Our dramatic arrival at San Cristobal was heralded by the silhouette of the island that grew out of the east in the dawn. The sharply notched shadow of Kicker Rock stood out against the backdrop of the island as, its eastern portion standing up like the tusk of a wild boar. The occasional seal disrupted the shimmering sea with a bark and a splash and dark little seabirds peppered the greying surface in a shifting matt. The port town of Baquerizo Moreno reformed itself from distant grey haze with the geometric shapes of boats and buildings and piers.
There were many more sailboats anchored in the bay than any of us expected. Though I felt less the bold seafarer than we’d imagined ourselves in such extensive company, I also felt more of a sense of membership in an inherently adventurous community. Best of all, I soon recognized Stellar Polaris on the outer reaches of the moored fleet, and we circled her several times as we hailed our friends Andreas and Maggie, getting greetings and insight into our new temporary community.
Even before dropping anchor and then again afterwards the water taxis had stopped by to greet us and confirm that our agent, Bolivar Pesantes, would soon be aware of our arrival if he wasn’t already. He showed up very shortly after our anchor was embedded in Galapagoan sea bottom to collect our passport and boat papers and start the process of customs, immigration, agricultural, safety, and marine park inspections. Then commenced a couple of nervous hours of waiting.
Our biggest fear was of being convicted of harboring marine interlopers. Stella Polaris had been one of several boats that had been sent back to sea to clean their hulls. This involves going back out forty miles to rid themselves of what might be no more than a handful of barnacles. I’m sure the parkls fastidiousness is completely justified, but I highly doubt its truly an effective deterrent for invasive species in a marine environment facing currents and weather from all directions, not to mention the many nooks and crannies on a cruising yacht’s hull. Anyway, the fear that one little barnacle nestled between rudder and keel could send us on a full day’s round trip to accomplish a minor and questionable chore had us on edge.
The moment finally arrived some two hours after Sr. Pesantes trundled off on the water taxi with our paperwork. He returned with a squad of inspectors from the many agencies that were heartily concerned with the welfare of their municipal, federal, and natural communities. We had a rainbow of uniforms represented from the crisply pressed whites of the Ecuadorian Navy to the casual khakies and patch-emblazoned vests of the Galapagos National Park rangers. One even came equipped with his four year old son who, once he overcame his shyness, subjected Mabrouka’s spoked teak wheel to rigorous visual and functional testing.
Well into the paperwork phase and after everyone was situated with cold Cokes or glasses of water, the young pup in a swimsuit climbed over the side armed with goggles, fins, and a Go Pro to conduct the much feared inspection. I hardly noticed what the phalanx of officials in the cockpit were asking me while the hull inspection went on below, but when he started climbing back up the ladder with a smile and a thumbs up, saying “Muy bonito!”, it breathed a huge sign of relief and everything was smiles and handshakes after that.