Galapagos, Day 1: Baltra & Santa Cruz

Well, it’s time to act like sheep. I guess we were kind of shepherded around by Arie during our biking trip as well, but with Lindblad the feeling of being part of a herd is even more so. We woke up early this morning after a great night’s sleep at the Hilton Colon in Guayaquil, put our bags outside the door (which we wouldn’t see again until we were on the ship), and went down the elevator for some breakfast. The buffet spread was enormous, but I’ve been craving fresh fruit (after too many days of white bread!), so that’s what I had. Then we, along with 90ish other Galapagos-bound Lindblad guests, were herded onto three buses and away we went, back to the airport. We got our boarding passes on the bus (I’m not sure how they finagled that one) and then we were guided through security and, after only a few minutes in the waiting area, onto our plane. It was the fastest I’ve ever been in and out of an airport for a flight. From there it was only an hour and a half jaunt to the Galapagos! We landed on the tiny island of Baltra, which is flat and veiled in a ground cover of green vegetation. There were buses waiting to take us to the dock where we were greeted with a sign saying “Welcome to the Galapagos” and from there we boarded a Zodiac that whisked us off to the blue and white National Geographic Endeavour anchored several hundred meters offshore.

C and I were shown to our cabin (212) and after a quick inspection we set off to explore the ship. One of the first things I noticed was that the carpet is the same as on the Sea Bird and Sea Lion! There are so many small things – like the carpet – that remind me of the ships I work on, but a lot of things that are very different. The size, for one thing, is quite a bit bigger than the comparatively tiny Sea Bird and Lion. Not that the Endeavour is huge by any means, but it carries 96 passengers to the Bird and Lion’s 64. There’s also a lot more outer deck space including two sun decks (one with a pool), the bow, and several outer walkways. Trying to find our way around the ship is sort of like a maze because there are numerous doors and passageways and we have yet to figure out how they all connect… Maybe we’ll have it down by the end of our week on board….

We eventually found our way to the lounge where our Expedition Leader, Paula Tagle, welcomed us aboard and went over a few necessities and logistics. We also reunited with Brian Christiansen, a former deckhand on the Sea Lion that C and I had previously worked with, and has since been promoted to Video Chronicler. It was great to see him again! Then it was time for lunch – green salad and veggies! –  before we had our first shore landing. This was very foreign for C and I because we never do a shore landing on the day guests arrive because they usually board in the late afternoon/early evening. But here in the Galapagos, last week’s guests get off around 8ish and new guests get on around 10! That’s an incredibly fast turn around and I have no idea how they manage it. On the Bird and Lion we typically have five or six hours to get the ship ready and people are still scrambling to get everything done.

The first place we visited was called Las Bachas on Santa Cruz island. It was a nice sandy beach with a path through some lava rocks and low, green vegetation. We divided into groups and off we went with our naturalist guides. On the path we saw some lizards, turtle tracks and hollows in the sand where they laid their eggs, a few birds (don’t ask me what kind), and hundreds of bright yellow, red, and blue Sally Lightfoot crabs. I’ve seen the crabs before in Baja and Costa Rica, but never so close up. I expected them to scuttle away as soon as I approached, but they were fearless! They aren’t joking when they say Galapagos critters aren’t afraid of anything.

Back at the Zodiac landing beach, we had our first opportunity to get in the water with our snorkel gear. The visibility was horrible, but we’ll be snorkeling every day here, so it was more just to get wet than to see schools of fish.

Then it was time to return to the boat where we met the captain and crew at cocktail hour and had our first dinner on board. Lots of healthy options to choose from! Tomorrow is a full day of more walks, snorkeling, and hopefully Galapagos wildlife. Stay tuned!

Man Overboard

It has been a little while since my last post and lots has happened. As a few of you know, we had an “incident” last week that tested out emergency response skills and saved two lives. We were cruising down the Panamanian coast late at night, and all the crew (except the night shift) and guests were in bed. At around 1:30 am, the Captain comes on over the crew PA system and announces “there is an emergency, all crew is needed on deck. Man overboard.” My two roommates and I jump (or crawl, as my bunk is a little tricky to get in and out of), throw on clothes and glasses and run up to the dining room where people are running back and forth and radios are crackling non-stop. We shout out our billet numbers to the Purser and proceed to our emergency stations without really knowing what’s going on besides that we’re looking for someone in the water. It’s dark outside and the boat is rocking in the swells. My billet for man overboard is to station myself on the bridge deck, starboard (right) side and call out if I see anything that could be helpful, even if it’s a floating bottle. After awhile of not seeing much, I was asked to switch out with the bartender who was turning the starboard spotlight in the bridge. As I listened to the radios and the conversations among the crew, I slowly began to piece the story together. The 2nd Mate, Andrew, had been driving when he came across some debris in the water. He had a strange feeling about it, so he positioned the ship closer for a better look. Then he saw two men clinging to a cooler. He notified the Captain, who sounded the alarm and had the Zodiacs dropped for the rescue. Onboard, the two men, very weak, dehydrated and sunburned, said that there were two more people that were with them when their small fishing boat was capsized by a wave. We resumed our search and found a third victim, who unfortunately, was dead when we rescued him. Later we found out that he past away only 40 minutes before we came across the scene. We searched until 4:30 am when the Costa Rican Coast Guard finally reached us and took over the search and rescue. We kept the two survivors onboard in an empty guest cabin and let them sleep until we arrived at Golfito the next morning where they disembarked to waiting friends, family and an ambulance. The deceased was given a proper ceremony as he was carried off the ship, but his son has not yet been found, as far as we know.

The group of four had been out fishing in a large river when a wave (from what, I’m not sure) hit them and capsized their boat. They were swept out into the ocean and spent three full days clinging to debris and helplessly watching boats pass by without any way of drawing their attention. The father and son we rescued had already said their goodbyes when they saw our ship’s lights coming towards them. They said it was “God answering their prayers.” I didn’t have time to process what was happening that night, but looking back on it, it really was a miracle that the two men happened to be directly in the course of our ship. If that had been been 20 feet off of our line, Andrew probably wouldn’t have spotted them.

I have more to report about my adventures in Costa Rica and Panama, such as kayaking in the rain through murky crocodile waters, spotting a blue Morphos butterfly, doing yoga on the beach and getting eaten alive by no-see-ems, a visit to a tropical eden, and of course, transiting the Panama Canal. But I’ve already taken up a lot of space and I need to get ready for the next group of guests coming in later this afternoon, so I’ll have to continue on later.

Another Year, Another Adventure

I can hardly believe it myself, but I’ve managed to stay put in one place for almost 7 months! My goal was six, so I’m pretty proud of myself. I’ve been living in Burlington since I finished massage school in June (Vancouver School of Bodywork and Massage – I highly recommend it to anyone interested in becoming a bodyworker) and working in the cafe at Healthy Living as well as Oasis Day Spa on Wednesday evenings. I’ve also been doing lots of yoga at Evolution and working on my handstands. My next goal is jumping into crow from downward dog. Maybe in about 10 years…

I never thought I would share an apartment with my brother, but it has worked out surpisingly well. He got the better deal, though, because I brought home tons of free food while working at HL and have kept the place clean and relatively neat. I’m sure I’ll be sorely missed when I’m gone. I don’t think Mark, the new roommate, will be acting as Will’s personal maid.

So, that brings me to “A new year, a new adventure”! I’m taking off for Costa Rica on Friday to meet the Sea Lion – one of Lindblad’s National Geographic cruise ships. For those of you who didn’t follow my last blog, also called whereonearth, I started working for Lindblad a few months after I bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii in November 2007. I worked for them as a Steward/Senior Steward for about a year, traveling to Alaska, the Columbia River, and Baja, then took a year off to go to massage school and visit friends and family back here in Vermont. Now it’s time to get back on board, this time to Costa Rica for a month, then up the Pacific Coast to Seattle and finally up to Alaska, where I’ll disembark in June. I’m looking forward to getting back on the ship meeting new people, exploring new and places and visiting old territories, but I’ll miss the friends and people I’ve gotten to know in and around Burlington these past 6 months. I feel like I’ve set down a few roots and whether or not Burlington will become my home town, I’m know I’ll be back again to visit. Until then, check back for stories about my adventures, photos of places I go, people I meet, and things I see, and anecdotes about living on a 152-foot ship with 62 guests and 25 crew. There are bound to be mishaps and shenanigans.