Tag Archives: Marine life

Team Rock Questions/Answers

Here is another set of questions posed by the Team Rock! 7th graders, and my attempts to answer them.

In Science class we are learning about adaptations and evolution, especially with Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos! It’s funny how you mentioned them in your blog, what a coincidence! Have you seen any finches with noticeably different beaks? What do you think about their evolution?

I’m afraid all the finches look pretty much the same to me, other than the coloring if males/females. Many of the finches I’ve seen have been in the towns, often hanging around restaurants. Do you think their beaks will eventually adapt to foraging human-food…?


Has there been any recent droughts that affected the large finches?

I don’t know. I will relate one thing I learned, though, that impressed me about the impact of climate change. Back 30 years ago (I think, I may be off with the years) there was a very strong “El Nino” year — where the usual ocean currents are disrupted, and with them the weather. Our guide on one of our tours said that in this one year 90% of the coral around the Galapagos died off. He attributes this to the ocean currents. One day the waters would be cold, brought north by the Humboldt Current. The next day the water would be warm, from the Panama Current. Coral can live in both temperatures, but he said that he believes the constant switching back and forth killed the coral.

This year is a strange one, in that we are now in the rainy season, but there has been almost no rain. There was a lot of talk about this among locals, though no one seems to know why or what the impact might be.


Were the iguanas mean?

For the most part the iguanas ignored people, and while the tourists didn’t ignore them, we never touched them or tried to scare them. I did have one “spit” at me once though.


Would you ever find yourself wanting to return to the Galapagos Islands?

I did not fall in love with the Galapagos. But I probably would if we were free to explore the remote areas. What a great cruising ground! But as I’ve reported, it is increasingly “protected” from tourists. So I doubt I will go back.


Were you able to touch any of the animals on the islands?

There was a strong local ethic of not touching animals, and we almost always adhered to that. I did touch the back of a sea turtle that was swimming with me. He didn’t care; maybe he (she?) even liked it.


What was your favorite part of being in the Galapagos?

Three things come to mind. First, the sea lions were a hoot — very entertaining. But that got old quickly as they “invaded” our boat. Second, visiting the island of Isabela (going by ferry and spending the night there in a little hotel) was fun. The town was smaller and life seemed more relaxed, and it was fun to explore a little on my own. But the winner has to be snorkeling around Kicker Rock, where both the cliffs above and the cliffs underwater were incredible.


How many different species of finches did you see? What was the most unique species you saw?
Sorry — I don’t know!


We are learning about Darwin’s finches and I would like to know if you saw any of the birds dying or fighting for food?

This is not apparent. The birds all looked healthy and “happy.” I think the competition that leads to some birds having advantages over others happens over many thousands of years, and would be very difficult to detect at any one moment in time.


What your favorite place you have been so far?

Hard to choose one. Some of the places in the San Blas islands were interesting and fun. The Panama Canal was a cool experience. Parts of the Galapagos were unique and wondrous. And another favorite is right where I am now — in the middle of the ocean, where there is nothing around by more ocean, and the night sky is amazing in its brilliance and its vastness!

Arrived in Galapagos

We made it — just before dark. Anchored in Baquerizo Moreno and made a grand dinner. We deal with the customs/immigrations authorities in the morning.

Five and a half days is excellent time; we were lucky with the wind — we motored just one night, and we had no squalls. Relative to other boats we made better time than the boats that left Panama before us. But two boats that left the same day we did arrived about six hours before us. We think they motored a lot, but we don’t really know… I like that they, more than we, are looked at as the fast boats, setting an expectation that they will arrive first on future legs.

We had our first Galapagos wildlife(?) experience already, as we were relaxing in the cockpit waiting for dinner to cook. Tim heard a sound behind him, and turned around to find himself face to face with a sea lion! Apparently the sea lion had climbed up our transom steps and boarded without asking permission.

It’s hard to believe we are in the Galapagos. The actual experience so far does not match the romantic notions. We’re in a relatively busy harbor with too many lights and too much noisy nighttime activity. But to think we are in the Pacific Ocean, that we have crossed the equator, and we are now in the fabled islands of incredible animals and Darwin’s inspiration — wow!

San Blas, and Mainland Panama to Colon

Switched alternators between the two engines, as a final confirmation that our problem is in the alternator, which it is. So we’ve ordered a new one that hopefully will get through to us in Colon next week. Moved to beautiful anchorage in Coco Banderos group of cays. Drinks with fellow BPOers aboard Om. Hoping tomorrow is a day of relaxing and snorkeling.

Lots of snorkeling. Saw a ray with an Extremely long tail. Looked menacing but it paid no attention to me.

Last night we anchored directly in the lee of a small island, which was nice for protection from waves, but we didn’t like the greatly diminished wind. It felt much hotter, plus we lost the power from our wind generator. So today we moved a couple miles west, and anchored “out.” That is, instead of anchoring in the usual protected spot, we’re anchored behind the barrier reef, with nothing but the reef and its surf between us and…some place for away…maybe Jamaica…? It’s somewhat bouncy, but that’s okay with me, so long as I have a steady wind blowing through my port/window.

Tonight is probably our last night in San Blas, as we are going to leave early tomorrow and start heading west toward Colon. We want to stop in Portobello, which would be quite a long day of fast sailing from here. So tomorrow we might stop somewhere along the way, then Saturday night in Portobello, then do the 20 miles from there to Colon Sunday.

It’s been a beautiful day of not doing much but snorkeling. I discovered a wreck (steel boat, maybe 50 feet long) on the reef very near by. That was unexpected and cool. Tim saw a shark (about 5′) in the same area. Luckily he (Tim) had already had a long swim, so it was an easy decision to make his way back toward the boat… Tim has also repeatedly seen sea turtles, but by the time he points them out to Bill and me, they are gone.

We bought a fish from a local boat. We tried to do that once before, but after “placing our order” they never returned with a fish. The guys today returned with quite a selection. We had a big dinner plus applesauce cake and fresh pineapple for dessert. A little celebration, of sorts, of our time in San Blas, which has been very pleasant. It is a delightful cruising ground, and I find that I really like the local Gunas, too.

But as usual I’m happy with the thought of moving on. I want to get to Colon, get the boat well provisioned, do laundry (everything I wear or sleep on is salty), take a real shower, collect our equipment that’s been sent to us at huge expense, and then I want to “do” The Canal!!

Beautiful/fast sail about 50 miles to Portobello, just 20 miles from Colon. We plan to hang out here tomorrow and explore the little town, then head for Colon on Sunday (along with almost all the other BPOers).

As we rolled along with the 10′ waves today I was thinking about how a good sailor is always thinking about what could go wrong, yet one wants to be present and enjoy the “now.” An interesting balance…

This day was about exploring Portobello, and learning a little history. We were told that when the Spanish took (one way or another) gold from Peru and Equador 400+ years ago, that it was sailed north to Panama City, and then brought over the mountains by mule train to Portobello, where it could be loaded on ships for Spain. Hence the big forts and cannons on both sides of the harbor. We also visited the church that is the home of the “Black Christ.” I don’t fully understand this, since I thought there was only one Christ, but they have another here, and he apparently gets a lot of attention. Tourists/pilgrims come by bus to see him. The day culminated with dinner at Captain Jack’s with the crews of Lovesail, Maggie and Ransom. Fun, except that I’m suffering from intestinal pains…

The Ransom crew had an interesting story about cruising in San Blas. They went to anchor at an island, and two Guna men came out and demanded (quite aggressively) $10 to anchor off their island. Of course we have all paid big bucks for cruising permits that allow us to anchor anywhere among the San Blas islands. But the local guys don’t care about that. The crew speaks good Spanish, and tried to reason with them, saying they were simply anchoring for the night and not coming ashore, and thus not using their island. But the locals would have none of that, and basically the fee had to be paid, given the unspoken threat that their dinghy might be slashed in the morning, or some such retribution. This experience, plus the sloppy handling of trash by the locals, colored their San Blas impression. They conclude that the San Blas culture is threatened by much more than just sea level rise.

Arrived at marina in Colon, near the mouth of the Panama Canal. Now have wifi, so I’ll be getting to work on photos…