Galápagos: Tour Through Time
Not about the sailing
|At Isla Espanola, the surge treats viewers to a geyser of spray.|
We didn't actually sail in the Galápagos. We covered 504 nautical miles but only had the sails drawing once-the engine was always turning over. With the distances we had to cover between the islands and the light airs of the warm and wet season (December to May), sailing would've been impractical. However, I won't soon forget our late afternoon run from Isla Española back to San Cristóbal; we motorsailed with Alta heeling slightly in about 10 knots of breeze while rays leaped high out of the water.
And because the animals were unafraid of humans, we saw a lot of sex. We saw male frigate birds inflating their red gulac sacs (throat bags) to attact females, gulls copulating on the beach and in the rocks; we even witnessed giant tortoises doing it in the mud. Not that it was a big deal; it just reinforced what evolution is all about.
Rachel and I read Jonathan Weiner's The Beak of the Finch, about the life work of two biologists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, who focused on natural selection among Galápagos finches on the small island of Daphne Major. The Grants' long-term studies, and others reported by Weiner, were a perfect complement to the week's sights and sounds.
To minimize our impact, visitors to the Galápagos must be led by a registered guide. It adds to the cost, but a guide can be a wonderful teacher. On Alta, Jorge delivered a daily dose of knowledge, enthusiasm, and respect for the islands, not to mention his "sea-lion wakeup call" at 0540 on mornings when we were making an early start.
For one charterer, Barry Lowe, Jorge provided a tutorial in taking underwater photos. For George Greenberg, the owner of a just-launched Tartan, our guide delivered a detailed orientation for the Galápagos cruise George plans to make on his new boat.
The opportunity to discover the Galápagos was a chance to connect with the mysteries of all species, including my own. Wherever I sail, I'll try to carry with me a greater awareness of being part of the natural order, not somehow separate. These islands are not my native habitat, and I hope, along with the rest of my kind, that I can help rather than hurt the survival chances of those species that evolved there in the first place.
John Burnham is Cruising World's editor.