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Vaitape, Bora Bora

John from Sea Mist stopped by early in the morning and offered us a couple of baguettes. He’d dinghied round to town to pick them up exploring the cut in the reef that we’d taken on the way south. We accepted them gratefully. This was while Ben and I were boiling up our evening’s catch for breakfast. It turned out they were slipper lobsters and they had a surprising amount of meat in their tails for their size. Lobster followed by brie on fresh bread – a tasty breakfast.

Just as we were ready to set off for town Sea Mist passed us by. We agreed to make some copies of their paperwork so they could obtain duty free fuel. Ian passed it over to Ben as they maneuvered close by. The we were off. Once we were clear of the shallow I handed the helm over to Ben and went below to make copies. We were soon approaching town. As I’d let Sea Mist know the copies were ready, Ian rendezvoused in their dinghy. To keep it interesting we didn’t slow down for the hand over.

We anchored in 88ft outside of the town ate lunch then rested. We all felt really tired – probably not yet catching up from the late evening two days ago. Mike and Jodie from Savannah popped by while we were resting and we got chatting. As a result they may be joining us today for our hike up the mountain.

In the afternoon we wandered around town. The main drag is all tourist/pearl shops aimed at the cruise ships that come by. Beyond this there was not much else. We did find a couple of places we may possibly eat at this evening for Ben’s birthday.

We did have plans to join the pot luck at the nearby yacht club but as we were feeling tired and wanted our energies for today we passed on this.

Today is Ben’s birthday. We are planning on hiking up the mountain here. The skies are clear right now so the hike is definitely on. We may be joined by John from Sea Mist, Hannah from Wonderland and Mike/Jodie from Savannah. The plan is to meet at the dock at 7am and head on up. It’s 3 hours each way so we should be back by 1pm.

Helen: Day 7

It’s one week since we left Costa Rica and been out at sea. The time has flown by and to my surprise I’ve not felt bored once. Its been mainly very relaxing. The routine of the day is maintained by our shifts. We always have lunch and dinner together and this is the time we tend to chat. The rest of the time we sleep, read, work on the computer, do any chores and maintenance that comes up or just stare out at the sea.

Today is special. Today we crossed the equator. Most sailors who cross the equator for the first time do something special. Many dress up and give homage to Neptune by throwing some sort of gift into the sea. Our gift was to throw in some Zombie Coffee produced by Pizza John in, El Castillo, Arenal, Costa Rica. We promised Pizza John when he gave us three packs of his coffee that we would do this. However our special act for crossing was to swim over the equatorial line. We steered Dignity onto the imaginary line so that the port side of the boat was in the south and the starboard in the north. We made sure we stayed on the north side during the maneuver and from the north back step we jumped into the ocean and swam to the south back step. The water was ten degrees cooler than we had in Central America – a refreshing 85 degree Fahrenheit. After we were all out of the water, we continue moving along the equatorial line while we drank our champagne. Feeling slightly light headed we put up our sails again and headed southwest straight for the Galapagos. We had wind!

As the sky darken this evening we noticed how clear the sky was and how bright the stars looked. We quickly identified Venus, the brightest object in the sky. Below it was mercury. Looking further we also detected Saturn low behind us. Finally we found Mars directly above us. Its not often you get to see four planets at the same time. A special day. A special night.

Steve: Day 7

The big, once in a lifetime event of day 7 of this passage was crossing the equator. We were approaching the equator just prior to 8am when we normally check in to the Pan Pacific Net. I therefore set the boat onto a parallel course about half a mile north of the equator while we conducted our radio communications. Once this was complete we turned the boat, dropped the sails, turned again and edged our way closer to the equator.

As we came feet away I slowed the boat right down and stopped her facing west right on the equator. Our choice of celebrating this unique crossing was to swim from one transom to the other, essentially swimming our way across the equator. Helen had been getting cold feet, or more precise had been getting worried about getting cold feet, for a while but eventually agreed to go. John went first and was in and out quickly. The water was down to 85F from 95F when we cleaned the bottom a week ago. Once John was clear Helen went next. When she was aboard I climbed atop the bimini and jumped in from there. The water wasn’t so bad at all.

Next we uncorked our bubbly, our one and only alcoholic concession of the trip, which went to our heads. We took photos of ourselves drinking our wine. We also took pictures of us drinking Zombie Coffee (commercial plug – we promised John) and cast some Zombie Coffee powder into the sea to appease Neptune. We weren’t so desperate as to throw in any wine.

Soon we were again under sail making a straight line to our approach waypoint to Ayora, Santa Cruze.

Shortly after all this John found two small squid and a flying fish on the deck. We used the squid as bait and had the same luck as we’ve had for the previous five days. None.

After brief exchanges on radio/email it appears our group of friends aboard Bristol Rose, Jackster and Inspiration Lady, a day or so east of us, are opting for the gentleness of the Wreck Bay anchorage in San Cristobal rather than the more activity oriented but rolly Academy Bay/Ayora anchorage in Santa Cruze. I’m sure this is the right decision for them but it will be pity because we’ll miss each other. Unless one obtains an ‘autographe’ in advance, only one anchorage can be visited in the Galapagos and we’re all in that boat.

Still, we have landfall to look forward to today. ETA is hard to tell as the wind keeps changing at the moment. At times it looked like 7am local time. As I’ve been typing the wind has dropped off to under 4 knots so I’ve given us a slight push with the electric motors. The drop in wind could be due to the mountains/hills on San Cristobal to our south but that is 20nm away so I’m sceptical about this possible cause. If I was more certain about it I would happily bob on by in the current. As it is the slight push which can be endured for many hours without running the genset gets us there around midday.

Arenal

We managed to pack and be off from our accommodation around 8am. The road out of St Helena was again all dirt track but fortunately we didn’t get stuck behind any slow moving vehicles. We eventually stopped for an enjoyable brunch at the German Bakery in Neuvo Arenal.

Reaching our accommodation in El Castillo we a short drive on from brunch. We had chosen to stay at Essence Arenal which is an incredibly well located (for mountain viewing) hostel. Unfortunately we could not see the volcano due to the clouds and mist covering it. We were welcomed by Kelly who runs the place who gave us some advice on where to go nearby while our rooms were being prepared.

We headed off to the nearby Arenal Observatory Lodge where we had a short hike to see a waterfall. The weather was not being cooperative as the steady drizzle meant we all got a little damp and certainly no chances of seeing the volcano which we’d come to Arenal to see.

By popular vote we decided to skip the hot springs and head back to the hostel to rest the afternoon. Helen and I, then later Jess and Ben, took a stroll on the hostels properties, walking trail. This entailed a steep descent into the secondary rainforest surrounding a couple of streams. The descent implied a muddy ascent on the other side which for us was rewarded by spotting some large birds exhibiting some interesting mating behaviour.

For dinner we drove back down the hill and along the lake to Jardin Escondido (aka Pizza John’s). We were warned that if we ate there we may not return until 11pm. The place was quite small and friendly tucked away in the ‘jungle’ 40m from the road. John’s hospitality was simply awesome plying us with free rum shots and bags of his own brand Zombie Coffee as well as serving excellent pizza and home made ice cream. The weather was showing no signs of allowing us a sight of the volcano. While we were disappointed by this, our time at Pizza John’s more than made up for this. For our last evening together things couldn’t have been much better.

This morning we’re all gradually waking up. We’ve had glimpses of the volcano but not the top. We’ll have breakfast soon then head off for San Jose and the international airport to see Ben and Jess off. We’ll meet up again with Helen’s friend Jason before heading back to Puntarenas this evening, picking up provisions along the way.