Date: 6 June 2019
Location: On a mooring, Domberg, Suriname LAT 05° 42.533 N LON 055° 04.545 W
Weather: Overcast and Humid, Upper 80’s, Winds Light with occasional Squall
We dropped the ball early morning of 23 April and aim the pointy end S by SE – destination Trinidad. My new Russian crew settles in and seems to enjoy the overnight trip. We raise Monos Island at the NW end of Trinidad just as the horizon starts to show thru the mist and haze. Venezuela is barely visible off to the W. It’s a destination that will have to wait until the political winds are a bit more stable. The Captain has the crew ease my sails as we make for the marina in Chaguaramas primed and ready for the Immigration and Customs offices to open.
The group is planning a few days lazing around the pool and enjoying a bit of sightseeing while I am stuck at the dock – coincidentally next to a boat crewed by (4) Russians. The Comrades have made friends and score an invite to an evening Bar-B-Que at the pool grill. We pick up one more crew member for the leg to Suriname, Senor Pedro arrives from Brazil looking to get in a few weeks with us.
An early departure and a short sail along the N coast brings us to Maracas Bay where we stage for the crossing to Tobago. My crew hits the beach in Sea Tigger and meets Videl and Judith, a super nice local couple working on their Beach Bar/Restaurant that’s scheduled to “officially” open early June. Judith offers to whip up a pre-opening meal – fried bread, callaloo soup, local fish and veggies. She includes Iced tea with orange peelings and native plant leaves for flavor. Vidal is building the place himself and my captain reports you can sense his excitement to get things up and running.
The sail from to Trinny to Tobago has Pedro wondering if this sailing life is for him. A NW wind against a W setting current between islands (~3kts) creates a bit of a chop on the water. Our original destination was Scarborough (Port of Entry) but Captain Brian makes a command decision to veer slightly N for Milford Bay (aka Sandy Bay) so we could arrive before dark. Turns out that’s one of his better decisions as we met Mark (from South Africa) and Sandra (from Brazil) heading N on “S/V Cielo”, a 32ft plywood hull “Junk rigged” boat. They had just arrived from Brazil so we were able to gain some first hand info on anchorages located along our future route.
In the morning, Captain and crew head inland to visit Scarborough. Although the islands of Trinidad and Tobago are “one” country, the bureaucrats have to justify their existence. Cruisers are required to slog thru the process when traveling between the islands. The evening was spent enjoying a Steel drum gig in the nearby town of Buccoo.
A quick sail around the reef to Buccoo Bay to do a little snorkeling proved to be a bit of a disappointment. The report is murky water, damaged coral and a general lack of fish. They try the NE end of bay and find it is a little better with clearer water and healthy coral growing among scattered boulders but still no critters. There was a small island off the point covered with nesting Terns.
The sail up the coast to Plymouth was enjoyable, full sails rolled out as we top 7 ½ kts finally dropping anchor in 16 feet of clear water. A look around town, afternoon at Rex Resort and watching baby leatherback turtles come out of their nests on beach make a memory. My crew ended the evening with supper on board and a rockin’ game of Mexcian Dominos with Mark and Sandra.
Englishman Bay was the next playground as a Pod of Dolphins playing at my bow escorted us northward. Captain and Treebeard helped the local fishermen pull their seine net up on the beach for a small haul of bait fish that they sell to a couple of fishing vessels anchored next to us. Crepes, snorkeling, then lunch at Eula’s beach restaurant make the day as S/V Cielo anchored next to us in the afternoon. Mark indulged the crew with his tasty secret homemade rum punch.
We went onward to Bloody Bay and wandered thru the “village”. Besides the cool name, the great snapper supper by the beach was the highlight.
Some exercise was on the agenda (The Admiral would be proud of the Captain), my crew arranged a taxi at 0500 to take them up Gilpin Mountain. It turned out to be an empty Park Ranger Station but they met a local that pointed them in the right direction where they eventually found the trail head. They report a nice hike back down thru the rain forest with hummingbirds and parakeets keeping them company. They came out at the bottom about two kilometers from me. I welcomed them back and we made the short sail to Pirates’ Bay near Charlottesville where the crew went thru the government rituals.
Headed around the NE point the next morning with a quick overnight stop in Tyrrel’s Bay for the night. The confluence of several strong currents caused by the tide and small islands made the waters swirl and twirl making for an interesting approach. The seas were flat and there was plenty of depth but it would not be the place to hop in the water for a swim. The crew celebrated their last night in the Caribbean at a local beach restaurant.
The passage south toward Guyana found us dragging a couple lures in the water and we were rewarded with a couple small tuna. Hooked a sailfish but Treebeard threw the hook after a 5 minute fight. He claims it was a monster and he’s sticking to it.
Arriving off the coast of Guyana we enter the Essequibo River after dodging literally hundreds of staked and drifting fishing nets to anchor next to Fort Island. They toured the village and the Fort before relocating to Baboon Island for the night. Sea Tigger took them exploring the area around the island but no Baboons sited.
The Captain had a challenge trying to remove the rudder pin from Zig (the port side windvane) which left spending the better part of an hour drilling, bashing and twisting it. I wonder how the Captain ever got it installed in the first place. We woke up the next morning to find a pair of Swallows set up house keeping in boom, guess it looked like a comfy place, not so great for my clean deck. We took advantage of the 4 knot current to drift up the river for about an hour before cranking up The Yamster to maneuver around some sand bars. The “bad news” is we snagged one of the drift nets and got pushed up on a mudbank. The “good news” is the tide was rising (almost 8 foot high change in depth) so we were soon floating off. The local fishermen came by and cut the net on both sides of the boat and motored off leaving us to work the remaining mess off the prop. We dropped anchor near the mining town of Bartica where the crew took a River swim and ended the day with a game of Mexican Dominos.
The crew took advantage to stock up on fruits and veggies at local market in town while waiting for the tide to motor about 5 miles up river to Baganara Island Resort. Anchored off the beach in 20ft over a sandy bottom. The Captain had heard good things about the Resort but found it deserted except for the security guard and a couple of maintenance workers, must be off season. While making water later in the evening we had to question the water maker gauge when it indicated less than 5 ppm of particulates in the water coming thru the filters. Fresh water makes for pure water.
Motored back to Bartica on high tide to fuel up and clear out. One of the few times in our travels that the customs folks decided to come on board for an inspection. We stopped off at Parika at the river entrance where Daniel and Ana (Russian crew) depart to work their way south by land. Plans are made to meet up again in the southern part of Brazil in a couple months.
On the way south while motor sailing towards Suriname, The Yamster suddenly gets real quiet. Seems the fuel filters were working overtime trapping the bits and pieces of the dead dinosaurs and The Captain messed up by not checking them as often as he should. Yamster has been running great but won’t do her thing without clean fuel to drink. A change of the fuel filters, a flip of the fuel pump switch to bleed the air and prime the fuel line and she comes back to life allowing us to continue onward.
Five dolphins play at my bow under the unfurled Yankee as we motorsail at 1700 RPM cruising at 7.5kts in a 15 knot E wind. We soon reach the Safe Water Buoy marking the entrance of Suriname River but choose to keep the sails out as we turn into the channel behind “S/V Vivente”. We raise her on VHF to advise our intentions to overtake her to Port and soon slide past her and “S/V Jillybillie”, a Dehler 38, in the channel as we approach the estuary. Sails stay up until we reach the first Channel buoy before we furl them and motor to Domburg to pick up a mooring. About an hour later, just before dark, we are joined by the two other cruisers.
Evening was spent at the Yacht Club bar and a great dinner at Indonesian restaurant opposite the club with new friends Steve & Helena (UK) on “S/V Amalia of London”, Judith & Patrick (NL) “S/V Vivente and “S/V Jillibillie” being single handed by Captain Merl (NL). Steve and Helena built and operate the website NOFOREIGNLAND, which is a site to keep track of fellow yachties and to share information about places to visit.
The trip to Paramaribo for immigration is tolerable only because we were told of an outstanding butcher shop where the freezer could be filled with some great cuts of meat. Senor Pedro walks the plank in Domberg to return to Brazil and his family. The Captain decides to spend several days here and leave me to fend for myself as he and Treebeard head inland for an adventure. They rent a car and drive to where the “paved road” ends and the “water road” begins at the small town of Adjoni on the NW shore of Lake Brokopondo. They meet local guide Alberto who takes them in his motorized dugout canoe up the Suriname River Highway deeper into the jungle to Isadou Island “Lodge” just beyond the forgotten village of Jaw Jaw. Several “lodges” and small (very small) settlements dot the shoreline and all commerce and supplies are delivered via the river. No roads and only small generator supply power a few hours each day. The kids that live in the scattered huts along the river take the “school bus canoes” to a central location near Adjoni.
There is civilization about but they definitely got the Jungle Experience. A “walk in the park” away from the lodge featured thick jungle cover, huge “skeleton” spiders in Maripa palm trees, mango-eating bats and frogs/toads, monkeys, lizards, huge butterflies, several birds and a nice Boa. Several Caymans were seen at night during an evening boat ride thru the swap using high powered flashlights. No Jaguars were spotted but my crew suspect a Jaguar or two had eyes on them.
They spent several nights in the jungle with their hammocks to get their “fix” before heading back to Domberg and the relative comfort of their berths on board.
After noticing my boom resting on the hard top, The Captain finds my Backstay and Boom Vang hydraulic system decided that it hadn’t had enough love lately. Seems the Pressure relief valve need some relief and attention. Turns out the seals in the Boom Vang Cylinder have worn out and no longer would maintain pressure required to support the weight of the Boom. Temporary repairs where made and a search for a source of replacement seals was on. They are located and ordered (from overseas of course) but a permanent fix would need to wait. The afternoon brought a nice Squall with 40kts wind gusts and a moving wall of rain. Welcome to the tropics.
We were joined by S/V Vivente as we moved upriver to Waterland Resort for a change in scenery. Nice place where we were able to take on fuel, fill the propane, water tanks and work on the generator. My crew enjoyed talking to some new folks and watched the clubs pet Sloth and her cub s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y climbing down tree. Checked out at Paramaribo on 6 June to continue our trek heading for French Guyana. Departed on the ebbing tide in a nice downpour.
Joyce & Brian Clark
S/V Pawsitive Latitude