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Galapagos - Unsettling Incident

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 21, 2009 11:04 AM

Published: 2009-10-21 11:04:04
Countries: Galapagos

A quite unsettling thing happened to us the night before we arrived at Galapagos (date: 11th March 2009 @ 0100 hrs).

When we were about 60 miles off at the limit of territorial waters we were circled in the dark by a huge Ecuadorian coastguard ship who would not respond on VHF. They shone lights at us and then launched a RIB, whereupon we were boarded by 5 fully armed CG officers and told that as we had no "permit" to be in Ecuadorian waters we would have to be escorted in to a port with officers remaining on board our yacht. They took our passports and ships papers away.

We tried to explain that we did not require a permit and that we would be issued with one on arrival, but they did not agree with this. Eventually, they left one man on board and told us to follow them the 60 miles to port. They did not seem to understand that this would take some hours, and that we only travel under power at 5 knots. After we started off they called on VHF and said that they would come and pick their man up and return our papers and that we should continue to port under our own steam, and tomorrow we would face a "big" fine.

During all this they said that we could not alter course for French Polynesia and avoid Galapagos either! We considered doing this however after they left, and we must have altered course for the Marquesas about twice before we decided that we needed to stop!

No mention of this was ever referred to when we checked in the next day and we do not understand what it was all about, except that you definitely do not require a permit to enter Ecudorian waters, so we are at a loss to know what their game was, but it was very upsetting and we would not like that experience to be repeated.

We did not make any enquiries about the incident in case a fine was to be levied upon us.

The cruisers submitting this report wish to remain anonymous

Gala Yachts, Agents in the Galapagos say:
If a boat is coming in transit only to the Galapagos then as you know no permit is needed. However the recommended way is that whatever boat is coming here contact a local agent in advance and provide the boat information to be submitted in the compter system/traffic of the navy. The proper process is that once a boat is in our waters a cruising plan must appear in the navy's system ahead of time. Therefore I can only guess that maybe that Commander called the navy asking for information about that sail boat and this was not in the computer system - creating this given problem. You can come to the Galapagos definitely without informing an agent before hand, but as this case presents itself again the Ecuadorian NAVY is a very difficult institution to work with..

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