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Galapagos Blog

Boating heads out to the Galapagos Islands.

March 1, 2006

The Final Galapagos Report

After spending 11 days in the Galapagos, I have come to the conclusion that it’s no place for children. Everywhere we went, we witnessed animals having sex right out in the open. Killer whales, penguins, sea turtles, giant turtles–it’s one big den of iniquity under the guise of a nature preserve.

Taking stock of this unbelievable trip, I’ve made a few more observations…

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  • If you’re going to fish the Galapagos, the man to see is Braden Escobar (www.fishgalapagos.com). He fished us hard on his whale-damaged 35′ Bertram (named The Striper) for four days of marlin fishing and one night of chasing swordfish. He also led an inshore expedition for Pacific snook, pargo, grouper, and buckhead parrotfish (which resemble saltwater peacock bass with teeth). Braden is the man.
  • If you don’t like dolphins, whales, sea lions, turtles, or manta rays coming near your boat, stay out of the Galapagos.
  • I’ve never met anyone more obsessed with marlin fishing than Ryan Dick.
  • There are roughly 1,000 inhabitants of the Island of Isabella, and by the time we left, roughly half were wearing Costa Del Mar sunglasses.
  • In the Galapagos, if you’re not drinking a cerveza grande, you’re not a real man.
  • The ballyhoo in the Galapagos actually fly.
  • Few things are more hypnotic than watching a spread of marlin lures smoking just under the surface, undulating in the large Pacific swells.
  • Few things are more explosive than watching a marlin come hot into the spread then tail walk after taking the hook.
  • If you ever fish with Cindy Garrison, never bet with her. You’ll wind up clinging to the business end of a coconut palm.
  • Did anyone else think last night’s episode of The Soprano’s sucked?
  • Popcorn in the islands is a staple of every meal. As is yellow mustard, or mostaza, which loosely translates as, “Condiment of the Gods.”
  • If you ever get stuck with the same nine people for 11 days, you’re lucky if they’re as cool as the group I traveled with. Mad props to Marie, Steve, Ryan, Al, Brian, Damien, J Rubs, Kelly, and Cindy.
  • El Galápagos es todo bueno.

Stay tuned for a video compilation of the trip, and look for the full story in a future feature of BOATING.

-Pete

3/16/06

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The Galapagos Report

We just left the island of Isabella this morning, staying an extra day to participate in a local festival. In the days since I was last able to post, we made the crossing from Santa Cruz to Isabella, fishing for blue marlin along the way. I swam with white tipped sharks, saw some Galapagos penguins, walked within spitting distance of sea lions, took an overnight swordfishing trip, fished again for blue marlin and watched the local festivities consisting of two clowns in a ring teasing an angry bull. All great stuff. I am in the midst of compiling a comprehensive wrap-up to post with some photos on Monday. Oh yeah, and we chilled with Bill Gates. (Not really, but everybody told us he owned the ridiculously huge, helicopter-laden yacht we kept passing in the harbor.)

-Pete

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3/12/06

The Galapagos Report

Today’s motto is fish on. We took an inshore trip and got into some solid action with finny creatures. We left the hotel at 5:30 a.m. to meet our guide Braden. We embarked in two pangas towards a secluded cove known to hold pacific snook. In fact, Braden had recently helped an angler land a potential world record. That didn’t happen but we caught other fish. Cindy Garrison and her friend Kelly fly fished from one boat, while we took turns casting swimming plugs with spinning rods. We worked the rocky shoreline and almost immediately, Cindy hooked into a grouper. On our boat, I countered by hooking a fiesty male humpback parrotfish. Al from Costa Del Mar followed with a beautiful Galapagos grouper.

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Two cool moments happened on the water today. The first came as Cindy was teaching Kelly to fly fish. On Kelly’s first cast with a fly rod in her entire life, she hooked and landed a grouper. I told her to retire while she’s batting .1000, because it doesn’t get any better than that. Later, when the Costa Del Mar group was involved in a photo shoot, I snuck away with a spinner and picked my way through the black lava rocks along the shoreline. On my second cast, I hooked a fat Galapagos grouper. While I was trying to figure out how to muscle him over a rock ledge, I watched a second grouper emerge from the shadows and blast the back treble hook. So I had to fight and land two grouper on the same hook while trying to keep them off the lava rocks. Classic.

Tomorrow, we depart the island of Santa Cruz and head to Isabella. It’s a long boat ride, especially when you’re trolling along the way for tuna and blue marlin. I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to send you a report, as we’re headed for a more remote island tomorrow. Pictures are on the way.

-Pete

3/11/06

The Galapagos Report

It’s hard to describe a day like today in words. Not because of the fishing–the boat I was on caught only a few bonito. Cindy Garrison, fishing from the second boat, did nail a fantastic 195-pound striped marlin. We brought our boat in close and saw the initial tailwalk, then watched the fight unfold. Fighting standup, she subdued the fish, then jumped in the water and snorkeled alongside as the captain revived her marlin and released it.

The part that is hard to describe came later. We were in our final hour–Last Chance Gulch is how my boat mate Ryan described it–when we saw some movement in the water to starboard. “Mira Mira,” our mate Gustavo shouted, his finger extended to a spot on the water. “Orca, Orca!” We watched as a pod of killer whales moved toward our boat, jumping and surfacing all around us. A pod of sea lions swam behind and mixed in with the orcas, an amazing sight since the latter typically eats the former. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” said Ryan. The whales and sea lions swam between and around our two boats for over half an hour as the sun set. It’s a sight I have never before seen from a boat and one that I can pull from my memory every time I head offshore.

-Pete

3/10/06

The Galapagos Report

We left the docks at 6:00 a.m. with visions of striped marlin in our heads. We made our way to the fishing grounds off Santa Cruz, where we targeted two ledges known to be marlin hot spots. Our captian had marked several waypoints on his GPS where he had raised billfish. We started the day raising some bonito, which weren´t what we wanted but they got the boat bloody. We had a long wait after that.

Without billfish, we relied on dolphins to provide our in-troll entertainment. A pod of over a hundred dolphin surrounded our boat, jumping into the air with some fantastic aerial maneuvers, and finally settling down in the breakwater at the bow. We ran across dolphin three times while circling the fishing grounds, and they never disappointed.

The billfish, though, played hard to get. At 2p.m. we finally raised a striped marlin. He came in hot on the starboard outrigger, smacked it, and missed. He charged over to the lure smoking on the port outrigger, grabbed it, and peeled off line. Then he dropped it. We moved to another fishing spot and before we had the lines in, we saw a striped marlin swimming lazily along the surface not 20 yards from our boat. We saw flying ballyhoo in the water, and frigate birds circling overhead. We saw another striper free jump in the distance. But we couldn´t get them to play. The best thing about fishing, though, is tomorrow is another day.

-Pete

3/9/06

The Galapagos Report

Today I had one of the coolest experiences of my life when I body surfed in a beach break with sea lions. These animals were so graceful swimming through the swells, and so incredible to watch up close in their environment. They rode the waves like mini torpedos. We also made a trek to see giant turtles, and interrupted a mating pair. The sounds of their shells scraping together sounded like two cars colliding in a demolition derby. Romantic. Tomorrow morning we leave before first light to get after the striped marlin. We feel confident about our chances, and hopefully I will have a positive report about multiple hook ups and leaping billfish. And, hopefully some pictures, too. The thought of a marlin coming in hot on the teasers and then tailwalking after the hookup will make it hard to sleep tonight.

-Pete

3/8/06

The Galapagos Report

We stepped off the plane into a burst of humidity and sun, and immediately found our guide. There are ten of us all told, a couple of people from Costa Del Mar, a photographer and his assistant, a male model\surfer dude–who´ll be hitting big breaks later in the week–and Cindy Garrison. I´m the writer-behind-the-scenes guy, which is hard to do when cameras are seemingly rolling at all time. We took a bus, a ferry, and another bus to get to our domicile, the Hotel Silberstein (a decidedly non-Ecuadorian name). After some octopus, squid, and calimari ceviche, we headed over to check out the Darwin Station to view the giant turtles and marine iguanas. Lots of fastpaced reptilian activity. Actually, a couple of the turtles started butting heads in a little turf war, their 500-pound shells clanged together like Peterbilts. Also, we met our fishing guide Braden, a Galapagos guide by way of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He said the striped marlin bite is picking up, and the other day he bagged a 700-pound blue marlin. He’s been working like hell to get his boat in shape, as last week he took a shot to the hull from a very large whale.

-Pete

3/6/06 Stay tuned for details about my trip to the Galapagos with Costa del Mar and Cindy Garrison… -Pete

8/5/05 Our goal was to drive the SeaStrike from its mooring at Manhasset Bay Yacht Club (www.manhassetbayyc.org) on the north shore of Long Island to our colleague’s house on the south shore. Of course, the three-hour trip was extended an hour when we stopped to cast for stripers in front of the United Nations building on the East River and for blues along the beach at Breezy Point in the Rockaways. Alas, the fish weren’t biting. But the offshore 27-mph cruise in the three-foot swells was comfortable and the starboard spray we took at the helm was a welcome respite to the 98-degree heat.

-Tricia

8/01/05 The SeaStrike enjoyed its first night fishing trip of the season. With the summer heat withering everything during the day, the only time to target striped bass right now is at night. Thankfully, the striped bass showed up to prove this point. The Furuno radar proved invaluable in the pitch-dark night waters. I could pick up buoys, moorings, and other boats long before I came within any danger zone. Hopefully, they’ll be more successful fishing reports to come. Stay tuned for reports on our upcoming diving expedition and for reports on our trips offshore for tuna, mahi, and mako shark.

-Pete

7/27/05 Ed Davis of Furuno came out to calibrate NavNet VX2 system onboard the SeaStrike. We had a perfectly clear but brutally hot day so it was good to get the boat up and running for some natural air conditioning. Ed showed me how to tweak the radar to find working birds and even to find the large schools of menhaden bustling on the surface. Just awesome. We’ve been getting out chasing big bluefish–10 to 15 pounders–under the menhaden, so it was nice to have another search and destroy trick up our sleave. The SeaStrike fishes very well as a light tackle platform, with 360 degree access to the water. The large t-top is great for shade and doesn’t obstruct the fishing. Can’t wait to try the autopilot when we take the SeaStrike offshore for some trolling.

-Pete

** 7/26/05** Today was photo-shoot day for the SeaStrike, with professional photographer Chris Sheridan taking pictures of our staff in various stages of boating. Carey Yorio, our fearless summer intern, served as the model for many of the shots. I almost flung her out of the boat during a few hairpin turns. All I can say is, thanks, SeaStrike, for putting in those extended coaming bolsters. At one time we had as many as six staff members onboard, and the boat handled the load well. With a full tank of fuel, crew, and necessary supplies for the day, we still exceeded 46 mph on the GPS. Plus, everyone had a spot to stand, sit, or stretch out after we snapped in the bow cushions. It’s good to know, as we plan for future offshore trips, that the can maintain its sea-keeping abilities fully-loaded.

-Pete

** 6/30/05**Our Sea Strike 240 is finally up and running. We had a problem with the bilge pump through-hull resting below the waterline, causing it to backfill. But we made the repair and installed a new through-hull about five inches higher. (Sea Strike has made this adjustment on its production boats.) We also replaced the old bilge pump.

Now we’ve been able to enjoy the boat a few times. I took my nephews, in town from Michigan, on a cruise to the Statue of Liberty. If you go by ferry, you have to stand in line for three hours just to get to the Statue. But we cruised right up, drifted around the statue, and ate cookies.

I’ve taken the boat out fishing once or twice, and enjoyed casting for stripers from the bow platform. My wife, though, prefers to snap in the cushions so she can sunbathe and cruise the coast looking at mansions.

The fuel economy on the twin Yamaha 150-hp four strokes has been great. We’ve run about 160 miles all-told, and still show over 2/3 of a tank left on the fuel meter.

-Pete

** 4/22/05 Furuno Net**I traveled to Florida Boatworks, in Stuart, Florida, to spend the day aboard the SeaStrike 240 CC. My mission? To install the new Furuno NavNet vx2, the next generation of Furuno’s popular integrated navigation system (www.furuno.com). With help from three Treasure Coast Marine Electronics technicians, I installed the 1834C/NT ($5,495), a 10.4″-diagonal color display with a 4kW 24″ radome; the 50/200kHz blackbox sounder ($700); the WAAS/GPS receiver antenna ($350); the NavPilot 511/OB ($2,895), an autopilot for an outboard with a 3.6″-diagonal monochrome display, and its pumpset ($500); the RD30 ($395), a digital depth and navigational data repeater; and two transom-mount transducers, one for the sounder and one for the repeater. It was an educational day. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to be involved in the splashing of the boat for a sea trial of the Furuno equipment (deadlines, you know). But as soon as the boat arrives in New York next week and we bottom paint it, you can bet I’ll be on the water testing the electronics to make sure they’re ready for the season. In an upcoming issue of Boating, I’ll share what I learned about installing this plug-and-play system-and how it’s nearly impossible to snake radar cables through 90 degree turns.

-Tricia Baione

** MARCH 2005 – STARTING ANEW** Sure, we’ll miss the Robalo R260, but it’s a new year, a new season, and we’re looking forward to taking delivery of this year’s boat: The SeaStrike 240 CC (www.seastrikeboats.com). We got a good look at it during the Miami Boat Show (pictured) and plan to take delivery of the 240 in early April. First we have to install the latest electronics suite from Foruno (www.furuno.com) and apply a coat of bottom paint. Look for our next blog entries about these two projects, and even more when we take delivery.

-Pete McDonald

11/12/04 It’s all over. Our Robalo R260 is on blocks at Great Bay Boats in Islip, NY. We had a great run with this boat, and will have a lot to say about it in our review due out in our February 2005 issue. But for some raw numbers:

Top Speed: 52.4 mph Total Hours: 100 plus Total fish caught: 116

Special thanks go to Navman Electronics (www.navman.com) for the 4500 Fishfinder and 5500 Chartplotter and to Great Bay Boats (www.greatbayboats.com) for their help this season. Also, special thanks to the guys at Manhassat Bay Yacht Club for the use of the facilities and all their help throughout the season.

-P.M.

** 10/13/04 Hard Days Work**I took two friends, who also had Columbus Day off, out on the Robalo for a day of fishing. The weather report did us no favors–15-20 knot NW winds with gusts to 25 knots. But we had the day off, a few tightly stacked three-footers weren’t going to stop us.

Truthfully, they didn’t. We pointed the Robalo into the worst of it, running to different honey holes in head seas and later quartering seas. We got wet, but not beat up, as the Robalo handled the foul conditions as well as could be expected. This 6,000-pound boat with a 23 degree deadrise has the ability to both plow and slice through adverse sea conditions. Many times we braced ourselves expecting to be knocked around, but the worst we took was some spray over the bow.

Our patience paid off. We found a spot holding a school of young striped bass, and they hit our offerings pretty hard for over an hour. My buddy Mike caught one, pictured here, tagged by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Apparently, it had made its way into the Western Long Island Sound all the way from the Chesapeake Bay.

-P.M.

** 9/30/04** In the six weeks we’ve been using the Navman Tracker 5500 chartplotter and Fish 4500 fishfinder on the Robalo R260, we’ve learned a lot about the units. And we like what we see. But there’s always more to learn and we wanted to get an insider’s perspective. So we spent today cruising and fishing with two representatives from Navman. We also wanted to hear a reader’s opinion about the units-and the boat-so we brought someone who’s been reading Boating Magazine for more than 25 years-my dad.

Leaving the inlet at Manhasset Bay (Long Island), we noticed concentrated schools of large menhaden breaking the surface. The Fish 4500, with it’s smiling fish symbols, told us that bluefish were feeding underneath the baitfish. Thirty minutes later we were still casting, having reeled in five blues, including an eight-pounder. With five adults onboard, there was plenty of room for working the three rods.

We proceeded to cruise to, and then around, Manhattan, pausing to idle under the path of planes landing at LaGuardia in the East River, to pay homage to Yankee stadium in the Harlem River, and to take pictures of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The Robalo had no problem fitting under the numerous low-clearance bridges, but it did pull a wake at 5 mph in a no-wake zone.

We stopped to fish a spot in the East River-New York’s notoriously polluted waterway-where the blues were busting the surface. We boated another five fish, including a double hookup in front of the UN, again there was plenty of room to maneuver.

It started raining and those of us not fishing stayed fairly dry under the canopy. Unfortunately, once we started running back to Long Island if you weren’t sitting at the helm, you got wet from the rain. Small price to pay for a day on the water.

As for the Navman units, we like them. The Tracker 5500, using C-Map cartography, was accurate. We also got a pleasant surprise-the reps brought us the company’s new Trackfish 6600, a 7″-diagonal color combo unit. We can’t wait to install it on the Robalo.

** 9/27/04 Double Whammy** Twice aboard the Robalo R260 this weekend I heard music to my ears. The first came from the singing reels as my brother and I got into bluefish. They were engaged in classic fall blitzes, and we boated 20 in all. The second instance came during a lunch date with my wife, when she turned to me and said, “This is the kind of boat I could buy.” She said this while we were eating sandwiches in the bow, anchored in a bay taking in the afternoon. While the front seating and casting platform are great for fishing–even when standing on the platform you’re still securely in the boat–if you snap on the cushions you’ve got a great spot for entertaining or sunbathing. She also liked the boat’s ride, normally she gets on me to slow down through chop, but on this boat I could hammer through.

About that ride, last week we brought the boat from the South shore of Long Island to the North shore. Offshore we could maintain a comfortable 30 mph cruise in two-foot swells. This boat is built to run outside the inlet. A note about the Yamaha 225-hp four strokes: I don’t have the exact figures, but we cruised for about four hours and burned a little over a quarter tank. Not too shabby.

-P.M.

9/27/04 A comment on the Robalo from a reader: I am the proud owner of a 2004 R260 with twin Honda 225’s, which was delivered, also after many delays and some glitches, in mid July. We live in Central Florida but trailer the boat all over the state. The boat had the optional Raymarine-53 VHF and I had the following electronics installed: 1-Standard Quest VHF 2-Standard CP1000C GPS (these 2 have been interfaced) 3-Navman Fish 4500 with a bronze through-hull tri-ducer and the optional fuel management system. I chose this combination because the Honda 225’s do not have this system. As per Honda, this will not be available until model year 2005. I have Honda gauges since two sets of Faria gauges never worked properly. My family and I love the boat and have used it quite often. We spent a week down in the Keys and used it daily. We went fishing, diving, swimming in the sandbars, cruising, and tubing, and the boat performed very well.

Just a few observations; 1-The aluminum foot rest in the leaning post needs something to hold it in the “up” position. In heavy seas, if you stand, the footrest will bang against the back of your leg. I have resolved this problem with a Velcro strap. 2-Head compartment door needs something to hold it open. I am currently using a bungee, but will install something permanent in the future. 3-Head compartment needs ventilation! When my 11 year old son had to go, I had to hold the door open and put a towel in the door. I will install a porthole in the port side in the future. 4-The windlass/anchor needs a safety chain. I have also used bungee. 5-Battery charger plug is of poor quality. I had problems getting a good connection between cord and plug until I changed the plug. Problem solved. 6-Navigation/Anchor light in t-top collects water when tilted down to trailer. No problem in the up position. 7-This may not relate to your project boat but I had to cut 4″-6″ from the trailer bunks (Magic Tilt) since they were hitting the speedometer to starboard and the livewell bronze sea strainer to port. 8-Boat seems to list slightly to starboard, and it does seem to “porpoise” in seas above 2′. Both of these can be corrected with engine trim and tabs. I saw the picture of your boat and it does look a bit stern heavy. Our boat does not appear to have that problem. Maybe there is a weight difference between Honda and Yamaha? I also have the windlass option (with anchor, chain, 200′ of rode), as well as lines, stern anchor, fenders, etc stored in the forward fishbox that may add weight to the bow. All these are minor issues that can be easily corrected. The R260 is a solid boat that inspires confidence to go offshore. During a fishing trip in the Keys we were caught in a squall that the boat handled without a problem. My fishing partner is my 11 y/o son and I feel entirely safe in this boat.

Good luck with your project and I look forward to reading about it in future issues of Boating.

9/22/04 What a day to be on the water. Spent the day testing electronics, while diving gulls pointed to schooling bluefish a few feet from the boat. It was the second day of testing. I’m working on an electronics feature for next year. I did have my rod with me, but didn’t have the time to follow the fish around all day. I wish I had because the couple I did hook (at the end of the day) were in the 10 to 14 pound range.

The Robalo made a good platform for testing. I used the wide transom in place of a workbench, on which I placed three fishfinders mounted to a board. The transducers I tied to a horizontal pole that I later submerged. The point was to be able to test the units simultaneously. Read the results in an upcoming issue.

We only ducked out of the harbor for a minute, but I did get the boat up to about 45 mph. It moves like a champ.

9/17/04 I really ought to know better. After all, I live on New York Harbor, steps from Ground Zero, and see the Coast Guard vessels patrolling the area 24/7. But as we cruise into the Harbor today I call my husband, Jim, to meet us at the South Cove pier in Battery Park City. There isn’t any place to tie up, nor is it safe for Jim come onboard as the docks have chest high railings, but we think it’ll be fun to say hi and idle within 25 yards of him-75 yards closer than we should be, as we soon discover. A 25′ orange RIB-complete with two mounted machine guns-approaches us, blue lights flashing. We’re anticipating getting boarded, but we know we have all our required gear and documentation. But as Pete brings us stern side to the Coast Guard’s Defender boat, the Coasties just lecture us to stay 100 yards from the sea wall. We profusely apologize, and motor out of there-fast. Next time, Jim can meet us in New Jersey.

–Tricia

8/20/04 Cocktails Anyone?We officially bloodied the boat today. We took the Robalo R260 fishing in the Great South Bay out to the Fire Island Inlet, and on an ingoing tide found a rip rife with busting bluefish. They had trapped a huge pod of bait against a sandbar and were crashing uninterrupted for a half-hour stretch that my brother and I capitalized on. The only drawback? They were, ahem, not too big. We came prepared with light spinning gear and a fly rod, so the bigger ones–the four-pounders–put up a nice fight. A few jumped like largemouth bass. We lost count of how many we caught. Size doesn’t matter when you’re trying to get the skunk off the boat.

We talked a lot about mako shark fishing, but it didn’t happen. We had a front blow through, and a small craft advisory kept us inside the inlet. We’ll test this boat’s offshore mettle another time.

-P.M.

** 8/19/04** Off to have the Navman 4500 fishfinder and 5500 chartplotter installed today. A short ride from the mooring over to SeaCurity Marine Electronics, handing over the boat to Mike and Tony to do their thing.

While I’ve always used crimping to make my electrical connections, Mike believes in soldering. He’ll solder two wires together and then cover the joint with an adhesive heat shrink tube, which he says absorbs the vibrations (my worry about soldering) and seals the joint.

The boat h

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