martes, 13 de febrero de 2007

Galapagos Departure

With boat work winding down and Mike and I growing weary of Salinas the time has come to leave for the Galapagos Islands. Final boat work will be completed tomorrow morning and if all goes well "Avventura" will find her way back to the water by midday manana. Then, so long as checking out of the mainland goes well we will take our leave for the 575 mile passage through the doldrums to the Galapagos. Forecast is for little wind but the diesel wind I became so familiar with along the coast of Central America, but the northern reaches of the Humboldt Current should help us a bit on our way across the deep blue to the land of Darwin, one of the most intriguing places on earth in my eyes. The drawback is we will be missing the swell due for this weekend, but with the promise of good, less-crowded surf in the islands and the fact that I`ve been stationary for over three and a half months now it is time to get going westward. Thus I will be largely incommunicado for the next week or so, but will be updating my position reports on Yotreps (wdc9244), and those who need to can reach me on the boat`s e-mail (text only, please). So wish me luck tonight and tomorrow and Ì`ll update you again from the Galapagos.

viernes, 9 de febrero de 2007

Salinas Military Base

Today was one of those that makes cruising worthwhile. Though in the end I surfed a chest high beach break with a bit too much wind on it, it was the setting that made it worthwhile. The adventure started yesterday while returning from surfing in Salinas (at the local break “el barquito” named for an old wreck that once adorned the reef but has since been removed) and awaiting a bus when a local man in his twenties came up and started talking to Mike and I (more to me since Mike speaks very limited Spanish). He asked the usual—where are you from, where are you staying, where did you come from, where are you going, etc.—and by the end of the conversation he was inviting us to join him the next day to surf the much-touted “Chocolatera” wave, securely hidden at the far end of an Ecuadorian Military Base. I assumed he wanted money for this, but he said he only wanted some gas money, and he would meet us in the same spot at 6 a.m. tomorrow. I left excited at the prospect of checking out what is often touted as the best wave in Salinas, but thinking there was probably a 50% chance Jimmy would never show.
After working on the boat a bit during the day Mike and I sought refuge from the heat by returning to the beach break of Punta Carnero. Here we hiked a mile west on the beach to a small pier (the pier holds a pipeline which carries sea water inland to a series of pools where sea salt is produced) where a right peak was forming nicely every so often between your typical beach closeouts. The sets were overhead and there were two local kids out (90% of the surfers here are my age or younger) who left soon after we paddled out. I caught a few fun closeout barrels, 3 long and fun rights, and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over the ocean for the first time in a while (Salinas sits west of La Libertad so the sun sets over the hotels from where Avventura is located). With the session over we hiked back up the road and waited a half hour serving as mosquito bait for the final bus of the day.
After a short night’s sleep I was shocked awake by my alarm clock for the first time since returning to Ecuador at 5:20 a.m. Mike and I grabbed our boards and struck off out of the yacht club and up to the main road. We took a taxi down to Salinas where we had agreed to meet Jimmy and arrived ten minutes before 6 with the first signs of daylight encroaching on the eastern sky. After sitting around for over a half hour waiting and swinging in a nearby park we decided to give up on Jimmy and head back to el barquito for a morning session. As we were walking away a beat-up pickup pulled up behind us and Jimmy greeted us. After buying a banana and a water we piled into the truck and struck off through the streets of Salinas.
When we arrived at the entrance to the Ecuador military base we were stopped at the gate and Jimmy was asked for his ID. He handed over his drivers license and a business card from a mid-ranking official on the base with a brief note on the back saying it gave Jimmy permission to enter. The officials were tentative at first and Jimmy slowly back-pedaled from saying we were going to surf to we just wanted to see the view on the point. With that the officer seemed satisfied and we were allowed on the base. Then, just a hundred yards further down the road, we reached another checkpoint. Here we were turned away without question, and I assumed our bout on the base was over. Jimmy turned around, but instead of leaving the base he turned left down a side street and then another left up a road headed back out the point, and after fifty yards we were stopped at another checkpoint—this one manned by officials in naval uniforms (as opposed to the army uniforms of the former 2 checkpoints). The naval officials were skeptical at first, so Jimmy again said we were just going to pass through to have a look at the view from the point, and we were permitted to pass. Mike and I somehow felt like spies, cautiously taking pictures as we proceeded down the road and into the desolate landscape of the point used to train all forms of Ecuadors Military. The point is endowed with three separate breaks, all of which are well-situated to pick up any swell; the only problem is there was no swell today. We drove past Shit Bay (that’s actually its name), a great left that forms off an offshore rock when there’s swell in the water, and carried on around the point at the end of the Santa Elena Peninsula (a barren, rocky hunk of land that serves to thwart the Humbolt Current to a certain small degree). As we wound around the peninsula we came to “Chocolatera” a right point break that breaks just below a lighthouse adorning the point. Again this is supposed to be the premier wave in Salinas, and it is well set-up to be a good right point break, but it was too small to surf today so we instead rumbled down a dirt road, parked just before the sand, and surfed the small, jumbled beach break with the fear in the back of our minds that the chance of getting shot was as good as that of getting a good wave. I caught a handful of terrible waves and two good rights before calling it quits and walking the length of the beach, camera in hand, snapping pictures with every few steps (or so it seemed). At the end of the beach I reached the Chocolatera point where a triple arch was carved into the point and small waves were showing the form and fun this wave could provide.
A handful of pangas were anchored offshore with Ecuadorians diving for lobster and octopus along the reef, and but for the crabs marching around the beach and the vultures lurking above the sand, I was alone on the beach. Walking my way back I collected a couple cowry shells and soaked in the atmosphere and desolation of the scene. Footprints were imbedded in lines down the beach where a troop of soldiers had obviously marched past in the recent past, and above this line began the mass amount of trash which had floated north in the Humboldt Current and settled on this outcropping of land. By the time I returned down the beach Mike and Jimmy were out of the water and heading for the truck and a second car was coming down the dirt road. As we drove away 4 local girls piled out of the little car and took to the water.
Leaving the beach, we cruised around the point, leaving the car for many a photo, and carried on around the point where I felt like a spy taking photos on this navy base which surely few Americans have gained access to. Once clear of the base we stopped for breakfast at an outdoor restaurant downtown before returning to the yacht club, and parting ways with Jimmy, thanking him for showing us around the base. Thus ended my morning on an Ecuadorian Military Base surfing an empty beach break and soaking in the atmosphere of Ecuador. It was a day most tourists would never experience because they won’t interact with the local people or allow things to happen which they know could lead to trouble, but probably will lead to an adventure you won’t soon forget.
This afternoon I tried to check out of Salinas, but was told the Port Captain was out of town and would be back tomorrow morning. I still hope to depart here Monday morning and to have the boat back in the water by Sunday morning at the latest. Tomorrow there is supposed to be a women’s contest over at Punta Carnero bringing a couple pros to the coast; I only wish they would bring some swell with them. Either way I will be departing Salinas early next week and will venture north up the Ecuadorian Coast, stopping near Isla Salango, at Isla de la Plata, and eventually arriving in Manta from where we will take our leave for the Galapagos Islands, a trip of around 530 nautical miles, and that I expect to be just under a week of light winds from a generally southerly direction.
Long blog; but it’s also been a while. I recently returned to Guayaquil for a night and those pictures are already posted on to be joined soon by my pics from the Ecuadorian Military Base.

sábado, 3 de febrero de 2007


Just back from the bus ride from hell—2 hours in an uncomfortable seat squeezed next to a fat, stinky Ecuadorian on a bus with no suspension riding over old roads down the coast back from Montanita; and to add to the pleasure I had no open window nearby. This after doing the same thing 24 hours earlier on the way up to Montanita—home, I am told by every surfer I meet down here, to Ecuador’s best waves. Problem was there wasn’t any real swell, so good wave or not the surf was small but fun.
Upon arriving in Montanita Mike and I found a Hostal to stay at (2 beds in a small room with AC) on the beach. We dumped our things in the room and walked down the beach to the point at its north end where the main wave is—a right point break that peels off the cliff. The surf, as I said, was small and the waves were slow, but despite it I had a good time surfing the best-formed waves I’ve come across in Ecuador. After a couple hours the tide came up too much and the crowd was getting thick so I went in and finished the day reading on a seawall overlooking the beach. The day was capped off by a glorious sunset as a faded orange globe emerged from a cloudbank and disappeared into the grayish-blue sea below.
When I awoke this morning the sun was out and the sea was calm, with the surf even smaller than yesterday and the point even more crowded. Instead of grabbing my board I grabbed my book and read the morning hours away on the seawall, reliving Wanderer after too-long an absence. After breakfast we boarded the long bus back home, so to speak.
Maintenance work continues on Avventura, meanwhile, slower than I’d hoped, so our departure from Salinas is still a few days away at best. Till then it’s more work and surfing the small stuff Salinas has to offer.