Galapagos Map

The Glory Is Forever

After getting whooped by more headwinds and a tenacious crosscurrent for another five hundred miles and five days south, McKenzie and I pull down the sails as Swell hovers over the equator. We make an offering to Poseidon and leap ceremonially into the bottomless blue before carrying on into the Southern Hemisphere. The headwinds and spray grow colder overnight, and at dawn we spot the northern end of the dry, volcanic island of San Cristobal, Galapagos. The chilly effects of the Humboldt Current add to the historic archipelago’s mystique. We watch morning fog hunching in the lowlands and cloaking rocky outcroppings along the shoreline while wrapped up in our winter jackets. I stare at the rocky, wild island and can’t believe I actually sailed myself here the location I’d chosen for my sixth-grade assignment, “A Destination I Want to Visit.”

We are sure our good fortune with kind sea neighbors has run its course by the time we reach the bay at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. But the next day we’re invited to tour a Venezuelan tuna ship. I’ve always thought of these purse-seiner operations as evil being a big cause of the decline of the oceans’ fisheries. It was hard not to marvel at the huge tuna-killing vessel’s internal processing and storage systems and the helicopter on the top deck used to spot the giant tuna schools that they can capture in a single day, but the massive holds full of frozen fish unsettled me. Thousands of motionless tuna eyeballs of all sizes stared back at me, even haunting my dreams that night.

Galapagos Map Photo Gallery

Over dinner, the friendly fishermen showed us photos of their families, and elaborated on the fun they’d have with their kids when they returned home. They are good guys, just trying to make a living like everyone else cogs in a global economic system based on oil and growth and pushing for the harvesting of more and more resources, faster and faster, before the other guy gets to them. The general lack of respect and understanding of our connection to nature with which European men colonized the world has perpetuated a greedy, me-first mentality that keeps a few rich profiteers finding faster, more efficient ways to catch tuna, clear forests, extract oil, and propagate industry without regard for the health of the ecosystems on which they capitalize, much less the finite nature of our planet. Progress they call it. But as Barry and I would often discuss, humans depend on Earth’s fine-tuned systems for survival, so “progress” that pushes nature out of balance does not truly advance us. But then, I’m no eco-angel either; I gladly accepted the ten gallons of diesel they offered me. I’m part of the problem too.

On the subject of economics, after all my financial stress, I’ve hardly spent a hundred dollars since leaving Panama City. As McKenzie preps for a journey to Machu Picchu, we score a few more waves and make friends with the local sea lions who like to sleep (and poop) in our dinghy. And when I’m sure there cannot possibly be another sweet surprise, there he is.

He arrives late, stepping assuredly into the warm light that spills from a bare lightbulb dangling over our table at the little open-air restaurant in town. He stands there for a moment, illuminated. A black headband holds wild brown curls off his tanned face and thick stubble. He sits down, joining us with his two Spanish friends for dinner. We had all met earlier that day at a surf break just west of where our sailboats are anchored.

I’m not sure whether it’s the headband or his striking green eyes and strong jawline, or the aura of freedom that surrounds him, but my heart instantly backflips. Gaspar is the captain of a modest little thirty-five-foot cutter, Octobasse, and has been sailing solo for four years out of Spain. “The Glory Is Forever” is scrawled at his bow into the McDonald’s-yellow stripe running the length of the hull. His friends had flown in for a visit.

There hasn’t been a man in every port, although there certainly could have been. My independence intimidates some, but seems to intrigue most. I’m always keeping a sharp eye out for “the one” the man who I hope to someday sail off into the sunset with but in the meantime, I’ve kept it interesting with plenty of dates and local forays. Back home, I always refrained from anything that might earn me a “promiscuous” reputation, but moving from place to place so quickly removes that worry and makes it easy to keep things light. There’s no better way to see the best of an area in a short amount of time than with the help of a friendly local preferably a cute surfer around my age. There was the charming surfer cowboy in northern Mexico, the pro surfer in Puerto Escondido, the hot rasta surfer on the Caribbean side, the California yes-man I met surfing in Costa Rica, and the beautiful black guy I met out dancing in Panama City. He surfed too. But this this feels different.

McKenzie flies off on her next adventure. She uses the slim remainder of her travel savings, but after almost three lucky months with her, I’m certain she’ll be fine. Time and again, we were shown the good-hearted spirit of everyday people. Time and again, our risks were rewarded, and it seemed as if someone or something was watching over us.

With a few days alone before the arrival of my next crew my mother Gaspar and I get to know each other.

Despite his good looks, he’s more about function than aesthetics. I like his callused hands, sharp knives, able body, and charming Spanish accent. He’s a few years older than me, and gave up his sailing sponsorships after two years at sea for more freedom to move about as he pleased. He picks up odd jobs in various ports a project for whale conservation in Chile, shark tagging on Easter Island, bartering or laboring where he can. He sailed all the way to the South Pacific, and then decided to sail back against the trade winds to visit Central America. We’ve crossed paths in this horseshoe-shaped bay, heading in opposite directions. I try not to think about the unfortunate timing, and allow his dark curls, sea wisdom, and carefree approach to voyaging captivate me.

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