Day 560 [April 15/10] -- And then, a welcoming party of fishermen

Today's Report
April 15/10 0800 JST

04°13'S, 86°22'W (South Pacific Ocean, 2,280 nm from Valdivia, 260 nm to Galápagos Islands)

The whale committee of yesterday was replaced by fishermen today, as no fewer than three different small boats came up to Saito-san and the Spanish-speaking fishermen tried to engage him in conversation. One pointed to a fishing net and markers he was carrying, and through gestures it was clear to Saito-san that he was being warned about not running into nets closer to the islands.

He had already made a course change to go south and west of the Galápagos, and this reaffirmed that he did not want to clear the islands to their east where the seas are shallower.  

He recalled that when he visited the Galápagos 20 years ago he ran into poorly marked nets several times, and had to cut himself free. He doesn't want to go through that ordeal again, nor cause harm to the livelihood of the locals. Back in Japan this is a major point of contention between fishermen and weekend yachters.

Yesterday was a poor day for sailing, under weak winds, so he again resorted to the engine, and was able to make 119 kts DMG and wested to get under the islands, which were 260 nm to his NW at nightfall, local time. He hopes to pass within 3 nm of the largest and most westward island, Isla Isabela.

Another milestone was passed yesterday -- according to our Google Earth-assisted calculations, Saito-san now has less than 30% of his circumnavigation distance remaining, or 8,435 nm, give or take. 

It was not readily apparent where the fishermen were coming from, as Saito-san said their vessels were quite tiny to be so far from land, only about 15 feet in length. Getting to where he is in such craft is no small feat -- the closest ports are either in the Galápagos or on the coast of Peru, 300 nm or Ecuador, 350 nm away.

He said the friendly men asked him for cigarets (he's a non-smoker), and in lieu of that handed one appreciative fellow a spare ballpoint pen.

Saito-san recalled that he was able to freely visit Isla Isabela when he passed through 20 years ago, but knows that hefty fines await any yachtsman who drops by today without gaining permission in advance.

No doubt it is something that the massive, 100- to 150-year-old Galápagos tortoises can appreciate. Visiting crews in past centuries would bring them on board and then let the lumbering reptiles roam the decks as a sort of self-propelled meat storage locker until it came time for them to be butchered and consumed.

Quoting Wikipedia:
Naturalist Charles Darwin remarked "These animals grow to an immense size ... several so large that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground." This is due to the phenomenon of island gigantism whereby in the absence of natural predation, the largest tortoises had a survival advantage and no disadvantage in fleeing or fending off predators.
Distance in last 24 hours: 119 nm
Distance completed: 19,864 nm
To Yokohama: 8,435 nm (distance remaining: 29.7%)
Heading: 295
Reported boat speed: 7.0 kt, motoring (day's average: 5.0 kt)
Weather: Clear
Temperature: 26.0° C
Barometer: 1008 hPa (slight rise, stable)
Wind (from): Very weak at 4-5 kts ESE -- expected to increase slightly to 6-8 kts mostly out of SE
Waves: 1.0 m
Current (from): variable
Engine rpms: 10.5 hrs, 1800 rpms
Generator: 0 hrs
Sails: Genoa 0%, staysail 100%, mainsail 1-pt reef

Position Map (click to enlarge)

Upper map shows previous route east and north of the Galapagos Islands