The Nereid’s Rally 2014 English Review

So the Swiss gave the rally and its organisers the thumbs up. Not even mentioning that they had had a small run-in with a drifting sand barge in Paramaribo at 3am in the morning!

Not everyone was so forgiving, but the crew of Quicksilver did a fine job of putting things in perspective:

Here is what they had to say (or link to their blog here):

On the 4th September we left Scotland Bay Trinidad, a day later than the rest of the boats due to some last minute work we needed to do and began the journey To Guyana, sailing against the current and wind.  Four boats had left Tobago on the 2nd, two from Trinidad on the 3rd with another three possibly four to follow.This is the second Nereid’s rally to leave Trinidad and Tobago for the rivers of  Guyana and French Guyana and for the first time the rally has been invited by the tourist company Mets Travel & Tours to visit Surname. This is not an “all in line and follow me rally” as long as members make it to the arranged welcome events all is flexible.  David the organiser held seminars prior to departure and was always available to assist with queries.  The aim of the rally is to encourage sailors to travel South during the hurricane season and see what the Guyana’s have to offer and will have to offer with the construction of boat facilities on the Essequibo and a marina at Saint Laurent du Maroni.  This is not a blue water cruising rally, this is against the currents and into the tidal, murky waters of the three rivers, Essequibo, Suriname and finally the Maroni with their breath taking scenery and a chance to explore the rainforests on arrival.

We were due at the Hurakabra River Resort for our first official welcome on September 11th, and eight of the expected ten boats were in place.  A very warm welcome was extended by the Tourist Authority, hosted by Kit and Gem at Hurakabra with television and radio coverage, and over the week we were there we were given river tours, walks and a beach party. Family members of one of the rally participants were even included in the welcomes.  There had been a lot of effort put into our visit to Guyana and although there may have been one or two hitches, David did his best to smooth things out.  On days where no activities were planned boats went to Bartica and Baganara to see what else was available on the river and finally on the 17th September we departed Hurakabra as a group and headed down river on the tide to Roden Rust where we spent the last night on the Essequibo and the morning of the 18th we left for Suriname.

On the 20th September we arrived at Paramaribo to anchor opposite the Torarica Hotel, keeping clear of the marked area which fronts the presidential accommodation (clearly marked on up to date charts).  We were visited by the local Maritime Authority (M.A.S.), very courteous and friendly men who spoke excellent English, and came aboard for a cold drink while sorting paperwork.  We asked if they saw many yachts and they commented that although most visiting yachts go onto Domburg, Paramaribo is an anchorage, they never once said we should move up river.  We explained that we wanted to explore the town and take advantage of the tours offered and not be an hours drive, out in the sticks.  This they understood and said we were OK where we were.  Unfortunately the Torarica Hotel had second thoughts about our use of their landing dock, as they were in bad repair and they feared litigation as a result of any accident.  Eventually the cruisers negotiated reasonable rate for the use of the hotel pool, while David and the Mets Travel representative tried to sort out passports and check in, which was not as smooth as envisioned though polite.  The check in system is not really geared for cruisers as yet, in fact the only people interested in our visit were the tour operators, this will no doubt change if and when the media becomes involved, but all transport was laid on and the whole thing was made as smooth as possible.
Early in the morning of the 22nd September a crane barge drifted into one of the boats at anchor moving on to slide along a second boat, whoever was on board the barge waking up at this point put on his engines and moved away fast.  As no sound alarms were made, fog horn or even DSC radio, we slept through all this and were unable to offer help in identifying the runaway barge which would have been easily followed by dinghy.  We awoke to an understandably upset crew, unfortunately the first boat hit had two children on board and with the frustration we all know when trying to deal with officialdom and a rising awareness that this barge would never be identified, there are a lot of them on the Suriname river, tempers flared.  The upshot being that the first boat hit and and one other moved up the river to Waterland to decide if they wished to continue with the rally or return to Trinidad. David did offer them alternatives and we offered to do any repair on the hull they needed.  The rest of the boats, including the other casualty elected to stay in Paramaribo.
Unfortunate as this incident is, it only merits comment here as David, the organiser of the rally, has been falsely accused of failing to provide a safe anchorage.  The area chosen was out of the shipping lane and nearest to the proposed landing site.  As we are aware, it is up to each Skipper to read the chart and chose his own site, under maritime law it is the sole responsibility of the skipper of any craft to ensure the safety of his crew and vessel, this includes ensuring the vessel is properly equipped and insured, if an anchor watch is deemed necessary again it is the skippers responsibility.

30th September and David with Mets travel organise the transport to take crews to check out and five boats are leaving Suriname for Saint Laurent du Maroni, two boats left early, one missing the blue waters and one working with the rally to facilitate our welcome in St Laurent and one boat had move up to Waterland so they could be on a dock while they replaced their water pump.  We enter the river Maroni on the 1st October and set anchor until all the boats arrive and we can proceed up to St Laurent and our official welcome on Friday 3rd October, and a fabulous welcome it was. St Laurent is working to make this marina happen and the first stage was to switch on the Wi-Fi, we all know how important that is!  Once again we were wined and dined, a river trip organised and transport laid on so we could go to the out of town laundry and supermarket.  There was even a new event at the request of an Amerindian village, laid on at the last minute.  All boats and crews didn’t make it but I am glad to say we did.

The rally at 200 euro a boat was exceptionally good value and we enjoyed it immensely, every assistance was offered and David and the organisers worked very hard at making it a success, and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a new experience.  However, anyone thinking of joining a future rally, you are leaving the blue waters of the Caribbean, this is probably not suited to anyone new to sailing, it is up to you to check your insurance covers you for the extra miles involved and remember that you and you alone are responsible for the safety of your vessel and crew.

Chris and Sharon Mildenhall
S/V Quicksilver of Clyde

 

On the hard…

The 2014 Rally Logo

The 2014 Rally Logo

So while I was off gallivanting around the world on more conventional modes of transport (like aircraft…, how novel), Eileen sat on the hard in Trinidad waiting for the 2014 edition of the Nereid’s Rally.

Well before the start, and the pre-rally seminar in mid August, I was meeting with sponsors in French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana. Just to make sure all was ready for the fleets arrival.

Yes, the Nereid’s Rally has sponsors!

There is even an association called “Friends of the Nereid’s Rally” recently formed  to promote it and raise funds for the official receptions.

This way the whole venture is non-profit rather than a net loser for me.

Thanks again:

Soreidom

Guyacom

MachDeal

mets

LOGO-OT-SLM

Hurakabra

Now you can see how another couple of months seemed to go astray…

And the final result?

Mixed… But more on that later.

Speaking of books!

What a sickening pretentious display...

What a sickening pretentious display…

How’s this for an idea…

“Eileen of Avoca” ,The journal of a 23ft sailing boat…. in hard-back hard-copy soon?

With a blurb that reads…

It has been eight years since Eileen of Avoca set sail with her current owner (yours truly) from Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. Since then she has travelled through the canals of Belgium and France, sailed the Mediterranean as far as the shores of Alexandria Egypt, then returned to England via Gibraltar and the Bay of Biscay before setting off once more to cross the Atlantic and reach the Caribbean.

A grand adventure (’tis true ’tis true) and all recorded for posterity in one of the longest continuously (or should I say spasmodically) running sailing blogs (perchance true?) on the Internet.

This is not your usual book-to-be about sailing feats. For a start, there are no boating sponsors, no intended goal, no tragedy, no voyage of self discovery or even a whiff of an official record attempt… (there are some photos of pretty girls though).

Thumbs up... I'm counting it as a "like"....

Thumbs up… I’m counting it as a “like”….

Just the tale of a disillusioned nine-to-fiver who went sailing because it was his way to “get away”. Dripping with observational humour (I flatter myself these days… and even laugh at my own jokes when no one else does) and the occasional dash of sarcasm (perhaps it should read the other way around). Eileen of Avoca’s journal is a riveting (really?) if sometimes tall tale of the hardships (what hardships?) at sea, and the not so hardships at anchor (I’m particularly fond of those)…

Sprinkled here and there with a fact or two (I’m sure there is at least one), and padded with an occasional rant, it’s sure to have something that strikes a chord with everyone, whether they be armchair adventurers, dreamers, travel voyeurs, (out-patients with nothing else to read in the general practitioners waiting room), cynics, or hard-core sailors preparing for their next extreme challenge.

(Or…. perhaps not!)

.

I almost didn’t get to Trinidad

Boats and shorelines...

Boats and shorelines…

Did I tell you that everything electrical on Eileen is disintegrating?

The last of my Raymarine tiller pilots died thousands of nautical miles ago and while the trusty Aries wind vane (a solo sailors best friend), has proved its worth time and time again, it is a bit much to ask that it also steer Eileen in light or intermittent winds.

Not that I haven’t tried.

The trouble is that I can only stave off sleep with coffee and red bull (legal drug abuse) for so long and as a result, while motor sailing off Dominica on my homeward leg, I had a timely complacency wake up call.

The trouble with wind vanes (while motor-sailing) is twofold. The wind can change direction and have you set a completely unexpected course, or the wind may die altogether (and since you happen to be under power), you set a completely unexpected course.

Elementary (and repetitive) isn’t it my dear Watson!

Not that this is an issue when out at sea, but while coasting, as I happened to be doing before nodding off (even after the cocktail of stimulants), it’s a no no.

I only woke up because Eileen was behaving strangely. She was making circles, just sixty metres or so off a rocky shoreline!

Now either I’m the luckiest sailor alive, Eileen has developed intelligence, or Bill Boyall has somehow taken the helm again…

Take your pick.

Drifters and Grifters

Commercial dock at Guanaja

Commercial dock at Guanaja

Tied to the commercial dock at Guanaja I was immediately overwhelmed by the islanders hospitality. All these people ready to tell me where I had to go…. and willing to take me there in person. ;)

In no time at all I even had someone whisk my catch of the day away (a fine barracuda),[Having duly ticked the “Fisherman’s tall tale” box from my “routine” passage], clean it, and return a minuscule portion for my own consumption. Hmmm…

Can’t blame the fellow. He’s just trying to make a living, and there is always an abundance of people doing just that…

whatever it takes…,

just to make a living.

As I wasn’t so sure I could eat the barracuda given the prevalence of ciguatera in the region, I considered it a fair trade.

Taking a tour of Guanaja, Honduras

Taking a tour of Guanaja, Honduras

This sort of thing irks some visitors (the hawkers that is, not the ciguatera), who then choose to anchor well away from the town’s action. Action is however, just what I have in mind after five days at sea…, so what better way than to recruit one of the locals to show me where to find it?

Ignoring the pushy types, I came across a fellow inclined to wile away a few hours in conversation. As I was buying, I was entitled to the grand tour of the town with running commentary on current local gossip, the best places to eat, shop and drink. As a bonus, my self-elected bodyguard kept any unsavoury types at bay. Like a lion tamer with a plastic chair… I kid you not!

A camera shy bar maid at

A camera shy bar maid at ANTRO Bar & Lounge

All so I could concentrate on indulging in the delights of Guaraja. Which pretty much amounts to drinking the local rum with Sprite to excess while shamelessly flattering the bar-maids at ANTRO Bar & Lounge, Guanaja Bay Island (you will find that on Facebook). What else is a sailor to do?

It was all in good fun…

My self proclaimed friend, enriched by a small token of my entertainment funds (a loan he insisted), was also having a ball. Good for him! In return I had an unexpectedly fascinating insight into his life, a life of adventure that stretched even my naive credibility…

He had certainly had had his share of ups and downs (don’t we all?). But in his case, the ups were based on vast fortunes made semi-illicitly and the downs when that easy money was foolishly squandered. What did he have to show for his years playing reckless “bad boy”?

Apparently half a dozen children fathered by different women (the latest a third his age). But not much else.

Hmm….

Well that’s his rendition of the story anyway… and who is to say how much of it was the rum talking… You should hear some of the tales I tell when inebriated. It’s when I do my best blog writing!!!

Evidently, it isn’t easy making a living in Guanaja. It takes a bit of luck and plenty of nous to be a success here, so I don’t begrudge my guides rendition of the tourist grift, “can you loan me another 400? (local currency of course)”.

“Sure! Why not?”

Guide, bodyguard and bone necklace...

Guide, bodyguard and bone necklace…

While he was unable to repay his small loan before my departure (no great surprise there), he did leave me a with a good story and an unexpectedly fine souvenir in exchange.

Behold!

Green grass and the sailing game

Are the girls prettier in Colombia? ;)

Are the girls prettier in Colombia? ;)

At sea there is plenty of time to think, which is good because I’m not necessarily speedy when it comes to thinking (too many late night rum sessions). By claiming to be the mulling sophist type, I get away with it, and besides, what’s the rush?
It helps pass the time.
What else is there to do if I’m denied the dubious pleasures of catching up on the latest  TV soap, posting facebook updates, or continuously texting friends whilst at sea?
A blessing in disguise?

So…, what do I spend all that time thinking about?
Two infuriatingly innocuous words “What” and “Next”, usually in that order…
What next indeed!

I set out on my sailing adventures to spend some time doing what I needed doing most at the time. Playing with my boat.
Sounds decadently selfish doesn’t it? And I agree that it is…, in part….
But in my case it was also the best course to take to alter what was becoming a monotonous and unrewarding lifestyle, despite the level of monetary compensation.
Some have labelled my decision as irresponsible, even “evasionist”.
But that’s not true. I had actually lost my job, or rather, I was no longer being paid by my intermediary.  They’d gone bankrupt along with the banks, as the finance industry underwent  its so called “corrections” in 2009 [You guys still owe me… big time!].
So in a sense, the decision was forced upon me.
I just interpreted it as a signal for radical change. Time to start with a new game. The sailing game…
And now it’s 2014 and I ask myself… How long should the sailing game continue?

For many sailors the answer is, as long as possible… and currently stands at decades!
Is that what I intend to do? Spend the next twenty plus years sailing around in my 23 foot boat?
It is true that for me there has never been any lack of motivation for continuing my wanderings. Mainly to answer the question of whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
Having crossed to the other side of that proverbial fence numerous times in my trusty vessel, the answer (for many destinations), can often be concluded with a simple yes or no.
However, having leapt across one fence, inevitably another teasingly presents itself. Ah, the conundrum! “Is it better over there?”
“Perhaps….”
“Let’s go have a look shall we?”

Unfortunately, having someone else decide for me isn’t an option. Opinions are subjective by definition and a matter of taste. Your own taste.
Whether constantly succumbing to insatiable curiosity stems from an inherent flaw in my character is a moot point. The fact is that I’m still sailing from place to place and have little intention of stopping, while others have happily completed their journeys.
This, in spite of my ongoing projects… (though I’ll admit that they are sure to have a moderating effect).

A kind of madness?
Apparently not. I checked…
Did I not tell you that the “Aguila Light” girls of Santa Marta were psychologists by profession and that after much libation… I mean deliberation, they gave me a clear bill of mental health… to accompany my hangover.? :)
Well they did,

and so… for now, the game continues…

Miss Aguila part II (A failed Foray)

Calling all potential Aguila girls...

Calling all potential Aguila girls…

So going out mid week was not a great idea after all, even though I had the time and the venue just right.

Where?

La Puerta. Santa Marta’s hip and happening night spot.

With live music on a Wednesday night, I was not surprised to find the venue packed.

Everybody knows about the nightlife at La Puerta

Everybody knows about the nightlife at La Puerta

Dressed as best a sailor can (which isn’t saying much really), I started the evening with high expectations. How many quasi fair haired, blue eyed types with a 6ft plus stature can there be in a place like this? I should at least attract enough attention from the dark haired beauties to sneak a smiling snapshot or two.

No such luck. Somehow I managed to arrive in the midst of what must have been the annual Aryan eugenics convention’s night out.

I’d never seen so many tall, fair-haired, blue eyed, gentlemen of Germanic persuasion gathered in one place. And all of them better dressed, taller, younger and considerably more muscular than myself.

After one beer, I was out of there…

Sketch at La Puerta. The fellow with his hands raised probably gave up too...

Sketch at La Puerta. The fellow with his hands raised probably gave up too…

I’m old enough to know when I’m not in the race. Or in the same stadium in which the race is taking place. Or the same city for that matter… You get the picture…

My only consolation was that there were no Aguila girls in evidence.

Somewhat discouraged, I stole away from the festivities to focus what little energy I had left that evening on projects with a higher probability of success. Turning my three defunct ST-2000 tiller-pilots into at least one that might work.

Not that I’ve given up on my quest.

It’s just that I will have to devise an alternate “smart and cunning plan” to draw out the elusive Colombian Aguila girl.

Every man needs an obsession… and I hear that chasing leopards is so passe…

I met a mendicant…

The sea vagrant.

Is there such a thing as a sea vagrant?

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote a blog entry on the myriad nature of sailors out there cruising, but I feel compeled to return to the subject after meeting what can only be described as the ultimate thrifty adventurer.

Many a frugal sailor lives on a very small budget, but it is at least their budget. What I have discovered is that there are cruisers out there living for years in “Fat City” on other peoples budgets.

But how, I hear you ask? Where do I subscribe? This sounds too good to be true…

Simple… You beg, or to put it in a more favourable light, constantly beseech handouts.

It goes something like this…

Show up in a boat that looks like it’s just weathered a hurricane. Rather than make your own way to port, call out the coast guard for help to tow you in. It saves on fuel and you immediately have a ready audience for your fictional tales of hardship and misfortune.

Failing that, flag down other yachtsmen for aid getting ashore.

Place plenty of emphasis on the loss of cash and vital equipment such as anchors, dinghy’s, laptop etc, through theft by unscrupulous third parties. No you don’t have the money for paying the fees for immigration or customs, but what are they going to do about it? Send you back out to sea in a boat that looks like a death trap?

Besides, the yacht is damaged, I need money and materials for repairs. By the way, could you give me some food? I haven’t eaten in days.

Now perhaps some readers at this point feel I am being unkind. What if you really do fall unexpectedly upon hard times. Is it not appropriate that the cruising community band together to help a fellow sailor in dire need?

By all means. But not when the need is deceitful. When you are young and fit. When offers of work are refused because it is easier to play mendicant and the whole business is just that, a business.

The generous donations gradually peter out when it becomes blatantly clear it’s all a scam, but no matter, there are dozens more islands burgeoning with good will to move on to next…

Go figure!

 

 

Sailing Today UK

Eileen of Avoca's adventures continue on page 40

Eileen of Avoca’s adventures continue on page 40

Eileen of Avoca makes a 5 page appearance in the December edition of Sailing Today magazine!

If you can’t pick up a copy you can download the rough draft I have here.

 

Thank you Guyana!

Complimentary Bartica bus tour

Complimentary Bartica bus tour

Our hosts provided red carpet treatment for all participants for the duration of our stay and this warm welcome was extended to all yachtsmen currently staying in Guyana.

The crews of Voyager, Outsider, and Passat were delighted to be included in the festivities and I take this opportunity to thank our partners and sponsors on their behalf.

A steel band welcomes rally participants at Hurakabra

A steel band welcomes rally participants at Hurakabra

The VIP treatment for sailors is not something reserved for rally participants. A genuine welcome awaits all who visit the region, something that seems to have been lost in much of the northern Caribbean. The government of Guyana is committed to developing eco-tourism and facilitating yachting is seen as a key part of this strategy.

Fast boat to Baganara Resort

Fast boat to Baganara Resort

The consensus amongst participants is that “there is so much to do and see here, we need more time!”.

The Nereid's Rally visits Kaieteur Falls

The Nereid’s Rally visits Kaieteur Falls

With tours of Keiter Falls, the interior, Georgetown and Bartica on the agenda, plus visits to the boutique resorts including Hurakabra, Baganara and Sloth Island, crews were certainly kept busy.

Sloth Island Resort jetty

Sloth Island Resort jetty

As a result, many yachts are considering a second visit on the return leg and next years rally will feature an extended stay.

Essequibo river Guyana.

Essequibo river Guyana.

Organisers expect that the Nereid’s Rally, will be instrumental in dispelling some of the myths surrounding sailing south of Trinidad and Tobago, and that more yachts will be making the passage in future.

The Minister for Tourism Irfann Ali on board Lion King

The Minister for Tourism Irfann Ali on board Lion King

The strong support shown by the Minister for Tourism, the Honourable Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who met with participants at a formal function at Hurakabra Resort on Saturday the 14th, is certainly encouraging. The coordination between the Coast Guard, police, ministers and local officials in Bartca was exemplary, ensuring a safe, trouble free visit.

The coast guard keeping an eye over proceedings.

The coast guard keeping an eye over proceedings.

Plans are already afoot for next years rally where organisers expect to accommodate a much larger fleet. “We are pleased to announce that the annual Nereid’s Rally is set to become Guyana’s première yachting event, and that local involvement and participation will be a priority for 2014”.