boat is more-or-less steering itself. The bilge-water problem seems more under control now that we are not stressing the planking and not heeled over so far, and as an added benefit if needed, we can use the large-capacity engine-driven bilge pump while we are motoring along. Nobody has been injured and we handled the event like pros. I like to operate on the second principle of war: Things are never as bad – or as good – as they first appear. After the first shock, we seem to be doing all right. (The first rule of war is: Always work as far away as possible from the next higher headquarters.)

I make coffee for us and Kathleen makes us each a bowl of muesli. We are better off with a little food in our bellies. Soon we are both below on our accustomed settees. Kathleen is pretending to be asleep but I think she is thinking about the morning so far.


During my watch I go forward for another look around. I want to make sure that nothing has come loose or is about to fall on our heads. While I am tidying up a sailstop on the jibsail, I am horrified to discover that the bobstay, the chain running from the tip of the bowsprit to the waterline, has fractured where it is attached to the hull (i.e. at the waterline). This is probably in conjunction with the snapped shroud base-plate up at the spreaders. The base-plate failure surprises me because we just inspected them while painting the spreaders a few weeks ago. The bobstay chains, however, (and for that matter, the boomkin chains at the stern) are in need of replacing. It has been on my list of jobs for the quiet period in Bahia de Caráquez or Salinas. Now the bobstay hangs from the tip into the water. Clearly we will not be jury rigging the storm tri-sail on the main boom. A sailboat’s hull, mast, shrouds, stays, bobstay and boomkin stays and shrouds are an integrated system. They are tuned to spread the pressures of the wind in the sails. Our rig is strong. But I think we will not push our luck and put up more sail. The staysail is steadying us fairly well in the cross swells and I guess we shall be motoring the remainder of the distance to the mainland: 232 Nm. At an average of 4 knots it will take 66 hours or two days and 16 hours. Make that Wednesday morning.

Monday, 22 May 2006 (our fifth ??? day at sea)

The night passes uneventfully. Fortunately the seas are fairly calm. As we thought they might both the light breezes and the swells seem to be veering from SE to S. Given the state of our rig and the fact that ploughing into heavy seas even under engine power is slow and very uncomfortable, not to mention very hard on the boat (as we have seen), we are happy that the weather is so benign. It might be cloudy – that’s what Ecuador’s coastline becomes during the northern summer thanks to the Peru Current cooling things off - but it’s a very tolerable temperature (low 20’s C) and otherwise everything weatherwise is all right.

The usual little troubles with our antique systems, though. Yesterday, Kathleen was trying to get the electronic tiller pilot (a now-out-of-production Navico 5000, for anybody who’s interested). Despite the fact that we have not user manual, she had it kinda working but not enough to be reliable. Unfortunately, she may have blown a fuse on the fuse box in the engine room. Certainly, the alternator - yepp, the newly rebuilt alternator – is no longer delivering power to the batteries. Maybe it was something else that is causing this, but whatever! The deep-cycle batteries had a good charge on them before this happened so we have light. The topping up will have to come from our two 50-watt Siemens hard solar panels. They do a terrific job IF there is sunshine. Their efficiency drops off very rapidly if they are not aimed directly at the sun, if there is shadow across any of the photo-voltaic cells or IF IT IS CLOUDY. Have I mentioned that it is nearly always cloudy now? Well, it is. Not forgetting to mention that there are anyway only 12 hours of daylight in this neck of the South Pacific Ocean. We might be sailing along at night with the Southern Cross clearly visible (through gaps in the cloud) straight out to the right and the Big Dipper straight out to the left. But they provide zero photo-voltaic energy to our solar panels (otherwise they might be called “celestial panels”). So, the bottom line is (to coin a phrase), if the high arc and intensity of the equatorial sunshine does not more than compensate for the nearly-constant high, thin cloud cover, you may not be getting any more reports from this writer until we arrive. Of course, you won’t anyway. But I shall have to write the blog after arrival in Bahia de Caráquez.

To save power we travel at night without running lights unless we spot another vessel in one of our quarter-hourly-horizon scans and then we turn them off again as soon as we can. That is the way we travelled at night all the way from Mexico when we also were getting no alternator power to the batteries.

As we near the Ecuadorian coast, we have been told, we shall have to be on the lookout at night for drift nets and/or drift lines as well as fishing craft. So far, if the bungee cords or the windvane steering will hold the boat on course, we have been standing watch in the cabin: it is so nearly pitch black outside (because of course it’s cloudy; did I mention that?) that you can’t make out a thing even after allowing for a period of retina adjustment (about ten minutes). The best you can hope for is to spot a light somewhere. So, I am not sure how we shall spot nets and lines if they are not lit up or there are no fishing vessels around.

During my six-o’clock, three-hour watch, I go forward to rig the VHTGB Schreck (Vilisar Hi-Tech Gooseneck-Barnacle Schreck). In tropical waters gooseneck barnacles accrue to your hull at the waterline even when you are moving. An old salt’s trick is to trail from the bow a floating line that is long enough to reach the stern (floating line because “normal” line will likely get caught up in your propeller). Thirty minutes daily on each side of the hull seemed to do the trick coming down from Acapulco. Apparently, gooseneck barnacles, which have a tenacity that is formidable when you are trying to scrape them off later after arrival, do not like this motion at all, and they either jump ship or avoid us like the plague. I “install” the VHTGB Schreck (basically I tie it to something at the bow and drape it over the anchor roller so it streams out astern). I check that the bowsprit is still holding even without the bobstay beneath it (it supports the upward pull from the jibstay running up to the masthead. Our bobstay is heavy duty! Thank you again George Friend! As with everything else on Vilisar, he never erred on the side of light. When I think of those beautifully varnished pointy bowsprits on other classical rigs, I wonder if they survive a broken bobstay).

I walk back towards the cockpit, checking the remaining shrouds as I go and making sure things like the dinghy on the foredeck are still securely lashed in place. As I work my way aft, I can see the yellow floating line occasionally in the water while it strokes the side of the boat. I make a brief pit-stop at the port shrouds. Back in the cockpit I stand up and investigate astern while holding on to the boom gallows to see. I want to see if the Schreck is actually reaching back to clean the tab on the Cap Horn windvane steering.

What’s this? THERE IS NO TAB! There is only a chafed-through bungee cord trailing in the water.

Rather than ruin the whole set-up, the tab in the water is meant simply to spring off its mounts should the tab strike something in the water. A line tethers it to the apparatus so it doesn’t get left behind. Apparently the tab must have hit something and come off. In this case, however, the security line has chafed through. Who knows how long the tab has been dragging in the water. It was functioning yesterday because I looked it. And I don’t remember hitting anything, though we probably would not have noticed it anyway unless there was a big noise. Even if the tab had not disappeared and was still dangling on the security line (the manufacturer’s clear statement to me to the contrary, by the way), I can say for a fact that it is impossible to re-install the tab from the lazarette deck of the Vilisar, and I know of at least one other double-ender where it is not possible either. I have, in fact, re-installed it twice while swimming, and it can also be done of course from a dinghy. But I am not sure these are viable options on the high seas. For want of a wooden paddle the whole windvane steering costing US$ 2,800 cannot be used. Not to mention that we shall have to order a replacement from Quebec. The next time I shall use a stainless steel wire to tether the tab to the self-steering rig.

Looking back, the tab might even have fallen off while we were actually sailing and using the Cap Horn. Until the broken shroud, we were close-hauled under full sail. As one does with a windvane steering, I had balanced the boat so well that the helm was feather light, no weather or lee helm at all. The sails looked perfect, even our mangy and repaired old mainsail. The tab might well even have disappeared then. And, while we were motoring we used bungee cord to lash the tiller and keep the boat on course.

It’s a good thing we have lots of bungee cord on board to set up the tiller for motorised self-steering: the Navico 5000 might work if we could somehow figure out how to operate it (and it doesn’t blow fuses), and the windvane steering works great when it works great.

I think I shall make another coffee and rethink this voyaging idea.

Bahia de Caráquez, Ecuador, Wednesday, 25 May 2006

Plagued till then by niggling and not-so-niggling equipment – the lower shroud, the bobstay, the windvane-steering tab, the alternator – we keet going under power. Lister’s loud and hot but thank goodness for him! I suppose in a pinch we could jury-rig some sailpower. It’s a pretty strong rig anyway. Keeping her going under shortened sail, a reefed-down main, perhaps, or a storm tri-sail, would certainly be possible. We are no longer going so much into the wind and waves, which have moved more abeam of us as we move east towards the continent. But there would always have been a risk. Would the remaining rig components be strong enough? Would another port shroud give way? Would the mast come crashing down? Would the upward tension on the bowsprit lead to the bowsprit itself breaking? We opt to run the engine, and we hoist just the staysail to stabilise us in the light southerlies and north-flowing cross-swells.

The day and the night advance without any more “events”. I am not saying that I looked forward to more events, but a weeklong voyage can get tedious at times. You get next to no physical exercise. You are absolved from the duty of actually steering because it is rigged to steer itself; you just scan the horizon every fifteen minutes night and day. You lounge around and read a lot. You write if your alternator has not malfunctioned and robbed you of electric power for your laptop. You try talking together but the off-watch is likely to be sleeping, and the noise of the Lister air-cooled diesel engine discourages small talk. Your bottom gets sore from just sitting. The daily warm meal becomes a major event. The rest of the time we just snack. We both wish we were “there” already.

Our surroundings never change: for five miles around us there is only the sea. Above us is either grey cloud cover or a washed-out sun. Only the size and, now as we move eastwards, the direction of the waves change. But the little digital chart on the GPS shows us getting farther and farther away from The Galapagos and closer and closer to the Ecuadorian coast. At some point we begin to gather our thoughts for the actual landfall and approach to Bahia de Caráquez.

Several people including Jimmy Cornell’s “World Cruising Routes” advise not to come within fifty or so miles of the coast at night because of the density of fishing boats, drift nets and drift lines. We have heard the same advice from other cruisers too. Also, the entrance to Bahia de Caráquez’ protected harbour is across a river bar. It can only be attempted by boats of our draught at high-high tide and with a pilot.

We do not want to waste any time getting settled in Bahia de Caráquez. But since we do not have tidal schedules for South America we do not know when high tide will be. If we arrive at the wrong time, we shall have to anchor off for perhaps another day and wait for a pilot. We could try pushing the engine to see if we can make it by sunset. But I don’t like the idea of driving the engine at full speed: it uses too much fuel, runs a lot hotter and, in any case, “just about making it by dark” means realistically expecting to anchor in a strange location in the night.

No thanks! We decide to turn down the engine rpm’s and motor more slowly through another night. The idea is to arrive near the coast about sun-up and make the last two hours during daylight. This plan is a good one. But, even with only the staysail up, we do not seem to be able to slow down much. Since the alternator has not been putting power into the batteries and the electrical fuel pump has been reducing the voltage faster than the solar panels under a cloudy sky can replenish it, there is some question about whether we shall be able to restart the engine if we turn it off now and simply sail downwind to kill time. But we take the risk. At least, if we turn off the engine during daylight hours, the batteries will get a little energy from the panels, and the fuel pump will not be sucking power out of them. If worse comes to worst, we can always jury rig and make for Bahia de Caráquez under sail.

What bliss it is when the engine stops, and the only sound you hear is the wind and the water rushing alongside the boat! We cannot get it to steer directly to Bahia de Caráquez; quartering swells constantly knock Vilisar back downwind to the north-northeast. So, we bow to the inevitable, sheet the staysail in tight amidships and run under bare poles, Vilisar providing for the first time in days a smooth and gentle action.

We are about 50 Nm out from Bahia de Caráquez. We plan to start the engine again at around 2100 hours, and motorsail to reach our goal at around three hours after first light. The engine starts easily using only the deep-cycle batteries when I de-compress the diesel engine and only compress the cylinders after the flywheel has started revolving. The trick is to advance the throttle so lots of fuel gets into the cylinders on the first couple of revs.

I cannot just set up the tiller with bungee cord and then go below as we have done in previous days. Vilisar does not want to stay on course. And, anyway, I want to keep a more intense deck watch on this stretch. So, I put on a jacket and fleece trousers and go up into the cockpit. I also want to be especially alert for fishing boats and lines; I have heard horror stories of cruising skippers having to go over the side at night to cut away nets that have fouled the prop. We at least have the benefit of a big, fat, round hull and a propeller that is fairly well protected. Nevertheless ….

I had had a good nap while we were sailing downwind, so I feel fresh enough to keep awake in the dark even without a book to read until about 0100. I call Kathleen to relieve me. In the afternoon I had jury rigged the starboard running light; it normally lives on a wooden light board lashed permanently to the shrouds. I had cut it away to look after the damaged shroud. Now, I tie it to hang from the starboard fife rail. It works just fine though perhaps a little low and off kilter.

Cape ???? is fifty miles to our right. We will be crossing the main shipping lane for cargo vessels driving north from Guayaquil at right angles. Sure enough, almost immediately we begin seeing distant lights. If they threaten to come any closer I am ready to switch on all our running lights, and use the spotlight on the staysail in the hope that they will see us. We know that, as a “woodie”, we are hard to spot on radar even supposing they are watching their screens. I am ready to take evasive action if they even hint at steering our way, and to start calling them on VHF radio. Mostly, however, they move at right angles across our stern and at a distance of over five miles.

Eventually, however, I become confused by two boats to my starboard front at about 1 o’clock. With my red-green colour-blindness, it is sometimes difficult to tell if a boat is heading our way or not. If close enough, I can usually pick out the red light through the binoculars unless it is weak by comparison vessel’s other illumination. Some vessels carry a lot of deck lighting, cruiseships or tankers, for example. Green running lights look nearly white to me, so there are definitely moments when I have to use one of my other hi-tech inventions: the “Vilisar FM”, i.e. I wake up the First Mate. Kathleen wakes, as ever without complaint, from a deep sleep, and sticks her head out of the companionway hatch. Looking to starboard through the field glasses, she reports that both of them are green. So they are steering past us on a parallel course. Great! Every skipper should have one of these devices. Later I hear a brief VHF conversation between “barco pescador XXX” with the bridge of the “barco mercantile”: they exchange their headings so they don’t get in each other’s way.

The port of Manta is fifty miles away, but I can see its lights low under the cloud to the south when I come back on watch. First Light comes at 0415 and full light comes rapidly after that here on the equator. But it is overcast so I never really see the sun come up. An hour later, in the clearer air of the early dawn, however, - “Land ho!” - I see a row of high hills on the horizon straight ahead, dozens of fishing pangas and floating flags marking the ends of drift nets, and I see another sailboat hull-down straight north of me at about five miles, and probably also heading for Bahia de Caráquez. Half and hour later the sailboat disappears to view in the marine haze. It only reappears later when our courses have converged. It turns out to be the S/V Carina out of San Francisco.

At one point I became anxious when a fast panga approaches directly from the south. Most likely I am getting too close to his nets, I conjecture. But the warnings about piracy that the English skipper of the catamaran (name) issued so gravely also flash through my head. I become anxious. But the fisherman flashes a big smile and waves as he cuts close across Vilisar’s bow and heads farther north.

I think about the ongoing debate amongst American cruisers concerning the carrying of firearms. I am certain that most Americans are carrying guns on board. It’s the American way. Some of them are coy about admitting it but many are not. They will always be ready to give you examples of when they would (had they a gun on board) use a weapon. But what good would a gun have done in this situation? It developed so fast, for one thing. There was in fact no threat at all except perhaps that the boat had cut a little close in front of Vilisar. At what point should I actually have dashed below and grabbed a gun? And would not brandishing a firearm only have made the situation worse? If they were robbers, they would likely have been armed and ready to shoot. At what point open fire? Imagine having shot an innocent Ecuadorian fisherman! Imagine the legal mess while that is being sorted out. Imagine Ecuadorian jails. And even supposing they were to board us, except for this laptop and a relatively cheap GPS, we have a total of $40 on board. No jewellery. No other valuables. Take ‘em! The administrative hassle of reporting firearms to the authorities in each port (you normally also have to lodge them with the police until just before you leave), and the penalties involved if you get caught with an undeclared weapon make it seem like more effort than it is worth and more likely to get you into trouble than to save your bacon in an emergency. A yappy dog on board might be better defence.

By 0825 we have the Bruce anchor down 5000 yards off the beach in about 12-15 feet of silty water, and we are gently bobbing up and down in the minimal swell. The silence is deafening. We start getting sailcovers on and tidying up the cabin and deck while we are still awake. We celebrate our preliminary arrival by making pancakes. Pure stodge! Great!

We overhear Carina calling Puerto Amistad on VHF. It appears that high tide is expected about 1300. Tripp, the “skipper” at Puerto Amistad will arrange for a pilot. We should get the pilot a little cheaper because there are two boats. In the end we pay Manuel $25 instead of the single-boat rate of $30. (These pilot fees were apparently getting a little out of hand until the Port Captain laid down a schedule of charges so there is some use to cruisers for a Port Captain.)

Manuel goes aboard Carina and we are flanked by the panga that brought him as we follow Carina closely. If you think you might ever want to try this passage alone, don’t! There are a couple of dog legs, and there is really no way of spotting the channel by the colour of the water. And, of course, there are no navigational aids. The lagoon into which we are steering is the estuary of the River Chone, which brings down huge amounts of silt, making the water brown, murky and fast-flowing so no chance of using water colour to identify the route. We see breakers dashing on the point along the beach lined by 5-7-story white hotels and more breakers on invisible sandbars elsewhere.

The whole venture takes about forty-five minutes including motoring along past the beach at the back of the row of hotels. Everything looks clean and modern. There is a settlement across the broad estuary about a mile away and panga-taxis and a car ferry ply back and forth. Looking inland, the estuary must go back five miles at least before it disappears around a bend to the left. Ahead of us we see about a dozen and one-half sailboats on mooring balls or at anchor. Manuel leads us in an “à la main left” through the first of them and then gestures for us to find a place to drop the hook. We move past Carina into a large “hole” between several sailboats including Wooden Shoe (San Diego), Enshallah, Fifth Element and a Danish boat called Papillon, possibly the only European boat here. We do not initially recognise any other vessels from our travels so far. I spot two other Canadian boats, Nueva Vida out of Vancouver and one other whose name I cannot read. Except for Wooden Shoe and Nueva Vida, most of the boats seem unoccupied.

Manuel comes by in the escort panga to collect his fee and pushes off; we can pick up the change from two twenties from Peurto Amistad. We continue our work to convert the boat back to an RV. We are expecting to leave her here at anchor for the next three to six months while we travel into Ecuador’s interior. A little later a man with a golden earring comes by in his inflatable and welcomes us to the anchorage. His name is David, he lives aboard S/V Isla Encando (sic) nearby. He is kind of a Welcome Wagon, dispensing excellent practical advice about local facilities costs and attractions.

We had head from other cruisers that, since most of the boaters come here to visit the interior, the other neighbours keep an eye on things. Anyway Bahia de Caráquez is considered the “Mayberry” of Ecuador, i.e. it is supposed to be quite safe. Nevertheless David had one horror story to report. A week or so ago one single-handed sailor at anchor fell amongst (two female) thieves whilst ashore, who drugged him, got him back on his boat, plundered the vessel and set him drugged and adrift down river in his dinghy. He had his handheld VHF with him, fortunately, and the presence of mind despite the drugs to call for help. The dinghy washed up on a beach near the mouth of the estuary, and someone came and got him. Kind of scary!

We hoisted our yellow “Q” (for “Quarantine”). Somewhat later a panga bearing three uniformed men came alongside. A petty officer from Captania de Puerto came aboard in his whites and sat below to check our papers, make sure we had functioning depthsounder, GPS and VHF radio, drank a beer and eventually left rather puzzled that we had no exit Zarpe from Canada or U.S.A. No doubt we shall have to explain this further when we visit the Port Captain ashore tomorrow.

As the afternoon progresses, the tide turns and begins running at a very swift 4 knots or so towards the sea bearing with it some trash but mostly leaves and branches washed down from the Andes. I guess we shall have to plan our dinghy trips ashore carefully if we hope to get back by rowing.

As night falls, exhaustion overtakes us. The lights come on in the town. We heat up the leftover spaghetti and tomato sauce, smother it in grated Parmesan cheese and fall asleep at last. We are out of beer and wine; a couple of shots of rum mixed with lemon juice and water serve as soporifics.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Isla San Cristobal, The Galapagos
17 March 2006

Vilisar departs The Galapagos Islands today after an interesting and informative month in the archipelago. Leaving today about noon, we expect the 600 Nm (1,000 km) sail due east will be uneventful and take aobut 7 - 10 days depending upon winds and currents. The weather charts are promiisng light trade winds blowing mainly from the SW. That's perfect for us. Our destination there is Bahia de Caraquez, a storm-free river lagoon and up-scale beach town about 50 miles north of Manta. Ecuador remains quite temperate during the northern summer because the Peru Current brings cool waters north from Antarctica. We shall be leaving Vilisar at 'Bahia' on occasion to travel to Quito and other towns where Kathleen will be leading choir and conducting workshops for Ecuadorian choirs under sponsorship of the Association of Ecuadorian Choirs. We are really excited about as it will help us to get to know Ecuadorians.

Keep checking.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristobal, The Galapagos, Ecuador,
Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kathleen’s birthday

Today is Kathleen’s birthday. After a somewhat boozy and late night, we sleep in until well after sunrise and start the day slowly. Thank goodness for the excellent Ecuadorian “Columbia” coffee that we found at the grocery store here in Baquerizo Moreno! It was a job, though, since Ecuadorians, like Mexicans, only grow coffee; they don’t actually have a coffee-drinking culture like Italy, Germany, The Netherlands or even Seattle. At ordinary restaurants in Mexico, they would bring you a pitcher of not-any-more-quite-hot water, a small bottle of Nescafe, condensed milk and a bowl of sugar; you mixed it up yourself. But this ground coffee is delicious, some of the best we have had in a long time. It comes already ground (which is more than we can say for the local Galapagos coffee which is sold to tourists as roasted beans and nobody on this island has a grinder!) in 200-gram sealed envelopes.

We lounge around reading and drinking coffee and hoping we will feel a little better soon. Kathleen is in the midst of several proofreading jobs and thinks she needs to take the laptop ashore and get them done. By 0830 we are dressed and aboard the panga-taxi headed for the dock after first picking up Annie from S/V Iron Bark. San Paulo, one of the several inter-island freighters that ply between The Galapagos and Guayaquil, is anchored off and lighters are already around her to unload her. Both stone steps at the jetty are blocked by a couple of heavy, flat-bottomed lighters, one of them full of empty beer and soft-drink bottles! The panga driver pulls up to the barge and we have to leap over its dirty gunwhales, spring down into the empty bilge and clamber up the other side before we can jump for the dock. Kathleen heads for the internet café to call her mother for Mother’s Day. SKYPE seems to be working just fine today. I set up the laptop in the restaurant where they have a handy 110-volt plug and where the waitresses never infringe upon your privacy you unless you make a distinct signal that you want to order something. They must see the restaurant table area as a sort of railway-station waiting room. You can sit there all day with your computer plugged in. While Kathleen is on the phone next door, Annie sits with me and downloads some of her writings about their recent cruise to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland. I have promised Annie to show her how to set up her own blogsite at

Annie & Trevor on S/V Iron Bark

We saw them come in on Friday in a yellow and black, gaff-rigged sailboat that reminded me of Badger, Annie Hill’s boat which she made famous through her book about shoestring cruising. It was called Voyaging on a Small Income and came out some fourteen years ago and has been a bestseller ever since. It has become a classic and a best-seller (at least amongst sailing folk, Annie says). Certainly it was a big influence on us. At the time we moved aboard Vilisar five years ago (!) we were very uncertain and frequently quite overwhelmed by it all. We had the vague notion of perhaps sailing around the world but only if we managed to survive the first two years, still had our sanity and were still speaking to each other. I found her book in the Port Townsend Library and devoured it (being on a small income, of course, I borrowed the book from a public lending library!). Besides a lot of “how-to” stuff, many parts of which we are still using, there was the whole argument that you can either spend your life in the daily grind in the hope that at the end of the 45-year (work) plan, you might be alert and alive enough (mentally and physically) to perhaps go sailing. Annie argued that it doesn’t take very much and used her own experience in building a boat (Badger) and setting off sailing. She listed all the thrift measures that she herself had learned about, discussed topics like the most appropriate (and cheap) dinghy (we built Chameleon, one of the two she described in the book), junk rigs (up until recently we had seriously considered converting Vilisar to a junk rig) and a whole host of other topics, nearly all of them exactly the sort of things we needed to get going. Most importantly, the book was a motivation for us. We could, after all, do it. There were no prizes except a real life, a life that you created on your own rather than a life carved out for you by your parents, bosses and peers.

The yellow and black boat turned around and went off to anchor somewhere a distance away. I paid no more heed to it until later, when Trevor and Annie came over in their yellow and black dinghy with yellow sweeps. I invited them aboard. Later they said they always pick the boat in the anchorage they judge to be the one who will know the best way to enter and leave without too much fuss. They picked Vilisar because she had a lot of character, as they said. But it might also have been because her waterline is slimy green, her topsides are now seriously in need of a paint job and no doubt she looks somewhat scruffy.

We have a lovely conversation for an hour in the cockpit at which time Kathleen arrives back in the panga-taxi from the internet café. Introductions all round. It is Kathleen who twigs that we have Annie Hill aboard, the very person who has meant so much to us in getting us this far.

We chat some more and learn that they are on their way to New Zealand after a couple of seasons in Canada’s Maritime Provinces (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, as well as Greenland. Trevor too has been sailing for years and spent a year alone aboard the Wylie II steel boat he built frozen-in in Antarctica. He convinced Annie to marry him in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, and the two of them spent nine months in snow-covered and frozen-in isolation in a fjord in Greenland.

I have spent a lot of time in my younger days in severe cold. I know that you can easily survive even outside if you know your way around and learn to adjust to the cold. Most prairie cities, Winnipeg or Brandon, where I was stationed for several years with the Canadian Army, get temperatures of -40ºC (=-40ºF) for at least some of the winter nights. I know that you can survive and that there is a strange beauty in the rarified winter landscape and pure air of the faraway northland. Having slept outside in a snowbank at -30ºC I think I am entitled to an opinion. And it would take more than a marriage licence to get me to spend any winter time outside again in ice and snow. It is not even the cold or the long nights because the days are often brightly sunny. It’s the length of the winter and sloppy, wet and chilly springtime that finally sickens you of the northern “winters”. But I would love to sail up to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador and maybe even Greenland. I just intend to be in the tropics for the cold parts.

Eventually they leave Vilisar and go ashore for a look-round after inviting us for sundowners around 1730 aboard Iron Bark. It is a super evening; cocktails last until well after the panga-taxis have ceased for the night (they stop about the same time as the London Underground). Trevor kindly rows his two wonky visitors back to Vilisar about 2300.

If you ever get a chance to meet Annie and Trevor, do so. They are absolutely delightful, a fountain of information, of course, and very approachable. I was able to get Annie started on a blogsite (she has been sending out round-robin emails up until now). If you want to read about their adventures including the sojourn under snow in Greenland, visit And keep an eye out for her soon-to-be-published The Voyaging Vegetarian. Like Vilisar, they have no fridge or freezer. (Trevor will gladly lay out the costs of a cold beer for you: a cold beer aboard a sailing vessel, he says, will be the most exorbitantly expensive drink you are ever likely to enjoy, and that does not even count the hidden costs of fridges and freezers that regularly break down at awkward moments, requiring you to throw or give away all the frozen steaks you loaded back in Panama.) For us, we have been motivated anew by these terrific people.

Back aboard Vilisar on Sunday afternoon, Kathleen reads Annie’s blog while I finally open up the engine room and go to work to eliminate the big water leak that drips water onto the starting battery whenever I pump out the bilge. I use an automobile sealant and clamp the hose with a stainless steel hose clamp. Dry as pampers. I also finish up re-setting the mast wedges and close up the mast boot again. I may be running out of little jobs I can do before we leave. It looks like we might get out of here on Tuesday after all with a functioning alternator, the bilge pump tight, the sails all repaired and possibly even one or two hitchhikers.

While we are sitting in the restaurant today we meet a young English couple that has crewed on an English yacht from Panama. They are interested in crewing to the mainland. Without realizing it they are probably talking to the only vessel in The Galapagos that is not heading west to French Polynesia. “Yes, we might consider it,” we tell them.

Later, discussing it between ourselves, I argue that two big adults are too much of a good thing. They seem really nice and have experience already. But we can really only accommodate one more large person for sleeping. It also means carrying more water and food though no doubt they would be expected to make a contribution to the food kitty (I must ask Al aboard S/V Morova or Trevor and Annie aboard S/V Iron Bark what their arrangements are when they take crew along). Perhaps we shall offer to take one of them and the other can find another boat or fly (the price of a ticket is about $180 to Guayaquil or Quito). We’ll see. It would certainly be nice to have three people to make the watch-standing easier.


And, this just in ….

Subject: Outsourcing the Presidency to India

Congress today announced that the office of President of the United States of America will be outsourced to India as of March 31, 2006. The move is being made to save the President's $400,000 yearly salary, and also a record $521 billion in deficit expenditures and related overhead the office has incurred during the last 5 years.
"We believe this is a wise move financially. The cost savings should be significant," stated Congressman Thomas Reynolds (R-WA). Reynolds, with the aid of the Government Accounting Office, has studied outsourcing of American jobs extensively. "We cannot expect to remain competitive on the world stage with the current level of cash outlay," Reynolds noted.

Mr. Bush was informed by email this morning of his termination. Preparations for the job move have been underway for sometime. Gurvinder Singh of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India, will be assuming the office of President as of March 22, 2006.

Mr. Singh was born in the United States while his Indian parents were vacationing at Niagara Falls, thus making him eligible for the position. He will receive a salary of $320 (USD) a month but with no health coverage or other benefits. It is believed that Mr. Singh will be able to handle his job responsibilities without a support staff. Due to the time difference between the US and India, he will be working primarily at night, when few offices of the US Government will be open. "Working nights will allow me to keep my day job at the American Express call center, "stated Mr. Singh in an exclusive interview. "I am excited about this position. I always hoped I would be President someday."

A Congressional spokesperson noted that while Mr. Singh may not be fully aware of all the issues involved in the office of President, this should not be a problem because Bush was not familiar with the issues either. Mr. Singh will rely upon a script tree that will enable him to respond effectively to most topics of concern. Using these canned responses, he can address common concerns without having to understand the underlying issues at all.

We know these scripting tools work," stated the spokesperson. President Bush has used them successfully for years." Mr. Singh may have problems with the Texas drawl, but lately Bush has abandoned the "down home" persona in his effort to appear intelligent and on top of the Katrina situation.

Bush will receive health coverage, expenses, and salary until his final day of employment. Following a two week waiting period, he will be eligible for $240 a week unemployment for 13 weeks. Unfortunately he will not be eligible for Medicaid, as his unemployment benefits will exceed the allowed limit.

Mr. Bush has been provided the out-placement services of Manpower, Inc. to help him write a resume and prepare for his upcoming job transition. According to Manpower, Mr. Bush may have difficulties in securing a new position due to limited practical work experience. A Greeter position at Wal-Mart was suggested due to Bush's extensive experience shaking hands and phoney smile.

Another possibility is Bush's re-enlistment in the Texas Air National Guard. His prior records are conspicuously vague but should he choose this option, he would likely be stationed in Waco, TX for a month, before being sent to Iraq, a country he has visited. "I've been there, I know all about Iraq," stated Mr. Bush, who gained invaluable knowledge of the country in a visit to the Baghdad Airport's terminal and gift shop.

Sources in Baghdad and Falluja say Mr. Bush would receive a warm reception from local Iraqis. They have asked to be provided with details of his arrival so that they might arrange an appropriate welcome.