Saturday morning we got a lovely send off from Isabela when Monique from Deesse brought us a delicious Dutch ginger cake.
We motored the 45 miles to Santa Cruz and despite leaving early in the morning we barely got the anchor down before dark. That should give you some indication of how long it will take us to motor 750-900 miles to mainland Central America, depending on whether we choose Costa Rica or Panama. We had rolly seas and a bit of a headwind but Sunday was quite windy so we were glad we came on Saturday instead.
No sooner did we enter the harbor than our Santa Cruz agent showed up in a water taxi. They do this. They stand off, sometimes circling in the hard wooden launches while you’re trying to choose a place to drop the anchor, and then all the while you’re paying out chain, setting the hook, getting the bridle attached. We often have to wave them off because they get too close. We can never understand this. You’d think they’d worked with boats long enough to just wait the 15 minutes or so until we’re done. As soon as they see us walk away from the foredeck — but before we’ve had a chance to record engine hours, shut down the engines, and do the usual post anchoring tidy-up — BAM! they’re on deck and into the cockpit.
Irene gave us one sentence of commiseration before asking how much fuel we need and how many days we’ll need to stay. One day? Two days? My jaw dropped. Again. I’m amazed at how much pressure we’re under to leave. Luckily Dirk was with us and he has a rudimentary bit of Spanish so through him we tried to convey that we don’t know how long because we don’t yet know where we’re going and in any case we need a lot of fuel and something to put it in.
Ah, fuel. That she knows something about. But we would not be allowed to purchase the amount of fuel we need; it’s too much. She didn’t seem to grasp the conflict between wanting us to leave but not giving us enough fuel to do so. She said she would figure something out and work with the Port Captain on our permission to stay. Our original visa doesn’t expire for another month yet but it had been stamped “canceled” when we left the islands on May 1st so now we’re expected to once again pay the nearly $800 to reenter the Galapagos.
All of this rankles me. I can deal with the dismasting and the long road ahead getting to the mainland and to repairs. There’s a logic to it and everyone we are coordinating with is on the same page, offering help and advice. But this, this incessant barrier to moving forward, this waste of emotional energy is keeping our stress level at a constant simmer.
Monday we scoured the local stores for fuel containers. Our first choice was flexible bladders but there are none on the island. Several stores have 10-gallon jerry cans but we would need at least 10 and securing them on deck would be challenging since our port side stanchions are awry and we don’t really trust them. We could build some kind of enclosure on the foredeck but we want to avoid having to go forward to schlepp fuel back to the cockpit for siphoning. We checked with a local fixer to see if he could get us some of the larger containers the locals use to transport fuel. He said he’d let us know.
We took a taxi back to the boat and who should be waiting for us but Irene, the agent. She told us she could get us the 250 gallons of fuel we need and that it would cost $4.95/gallon. Ok, we said, that’s reasonable. Then she said it would cost $1/gallon to deliver it to the boat. What?!? It’s a couple hundred yards from the pier to our boat. And they want $250?
I lost it. I had had enough. I exploded and said NO! I will not be taken advantage of this way. While Jack kept telling me we had to pay it, that they had us over the barrel, that we had no choice, I just put my foot down. We are a vessel in distress, I told her, how dare they line their pockets on the back of our misfortune? And besides, I said, we don’t have it. That’s true. Our cash reserve is completely gone now after our unplanned few days on the cash-only Isabela and the fuel we had to buy there, and we have a cash flow problem until the end of the month.
Irene, of course, understood none of this, only that I was hopping mad. She told us that the Port Captain is trying to keep us out of the system and our only other option is to pay all the entrance fees again, that he’s giving us a break. Yeah, right. We said we would pick up the fuel ourselves but she said no, we weren’t allowed. I said we would pay $50 for the delivery. She got on the phone and had a long conversation with someone, then hung up and said they’d go for $80. We reluctantly agreed and she finally left.
With nothing more we could accomplish and needing to stretch our legs and get out of town we walked to Las Grietas with Dirk. It’s a huge crevasse in the volcanic rock where you can swim and snorkel. Kids climb the cliffs and dive in from various heights. We got there late in the day and without swim or snorkel gear but it was nice just to appreciate the scenery and watch a few jumps.
As we got back to the water taxi dock there was Irene again, waiting for us. She followed our taxi in hers and came aboard. She found us six used 17-gallon tanks we could use for fuel and she wants $25 apiece, and she wants the money now. I counted out the $150 and that was the end of our cash. She will bring the tanks Tuesday afternoon, and the fuel will be delivered then too.
Our day still wasn’t over when we went ashore to the ATM and had to trek from one machine to the next because they were out of cash. We finally got our daily withdrawal limit and finished the day with the crews of Amelit and Dancing Bear. I got my smile back by the end of the evening, but I’m so soured on the Galapagos at this point that it’s getting harder to look on the bright side.