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Galapagos Visits 2014: Reports from Cruisers

By Sue Richards last modified Apr 16, 2014 12:06 PM
Contributors: SY Baraka, SY Adina

Published: 2014-03-20 00:00:00
Countries: Galapagos

Posted 20 March, 2014 - Port of Entry Wreck Bay, San Cristobal
Tom Partridge - SY Adina

Following our recent trip to the Galapagos Islands we thought we’d share some information on arriving in San Cristobal, especially in light of the new hull inspection implemented by the Galapagos National Park Officials.

Key points:

You will need an agent to enter the Galapagos and obtain a permit, be it for a one port stop or a so-called 'Autographo' for multiple island stops. A one port stop allows you twenty days while an Autographo is for 30 or 60 days. The port authorities in Isabella are  currently only allowing boats with an autographo to stop there – check with your agent as the situation is fluid.

(Editor's Note: Agent J.C de Soto in Isabella has confirmed that following a misunderstanding when the new Port Captain started, boats without an Autographo can continue to clear in at Isabella with the destination on their zarpe somewhere other than Isabella - see noonsite formalities for Galapagos for more information.)

Agent fees vary so shop around and we advise organising your agent well in advance of arrival – the agents typically prefer 6-8 weeks notice for an Autographo as these come from Ecuador. Current agent fees (March 2014) are $150 for a one-stop permit and $450-$650 for an autographo. In San Cristobal, Bolivar Pesantes (Bolivar.pesantes@hotmail.com, Ph: (593) 094 205 158) is considered the most cruiser friendly agent but his English is limited. For an Autographo he charges $448. Ricardo Arenas (info@arenas.bz) is more expensive quoting $650 for an Autographo but he does speak some English. Note these are fees for their services over-and-above other fees charged by the authorities.

It is a good idea to mail or phone your agent en-route to advise when you will arrive so you get booked in their schedule and avoid sitting around waiting until they are free once you do arrive. We did and our agent was on hand for our arrival.

Authority fees: We were charged the following fees by the authorities: service and reception on arrival $224 (this is a Harbour Master fee and based on your gross tonnage so around $12 per tonne), quarantine inspection $100, Immigration $31 per vessel, National Park Fees $100 per person, Governing Council fee $10 per person, photocopies and transport for authorities $30, garbage disposal $30 (we noticed that the garbage we had carefully separated into three different bags, as required by the authorities, was just dumped in one lot on the fishing pier!), hull inspection $25.

Officials: You will be boarded by a number of officials either all at once or at different times, and usually on the same day as each other but sometimes not. Your agent will guide you through this. These will include Galapagos National Park officials, an official from the Ministry of Environment and an official from the Harbour Master. Expect anything from 6-10 officials in total!

The Ministry of Environment official is interested in fumigation and sanitation. He will want to see a fumigation certificate and a sanitation certificate. The fumigation certificate is best obtained from your port of departure. If coming from Panama speak to your Panama Canal agent or if not using an agent speak to Tito (titongservice@hotmail.com, Ph:(507) 444 0600). A sanitation certificate can be self-certified. Make your own including details of your holding tanks then sign, date it and ideally boat stamp it – see ours at www.adina.co.uk/sailingnotes.

The Harbour Master official will ask details about your boat, focusing mainly on safety – first aid kit, liferaft, flares, life jackets. He will want to know your last port and next port and will want the boat’s Zarpe (exit papers) from your last port.

The National Park Officials will come as a group of 4-6 people. They will examine your boat in some detail and you should expect everything to be opened up, inspected and photographed. And we mean everything – they went through cupboards, drawers, bilges, showers and the engine compartment. While this sounds invasive, our experience was that it was all done in a friendly manner. Any non-permitted foods will be removed. Details on what is/isn’t permitted can be found here www.discovergalapagos.com/sicgal_products_list%20january%2020091.pdf. They may ask you if you have a waste management system. Ideally have one in place – for example have three separate bags for recycleable, organic and non-recyclable items to align with the facilities for waste in the Galapagos. There is a good article all about this on http://www.noonsite.com/Members/sue/R2012-05-18-1. Our agent also gave us a sign to put up saying (in Spanish and English) “do not throw garbage in the sea”. Expect several questions to be asked about your boat maintenance. We had a boat maintenance log of when we had done oil changes etc. for both the engine and generator and this helped a lot - we talked the official through it and he was satisfied. They clearly don’t want oil changes being carried out in the Galapagos Islands so do them before arriving!

The hull inspection is the one thing most cruisers are concerned about at the moment. Your inspection could simply be a look from the surface, a snorkel of your hull or an actual dive with tanks – it seems to be luck of the draw. We did a self-certification including details of our antifoul and cleaning record - see ours at www.adina.co.uk/sailingnotes. It is highly advisable to check/clean your hull before departing for the Galapagos. We did and then also stopped the boat 50 miles offshore and jumped in for a final clean. We took a video and some pictures and these were accepted by the officials. You will be sent 40 odd miles offshore for cleaning at your own expense if your hull is not deemed clean!

Overall we recommend having your boat in good order, thoroughly cleaned and being well prepared for the areas you know the officials are interested in (eg. fumigation, engine maintenance, hull cleanliness). Our experience was a good one but we did take the time and effort to prepare thoroughly. As highlighted, we found the officials to be friendly.

Finally, your agent will manage your immigration and get your passport stamps. Your agent should also take care of fuel needs, garbage, water etc.

We hope this is of use – the Galapagos islands are worth the effort!

Tom Partridge - www.yachtadina.co.uk

P.S: People still push to try and get in for 72 hours. My girlfriend had to help out a French couple who were looking for fuel playing intermediate between them, JC and the port captain. They were sent away. JC thinks the autographo will be the only way in next year. Problem is sailors keep trying short-cuts and it's not helping.


Posted 22 February, 2014 - Port of Entry Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela

The following information comes from J C DeSoto, the very helpful agent who facilitated our landfall here at Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela, Galapagos, as of February, 2014.

JC advises that boats leaving Panama for the Galapagos must either get an autographo and enter at Cristobal, or select one island for a single island stop, in which case they may be allowed to stay up to 20 days. He gives an example of one yacht that made landfall at Baltra (where larger yachts can
take on fuel) only to discover Baltra was their single allowed stop.

JC also recommends that yachts obtain a zarpe from Panama with a destination of the Marquesas (or wherever is next after Galapagos), as this allows the Port Captain to grant up to 20 days on a "detour" stopover. The Port Captain here at Isabela interprets the zarpe destination as the final destination,
which shouldn't be Galapagos.

JC recommends that yachts not declare they are stopping for repair, i.e. "a forced arrival". If so, they are granted only the time necessary to make the repair, and may not do any touring. The Port Captain requires proof that the repair is necessary, and knows how such things can be faked. If the yacht stays longer than the allowed time for repair, they must pay all the usual fees.

Our experience:

We arrived directly to Isabela as planned, but with a burned up HF radio.

Baraka, a 15 ton Slocum 43' monohull, received the 20 day permission to stay, which cost about $700.

This included JC's fee, the park fees, port captain fees, and miscellaneous smaller fees including $5 pp to use the dock.

Parts shipped from outside Ecuador are delayed in Guayaquil Customs, which also assesses heavy duties (duty up to 80% we were told).

JC says we will not be forced to leave at 20 days if our radio has not arrived.

Dave & Jan - SY Baraka

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