Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Galapagos is probably one of the most-anticipated ports on the voyage. Many times in the past day I have heard different crew members exclaim “I can’t believe I’m actually here!” With the first skiff runs ashore dropping crew off at a floating dock inhabited by three sleeping sea lions, it was immediately apparent that there’s something special about this place and it’s flora and fauna.
Picton Castle is currently anchored at Wreck Bay, off the island of San Cristobal. The island of Santa Cruz is the usual tourist destination, but almost everything that you could see on Santa Cruz can also be seen here. Once the ship anchored early on Thursday afternoon, we were greeted by our agents Carmela, Karina and Fernando. Picton Castle’s most recent visit here was five years ago and we remember Fernando and Karina from that visit. The agents brought with them representatives of the port captain and the sanitation and agriculture department. Because they value the environment so highly here, there are many restrictions to preserve it. We’re not allowed to take any of our organic garbage ashore to dispose of, and none of it can go overboard. We can’t take any fruits or vegetables from the ship, which were grown and purchased in other countries, ashore with us, they must all stay aboard the ship or be consumed aboard the ship. And, of course, nobody is allowed to take sand, shells, seeds, or any other natural material from the island.
There have been some changes since we were here last time – the pier that we use for skiff runs between the ship and shore has been greatly improved with a floating dock behind a concrete extension designed to cut down some of the large swell. The whole street that runs along the waterfront, Avenue Charles Darwin, now has sidewalks paved with volcanic rock stones, beautiful wooden benches with awnings for shade, gazebos, a fountain, a couple of small gardens and playground for children. Tourists and locals alike seem to like it, it’s a well used space, especially in the evenings as people take walks or sit and talk with their friends and neighbours by the waterfront.
Wildlife is abundant here, from the frigate birds flying overhead to the sea lions everywhere. On Thursday evening, chief mate Mike had to remove a sea lion from our skiff, which was tied alongside the ship, so that one of the crew could go and bail the boat. Apparently Mike frightened it away by making loud noises and throwing a rope towards it. We had another sea lion, a young one, trying to jump up on to the bow of the skiff while people were getting in at the floating dock last night and when the sea lion was unsuccessful in making the jump on the bow, it decided to try amidships. It got its front flippers over the gunwale and part of its body into the skiff when Mike came to the rescue again and pushed it back into the water.
Our agents arranged a welcome reception for us on our first night here, complete with a buffet of local food and folkloric music from the mountains of mainland Ecuador. The crew were seated at a long table out in front of the restaurant, along a pedestrian walkway. Medical officer Gary started the dancing and before long all 25 of the crew who attended were on their feet, taking over the walkway while dancing to the band.