Traveling To The Galapagos Islands with Captain Marty

galapagos islands beach structure

My trip to the Galapagos Islands was an adventurous one. I was called on to deliver a 35-foot rampage from cruisers rampage in Leland, NC to South Florida (Harbor Town). Upon arrival to the Harbor Town marina, and just after doing my captain’s report on the delivery that was two days overdue because of fuel filter issues, a man stepped on board and introduced himself as Felipe Trujillo.

An Unexpected Opportunity

Felipe is an Ecuadorian from Guayaquil Ecuador, and he wanted to know right away why his boat was overdue. I told him my customer would be able to share my report with him as soon as I finish it and deliver the report to boat dealer in the marina. He was persistent in his line of questioning, so I let him know it was as simple as fuel filters. The filters were new ones to the market called sep bars. I said he needed to grab a case to take with him since the manufacturer of the filters is in South Florida. Felipe agreed and asked if I would like to take the boat to the Galapagos islands.

Now I’ve done a lot of deliveries, but never to such an exotic place like the Galapagos Islands! So I jumped at the opportunity and said YES immediately. Felipe said he would be in touch and that his family owned a container company and would bring it south to Ecuador, then fly me in so I could make the 600-mile trip offshore to the tiny cluster of islands called Galapagos…Isabella Galapagos to be specific.

Now the only thing I knew about the Galapagos was Darwin’s theory. When he was 26 years old, Darwin sailed aboard the HMS Beagle to the Galapagos in 1835. During the five weeks he sailed around the islands, he discovered unusual life forms of wildlife that adapted to the very harsh environment. Each island had different types of tortoises with varying shapes of the outer shell…each tortoise was unique to its own island.

About The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos is believed to be roughly 3 to 10 million years old and is covered with 13 volcanoes. The last one to blow was Sierra Negra on the island of Isabella in June 2008. Isabella has a population of 2200 and is the very island I was going to with the 35-foot Rampage.

Ecuador is so proud of the Galapagos that in 1959 the government turned all unoccupied land in Galapagos into a national park. In 1978, UNESCO Designated Galapagos as the first world heritage site. The Galapagos Marine Reserve received the same status in 1998. So, needless to say, I wanted this trip and nothing was going to stop me from going to such an exotic location on this planet.

My Journey To The Galapagos

After the boat arrived by container in Guayaquil, I was summoned by Felipe to fly me down first class on Lan Air to start the trip. Upon arrival at the airport, I was greeted by a driver that brought me to Felipe’s mansion, where I was escorted to a guest house on the grounds. I was told Felipe would be down shortly to see me.

Well I was in a strange country, using my best broken spanglish to communicate with the crew, when Felipe showed up with a bottle of scotch (which I don’t drink) and two glasses. That night I drank scotch! After laying out the plans about the delivery and how we were going to cover 600 miles of open water, we hit the sack.

The next morning, we went to Ecuador’s version of a yacht club, where the boat was located, and went over fuel issues. I explained we would need a lot of extra fuel on deck to make this crossing. We concluded a 100-gallon military bladder on bow, two 50-gallon drums in the cock pit, and a 338 factory tank would cover the trip if I held the speed to 9 knots, even though the boat could do over 35 mph.

We went back to Felipe’s to a grand dinner…grand like the whole trip would turn out to be! On day two we prepared to take the boat out of Guayaquil up to Selience, Ecuador, a day trip north up the coast of Ecuador. Upon arrival to Selience, where Felipe had another property for us to stay while we were getting the boat ready for a three-day nonstop crossing to Isabella Galapagos.

We provisioned the boat full of food and drinks, and of course FUEL…lots of fuel. After three days preparing the vessel for the crossing, we went out to dinner with Felipe’s entire family, who are super folks! Kind of a farewell dinner if we didn’t make it, I was paired up with two Ecuadorians; one a captain named Juan Pablo from Galapagos that was only familiar with wooden single engine boats, and a 65-year-old mate with no teeth named Xavier. Neither spoke English, and I only know enough Spanish to barely get around Latin America.

On day five, we set off from Selience, Ecuador, located directly on the equator on the pacific side of Ecuador. The good news was if all electronics went out I could still follow the sunrise on my bow and the sunset on my stern, and still would have arrived on the islands. However, I didn’t really want to test that theory, so we had a redundant GPS system on board and a satellite phone. In addition, Felipe was nice enough to provide me with a fully automatic Glock 9 pistol for our protection along the way in the case we encountered pirates.

We were finally prepared and set off on our journey. The days were long and the nights were even longer on the rolling seas of the pacific ocean. We each took three-hour wheel watches, which gave us six hours of time to sleep and eat.

We calculated that we needed about 66-hours worth of fuel at 9 knots covering 600 miles of open water to arrive at our destination. The third morning just before sunrise, we spotted lights on the horizon. I was very happy to see them, however, the lights were just the first of 9 inhabited islands, and we still had 8-hours left to get to Isabella.

My Stay On Isabella Galapagos

On the day of our arrival, after a somewhat uneventful trip, we approached the beautiful island of Isabella, where Felipe owns a resort on the island named Iguana Crossing. Isabella is the largest island in the chain, but the least inhabited due to Sierra Negra, the active volcano. And in case you’re wondering, we had 100-gallons of fuel left. Math never lies!

So with our success on the crossing, now I was supposed to teach the future captain all about this fiberglass fish slayer, with all kind of systems on it, that he has never seen before. It was my job for the next three weeks to stay on Isabella and teach him all about the boat and her systems.

I was in awe over the shear natural beauty of the island I found myself on, and the digs I was staying in on his resort were phenomenal. Five stars all the way and a staff that wouldn’t let you lift a finger without their help.

Two weeks into this gig at breakfast, Felipe’s wife, Beatrice, said to me, “Marty do you miss your wife?” and I said “Sure do.” She said “Tell him, Felipe.” I looked at Felipe and said “Tell me what?”

Well, Felipe did not do the crossing with us because he came over on his leer jet with the family. He said that the leer has to be in Miami for its annual maintenance in 48 hours and did I think my wife can be in Miami with that short of notice? If so, she can fly back on the jet and come visit me until I depart! WOW. Just when I thought this gig couldn’t get any better.

That night I went to my room and contacted my wife to let her know her future just got brighter, and the details of meeting up with the leer jet in Miami executive airport to bring her to Isabella Galapagos. She was ecstatic! Three days later we are on the boat doing some amazing marlin fishing and we saw the leer jet circle us then head to the island.

We turned and headed back to Isabella’s harbor, got in the jeep, and drove to the private air strip to receive the arriving VIP. Out on the runway, we pulled right next to the jet in our jeep. When the door opened, there was a sight for sore eyes! My bride had arrived in paradise, and I was already there waiting with a smile from ear to ear.

After Felipe greeted her, she ran into my open arms and squeezed the daylights out of me! I was whole again. For the next ten days, Felipe turned us over to his tour guide from the resort and said to have fun. We went horseback riding into a live volcano (Sierra Negra), and we swam in lava tunnels created by lava hitting the sea. It was like a black moonscape due to all the lava that had made up a better part of this island over the last eons of years.

We fished till we couldn’t fish any more with plenty of bounty to show for our efforts, rode four wheelers, swam with white tip sharks, which could care less if you were there. Felipe said he and friends used to grab the fins of these white tips and see who could hold on the longest…crazy, right? It’s what locals do for fun. Not being a local, I refrained from attempting that!

After the captain was trained and we had seen almost every part of that island, we departed on the leer jet back to the mainland of Ecuador. We had three days until our flights on Lan Air took us home to Florida.

Felipe’s birthday was in 24 hours, and his family has a big bash every year for the big dog. His family has five mansions next to each other in Olon, Equator, on the beach of course, and for 24 hours that place partied like it was the last party ever. Well, only to hear it’s like this every year.

With over fifty family members and me with my bride in tow had one of the best experiences in my lifetime and hers as well. We had horses, four wheelers on the beach, cars, trucks, you name it! The party was a GREAT ending to an awesome delivery that started 6 weeks earlier in Leland, NC at the Rampage factory, and ended in Olon, Ecuador via the Galapagos islands. Man, what a trip.

Bringing Home More Than Memories

The last day I started feeling a little under the weather and figured it was because I drank too much scotch again, except this time I had a fever. Arriving back in the states, I was still feeling bad, so my wife and I agreed we would wait one more day and if I didn’t feel better, I would go to the ER.

Well the next day came and my fever spiked to 102 and I felt terrible. When I went to the ER I was ask random questions and one was have you traveled abroad lately? I said as a matter of fact I just got back from Ecuador, and WOW when I said that immediately they whisked me into quarantine and would not let my wife see me without a gown and mask. I was like, what just happened? They said it was precautions they were taking because I traveled out of country and got a fever.

Long story short I had contracted the Dengue Fever from drinking the water. As it turns out I didn’t really drink any because I knew better, but between the ice cubes and brushing my teeth in sink water, I contracted it. After all kinds of test and meds and three days in the hospital, I was able to go home and reflect on the last six weeks of my adventure.

In conclusion to my journey, I have to say the Galapagos islands have to be the most special place I’ve ever visited, and I have been almost everywhere when it comes to islands…some from work (yacht deliveries), and some just traveling. But by far the Galapagos was the most special place with very special people.

If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend taking the trip. I also highly recommend staying at IGUANA CROSSING + 593-2604-6800 If you have a chance to talk to Felipe Trujillo, owner of the resort, tell him Captain Marty sent you. You won’t be disappointed!

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