Galapagos – Day 6

We anchored at San Cristobal in the Galapagos at about 2 pm today.  Last night, we crossed the equator at a little after 3 am.  The girls were awake anyway because Tully had misplaced Marin (Marin had gone up to see the moon or something and was asleep on the couch) and had woken me up to find Marin and put her back in bed. 

Cobin had requested that the person on watch wake him to see the equator crossing.  Sunil was on watch and Joe was awake to supervise the passing of other boats.  Sunil woke up Cobin and Swagata and the entire crew, apart from Ruth (she has witnessed enough equator crossings) were there to witness the latitude ticking over from 0 degrees North to 0 degrees South.

This morning, when we woke up, we found a note from King Neptune requesting that the polliwogs show up in costume at 10 am.  We dressed as the Royal Court of Polliwogs, with Marin as Queen Peony, Cobin as King Peter, Tully as Princess Pina, and Swagata, Sunil and I as their servants.  King Neptune was there as well and Joe assisted him.  The ceremony started with a ritual application of sun cream (there are lots of British-educated people on the boat at the moment so we’ve started adopting some of their terminology) to our faces. 

After that, we had to approach the cockpit one at a time and prove our value to King Neptune by seeking one of his pearls of wisdom out of a pile of sand.  From my experience, it was more like finding an M&M in a pile of crushed cereal and flour but perhaps that was just me.

Because of the sun cream, we each left the cockpit with a beard of sand/flour.  The ceremony ended with a ritual cleansing by hose and then we celebrated our new status as shellbacks with some sparkling grape cider.  Marin made an offering to King Neptune and, because of an unfortunate wind angle, simultaneously re-christened the boat.

Several hours later, we reached the Galapagos and anchored in a lovely bay.  Shortly after arriving, we spotted sea lions swimming in the clear water and lounging on buoys and boat transoms.  A pelican took over the spot of our red-footed boobie and a sea lion soon took up residence on our transom.  We put out fenders to discourage the sea lions but this one made itself space.  According to our water taxi driver, the sea lions mark their territory with urine which leaves a stain and requires “bleach, soap, more bleach, more soap, and lots of time” to erase.

I saw a shadow underwater about 3 feet from the boat and thought it was yet another sea lion but it was actually a sizable shark swimming past.  Later, we jumped in the water (Tully was a bit reluctant after seeing the shark) and saw all kinds of fish and two rays.  The water isn’t as clear as it was in the San Blas but is warm and, so far, has a similar level of wildlife.

After having a contingent of 8+ inspectors visit our boat (they all came together on a water taxi) to inspect, process, and examine our medical kit, flares, life raft, passports and produce, we were free to go to land.  This was by far the most comprehensive in-processing experience we have had in any country.  They even sent a diver (a female!) to examine the underside of our boat.  The Galapagos requires a clean hull so we have spent the past several weeks scrubbing Charm’s bottom and chipping off barnacles to make sure we would pass.

On shore, the sea lions were even more abundant and were intermingled with bright red crabs.  We went straight to the ARC happy hour and then to dinner.  Tomorrow we will explore the island after a bit of school. 

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