I sailed to Guyana and didn’t see a single pirate!

Essequibo River, Guyana

Well what do you know, it’s evidently no more than a wild rumour… No pirates waiting to pounce on unsuspecting single handed yachtsmen in Guyanese waters after all. What I found instead was a unique cruising destination full of rather pleasant surprises.

More like sticks than pylons!

While the approach can be a bit of an obstacle course (weaving between fisherman’s gill nets), and there is a rather odd path (marked by an plethora of timber pylons), over the sandbank at the mouth of the Essequibo (at least 2.5m at low tide, I know because I anchored on it for several hours to wait for the tide). First impressions as I ambled along the Essequibo River were positive.

A hive of commercial activity near Parika

What an abundance of activity. Plying their way in both directions were vessels of all shape, manner and kind. Such a contrast to French Guiana where besides the ubiquitous pirogue, you’re lucky to see one cargo vessel a month make its way along the Maroni.

The slow Parika to Bartica ferry. Even Eileen was faster!

The entrepreneurial spirit is apparently alive and well here, as evidenced by the abundant activity. Cargo ships galore, timber mills, fuel depots, fast shuttle services. Makes me wonder where all these busy people happen to be going? Wherever it is, it’s at high speed.

The fast way to get from Parika to Bartica

Once again, I must tip my proverbial hat to the nations shipwrights! Despite the odd insistence on high prow banana shaped vessels, the Guyanese have devised a unique solution to the aforementioned visibility problem. Check out were the driver sits on these beauties.

Admittedly it’s a long way up the Essequibo to Bartica, so Chris Doyle’s cruising guide suggests Roeden Rust Marina as the logical stopover. I concur, even if there is nothing (in the way of signs) to indicate you are in the right place.

Supposedly I could have taken on fuel here but as I’d not cleared customs, I wonder about the legality of conducting such a transaction.

Nobody at Roeden Rust answered the phone numbers provided in my guide. Perhaps they have changed. I understand that Chris is about to release a new edition of his guide so perhaps armed thus, you will have better luck that I did.

Hurakabra Resort

Not that I have reason to complain, working my way through the supplied list of contacts I came across the phone number for Kit and Gem Nascimento. What a pleasure to speak with someone sympathetic to the plight of an inconsequential southbound solitary yachtsman. In the brief conversation afforded me by my dwindling phone credit (well at least Digicel works here), I was able to ascertain that a hearty welcome, a cold beer, assistance with refueling, and someone wise in customs and immigration ritual and lore, would be at hand at Hurakabra Resort (just 5 to 6 hours away on the flood). Simply follow the GPS coordinates outlined in your guide…

Not too closely however.

A correction worth noting in the 3rdEdition (page 234) is position GUK02 (GUYK02 in the image).It should read 58º35.730′ W rather than 58º36.730′ W.

Mind you, it’s rather obvious something is amiss when you map the coordinates.
 Hurakabra is a small resort offering clients fine accommodation in a wilderness setting. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and efficient, so I couldn’t have fallen in with a better crowd.

Eileen anchored off Bartica

To yachtsmen, the resort offers a secure location for leaving your boat, experienced guides, and of course the all important bar and restaurant. While I made use of the first three, I chose to take my meals while provisioning in nearby Bartica.

Good holding in Bartica at 6º24.338′ N 58º36.995′ W

Anyone for steak?

Ah, Bartica, what a place! And I thought Saint Laurent du Maroni was the wild west!

Bartica services the burgeoning gold mining industry here, so not surprisingly prices are relatively high, but if you want to see what a frontier town looks like, you need go no further.

Pedestrian traffic in Bartica, Guyana

I revelled in the raw abrasiveness of the place. It permeated authenticity. No prettily painted Disneyland fruit stalls to appease the tourist psyche, just functionally brute reality.

By the way, where were the other tourists?… Surely this is a must see destination for cruisers?

I’m not the only tourist here after all…

Well, apart from this simpatico couple from (if I remember correctly) Belize and Honduras (they make Guyana their regular stopover during the hurricane season), I couldn’t find any.

Yachts visit so infrequently that the entire customs office staff were keen to pay Eileen a visit. Just out of genuine curiosity!!!

My Forró instructor

I had but five nights to sample the delights of Guyana and in the words of a certain actor come politician (who needn’t be named)…. “I’ll be back!”

There is much I didn’t get to see and do, so I’m eager to return.

Guyana offers the delightful antithesis to Caribbean cruising. Definitely worth a visit especially before, (or even after) I go and build a huge marina complex there too!



More ugly weather!

Another fine day in the Caribbean…

It was supposed to be a quick 10 day sail back to French Guiana but two weeks later I found myself still busy battling isolated thunderstorms and gradually being pushed toward southern Venezuela. Not my premiere choice of destinations given the number of sailors I’ve come across that have given it the thumbs down with respect to safety.

Feeling wet wet wet….

Just so that you know…. sometimes sailing isn’t that much fun!

Bouncing about like a cork for two weeks is one of those times…

Although squalls in the Caribbean had been forecast (they’re always forecast), who’d have imagined that isolated thunderstorms was a synonym for “focused entirely on Eileen of Avoca” thunderstorms?

With a steady Force 6 on the nose and a contrary current of 1 to 1.5kts I should have stayed put. Of course what I should have done… and what I did do…, are two paths that rarely bisect. In this case, I’d fallen victim to the one thing a sailor should never do…

I told someone I’d be in a certain place at a certain time. “Certain” shouldn’t be in a sailors vocabulary. In a moment of sheer stupidity (happens rather frequently I’m told), I agreed to attend a birthday party upon my return to French Guiana.

Of course I didn’t make it….

Progress at 1 knot was steady if frustratingly slow, but despite this I might have arrived with time to spare, if of course I hadn’t been swamped by a rogue wave!

Pause here for dramatic effect…

Obviously I didn’t drown because I’m still writing in the first person…

Was it a close call? No, but it was the first time I’d ever been thoroughly pooped!

How many adults dare say that nowadays?

I was dozing in my bunk (my favourite spot), when without warning Eileen was knocked sideways in a rush of noisy whitewater which, despite having one washboard in place and the hatch firmly closed, instantly drenched everything in the cabin. I can testify that having buckets of water thrown over me is an effective if unpleasant catalyst for gaining my full attention, an attention that was now directed at the cascade of water flowing down the companionway stairs. It’s source…? A new swimming pool in my pushpit. (—Deleted expletive!—)

One of these could save your life!

Outside it was immediately clear that everything that wasn’t tied down was now gone. Good thing I wasn’t outside huh? Cushions, ropes, jerry cans with my precious extra fuel, all washed overboard. Feeling strangely disconnected from reality amid apparent chaos, at least panic was the last thing on my mind. Stupefied, just about everything was far from my thoughts. It took the absurdity of a waterproof container (a practical Christmas gift) floating by, to break my stupor and set me in motion. Grabbing the improvised bucket, I did what I assure you comes naturally to all sailors in similar circumstances…

I bailed like a madman.

Why did I have to bail? Were the cockpit drains blocked? Much later I discovered that I’d only opened one of the two seacocks draining the pushpit. Luckily I’ve had a unique modification made to Eileen as a contingency against being flooded.

So glad I had this small modification made.

Check out the raised lip of my exterior lockers! The extra waterproofing kept most of the water out and the interior bilge pump installed in the heads meant I could safely deal with any seepage from the safety of “the can”.

An extra pump in the heads came in handy too!

Ten brownie points for being prepared!

Now what?

Not enough fuel to get to Saint Laurent but if I can push on a while longer I’ll just reach Guyana. Good thing I’ve got Chris Doyle’s guide aboard.

Looks like I’ll be making an unscheduled visit!