Friday, January 2, 2015

Rules, Regulations, and having a personal "fixer"

For all coming behind us.....

Entering the drizzly bay yesterday morning, we found the free yellow moorings the National Park provides to all visiting sailboats. There is a bollard on the mooring, which you tie your own lines to. Very sturdy, very practical, and even better, the price is right. After a quick radio call to "El Capitania del Puerto, El Capitania del Puerto, este es el velero Sundancer", we made our presence known. I did send an email via sideband to our agent Bolivar (more on him later) to let him know that we had arrived, and within 2 hours, he showed up with the Port Captain, a diver and a woman from the Health Department.

As explained by Bolivar, the Galapagos actually operates as it's own entity. The rules are extremely strict, and are frankly in a complete 180 degree turnaround from the very recent past, when tortoises were hunted and killed almost to extinction to provide oil for lighting the streets of Guayaquil. While the woman from the Health Department looked in all our cupboards, and took photos of our trashcan, a scuba diver was insecting the bottom of the boat, while at the same time the Port Captain was quizzing us on our holding tanks, and safety equipment. He told us he didn't want us to die in Ecuadorian waters, so.....out came the certification of radio license, the registration of our EPIRB, the paperwork regarding our most recent life raft inspection (fortunately done in Manta a few months ago), inspection of flares, and life jackets, and interestingly, our "papers detailing our Mariner's Qualifications". Now this is a joke, as neither Ron nor I are certified as anything (well, perhaps insane, but nothing else). We reckon we've come all the way down from Oregon with this boat, is this not certification enough that we know how to get from point A to point B? A bit of quick thinking on my part, and I pulled out an Oregon Boating Certification card, that I had obtained while I was huddled in a hotel room outside of Vancouver, BC, in order to add legitimacy to my need/ability to be in the states with our new boat. Sure enough, he copied that number down. Paperwork, people, dazzle them paperwork and perhaps a bit of bullshit.

You just never know.....

...and now we come to hiding pineapples.

Unlike in crossing the Panama canal where you are able to handle all of your own paperwork, here in Ecuador it is a requirement to have an agent when you leave/arrive into any port. Based on internet and personal recommendations, we chose Bolivar. Bolivar Pesantes. A bit like James, James Bond. Bolivar is a "fixer" and it was a lesson in watching him finesse the officials on our arrival.

As an example, it is required to have a fumagation done on your boat, prior or just after your arrival here. Stupidly, we just assumed it was for cockroaches, and any bugs in general we might have here on the boat. When the Health Department lady inquired (in spanish) "What do you do about mosquitos?", I pulled out the screens we throw over the hatches, and the mosquito repellent. Actually, she was wondering about our fumigation, but the fumigation we had had done in Bahia de Caraquez, prior to departure, did not have the "product" used during the procedure indicated. Bolivar kept mouthing "tranquilo, tranquilo" to me during this entire exchange. By the time they left, we had gone from "you need to have a fumigation today" to...."we'll call again to the company on Monday."

Another example....we had been told, and rumour had it, that upon arrival, the bottom of your boat needed to be clean, or they would point you back out to the ocean, telling you to go 70 miles offshore and "deal with it". We took the rumours seriously, which is the reason we stopped about 50 miles from seeing San Cristobal and jumped overboard to give the bottom a quick once over. Well, the scuba diver that Bolivar brought with him took a GoPro down under the boat, and then uploaded the images to his phone afterwards, sitting on our poop deck. In a quiet "aside", Bolivar told me to go back down, "this afternoon", and continue to clean, collecting various barnacles in a plastic bag, which he would collect the next day (today). We did, and he did, and the National Park guy's arrival today for yet another inspection, progressed without incident. We have now been given the all clear, and as Bolivar said, we are "free men".

Fruits and vegies....pretty strict here regarding the imporation of anything. Bolivar had said that the 2 pineapples we had needed to be stuck away in the refrigerator, and that bunch of bananas we had been slowly working our way through, yup, get those in the refrigerator too. Trash is all to be separated, and we needed to show them our "recycling bins", also known as plastic bags. I had remembered reading something about this, and had one bag with a few beer bottles in it, one bag with a plastic bottle, and my bin in the galley with organic waste. We were given the thumbs up.

We've nicknamed Bolivar, "the fixer".

So now we only have one more thing to worry about....and in typical fashion, it's about money. Every dollar bill we had on board went to Bolivar for all the fees collected by the Galapagos from private boaters, all $1185 of them. We came up $45 short, as the banks in Bahia had run out of money due to the holdays when we were withdrawing money. Not only do we now owe our agent $45, but today when we went ashore, the ATM refused to cooperate. Of course, tomorrow is Saturday, and then Sunday, so hopefully by Monday we'll have this money thing sorted. We're going to rely on our personal "fixer" to come to our rescue. If not, we can't even pay the water taxi guy the $1 to get to shore.

Cruising is sooooo very exotic.

Bolivar told us that if we needed help, that's what he was there for. We're going to make him earn his fee.

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