Bureaucratic Hold Ups & Sailing The Poor Man’s 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: gonewiththewynns.com/map

sailing poor mans galapagos
  • Dates – March 1 – 7, 2018
  • Nautical Miles Sailed – 58.2

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