We chocked up great mileage during the night and it continued into the morning, but the wind dwindled to 8 knots by 0800. One strange occurrence at around 0500 to relate, however. David was on watch. It was still quite dark. I heard a startled yelp and woke to see David standing on the companionway ladder with the camera. “What's going on?” I asked, tangled in lee cloths and stumbling out of the bunk.
“You've gotta see this” answered David. With a flashlight, he pointed to a rather large white egret sitting on the cockpit settee, unconcerned with the bright light.
“He landed on my arm and scared the shit out of me”, explained the Captain. My thought immediately raced to Bob the Stink and the bond David developed with him. I was hoping Ed the Egret wasn't planning on a long stay.
We tried unsuccessfully to move the hitchhiker out of the cockpit with various “shoo” noises. Finally, David grabbed a bath towel, quickly and carefully wrapped it around the bird, planning to release him overboard. That long beak could really do some damage. The egret loudly squawked his discontent in no uncertain terms and wrestled out of David's grip. They tussled on the side deck for a moment before the egret gave up and flew off. He circled the boat a couple of times and we thought for sure he intended to land again, but ultimately he flew off into the night. Egrets, by the way, are usually waders and we were over 20 miles offshore. It was unusual for Ed to be so far afield.
By mid-morning, we made it to the mouth of the Essequibo, Guyana's longest river, in time to catch the tail end of the flood tide. We tried to cut a few miles off our course, but were impeded by rows and rows of fishing piles … stakes with nets between them, set out by local fishermen that seemed to go on forever along both sides of the channel. It seemed prudent to sail around them.
The water turned a familiar muddy brown and churned with the tidal motion. The low-lying, mangrove-fringed shoreline finally came into view with dark rain clouds hovering above. Rain fell all around us, but we managed to escape the downpour.
We let the tide carry us as long as it could and dropped the hook about 10 miles up river. We'll stay the night and catch tomorrow morning's flood tide to bring us the rest of the way up river (about 40 nm) to Bartica, our check-in port.