Come aboard as s/v Tayrona sails from Miami, FL to Brisbane, Australia in two years of adventure. I tried my best to keep it at a manageable seventeen minutes. There are some shots you just can’t cut! It’s soothing, so watch it when you have a little down time. And make it full screen; it’s in good resolution! Cast off the bowlines! Put up all the canvas you can muster! Let’s get some horizon!
After a couple weeks slowly bobbing out to the Bay of Plenty and back, Miranda and I were ready for a little zip in our giddy-up.We rented a ‘flash’ ride from the local Rent-a-Dent (that’s seriously what the place is called) and took to the open road to Wellington.Much to Miranda’s chagrin, I did weasel a little boat work into our fun trip. Dinghy required a little gluing that was beyond my capability, so we crammed the front third of her into the rear compartment of the SsangYong for the short drive to Terminator Boats.
With poor, overworked Dinghy in the shop, our ride was a good deal more spacious and streamlined, and we zoomed unobstructed south.It’s really novel to move more that five miles an hour, and even more novel to be speeding along on the wrong side of the road!We broke the drive into two pleasantly uneventful days. Just like navigation afloat, I worked collision avoidance and Miranda worked charts. We floated serenely by rolling hills, cow pastures, and volcanic massifs with nary a touch of sea sickness.
Wellington is not only the seat of the nation’s government, but also the coffee and cultural capital of New Zealand. Wellingtonians are pretty hip. I saw a guy who was so hip, he couldn’t see over his own pelvis! In their defense, it is a cool city. One can’t saunter more than a few paces without stumbling over a brew pub, free museum, coffee shop, or funicular. It’s like the Seattle of the Kiwis.
After wandering our way into town from the Airbnb, we hit up Wellington’s fabulous Te Papa museum.It seemed like a good way to get acquainted with the local ethos.Maori artifacts, larger-than-life war memoirs, and colossal natural history collections filled the better part of a day.
Our sailing friends Martin and Lexi from s/v Pao Hana were serendipitously in Wellington at the same time we were.We met up with them for an afternoon of partaking in the local cuisine, café, and ice cream.We blamed our sloth and gluttony on the rainy weather, but really it’s the city itself that encourages indulgent wanderings with friends. Lunched at a great Vietnamese place. Noodles in hot broth sounded good on the blustery day, and we jumped in line to get a bowl. You know the place is going to be good when there’s a pho ‘queue’ out the door.
We spent a few days enjoying the fineries of the city.We went to performances in black-box venues and grand theaters.We slept in a fluffy, motionless bed like normal folk.We ate, drank, and people watched.It was a marvelous, much needed city fix indeed.
Our way back north was speedy smooth.As we drove we relished the ease of motion and the lackadaisical attitude we took towards passing squalls, temperature fluctuations, and the darkness after the setting sun.Twilight be damned!Zoom on!Got to get back to our five-knot life.
After pulling into the tight anchorage on Isabella we LAYED anchor happily in soft, grippy sand. It was strange to have other boats, lights, odd sounds, and smells of the earth wafting from the land. We slept like babies in the quiet anchorage.
In the morning we woke and called our agent, JC Desoto, on channel 67. He’s a popular guy, seemingly working in all things cruiser related. He’s always zipping around town on his folding bike with a handheld radio on his him or at his ear. He’s the guy you want to know in town.
He answered our radio call and I went in to meet him at the dock by dinghy after putting the engine back on the boat. Then I came back to Tayrona because I’d forgotten the paperwork in my excitement to get to shore after TEN days on the boat. (In my defense, I thought he was coming out to us on Tayrona. False.)
He took our information, told us to sit tight until later that afternoon when we’d be visited by three officials. I felt like I was Scrooge, expecting the three ghosts of Christmas “when the bell tolls one!” They arrived rather un-ethereally in an overloaded dinghy. They, however were only the pre-preliminary cohort. They took of our data, told us to stay on the boat until later when a larger contingency was coming. Later a second, more official group, the preliminary cohort, arrived, took more of our data and then told us to stay on the boat until tomorrow when another, larger and more important contingency would be coming. We stayed on the boat until they left, then scampered around town for a few hours until dark. Rebels! Walking around the town felt like gold. We hadn’t walked more than 38 feet in any one direction for over a week! First steps off the boat and we found these guys to be our welcoming crew:
In the morning the final, larger contingency arrived for the full paper-workout. We passed inspection, signed all our forms, paid JC the $1300 we owed him for all the visas, paperwork and such.
Then we officially went to shore! In to town we went! Found a great bakery, Delicias, and walked out to the Giant Tortoise breeding center at the end of a long boardwalk through mangrove swamp.
The center takes tortoises from the wild that are having difficulty breeding in the wild and gives them a more conducive environment. You know, mood lighting, Berry White on the radio, all the wild greens you can eat. No, in all seriousness, the tortoises struggle not only with introduced species (cats, donkeys, goats, dogs, rats) destroying their young, but also the sheer size of the island. They’re so slow moving, and there is so much terrain that they have a difficult time finding one another to mate!
Here’s a great Radio Lab podcast about the steps taken by the Galapagos to control the goat population. Involves helicopters and machine guns. Really, take a listen when you’re cleaning the house. It’s interesting. http://www.radiolab.org/story/galapagos/
So there are covered cages with 0-1 year old tortoises. They’re covered so cats, birds, and rats can’t get to them. Then the dinner plate sized 1-3 year olds are outside. The 3-6 year tortoises are manhole cover sized, and are reintroduced into the wild until they are 25-30 years old and can reproduce. In my head there’s some nagging parents saying, “Yah not allowed to date until ya 30!”
And then there’s the mating pen. Adult tortoises roaming a good sized love nest until they breed, and tourists watching the magic. Cool. The clank and grunt loudly during the whole thing. The tortoises, not the tourists. It’s hard for me to imagine where the females store a clutch of 30 eggs in their shell during gestation.
Yesterday we hiked up Sierra Negra, one of Isabelas volcanic craters. It was an early start and we were being jostled along in a open-sided chiva up the mountain before our eyelids were fully opened. I think we came in with the dinghy and they picked us up from there, but I can’t be sure. We poured out of the chiva, eager to see if our legs still worked. Up the packed dirt trail we trudged through the green, lush foliage. Look, Darwin’s finches!
The intensity of the earthly smells was intoxicating. The first couple of kilometers were uphill and our legs were remembering their former selves when we reached the rim of the caldera. The collapsed volcanic cone left a 12 km wide crater that occasionally filled with lava when flare ups cracked the surface and oozed molten rock out. We hiked along the rim with a gorgeous panoramic view of the steep, green cliffs ending abruptly with charred rocky plateau that stretched into the distance.
Along our hike we encountered this big guy lounging in the path like he owned the place. A giant tortoise in his natural habitat! We were psyched to be in the presence of this chunker that would well outlive us. Gives credit to the slow life.
This morning Liza and Felix took off for Isla Santa Cruz to do some exploring and surfing. They tried to surf here, but were welcomed into the waves by a shark’s silhouette cutting lengthwise through a barrel. They bailed and went to a different island in search of non-lethal surfing, and now Miranda and I are again alone on the boat. Nice. It’s been consistent weather here, sunny mornings and cool, rainy afternoons. I’ll take it.