Saturday 22 February 2020

Passage to the Galapagos and story of Birdie

After three weeks in the marina preparing for the Pacific we left Panama in a process we defined as "Splash and Dash", to ensure that there was no time for marine growth to gather on our hull, for we had to be sure of arriving in the Galapagos with a clean bottom.  Our optimised process Checking out in Panama Ciry on Thursday, splashing on Friday and sailing on Saturday.  This relied on us being ready, the final boat preparations going without a hitch and the weather being compliant.   

Splashing at Vista Mar is somewhat unusual or perhaps heartstopping, here Clare is holding on to avoid slipping back into the cockpit.

We engaged MetBob for a passage route, which surprisingly stated that it would take 5 days when all our software based planning was for a 6 to 7 day passage.  What boat speed was he thinking of, at least we knew the weather window allowed us to leave a day later so we didn’t need to worry about taking longer.

Final provisioning complete we left the marina around midday looking a little low in the water.

The trip was very comfortable despite starting our second day with a near Gale (sustained 35 knot gusts)

 and then learning how to sail in very light winds and strong currents, but it will be remembered for being one of our easiest passages and for the story of Birdie.

As the winds calmed and as dawn broke on our third morning we noticed a young gull had taken up residence towards the bow.   Gingerly this gull, quickly named Birdie, moved forwards.  We were shocked to see it had a fishing line tight around one of its legs.

A day of edging closer and then pulling away got us to close proximity by lunchtime, helped by a few breadcrumbs.  Thanks for Bryana for on line veterinary support, Birdie seemed to know we knew what we were doing.  When first presented with a large blue towel Birdie shied away from us but then came closer still.  We became aware that we were being checked out by a small animal that didn’t know whether it could trust us but equally seemed to know that it had no option.

Moving bravely into the cockpit.
Free at last and now moving back to the bow of the boat
As dusk drew closer we sat down to eat, something we try to do before dark as that makes dinner a pleasant end to the day and start of the more formal overnight watches.   Birdie came closer, drawn in by the steak we were eating and impressing on us an increasing sense of urgency, with Clare holding the towel, Birdie allowed us to pick him up.  We had considered wearing protective glasses in case he became scared and tried to attack our eyes but he was totally calm and for the intricate operation I needed as good vision as possible.  The fishing line was tightly looped and knotted around his legs, each thinner than the line itself.  With large wire cutters needed to cut the line an advertent amputation would have been so easy, but Birdie remained calm and when I reached the final knot he pushed his leg out straight so I could access it easily.   We removed the final knot and let Birdie go.

He walked about a bit, took to the air and then to the water.   Now, this is not a Disney movie so there was no music but in a completely surreal moment 10 to 20 dolphins leaped out of the water and played along side us and Birdie for a few minutes until darkness fell.

Birdie spent most of the night with us, watched us perform a major sail change at around 2.00 am and sometime later left us, we hope for a long life at sea.

We sailed on into lighter winds and some motoring but in strong currents continued to make good time.  We crossed the equator at around 0400, despite the early hour we managed a brief ceremony being "griffins",  not entirely up to the standards of that reported by Darwin on HMS Beagle.

"A similar ceremony took place during the second survey voyage of HMS Beagle. As they approached the equator on the evening of 16 February 1832, a pseudo-Neptune hailed the ship. Those credulous enough to run forward to see Neptune "were received with the watery honours which it is customary to bestow".[2] The officer on watch reported a boat ahead, and Captain FitzRoy ordered "hands up, shorten sail". Using a speaking trumpet he questioned Neptune, who would visit them the next morning. About 9am the next day, the novices or "griffins" were assembled in the darkness and heat of the lower deck, then one at a time were blindfolded and led up on deck by "four of Neptunes constables", as "buckets of water were thundered all around". The first "griffin" was Charles Darwin, who noted in his diary how he "was then placed on a plank, which could be easily tilted up into a large bath of water. — They then lathered my face & mouth with pitch and paint, & scraped some of it off with a piece of roughened iron hoop. —a signal being given I was tilted head over heels into the water, where two men received me & ducked me. —at last, glad enough, I escaped. — most of the others were treated much worse, dirty mixtures being put in their mouths & rubbed on their faces. — The whole ship was a shower bath: & water was flying about in every direction: of course not one person, even the Captain, got clear of being wet through."  (Source wikipedia)

Later in the morning of our fifth day we realised that we could arrive before dark.   We passed Kicker Rock, famous for hammerhead sharks and enjoyed a gentle cruise down San Christobal.

5 days and 5 hours and 910 track miles after leaving we dropped anchor on San Christobal island in the Galapagos, awaiting with trepidation our bio security inspection on Friday morning.  Our fastest and most comfortable passage to date.

No comments: