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Setting Sail from Galapagos

Advised to meet on the quayside, Monica (also from England) and I look across the harbour and wonder which of the three quays we will be picked up from.  It’s fun trying to spot which of the passers by, with their rucksacks and kitbags, is headed for the Oosterschelde.  As soon as we see a few folk gathering, we join them and say hello - there'll be more about the wonderful company on the ship later.  For now, we all pile into the zodiac for the short ride to the Oosterschelde, to find our berths and cabin buddies before the welcome briefing. Here’s the ship doctor, Eva, with all the Darwin 200 expedition ports on her t-shirt!

Conscious there are hundreds of beautiful boat pictures in earlier blogs –  I’ll focus on posting only when there is something new.  On day one – this was all about clearance to leave Galapagos – and the swell of the sea.  We had roll-call for the safety briefing whilst we waited for the customs team to arrive for their inspection.

Then it was time to raise the anchor (make sure you have sound turned on for the first video) and lower the flags

Here’s Marcel and Matthew furling the flag

We slip out of harbour – past the fisherman with his frigate birds and pelicans – and head for the open sea.  It’s 1900 nautical miles, or so, to Easter Island and we need to be doing an average of 5.7 knots over 14 days to arrive on time.

Farewell to Galapagos  😊

The winds are not helping us on the first day, so we end up taking the sails down and motoring for a while, and the conditions mean we rock and roll.  Remembering that Oosterschelde comes from the Netherlands, it’s not surprising to find she has a shallow keel for shallow waters.  It runs the whole length of the boat, but is only around 2 feet deep under the main mast.  With all the masts and sails and structures above deck, she’s a bit top heavy and rolls in the swell.  To give you a sense of what that feels like – take a look at these little videos!  Of course, you’re attached to the boat, so you roll too, and it feels quite natural, though it made some of us feel quite queasy …..

Our course is 225° and this is my view of the compass and horizon, whilst I was at the helm.

The second day has beautiful wind and good seas and we make 6 – 8 knots all day and night. 

It’s steady enough to climb the rigging: first time for Jeff, on the right, with Matthew, from the crew 😊

We see an incredible selection of wildlife.  Big whales, we are not sure which, on the horizon.  Sharks and then dolphins closer by.  There seem to be two gangs of dolphins, rather like the Sharks and the Jets in West Side Story, one gang comes from port and the other from starboard.  Though Grant feels that the spotted dolphins, who find the boat first, may have signalled to the spinner dolphin crowd to come and join us. 😊 They came in perfect formation, ten dolphins across.  We must have had 50 dolphins flourishing along with us. 

Although we are far from land now, there are storm petrels, tropic birds and a range of boobies.  You can see a Nazca boobie flying in the rigging shot above – and close up on the topsail yard below - which has a formal name: Sula Granti.  We decide it is named in honour of the wonderful Grant Terrell, the Darwin 200 resident ornithologist. 😊  Some make their home on our yard-arms and use them as look-out posts for shoals of flying fish.  The juvenile red footed booby (grey feathers) snatched a fish in mid-flight, making it look so easy, whilst some of the adults tried again and again with no luck.  The last video here shows a flight of flying fish.  They are hard to see – only about 6-8 inches long – but focus on the top right hand part of the sea, about 5 seconds into the video …. they are flying from right to left. All credit to guitar-playing Doug, who helped me capture and edit that shot!

And it’s time to sign off the first full day of glorious sailing ….

The sunset is as wonderful as ever but the night sky is exciting for me because Fergus has introduced me to the Stellarium App and now I can spot the constellations in the Southern Hemisphere which we are not familiar with.  The night watch goes in a flash ….

More soon  😊

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