sailing poor mans Galapagos

Bureaucratic Hold Ups & Sailing The Poor Man’s Galapagos

We’re back on the boat and unlike the poor shoe maker, no magical elves showed up while we were gone to take over the boat work.  Quite the opposite really.  While we were road tripping Ecuador, the mold spores were hard at work moving into any, and every, porous surface…even the fiberglass deck.  Ah, the joys of living on the salty sea.

Little did we know the mold spores and boat chores would be the easy tasks.  Dealing with Ecuadorian bureaucracy…now there is the real challenge!

Grab a bowl of encebollado sopa (it’s the national breakfast dish) and join us as we say Goodbye Bahia de Caraquez and Hello to the Poor Man’s Galapagos.

Willie Nelson once said, “the early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.”  Which I interpret as; it’s not just about timing, it’s about being at the right place at the right time.  A sentiment that rings true for this episode.

Dealing With Bureaucracy

Sailing is all about freedom, the escape…living on your own terms.  Except when it isn’t.  Perhaps back in the 1800’s when Joshua Slocum was sailing around the world that was the case.  Today, sailing (and the world in general it seems) is loaded with Bureaucratic hold ups.  Rules and regulations aren’t bad.  They often help keep things orderly. But sometimes, it’s just a bureaucratic mess with people following rules and regulations they don’t understand or know how to carry out.  I won’t get on my soap box, but I will say bureaucracy exists everywhere and there is no escape from it.  Best we can do is learn how to navigate it.

Ecuador requires boats to check in and check out at every single port, with paperwork and fees (of course!) to boot.  We tried to save a few bucks by forgoing an agent and doing the work ourselves. Which shouldn’t have been such a big deal. Unfortunately, there has been a big employee turnover with the Capitana’s office in Bahia and the new guys didn’t have a clue.  Rather than admit they didn’t know what to do (and tell us the one guy who does know how to prepare a Zarpe was out sick), they gave us a pile of excuses and several “come back later”.  A few days of this and we were near our whit’s end.

We were itching to move along to clear water and see if the Poor Man’s Galapagos is truly…well…the poor man’s Galapagos.  So, our motivations to make it all happen were solid.  Some friendly help from Gene (the owner of Puerto Amistad Marina) and five days later we were good to go.  With new employees and the one knowledgeable person out sick, it seemed a case of right place, wrong time.

Our suggestion for checking in and out while sailing through Ecuador: If you don’t like wasting time, or don’t speak fluent Spanish (we’re conversational, not fluent), it’s probably best to hire an agent and save yourself the hassle.  We could have easily set sail on Friday morning as planned if the paperwork was sorted out by the agent at Puerto Amistad.

Poor Man’s Galapagos – Isla De Plata

The name says it all.  A trip to the famous Galapagos is known for being incredibly expensive.  But, a day trip to little Isla de la Plata can be achieved for $30 by any tourist roaming through Ecuador.

It is a small island off the coast northwest of Puerto Lopez.  Nowadays it’s referred to as the Poor Man’s Galapagos, but it has long been called “Silver Island.”

sailing and exploring Ecuador

Local legend says that Sir Francis Drake buried his treasure here centuries ago.  Hence the name Silver Island.  Others say the silver refers to the mass of bird poop covering the island that shines in the sun.  The bird poop I can confirm, Sir Francis Drakes treasure I cannot.

Most people load up in a small boat in Puerto Lopez for a day tour of the island.  $30 USD per person gets you a ride to the island, a short “hike” and some snorkel time.

Sailing your own vessel over doesn’t save any cash (we knew we would still have to pay the $30 per person tour fee) but we had read we could enjoy the snorkeling and island views when the tour crowds were gone.  We also read online you can hire a local for a more in-depth tour.  Turns out, that wasn’t the case, no leaving the boat and no venturing past the short stretch of beach at the ranger’s office (as long as there were no tours in progress the ranger said we could walk on the beach).  Bummer deal!

It was another case of bad timing for us.  On top of the strict no leaving the boat policy, 80% of the trails were closed, with no reason given and no plans to open them back up anytime soon. So, our $30 would get us a five-minute hike to the top of the hill and no further.  When Jason asked about snorkeling the Rangers eyes grew wide with confusion and he shook his head.  He didn’t like jellyfish.  And that was that.  No roaming about the island with blue-footed boobies and no snorkeling with tropical fish.  But, the turtle visits and views from anchor were still worth the stop.

jelly fish poor mans Galapagos

poor mans Galapagos Ecuador

poor mans Galapagos sailing

Next destination…Salinas, affectionately called the Miami Beach of Ecuador.  Please, oh please let us be the second mouse this time.

Sailing Road Trip Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here:

sailing poor mans galapagos

  • Dates – March 1 – 7, 2018
  • Nautical Miles Sailed – 58.2

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Who is John?

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Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (14)

  • David

    I didn’t know if it was your original intent, but you have become outstanding goodwill ambassadors on behalf of the American people. Your dedication to your goals, perseverance, spirit of adventure, and winning personalities spread good cheer and positive energy wherever you travel. No doubt, the people you encounter in your international travels gain a good impression of America. Your friendliness and cheerful presence spread goodwill wherever you anchor. On this 4th of July, thank you for all you are doing and keep on sailing!

  • Having lived in Cuenca, EC for two years as residents, we completely understand the “regulations” and their interpretation by different individuals. But as residents, it only cost us $10 each to visit the Galapagos. We went for a five day trip with friends, it was amazing!

    • ~M

      OMG! Froggi I haven’t seen you since you left the 5er. Nice to see your face again. Cheers! ~M

  • Pat Parker

    Thanks for sharing. It was great

  • Lucille

    I was thinking that they were stalling you so that you would not come back and tell other Americans not to go there until I heard that he was sick. Really sick??? The water was so filthy and they litter just like they do here when they try to push us out of an area it always looks like. The name and the looks of the food did not appeal to me. Good luck. Wow! They want to enter illegally here and there you have to sign in and out? We are fools with our Immigration policy here.

  • Robert Keys


    All South/Central American countries are a nightmare re port entry/departure, it comes from
    the Spanish system which is also quite heavy.
    Oh by the way the USA is not the easy country for ship entry/departure re paper work.
    I was a Tanker Captain running from Venezuela to St. Croix (USA island), 36 hour trip and
    every time we entered St.Croix USA Immigration checked all the crew (two hours work!).
    Wait till you get to Aussie!!
    Safe & smooth sailing,

  • Alan Solomon

    I don’t think I have seen murky, dirtier, almost polluted water ever in any of your videos up to now.
    Shocking to see. Your past videos have spoiled me.
    Hopefully, you won’t cross paths with control freaks like you encountered at poor man Galapagos in future sailing travels.

    Happy, Safe Sailing,

  • Tom Fitch

    I don’t understand why you need Ecuador’s permission to leave. Can you explain this please.

    • Curious Minion

      If you do not check out/clear customs from one port in Ecuador, you will be denied entry at the next port. It is the same for most countries: if you haven’t checked out of the previous country they can deny you entry into another.

  • Beth

    Was the blue boobies thing explained somewhere and I missed the explanation? Was it a joke that just flew over my head? If anyone knows what they meant I’d sure like to know! ? Thx!
    And of course, your video and blogging are great as always. Was Kate gone before you were at the Poor Man’s Galapagos? Kate is so cool and funny!

  • Roger B

    Big disappointment for you and all of us. Life’s challenges, however, we are looking forward to your next video.

  • Phil

    Do you ever muss the States and do you get lonely?


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