We had to slow down our approach to the Galapagos starting on Thursday night because the speed were sailing would have us arriving at the port at night. Since it isn’t a good idea to arrive at an unfamiliar port at night, we reefed our sails to slow down. We timed it perfectly with an arrival just past dawn.
An hour or two after we set anchor, a taxi brought our agent Bolivar out along with customs and immigrations officials. Bolivar is very competent and helpful, but only speaks spanish. Fortunately, Lara speaks spanish, and we had little difficulty communicating. The officials sat at the cockpit table and asked for some copies of our paperwork. I had to print off color copies of passports and ships papers. The crew offered them a drink – one of them actually asked for a beer at 8:30 AM! – while I did the printing. The customs official asked to see our fruits and vegetables and did an inspection of the boat. There were no issues, but we were asked not to take organic trash ashore. They do recycle all the major categories – a good thing for a place like the Galapagos! They also asked for our fumigation certificate – which we had done in Panama.
The officials called a water taxi, and told us we would all have to go ashore now. We had no idea they would want us to go ashore – Karen was asleep! So, we quickly threw on clothes, got Karen up, and only made the taxi wait a couple of minutes. Good thing our passage was so smooth and we were mostly rested! Ashore they drove us to the immigration building and got our passports stamped, gave us our important “autografo” – which allows us to travel to three islands with Tahina – and other clearance papers, and collected their enormous fees. Galapagos has the highest paying entry fees of anywhere I’ve heard of. Unfortunately, catamarans are particularly hit hard because of the way ship weights are calculated (based on volume). We had to pay an enormous port captain fee of $257 in addition to the agent fee, national park fees ($100/person), clearance fees, immigration fees, etc. Totaling over $1000. Ouch! We were told the other port fees will be more nominal (6-12 dollars for each port clearing in and clearing out). And, there might be anchorage fees in Isabella.
Afterward, we had brunch at a local restaurant run by the agent’s brother. Service was fast, and the food was good and reasonably priced. We then found an Internet cafe. They only had one ethernet port for a laptop, and it was slow. The internet WIFI in the anchorage is run by the government, but it wasn’t working right. In fact, it only worked a few hours during the entire weekend. It also is heavily filtered and you can’t FTP or telnet. Karen said you can’t even run Farmville! Hopefully, we’ll find solutions to the Internet so we can get caught up.