En Route to Guyana

Day 1 Though we would be perfectly happy to remain moored in the Suriname River for another month or two, once again it's time to move on. We're heading to Guyana, the only one of South America's 13 countries that we haven't visited. We paid off the marina, then walked over to our favorite little supermarket here in Domburg yesterday afternoon and spent the last of our Suriname dollars on bread, tomatoes and yogurt. We held out SU$14 for a djogo of Parbo beer at the River Breeze to share with some cruiser friends. We ended up with 35 Suriname cents … not bad planning.

We had checked out with Immigration (Suriname Military Police) on our last visit to Paramaribo while we still had the car. Their office is closed on weekends, but the officials were perfectly happy to exit-stamp our passports on Friday for departure early Monday morning. It's been great here, but already our thoughts are concentrated on following our track down the Suriname River back to the Atlantic, sailing 185nm along the Suriname/Guyana coasts and then heading up the Essequibo River about 40nm to Bartica. The total charted route is about 260nm... about three days from anchorage to anchorage, depending on currents, winds and tides. No more oceans to cross … no more long passages for awhile.

route to guyana

We were off to a stuttering start. We planned to leave on Monday and then decided at the last minute to hang out for one more day. We manufactured all sorts of excuses, but in the end, it just came down to deciding we just felt like waiting a day. It's not like we have plane tickets … we have options for departure times and we exercise them frequently, as you well  know.

Tuesday morning had us scurrying around as if it was a surprise that we were actually leaving. We were up early enough. What started the “scurry” was hearing chirping welcome swallows, but not seeing them anywhere on the boat. Seems they had perched beside the boat on several large tree branches that were all tangled up in the mooring lines.

tree around the boat

We used the dinghy to try to remove them, but the current was still too strong. We went ashore, got rid of trash, did internet and topped up the water. When we returned an hour later, the current had subsided enough to allow us to untangle the mess. It took nearly an hour to rid ourselves of the unwanted forest and untangle the mooring lines.

untangling the tree


untangling the mooring lines

We hauled the dinghy, but of course, its time in the muddy river had left it dirty. While David tackled the dinghy cleaning, I made sandwiches, cooked chicken for dinner and made ready below. Another hour gone. By 10am, just as the tide was changing, we dropped the last mooring line and we were heading 35nm north back down the Suriname River.

under the bridge

The day was gorgeous, with a few sprinkles here and there, but nothing to complain about. We cleared the mouth of the river in 4.5 hours. The last hour wasn't pleasant with wind against current, but it was short-lived. We hoisted the main, let out the jib and had a perfect beam reach sail till almost 7pm … wind and current in our favor. Then, the wind died, the dark enveloped us and little fishing boats with only black flags identifying the end of their vast mile-long nets were in great numbers.

We opted to stop for the night, drop the hook, get some dinner and sleep and continue in the morning. We lit up Cups like a Christmas tree, set the anchor, radar and AIS alarms and tried to get some sleep. Bad idea! We were seasick almost immediately. The boat rolled and pitched, but the thought of hauling anchor was even worse. We toughed out the night, leaving us sleepless, sore and unrested by daylight … and still no wind … but the seasickness was gone.

Day 2

We downloaded Doyle's Cruising Guide to Guyana before we left. It's a work in progress and the download is  free. We've read it from cover to cover with all its associated updates. The Essequibo River has few navigational aids and the Navionics charts are known to be a bit off. The guide provides waypoints, hints and info accumulated from previous cruisers. Of course, it's a river and things change, but it's a good navigational aid when used in conjunction with caution, common sense and eyeballs. David had loaded the waypoints into the iPad and the chartplotter. We checked them twice, found one small error to correct, then concentrated on enjoying the day, which included several naps to make up for the previous night's lack of sleep.

doyles cruising guide

Jack and Jo, formerly of Mystic Adventure and longtime cruising friends, made this trip over a decade ago in 2004. Jack made  excellent notes which he published back then. Before we left Suriname, we dug them out, read them and then contacted Jack to let him know we were following in his track. Even today, very few yachts visit Guyana. It has a rough reputation and minimal infrastructure to support tourism. Jack, however, still had contact with Kit Nascimento, former advisor and PR guy for Guyana's Minister of Tourism. He and his wife Gem, are both still involved in the tourism industry and keen to have yachties visit. Jack introduced us via email, we heard from Kit within a day with an invitation to anchor off his place during our stay. We now have a solid, friendly contact in Guyana. That's how it works in the cruising community … like a charm.

Today was a rather nondescript kind of passage day. The wind remained below 8 knots and we dawdled along in the 3 knot range for the most of the day. The water is clear and green again and we're enjoying its clarity for a few days before it turns muddy brown again. We finally decided to turn on the iron jenny (engine) at 1500. At our current speed, we'd arrive at the river mouth too late and have to spend another day waiting for the tides. We puttered along at 6 knots. A late afternoon wind finally came up an hour later and, all sails full, we cruised along at 7 knots for the rest of the night on a beam reach. A buttery half moon rose. The stars were out in vast numbers. The 15-20kt wind was warm on our faces, but cool enough to be refreshing. Absolutely glorious.

We're not very far offshore...maybe 20 nm or so. Flocks of  gulls and terns fly by, following the fishing boats, which are also in great numbers.

gulls in guyana

fishing boat in guyana

We're catching up on naps, very content with being under sail again. We do, however, need to adjust our ETA a bit … more like 3-4 days.