Checking in to Isabela, Galapagos

April 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

It was a full day’s sail from San Cristóbal to the island of Isabela, which meant an early start, weighing anchor in the darkness. As well as the send off from the sea lion (see previous post), standing at the bow and shining the steamer scarer into the water to watch for buoys and rocks, I saw giant turtles, tuna, and long black and white coils of sea snakes bobbing on the surface like discarded rope. 

The sail itself was in fact a ten hour motor through the doldrums, great for recharging the batteries and simply admiring the view. As we came into Isabela there was a huge tanker in the bay, the men on board gesticulating wildly. I waved back. The Skipper turned the boat round and we went to see what they wanted. It turned out they were just being friendly and saying hello. I later found out that it was a food supply ship, the island in dire need after the previous two sank en route. It didn’t look too stable itself and we wondered if any of them had ever been evenly loaded! 

As we got to anchorage, we found five boats there already, and we realised with delight that we knew every single one of them. There was the American boat SHAWNIGAN, ARC boats RAFTKIN and PELIZENO, their New Zealand friends sailing with us  DOL’ SELENE, and Australian boat BAREFEET, friends of ARC boat TRANQUILO (check out their sailing footage on YouTube and @sailing_tranquilo on Instagram). It was totally surreal to arrive in this most beautiful spot just in time to watch the sunset and have the place to ourselves! 

Checking into Isabela is a much more low kew affair than San Cristóbal, in part, I’m sure, because the first check-in ticks all the boxes and the subsequent ones are maintenance. Javier’s rep Steven turned up with just one official from Immigration as I was taking the sourdough loaf out of the oven, and we tucked into it with pineapple jam and some coffee. If that sounds relaxed, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy to drop in here though, as one boat found when they rocked up a few days later without an agent or prior notice. It is possible to turn up impromptu and request permission to stay at Santa Cruz (subject to the port captain’s discretion), and even in San Cristóbal we met a passing vessel who’d decided at the last minute to stop en route to the Marqueses and were given a one-port permit, but not in Isabela, where, in this case, the boat was given 24 hours to leave The Galapagos for good. 

Anchoring in Isabela is very different to San Cristóbal. It is much quieter for a start, for we were neither plagued by brazen sea lions (a timid one did make its way onto our steps but slipped away as soon as we came out), or speedy boat taxis making waves to set the boat rocking. There were boat taxis around for sure, but on demand, rather than touting for business, as in Isabela the veleros, or us cruisers, are allowed to use our own dinghy, for a small entrance fee (a one off payment of 10 dollars per adult, and five for children). That night we enjoyed our first uninterrupted night’s sleep in the Galapagos, and buoy, what a feeling! 

Sailing La Cigale arriving at Isla Isabela, Galápagos from Lucy Van Hove on Vimeo.


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