Life on the River Maroni

Our new neighborhood is in the middle of the coffee brown Maroni River. The French call it Fleuve Maroni on this side of the river. On the other side of the river in Suriname, the Dutch call it the Marowijne and the local AmerIndians call it Marwina-Liba. It's the longest river in French Guiana and also the most populated waterway. We find life on the river quite interesting. There's constantly something going on. We like to watch the solitary fishermen in their pirogues first thing in the morning.  

life on the river maroni

Mornings are dewy and we can see the steam and will-o-the-wisps rise from the river, but it burns off quickly in the heat of the day.

steamy morning

Pirogues are basically long canoes with or without engines and the local mode of river transportation. They are in constant motion up and down the river and crossing from Saint-Laurent to Albina, Suriname, picking up and dropping off people and their cargo. They also serve as the local school buses providing transport to uniformed kids to the shore near us, who clamber out into the shallow shore waters to head to school in Saint-Laurent.

school bus in st. laurent du maroni french guiana

The other afternoon, a wedding party went by on a pirogue, with music playing and the couple's friends and family waving, throwing rice, and generally enjoying the celebration and themselves.

wedding pirogue in st. laurent du maroni french guiana

There's a sailing school ashore that frequently has kids sailing in everything from Optimists to tiny little sailing dinghies. We watch as the little ones in tethered dinghies get hauled out to the river by the motorized mother dinghy and then get turned loose for sailing. These kids are definitely better at boat handling than we are! They maneuver all around us, giggle and tack, chat and jibe, occasionally dumping the dinghies and righting themselves with amazing dexterity and alacrity.

sailing dinghies on the maroni river french guiana

There are an alarming number of wrecks on the shore, a rusting testament to the changing river and the strength and force of the current when the tide floods or ebbs. The Edith Cavell is only one of the many river casualties. Shallow draft vessels (which we are not!) can travel about 50 nm upstream, but beyond that point, there are waterfalls and rapids with which to contend. From the deck, we can easily spot four wrecks lying on the shore, obviously caught by shoals and/or current. We're told there are many deep water creeks to explore and we'll give that some thought when we feel the need to escape from the big smoke of Saint-Laurent.

edith cavell maroni river french guiana

There's no mistaking the change of the tides here. With an 8' (2.5m) tide differential, the water churns and roils as it rushes by. We bob and bounce as the water percolates around us, swirling and forming eddies. Our mooring buoy is nearly underwater at times and the noise can be almost deafening. Being in fresh water has, however, been quite a boon to us. After just a couple of days, the bottom growth we'd seen at Iles du Salut has all but vanished … the salt water critters obviously not able to survive in fresh water. Thankfully, that's one less chore to do while we're here.

The sunsets are superb... reds, oranges, pinks and purples closing out the day. As proper cruisers, we take both the sundown and our requisite sundowners quite seriously. Rum and fresh maracuja juice (passion fruit) has been the sundowner of choice lately. Care to taste one? The sun sets around 1800 … you're welcome aboard. Sorry, no ice.

sunset on maroni river french guiana