What a flurry of activity!
Suddenly there are 9 extra people aboard Rhapsody, and one more underwater. All speaking at once, all asking us to fill out their forms first, please, all working frantically to fulfill their part of this dance. Such is the check-in procedure for the Galapagos Islands. The storm after our calm five day passage.
In the Galapagos there are very strict rules about anything that has to do with protecting their environment. Cruising boats are required to hire an agent, and considering all the hoops that have to be jumped through, the agents become invaluable in figuring it all out. Sailboats must apply for an autografo, or entry permit. This is issued as either a one month or a two month cruising permit. You are required to buy a permit if you want to purchase any fuel while you are in the Galapagos, you have to pay the transportation for the officials who are coming aboard to inspect your boat, and then there are the government fees, Port Captain fee, Biosecurity Inspection fee, International port fee, cards in transit for Galapagos (the little card that you fill out when you arrive and show again when you leave), National Park entry cards, Immigration fee for the boat, technical inspection for the boat, charged per person, and a card in transit for the boat, plus 12% government tax. Fees, fees, and more fees, and then, taxes! We are only allowed to take Rhapsody to three out of the four inhabited islands. Once you reach those islands you anchor the boat in one specified spot and do not move your boat until you leave that island. Any diving must be done with a commercial dive shop, and visiting any other islands must also be done through a commercial entity. That being said, there are definitely things you can do on your own, but it does take a bit of research to find them.
Back to the check-in on Rhapsody.
Shortly after 2PM on the day of our arrival, a water taxi pulled up to Rhapsody and all of the officials began to come aboard. First to arrive was our agent, Gian Carlos, followed in rapid succession by the Port Captain inspector, Quarantine control, a National Park ranger, a Doctor, Galapagos government council, boarding agent and an immigration officer and a representative from the Navy. They were all introduced to us very quickly and I was totally unable to follow who was who.
The questions started coming at us at a very rapid pace, in a mixture of English and Spanish.
How many life jackets do you have aboard (5), how many blackwater tanks (and capacity of each), (3 at 30 gals each) how many fire extinguishers do you have aboard (7)
Engine check, how many engines do you have (1) what kind of engine do you have (yanmar), what is the horsepower (75).
How long here (2 months), how long were you in Panama (too long), last three ports, (Panama, Bonaire, Puerto Rico) where to next (French Polynesia)
Do you have oil absorbing pads for fuel or oil spills? (Yes)
Have you ever been to Ecuador before? (No)
A temperature check was taken, do you feel OK. (Yes) Do you have your vaccination cards? (Yes) Do you have a medical kit? (Yes) May I see it please. All medicines were checked for their expiration date. Fortunately we had no expired drugs in the kit, I have heard that they can confiscate anything that is out of date.
All the while the questions are being fired at us we are being asked to fill out forms. Immigration forms, health forms, crew list, port captain's forms. All of this was information that had been emailed to them prior to our arrival.
Down below they checked our garbage? Is it separated for recycling? (It is now, after years of being in countries that do not recycle we were caught unaware) A picture was taken of our garbage.
Where is your meat? (We have none, being a vegetarian/ vegan boat) This elicited a double take from the officer.
Cabinets were opened briefly and closets were looked into.
Shells were spotted. Do you have any others? All shells were collected and I was a little afraid they would be confiscated, but they were not. They were photographed and quarantined, not to be opened until checking out of the Galapagos.
|The diver who inspected Rhapsody's hull|
While this was going on aboard, there was a diver in the water checking out Rhapsody's hull.
The diver gave the thumbs up, all clean. Each department gave us the ok.
And then, as quickly as it started, it was over.
You passed, you are free to move about the island. Welcome to Galapagos.