RTW September 2015

1st – 10th September

The days have rapidly slipped by and we’re updating the September page 10 days into the month!!   Preparation before a passage takes time and then on passage there is never an appropriate moment to sit down and update the diary … or there is an appropriate moment but the degree of heel and motion of the sea makes it impossibly uncomfortable to do anything other than sail the boat as efficiently as possible.

After fixing the fridge at Chaguaramas we set about a few other repairs in preparation for our passage.  James went up the mast to fix the whip antenna of our VHF radio but it was so corroded we had to replace it.   Professional help came in the form of Gary, from Power Boats, who shinned up the mast five times, sorted out the new fittings, did the necessary rewiring and hey presto we were in full working order again.    Claire did some mending – the holders for our Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) on our life jackets had worked loose and were becoming irritating so some extra Velcro was added which seems to have worked.     A few of the windows had sprung leaks so Claire worked her magic with the sealant and we seem to have solved that problem for the time being.   All deck fittings were checked and Claire replaced all the tell tales on the mainsail.   We did a little bit of provisioning (always good to add fresh fruit and veg to the stores), we refuelled and we filled all our water containers again (you can never have too much fresh water).

 

Wednesday 2nd September we had our final ‘doubles’ (the totally yummy scrummy curried chickpea melange served in a small doughy wrap which the Trinidadians eat for breakfast!) as ‘elevenses’ and ‘lunch’ knowing that we would have a good meal in the evening at the launch supper party at Sails Restaurant.    It was indeed a thoroughly enjoyable evening and gave us all a chance to get to know one another.    The participants are: Rick and Amanda on Duplicat;  Sue and Malcolm on Piano; Jo, a single hander on Della Mare  and Jean, another single hander on N’Oubliez Jamais; Mike and Amanda on Silent Annie; David and crew Adrien on Eileen of Avoca; Don on Ballerina Girl (providing he can get off work and clear it with his wife!); Alan and Anne on Freya of Clyde; Romain and crew Mathieu on Gaia and ourselves.   10 boats in total so a nice sized ‘flotilla’ rather than a great big ARC style Rally.

Thursday we did our final admin and at 2pm we all gathered at Power Boats Dock for our Team Photo and a send off from a local drumming group.   Typical Caribbean style the drummers only arrived at 2pm and their solo pan player didn’t make it until 3pm but we enjoyed the afternoon.  At 4pm we all headed back to our boats to sail past the dock for a photo call, a wave and a cheer from our fellow cruisers who had come to say farewell and then we were on our way.   We motored as far as Scotland Bay (4nm) where we dropped an anchor, had a swim and ate supper.   Then, fully prepared for our passage, we weighed anchor again and set off in the dark.   It was really hard work to sail along the top of Trinidad as we had to tack so often to keep near the coast and out of the westerly current that sweeps along the top of Trini.   It didn’t help that Claire managed to back the sails at one stage and we did a full 360 before we were back in control!!!   We did use the engine for a couple of hours just to clear the north western end of Trinidad but then it was back to sailing.

Just a few photos to break up the writing!!

Over the 4 day period, the current pushing west generally ranged from 1knot to 3 knots, the winds from 10knots to 22knots and Ocean Rainbow’s speed from 8.5knots to a very gentle 3 knots.  There was one stage when the wind died totally and the current was pushing us backwards so we put the engine on again but the majority of the time was spent sailing.    Upwind sailing can be uncomfortable and the third night at sea was certainly that – we resorted to ravioli for supper as the planned meal was far too complicated for the conditions!   A snickers bar for pudding made sure that morale was not affected!   However, we had enjoyed an amazing pan fried tuna the night before that tasted all the more delicious because James caught it!!  At last, we have managed to catch something worth eating ….. let’s hope that this is the start of James’ success with his fishing rod.

Nereid Rally to Guyana 003We’d love to say that nothing broke on the trip but that, sadly, is not the case.   The ‘fridge died again.    Unbelievable after all the effort that has been put into making it run efficiently.   We have booked an appointment with Kool Keith and will return to Trinidad at the end of this adventure to get a new compressor fitted in the hope that this will finally return our fridge to its normal reliable self.   However, all was not lost as, during one his watches, James put his engineering hat on and by morning he had a solution of sorts.  As soon as it was light, and he could see what he was doing, he got out his tools and crimping set and ‘hot-wired’ the control panel for the compressor by-passing the dodgy connection.   The fridge is running but we no longer have an automatic thermostatic control which is going to be slightly limiting in terms of leaving the boat unmanned but we think we can work around it.  Let’s hope so.

 

On Monday evening we made it to a point 12nm off the mouth of the Essequibo River and dropped an anchor.   It was too dark to continue into a river that is known for its hazards; fishing nets, barges, piles, pot buoys and sunken wrecks.   We spent the most rolly night ever.   We maintained an anchor watch but James decided to sleep on the floor of the cockpit as it would be much cooler than in our normal passage berth (the starboard stern cabin) so he bore the brunt of the ‘watch’ and was rewarded for his efforts by a pot of suntan cream winging across the doghouse and landing on his head.   Another small blemish to his otherwise perfect physiognomy!   We were awake and keen to set off on the next stage of the trip by 5am on Tuesday so we weighed anchor in the half light and sailed towards our first waypoint to the western entrance of the Essequibo.

 

Nereid Rally to Guyana 009It was an extraordinary feeling to be sailing the muddy and tidal river waters.   So like the Bristol Channel in all respects except the scenery.   The rainforest sweeps all the way down to the river banks, with its lush, lush greenery.   The occasional ultra-tall tree stands out in the landscape and is actually used as a landmark on our charts … though a couple seem to have been cut down!!   We had not expected to be able to sail very far up the river before having to use the engine but the winds were really kind to us and we managed to cover 52nm under sail.   Just before we turned on the engine we spotted Freya anchored in a little bay so we had a ‘catch up’ with them on the radio.   As we motored past them we waved and were surprised to be hailed from aloft – Alan was up the mast fixing his anchor light!!   We left them to their idyllic anchorage and headed a little further on to find our own tranquil spot.   Having dropped anchor and made sure we were secure, we tidied up Ocean Rainbow, prepared a risotto and sat back with a truly delicious rum punch.

Wednesday morning we woke to the sound of voices and found a young boy chatting with his father as they travelled up the river by boat on the trip to school.    We had a leisurely start to the day just admiring the rainforest and enjoying a cooked breakfast.  Then we spied Freya making her way up the river so we sorted ourselves out and got ready to make the last bit of the trip up to Bartica in company.   It was only 7nm but with the tide against us and the wiggly route we had to take to avoid the shoals (at one point we had no water below the keel!), it took us 2 hours to cover the distance.   We dropped the anchor opposite some brightly coloured houses and set about sorting out Ocean Rainbow for a time at anchor.   This involves putting on hatch covers, covering the sails, putting up sun awnings, covering Humphrey and the windlass, bringing up Puddle from storage in the wet locker,  pumping her up, launching her and putting on Tommy the engine – finally we had something to eat for lunch ….  the temperature in the sun on the foredeck was 50˚ – we drank gallons and wondered if we were going to survive the heat!

 

Fast Ferry to Parika

Fast Ferry to Parika

We went ashore at the same time as Freya so we could catch up on each other’s news from the trip and it was nice to go through the immigration and customs formalities together.  The landing of the dinghies was interesting – we had to lift them onto a ramp and carry them up above the high tide mark which involved ducking under a heavy metal chain as well as avoiding a whole pile of detritus deposited on the ramp by the last high tide.  Then we had to negotiate a cement wall and a gang plank and climb through a hole in wire netting to get to the main road.  Probably the most unusual route we have taken to enter a country.  Immigration and Customs were very helpful and friendly but it was a slow process with everything in triplicate using carbon paper, still all part of the experience.   As was the experience of being given Guyana $100 by the Immigration official to pop across the road to get two photocopies of our ship’s paper done and return to him with the copies and the change!   We managed to get some local money ourselves but with an exchange rate of $300 to the £1 it isn’t easy maths for us old timers!!     We only had a quick look around the town before returning to Ocean Rainbow.

 

Honey and Meths?

Honey and Meths?

Thursday 10th September – a week since we left Trinidad.   We went ashore and tried to find a better place to leave the dinghy than the ramp by the ferry terminal but the tide was high, the dock at Kool Breeze was busy and every alternative place where the locals indicated we could stop looked so dodgy for Puddle (not to mention us!!) that we returned to the ramp!   We had a good meander around the market and bought some wonderful looking limes, oranges, bananas, tomatoes and garlic.   We then stocked up at the supermarket with our new found zingy lemon drink – Tang, checked out some prices (James uses UHT milk as his yardstick), visited the ironmongers for some glue (surprised to have to run the gauntlet of an armed guard), loaded up with Guyanan dollars, bought a tiny bottle of the local rum to try and headed back to Puddle and another exciting launch exercise off the end of the ramp, into the muddy brown tidal waters, helped by a very kind local man.   We ferry glided back to Ocean Rainbow very grateful that Tommy was working well and we weren’t having to row!

11th – 14th September

We weighed anchor on Thursday and made our way down river, in convoy behind David in Eileen of Avoca, to Hurakabra in readiness for the Nereid Rally’s official welcome to Guyana.   It is always an interesting exercise to sail – or in this case, motor – when your chart plotter shows you going over land!   The shoals around Bartica can be treacherous and the route from Bartica to Hurakabra has plenty of shoals, sand banks and areas that dry out at low tide.  With a tidal range of 12ft (not really that big for hardened sailors from the Bristol Channel!) you can come seriously unstuck if you aren’t careful.   On our route up to Bartica from Shanklands we found ourselves with nothing under the keel on two occasions but for this trip we never went below 50cm so nothing to worry about!

Official welcome 054

Girl power - our first night at Hurakabra

Girl power – our first night at Hurakabra

Hurakabra is a resort run by the Kit (ex Guyanese Government Minister) and Gem Nascimento who have been valiantly trying, for a number of years, to encourage the yachting community to come to Guyana.   Our welcome party on Friday was over lunchtime.    Once Cathy Hughes, the Minister for Tourism, arrived with her entourage the party got going.  We had speeches from the Area representative from Region 7 (the Region we were in), Bertrand, speaking on behalf of the delegation from French Guiana, Kit, Gem, David and Cathy with a word of thanks on our behalf given by Rick from Duplicat.   Then we had lunch, prepared by Gem’s staff, courtesy of the Guyanese Government.   A chance to taste Guyanese cuisine; curried chicken, salt fish bakes with a fiery pepper sauce, cassava rice, pepper pot stew, beef stew, plaintain rolls, all very similar to the food we’d eaten in Trinidad and equally tasty.   Then we had a fruit platter and some amazing blancmange type pudding which is a Guyanian traditional dish, not a bit like the stuff we used to have at school, it was absolutely delicious.   The day ran into the evening and James found that his skills playing boules had not diminished, much to the chagrin of the delegation from French Guiana, as James won!  They are planning their revenge when we arrive in St. Laurent in a few weeks’ time!   After sundowners we repaired to Ocean Rainbow and were joined by Piano where we shared a ‘thrown together pasta’ supper.   All in all a great day.

With time very short in each of the countries there was no time for a ‘rest’ day!   Saturday was our adventure on the Mazaruni River.   Bal (short for Balkarran and the rest of his name too complicated for us all to remember) arrived at 9.30am with his steel hulled water taxi and by 10.15 we were all on board, life jackets were issued and then it was off for a great day on the river.   Bal was a truly excellent guide, full of information, lovely dry sense of humour and great driving skills!   We now know all about the army training grounds (open to foreign armies too); the Three Sister islands (named after three sisters who were ship wrecked and washed on shore, one to each island); Bal’s own guest house business – Delta 2 – in a prime location in Bartica; Eddie Grant’s (pop star) house; Joyce’s house – famous Guyanese jazz singer; Kaow island where there is a turbine run sawmill (formerly there was a leper colony on the island) and Calf island (the graveyard, which locals don’t visit as it is haunted); past the State Penitentiary for men – run so well that prisoners on release commit crimes in order to get back inside; on up the river to the quarries where granite is mined and stone crushed, past dredgers sifting the sands for  gold; to Kyk-Over-Al.   All the time we are being given facts, figures, names and information.  Bartica means Red Earth, the Dutch and British tussled over possession, the Dutch traded in salt which was used for preserving fish, bricks were imported as ballast on the ships and cotton, hemp and tobacco were exported.

 

Kyk-Over-Al is the smallest fort built by the Dutch in 1616, first as home to the Dutch West India Company and then from 1657 to 1739 as the seat of Dutch administration at which stage the island was overcrowded and everything was moved to Fort Island.   In 1748 the Fort was demolished and all the bricks used to construct a sugarmill.   In 1999 it was declared a National Monument by the Guyanese Government.

The next part of the trip was an exciting little ride to the Marshall Falls.   Bal stopped the boat, checked we were all wearing our lifejackets, donned one himself, passed another to his crew and then with a word of warning that we would be travelling at speed he set off up the river at great speed, crashing through the overfalls, turning sharply left and right as he made his way through the rocks.   It was great fun, perhaps not quite as exhilarating as the Zambezi, but it’s a trip we would recommend to anyone visiting this part of the world.

At the end of the rapids we were taken to a sheltered little inlet where Bal ‘parked’ his boat and we all clambered out and set off up a little trail to the Marshall Falls.   Bal stopped at different places along the route to tell us about the plants and trees.  He identified birds and butterflies and warned us about poisonous plants ….. all names except the greenheart tree seem to escape our memory but we do know that if we touch a leaf and our hands smell of human excrement then we need to wash really, really well as the plant is deadly!!

The Marshall Falls are not the biggest we have ever seen, nor the pool the largest but the massage we received is the best!   The force of the water removed your swimmers as well as all the knots in your neck and back!!   Bal, our trusty guide, got in amongst us and helped everyone negotiate the slippery rocks.  He then proceeded to the ‘busiest’ part of the waterfall and stood underneath the waters for what must have been an exceedingly painful massage!    After we had all turned to wrinkled prunes we made our way back down the trail to the boat where we were given a really yummy pack lunch – the best macaroni pie we’ve yet had, plus some spicy chicken and some salad.  Then it was back down the river, through the rapids, past all the quarries to Bartica and home to our yachts at Hurakabra.    A great outing and we were back before the thunderstorm!   James had volunteered to show David (our trusty Nereid’s Rally leader) how to clean the carburettor on his Tohatsu outboard engine so we went ashore and James found himself in the unusual position of being teacher rather than pupil.   It was a great success and by the end of the operation the rain had passed on and we were able to get back to the boat for a quick turnaround before going back for the BBQ at Hurakabra with each boat bringing a side dish.    What a lovely evening.

Sunday morning was a slow start but then Rick from Duplicat came across to have a look at the thermostat on our fridge.    He agreed with James that the problem was not going to be easily solved but he did offer his spare thermostat which, once attached, meant that we no longer had to keep jiggling wires off and on the compressor – we can now control things with a switch.    Hooray!    For lunch we went ashore and enjoyed a chicken roti, before going back to Ocean Rainbow for a bit of a snooze before returning for Hurakabra’s first ever film night.   David (Eileen of Avoca, a 23ft Yarmouth) carries a projector, sound system and screen with him on the boat!  Where does he put his sails, food, spares let alone himself – at 6’ 4”?  It’s a mystery to us all!!   Anyway, with the help of a big white sheet pinned to a wall, we were all able to watch ‘Papillon’ in anticipation of our arrival in French Guiana next week.

Georgetown 004On Monday we weighed anchor and headed up to Bartica for a refuelling exercise.   All in all, a great success with 5 men man handling the jerry cans.  We filled our tank to the brim (30 ltrs) so now we are prepared for all eventualities.  Our water tanks are also virtually full thanks to our rain water harvesting during the thunderstorms!!   Jean, from N’Oubliez Jamais, joined us for supper which was fun – although our early night was a little later than anticipated!!!   Tuesday morning we went on another Nereid Rally outing, this time to Georgetown.   We were ferried to the ‘Stelling’ by Alan (Freya) so that we didn’t need to leave our dinghy on the dock all day and there we caught a water taxi to Parika.   Each taxi takes 28 people and they don’t go until they’re full.  We waited an hour and a half in the sauna-like conditions!!  During the delay we ‘people watched’, chatted and warned the minibus the other end that we would be late.   The river trip takes an hour and we thought it was non-stop but we made a couple of landings along the way – not ideal places to get on and off a boat but the locals don’t seem to worry about it.  The landing at the Stelling in Parika took a bit of skill too.  Just glad it wasn’t raining and slippery!

 

We were met by Mandy and Bing and were taken off in the minibus for a great day.   We stopped for egg balls (a boiled egg covered in mashed potato then a layer of breadcrumbs and fried) which we ate with a pepper sauce and then proceeded along the main road to Georgetown passing sea defences, colourful houses (pink and white is this year’s colour) Hindhu temples, Mosques, Churches, sugar mills and schools along the way.   Horse drawn carts are numerous, the road was busy and, at times, there appeared to be four lanes on what was designated as a two lane road.   The little towns were bustling with colourful stalls all selling the same things – mosquito nets, back packs, slinky tiny dresses, snacks and fruit.   We crossed the Demerara River by means of a floating pontoon.   There is a ferry that crosses from Vrede en Hoop but the bridge is much more fun.  Built in 1978, 1.25miles long, with 61 spans it was meant to last 5 years but is still going strong ….. just goes to show what the Royal Engineers can do!

 

Once in Georgetown we had a tour of the city in the comfort of the minibus.   We hopped in and out to take photos and walk around but because our water taxis was so late leaving Bartica we didn’t have enough time to walk around the Stabroek market (1881) – another time perhaps – but we did see the City Hall (wooden, built 1889), St George’s Cathedral (tallest wooden structure in the world at 132ft and built in 1811), The High Court, Prime Minister’s Residence, Catholic Cathedral, Queen Victoria Monument (1894), President Burnham’s mausoleum (!), Cuffy’s Statue – known as the 1763 Monument and representing the courage of the Guyanese fighting for freedom.   We even managed to wangle entry to the Lighthouse (1817) and climbed the 183 steps to the top where we had magnificent views to the mouth of the Essequibo – we’ve promised to give the lighthouse keepers a call when we depart Guyanese waters at the weekend.

Finally, with time ticking along we had to head back towards Parika and our water taxi to Bartica.     Water taxis are not allowed to run at night so the last ferry back leaves at 5pm… we didn’t wish to be stranded in Parika!   We stopped off just before the Demerara Harbour Bridge to buy some lunch (a bit late at 3pm!!) but delicious – a pinwheel (savoury pastry with mince, cinnamon, onions), vegetable roti and a cassava pudding (millions of calories in a very small square!!).   Once in Parika we said farewell to Mandy and Bing, browsed the fruit stalls and bought some provisions and then it was back to the Stelling and a short wait in the water taxi (30 minutes this time) before we headed home.   This time the taxi stopped mid-river to swap drivers – had to be seen to be believed – and we also made 3 other stops along the way to drop off passengers.   Life on the Essequibo River would grind to a halt if it weren’t for the water taxis.   We had a great day – this is an amazing experience.

Wednesday 16th September – ‘K’ Day

005The long awaited trip to Kaiteur – the Kai Falls (Kai is the old Amerinidian chief who canoed over the Falls to stop a tribal war that threatened to wipe the tribes on both sides of the Paramoto River).  As the falls are also known as the Kaiteur Falls, this is a double whammy as Teur means Falls so the correct name is either Kaiteur or the Kai Falls!   So, history lesson over, the actual trip was one of the most memorable we have ever had.   We left Ocean Rainbow in Bartica at anchor and made our way ashore in Puddle.  We dragged her up the ramp at the Stelling (ferry terminal) out of the high tide, locked her up and then clambered into a normal saloon car – all 5 of us (Us, Mikey & Amanda (Silent Annie) and Adrian from Eileen of Avoca).  Not exactly a comfy ride in the back seat and when we saw the roads we had a bit of a re-shuffle to make sure Amanada and Mikey didn’t end up crippled before they’d even started the plane journey.   It is only 5 miles to the airstrip but the road has been washed away and the cars and 4 x 4’s have made the route a bit of a bumpy one!   We arrived at the airstrip and took shelter in the ‘Arrivals/Departure Lounge’ – we jest, have a look at the photo!

Our plane duly arrived and we all sorted ourselves out with one member of each ‘family’ sitting with a good window position for the photos.   We flew across miles of rain forest, up the Essequibo River then the Potaro River, with magic view of the Potaro mountains below.   We were able to clearly see rivers tainted with the slush from gold mining as well as rivers still a deep brown colour and not affected by the mining and quarrying.   The scars left by the old quarries are gradually being covered by the rain forest but you can clearly see the delineation between ancient and new.   The gold mining pans are various lurid shades of green, covered by algae we were assured and not coloured as a result of mercury.  The mercury treatment process is conducted off-site and in a controlled environment.

 

We landed on a grass airstrip at Kaiteur and were met by Max, our guide for the two hour visit.   The Falls had been opened specially for us after the tragic suicide of a beautiful young woman a week earlier.   The body had only been recovered on Tuesday (i.e. day before our visit) and the staff were all rather subdued as a result.   However, Max did a great job showing us all manner of plants, trees, birds (we saw the amazing bright orange Cock of the Rock), butterflies (no Blue Morpho here but we did see one at Hurakabra,) telling us about the formation of the Falls and showing us one of the Golden Frogs that live in the Giant Tank Bromelaid – James also found one but our photo is ridiculously small so you’ll just have to imagine the frog!   We visited the 3 viewing sights, Boy Scout View Point, Rainbow Point (and sure enough there was a rainbow) and the final viewing point at the top of the Falls.  James’ vertigo was a problem – hence the photo with Claire nearest the edge – but he did enjoy the visit.    As you will see …. he was much more relaxed a little higher up the river where we found tadpoles and a river that gave no indication of the 741ft drop.

A truly magical trip which will remain vivid in our memories for years to come.

Then it was back in the plane for the flight to Iwokrama where we left Duplicat and Piano who were doing a two day trip into the jungle while we returned to Bartica.   On the return trip Claire was allowed to sit in the co-pilot’s seat … fab experience and there’s a great video of the plane taking off from the grass strip and landing at the other end which we hope to load onto YouTube and link into the website but not from Guyana as internet is too, too slow!!

Kaiteur 075

Our happy little group safe back in Bartica

The end of a perfect day

The end of a perfect day

Our illustrious Rally Organiser - David on Eileen of Avoca

Our illustrious Rally Organiser – David on Eileen of Avoca

We were then met by Mr Joel Barnet who squashed us into his car for the return trip along the rough track to Bartica.   While he drove, Mr Barnet told us all about gold mining and his time as a diver for the gold dredgers.  What a hazardous way to earn your living – payment was only received when gold was found, otherwise a diver risked life and limb diving deep in the river and pressure blasting down into the sand searching for the gravel in which the gold lies.  With visibility only a foot in front of your face, never knowing what boulders or trees you might dislodge with the water from the pressure hose, we’re not sure we would ever have had the courage to do the job.    We got back to Ocean Rainbow at 5pm and then, with the tide in flood, we decided to head up to Baganara Resort for a bit of RnR …. and internet!!  We were joined by Eileen of Avoca and had a lovely supper on Ocean Rainbow – well, the conversation was lovely … not sure making risotto for an Italian was quite the right dish to impress but there were no left overs so it couldn’t have been too bad!

17th – 18th September

Lack of internet has slowed down the diary entries on the website and there’s also been a distinct lack of time to write but, for anyone interested, here’s what happened:

We enjoyed our short stay at Baganara.  It’s a more ‘swept up’ resort than Hurakabra with a long sandy beach, immaculate grounds, cheerful staff and very comfy chairs, sofas and hammocks.   Mick Jagger had stayed at some stage as had Eddie Grant so we added our names to the Guest Book!   We treated ourselves to a fish ‘n chip (or chicken n‘ chip for James) supper ashore with Freya (Anne and Alan) and N’Oubliez Jamais (Jean) on Thursday night and enjoyed the lovely surroundings.  Early doors on Friday we headed back down stream on the tide to Bartica to collect last minute fresh fruit and veg and then at high tide we set off back to Hurakabra for a final night ashore in Guyana.   David provided delicious chickenburgers for another film night when we watched two episodes of ‘Land of the Jaguar’.  What a fantastic documentary about Guyana, portraying all that we had seen for ourselves – and a little bit more!   Guyana truly is an unspoilt country and it has been tremendous to have been able to visit.  Well worth the ‘uphill’ sailing!

19th – 25th September :  Into the Atlantic Ocean again

Saturday morning arrived and our ever cheerful leader, David, was heroic yet again and took our passports and papers back to Bartica to Immigration and checked us all out.   The joys of being on a Rally and not trying to do everything for oneself!   We, in the meantime, had a leisurely start to the day getting Ocean Rainbow ready for another Atlantic Ocean passage.  We all set off in convoy at 10am across the shoals towards Ruid-en-Ruist, some 31nm down river on the eastern side of the Essequibo River.   We had plenty of wind to sail and, indeed, for an hour we did sail until sense prevailed.  The channel was so narrow that we were tacking every 10 to 15 minutes and, at that rate, we would have been totally exhausted before we’d even started the long sea passage to French Guiana!   Even the youngsters on Gaia resorted to motor sailing … we felt vindicated!   We spent the night at Ruid-en-Ruist and then at 0800h we weighed anchor and our passage proper began.    It was a mixture of motor sailing and sailing until we reached the last of our two waypoints when we had a little more space and could safely sail around the numerous fishing nets and piles that litter this particular part of the river.   Once out of the river we headed east to deeper waters clear of all the sand banks and fishing boats.

 

On passage 007Ocean Rainbow did us proud again.   She sails so well with a full set of sails and once again we were able make 30˚ (or less) for virtually the whole passage.  There were times when the wind swung between 15 and 25 knots which rather confused Humphrey Hydrovane and made the ‘watch’ a bit of a trial as there had to be human intervention but otherwise, Humphrey took the strain and definitely wins ‘Best Crew’ for the trip.    At night we had to be extra vigilant as the fishing boats were everywhere, some with huge trawling nets and others with a single net could stretch for at least a mile on the ‘down current’ side of the boat.   Really difficult to spot the flags indicating the “other” end of the net in daytime let alone night!   We have to confess that as we were entering the Maroni River we did cross two nets – luckily we didn’t get ourselves ensnared, but we had some very nervous moments.    The fishermen in their boats did nothing to alert us to their nets either, which we thought was strange.   If it had been us, we’d have been jumping up and down and shouting warnings.   As it was, on the fourth morning, we were nearly mown down by a trawler that seemed determined to hit us.  We were definitely going to pass behind him when he started to alter course towards us and the more we changed our course the more he changed his.   In the end we resorted to the good old fog horn and, after some frantic tooting from James, the trawler took avoiding action.

 

We took exactly 5 days to get from Ruid en Ruist to Yalimopo having weighed anchor on the 20th at 0815 and started the anchoring process in Yalimopo at 0820 on 25th!   We sailed 467nm in winds that blew from 14 knots to 28 knots against a current that flowed at around 2 knots so our average speed was 3.9 knots which, in our opinion, is not bad going for a 40’ Warrior!   The total trip from Hurakabra to Yalimopo was 503nm.  In many ways, this Rally is not for ‘cruising sailors’ who only like to sail in favourable currents, tides and winds (preferably downwind).   However, it is just right for anyone who wants a bit of an adventure, some exhilarating and challenging sailing and the opportunity to see places not yet on the ‘beaten track’.

 

Our official welcome from the Amerindian community of Yalimopo was at 3pm so we had plenty of time to sort ourselves out, clean up Ocean Rainbow, pump up and launch Puddle, eat a hearty brunch and catch up on our sleep.   Then it was time to go ashore.   Not the easiest of things to do as we had wind over tide and the waves had really built up causing a big swell.    As it turned out, we managed to get ashore without getting our clothes wet which is more than can be said for the other boats!   All credit to James’ masterful handling of Puddle, ably assisted by Tommy Tohatsu.   We were greeted by Msr Robinet, the Government Official in charge of tourism for the area, and led to the village recreation area where he had prepared a lovely selection of food for us.   After the formal welcome speeches, we all tucked in to the food, chatted to the locals and generally caught up with each other.   It was decided that the musical part of the welcome would be postponed until Sunday so that Gaia, Della Myra and Silent Annie would have a chance to arrive.   Freya had to turn back to Trinidad as their autopilot just wasn’t working and the trip was just too long to hand steer.  Duplicat & Piano had arrived the day before us, N’Oubliez Jamais and Eileen the evening before, but all having motor sailed extensively.   After a wander around the village we returned to Ocean Rainbow for an early night.

26th – 30th September

Saturday was a day off – Phew!!!   Other than welcoming Gaia to the river after their 6 day passage, we had a wonderful leisurely day doing just a few mending jobs, but we then rounded off the day with supper on N’Oubliez Jamais.   Jean has the lucky touch and seems to be able to catch fish wherever she goes!   We enjoyed a yummy Spanish mackerel – cooked to perfection – with various offerings from Ocean Rainbow plus the odd rum punch and a very, very nice bottle of French wine which we’d found in our ‘cave’.    It was a great evening.   The short dinghy ride back to Ocean Rainbow was not without its challenge though.   The river was in full ebb so we had a 4knot current pushing us out to sea.  Before Tommy had really got a grip on things we were already past the stern of Ocean Rainbow so he had his work cut out to drive us home!   The river current is quite something!!

 

On Sunday, just before we were all due at Yalimapo village for the musical entertainment, Silent Annie came into view after her 7 day passage.  They’d made it just in time to come ashore with us all.  Great to see them.   The Chandlers (Paul and Rachel) on Lynn Rival had also arrived, but independently from Brazil, so they were invited to join our merry little band.   It was lovely to meet them and we actually joined them for a sundowner after the afternoon’s entertainment and were able to see Lynn Rival and hear about her refurbishment as well as a few stories about their time in captivity with the Somali pirates.      The afternoon was fun with a lovely meal of BBQ chicken and couscous while listening to the Amerindian group drumming and singing.  The music is very rhythmical and the dancing is hypnotic – luckily we didn’t dance long enough to end up in a trance!

On Monday we were supposed to be going on a shopping trip but at the last moment David put out a call for a French speaker to accompany him to Cayenne for a TV interview about the Nereid’s Rally.   It seemed like a great opportunity to see a bit of the countryside as well as ‘getting on the Tele’ so Claire joined Jean (N’Oubliez Jamais) and accompanied David to the studios.   James stayed to do a few boat chores while the rest of the gang went off to the local supermarket to see what was on offer.   The TV trip was great fun, with much laughter and merriment, none more so than when we arrived at the studios to find that it was just David for the makeup department and Claire and Jean were the ‘groupies’!    A great trip though as we drove down the west coast of the country through acres of unexploited rain forests before we reached areas that had been cleared and cultivated.   We stopped at Iracoubo and had a look in St Joseph’s Church which was exquisitely painted by Pierre Huget in 1890.   An extraordinary building in the midst of the Amerindian community – a bit of Google research is needed here to find out a bit more of the history.   As we got nearer Cayenne (French Guiana’s capital) so the French influence became more apparent and we started to forget we were in the amazon basin and could almost imagine ourselves in mainland France.

 

On the way home we had a chance to shop at a ginormous Carrefour – so many things we didn’t know where to start!  Our selection was actually very limited as we had to get the stuff to the boats at the other end so that put a stop to a massive splurge.   When we got back to the dinghies that was another story!   David’s dinghy was filled with water and sand.  The high tide that comes with a full moon (we had an eclipse too!) had swamped the dinghy and it took us 20 minutes to dig it out.   David’s engine – ‘Toto’ – had also been submerged.  Not good as Toto was already playing up having been accidentally dropped in the ocean in Trinidad!    Jean had given me a lift ashore in her dinghy (Ivana – I vanna get to de beach!) so we waited to make sure Toto would take David all the way back to his boat.  All seemed well so we made our way against the current (running at 4knots against us!) back to our respective boats.   Then there was the crackle of the VHF radio and David announcing that he was adrift in the river.  Toto had conked out again.   Luckily he managed to steer his dinghy to N’Oubliez Jamais so we didn’t need to mount a rescue in the river.   He then waited for slack tide before returning to ‘Eileen of Avoca’.   Toto is proving to be a most unreliable crew member – he makes YamaHaHa look like an angel and we almost wonder why we invested in Tommy!

Tuesday morning we all went to the local museum in Mana and had a look at bows and arrows, walking sticks, paddles and all manner of artefacts.   We also saw a film about how the local pottery was made.   Painstaking work, all done by hand with the materials gathered from the surrounding forest and fired in oil drum kilns.   Fascinating.   We then wandered around the town which was clean, quiet and very simple.   The church was locked so we could only peak inside through the shutters but it looked very simple, not in the least bit like the one at Iracoubo.  Then we made our great discovery.   While some in the group went for a ‘proper’ French lunch at Le Buffalo we decided we would rather have something light so went in search of an alternative establishment and found a total gem.  Le Manoa del Dorado is a ‘pub’ on the river front with the most amusing proprietor ever.  Silvain used to be a chef in the Connaught Hotel in London until he returned home to open his own restaurant and, as a result he spoke wonderful English.   When we entered the pub there was no sign of food so we asked if we could have some chips (well, James did!!).  After a bit of a discussion Silvain realised we were in search of lunch and offered us a salad which appeared in double quick time and was the most beautiful creation.   A shame to eat it really but it was delicious and was just what we needed to accompany the local beer.    We were really sorry that we couldn’t stay all afternoon to hear Silvain’s tales but we had agreed to meet the others at 1.30 for the drive back and we couldn’t keep our bus driver waiting.  So, it was back to the boats to recover after yet another Nereid’s Rally excursion.