Another rally seminar?

The 2015 Nereid's Rally Seminar

The 2015 Nereid’s Rally Seminar

What next?

Back to Trinidad for the annual Nereid’s Rally Seminar. This year we had the Minister for Culture of Trinidad & Tobago, a delegation from French Guiana and the Minister for Tourism of Guyana there to lend support.

Cathy Hughes Minister for Tourism of Guyana

Cathy Hughes Minister for Tourism of Guyana

All good fun!

But as Rolf Harris once sang…. beware the man with the microphone…

Just keeping the girls smiling....

Just keeping the girls smiling….

The rest of the evening was just a blur…

 

Nereid’s Rally photos

Nereid's Rally 2015

Nereid’s Rally 2015

Just a random selection of photos from the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Nereid’s Rally to whet your appetite for 2015.

Kaieteur Falls

Kaieteur Falls

One of the many reasons to visit Guyana!

We love Bartica!

We love Bartica!

There is no better way to get around than by boat…

Flight to Kaieteur Falls

Flight to Kaieteur Falls

OK, maybe one better way…

Our tour boat!

Our high speed tour boat!

But only because there is no other alternative for visiting some sights!

So we leave our yachts in the care of our ever present escort...

The coast guard of Guyana keeping tabs on our progress

So we leave our yachts in the care of our ever present escort…

The anchorage off Hurakabra River Resort

The anchorage off Hurakabra River Resort

and go exploring…

Off the beaten track

Off the beaten track…

There really are times when it’s worth leaving your boat… (not often, but it does happen…)

VIPs arrive at Hurakabra

VIPs arrive at Hurakabra

Just as long as we are back in time for the party!

It's smiles all round...

It’s smiles all round…

OK… I’ll admit that I do enjoy a party now an then…. but the Nereid’s Rally isn’t all about the receptions! Wonderful as they are…

Sailing to Suriname

Sailing to Suriname

It’s also about doing some serious sailing…

Follow the leader...

Follow the leader…

And admittedly, a bit of motoring…

Al glass of rum anyone?

A glass of rum anyone?

With lots of breaks in between to do important stuff like…

Food for thought?

Food for thought?

Eating too much…

The Torarica Pier

The Torarica Pier

Playing tourist…

Pirogue anyone?

Pirogue anyone?

Checking out the local transportation…

Yachtsmen with balls...?

Playing boules…?

Enjoying a round of the local sport on the Mana River…

It's Kit and the Mayor of Saint Laurent!!!

It’s Kit and the Mayor of Saint Laurent!!!

Unveiling the “soon to be” marina in Saint Laurent du Maroni…

It's visit a yacht day in Saint Laurent

It’s visit a yacht day in Saint Laurent

and getting to know the locals…

The town of Saint Laurent du Maroni

The town of Saint Laurent du Maroni

Which is really what the Nereid’s Rally is all about…

The town hall

The town hall

The towns and buildings are certainly interesting…

Children of Saint Laurent

Children of Saint Laurent

but it’s the people that give it it’s true flavour…

Come see for yourself!

 

 

How the race, that isn’t a race proceeded.

All the sailors at the Curve Bar, Tobago

All the sailors at the Curve Bar, Tobago

The Tobago start wasn’t going to be a huge affair this year with just two boats (myself included) set to leave from Store Bay. Not that that stopped us from having a big send-off party. Everyone at the anchorage were invited for drinks at the Curve Bar in Crown Point to swap stories and boast about their navigational exploits. Fun was had by all.

Thanks Katy and John of Store Bay Marine Services for hosting the event. Next year it will be bigger and better with a pig roast, music and crab races on the beach (BYO racing crab) set to make the Nereid’s Rally departure a local fête.

Note that all yachts have the option to leave from Tobago but larger yachts will need to bunker elsewhere as fuel is DIY with jerry cans.

On my way to Guyana..... not....

On my way to Guyana….. not….

Here, Romain on Whistler is posing for the start. Having already sailed once to French Guiana from the Caribbean he was supposed to make short shrift of this passage. However, his rally was over before it even really started.

Whistler’s ageing mainsail was unexpectedly torn at the seams and so one of the favourites for completing the rally in record time was obliged to pull out to contemplate the purchasing of a sewing machine instead.

A “did not finish” (DNF) for our Corsican contestant… But all is not lost for our French fans! He has vowed to be back and take part in next year’s event.

Eileen of Avoca

Eileen of Avoca

Next we have Eileen of Avoca, the smallest member of the fleet, measuring just 23ft. While there is no doubt she will complete the rally, it’s going to take a lot more than good local knowledge to keep up with the 40+ footers!

Spirited Lady at anchor

Spirited Lady at anchor

Spirited Lady, a Spirit 56 is a classic beauty! Her owner, Susie was the first to show interest in taking part in the 2013 Nereid’s Rally and we are all delighted to have her as part of this inaugural event.

Lion King a Hanse 53

Lion King, a Hanse 53

Lion King, a handsome Hanse 53 owned by Harry and Ans is a real contender for line honours. Despite the ubiquitous Disney association with the boats name there is no doubt that this yacht means business. The question is whether anyone will be able to keep up once Lion King stretches is legs?

Kaisosi, an elongated Admiral 40

Kaisosi, an elongated Admiral 40

Kaisosi is the only catamaran in the fleet. A lengthened Admiral 40. Her crew Terry and Annette have sailed these waters once before, having made their way to the Caribbean from South Africa via Brazil. Will the yacht perform in contrary winds?

Virginia Dare, a Hallberg Rassy 39

Virginia Dare, a Hallberg Rassy 39

Virginia Dare, owned by Bob and Christine. An elegant Hallberg Rassy equipped with a 55HP Volvo. Contrary winds, contrary current? Not a problem!

Delamara, A 39ft Moody. Single-handed by Joseph from Barbados will miss the rally start because of a faulty started motor. He intends to bypass Guyana and head directly for Saint Laurent du Maroni to catch up with the rest of the fleet.

Mai VII, our only other French contestant, has pulled out of the Rally the day of the start citing mechanical issues.

Restless, skippered by Ron, is waiting on a new mainsail in Grenada. We hope it will arrive in time so he can join the rally in French Guiana.

 

The 2013 Nereid’s Rally

Here be dragons!

Here be dragons!

OK, it’s official.

The web site is up and yachtsmen can now register for this years Nereid’s Rally, sailing from both Trinidad and Tobago on to Guyana and French Guiana.

Why is it called the Nereid Rally?

Because what better way to dispel the myths of sailing south from the Caribbean than to host a mythical themed event?

And Dave’s Rally was given the thumbs down… ;)

 

Guyana – Take two…

Speedwell of Hong Kong off Baganara Resort Guyana

Speedwell of Hong Kong off Baganara Resort Guyana

After picking up a few essential parts in Trinidad (and a tub of Gorilla Glue), I set sail once more for Guyana. It was time to take a closer look and make tentative arrangements to facilitate the reception of my newly conceived rally.

I was happy to see that not much had changed in the last 6 months.

The first fast food reaches Bartica.. What next?

The first fast food restaurants reach Bartica.. What next?

Other than a newly established fast food outlet.

I'm not sure they're getting the right message across here....

I’m not sure they’re getting the right message across here….

And the introduction of garbage bins…. Though it might be a while before people realize what those are for.

Did you hear the one about 3 men and a cow?

Did you hear the one about 3 men and a cow?

With the influx of cash from gold mining, Bartica will inevitably change, but for the moment, it’s still the wild west…

Apparently it landed on the wicked witch of the west.

Apparently it landed on the wicked witch of the west.

Obviously the sooner people come visit, the more authentic the experience.

Six yachts were visiting Guyana while I was there! An unheard of increase, considering that in 2011 the total number of visiting yachts for an entire year was 11.

Thanks largely to the efforts of Kit Nascimento, formalities for yachts visiting Guyana are are about as simple as they can be. An accomplishment worth applauding… Suriname and Brazil take note….

An Australian crew check in at immigration. Bartica Guyana

An enthusiastic Australian crew check in at immigration. Bartica Guyana

I was happy to meet the crew of yachts I’d come across in my previous travels, including Speedwell of Hong Kong, and Sandpiper 2.

I knew Shirley would be found anchored off Baganara Resort (a proposed stop for the rally), because the Gorilla Glue delivery was for her. Well not quite… It was really for Bernhard, who needed it to complete his new dingy.

Boat building materials... Gorilla Glue and a bottle of rum from Martinique.

Boat building materials… Gorilla Glue and a bottle of rum from Martinique.

Bernhard gave me a set of GPS coordinates detailing an alternate route along the Essequibo that should shave several miles off my next visit. Once I’ve checked them I’ll post the new route.

Good company and good food on "do it". Guyana

Good company and good food on “do it”. Guyana

I’m reluctant to share them at this point because there are occasional unpleasant surprises along the river as the crew of Do It discovered and I can think of nicer ways than running aground to have an uncharted rock named after your yacht.

Do it Rock surfacing at low tide.

“Do it Rock” surfacing at low tide.

Next stop…. Saint Laurent du Maroni to see what the local council thinks of playing host to an annual yacht rally…..

Back and forth….

The little mermaid swims past...

The little mermaid swims by…

It’s been a busy month….

Last we heard of our intrepid adventurer, he was anchored off Store Bay, in Tobago recounting tall tales of pirates to all and sundry.

***

We'd rather lime than listen to another pirate tale...

All and Sundry….. We’d rather lime than listen to another pirate tale…

And while my daring and dastardly deeds had reached quasi herculean proportions, (by the fifteenth telling), it seems that the locals weren’t buying it any longer… More importantly they weren’t buying me my drinks either….

Oh well, it wasn’t a bad run while it lasted….

So… sullenly sipping aged rum on my yacht (am I allowed to call a 23 footer a yacht?),  watching the occasional mermaid swim by, I set about planning my next smart and cunning move… (no laughing please)….

Another marina authorization bites the dust...

Another marina authorization bites the dust…

Back in French Guiana (land of the sloths), my marina development was not unexpectedly moving ahead at.. you guess it…. a sloths pace….

Fine…. Slow and steady wins the proverbial race as they say, and meanwhile there’s time for the number of visiting yachts to increase, though most are of the “northbound from Brazil” variety.

How might I tempt those northern yachts to wander south?

Simple, make the rally idea a reality. It was time to team up with others who could assist with organizing and publicizing the annual event.

store bayQueue Store Bay Marine Services in Tobago. They will provide support and host the sendoff for the less than 40ft yachts.

 

 

ysatLarger yachts will leave one day later from Chaguaramas in Trinidad. Queue YSATT, Yacht Services Association of Trinidad & Tobago.

 

 

HurakabraFirst stop is Guyana, where the fleet will be hosted by Hurakabra River Resort and officially welcomed by the minister for tourism.

 

 

logoThe rally’s finishing line is, of course, Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana, where another official welcome awaits and triggers a week of activities hosted by yours truly… aka Marina – Saint Laurent du Maroni.

So a hop back to Trinidad was the order of the day to concentrate on business without distractions of the mermaid kind…

India

Trinidad apparently has other distractions… ;)

Now where was I….. Ah, yes, organizing a rally…. I tend to get distracted easily these days….

 

Tobago, French Guiana, Guyana Rally?

How about an annual rally during the hurricane season?

Killing time feeding the local strays obviously has its propitious side (look at all my new best friends), but I’m getting itchy feet. No I haven’t contracted canine Tinea Pedis, I’m talking about the wanderlust kind of itch.

If I have a sailing boat… shouldn’t I be sailing?….

Mad dogs or a new rally?

The trouble is we’re still in the middle of the hurricane season and sailing options become somewhat limited in the Caribbean during a hurricane… Key word here being hurricane.. ;)

It is however an opportune time to visit Guyana, Tobago and French Guiana. So where is everyone?

What do you think of this exciting idea?

Apart from hiding from hurricanes, I suspect they are working hard doing boat maintenance in Trinidad.

Guess I’ll have to go fetch them…

Hear ye hear ye!

Register now for the new annual Tobago,  Guyana, Saint Laurent rally! I’m so keen on this idea, I’m sailing north to tell everyone about it.

Destination Tobago…

ETA one week…

Eileen of Avoca is back in French Guiana

Maroni River at sunset… but no Eileen!

The motor sail to French Guiana from Guyana was a breeze… not even worth writing about… so that’s my excuse, and I wont…

It’s when I arrived that some real excitement started. As I’ve stated before, excitement for a sailor is a always a bad thing. Dull is infinitely safer, despite offering poor copy. :)

Motoring along the Maroni River I somehow managed to do my back in…don’t ask, I haven’t a clue how, but those who have experienced an attack of sciatica know the subsequent effects, ouch!

Needless to say that deploying my anchors in the usual spot was an immense chore. So much so, that I opted to use rope rather than chain on my trusty CQR and Danforth. Not the safest option, but a case of following the path of least resistance (or pain).

After several days of being confined to my bunk, I made tentative sorties for provisions and it was during one of these rare ventures that I had the fright of my life.

Just after dusk I made my way back to the anchorage by the tourist office only to find that Eileen of Avoca was missing!!!

How would you feel left standing there with just the clothes on your back (and a plastic kayak)?

Why didn’t the anchors hold?

Was it stolen?

Would I find it at all, and if I do will it be stripped of everything of value?

Queue the French Gendarmerie!

I immediately reported the disappearance to the authorities and luckily a river patrol was in the area. They took my details over the phone and began their search without hesitation.

Impressive, especially so when you consider that within an hour Eileen was duly spotted and intercepted.

With the equipment (including night vision) afforded the Gendarmes, I’m not surprised they made short work of tracking down Eileen. I was however pleasantly surprised by the high level of service afforded me. Taking me aboard their vessel to personally collect Eileen was an unexpected boon.

The subsequent trip at 30 knots or so in pitch dark did little to relieve my anxiety, but I needn’t have been so worried. Within minutes Eileen was under the Gendarms spotlight, her wayward attempt to make a leisurely tour of Suriname without her captain over. It’s true that I’d been recently making plans to visit Paramaribo, but I’d intended to be aboard when we cast off. I’ll have to have words with her! But none that are too harsh, especially after discovering that the anchors had been shocked loose after an impact… I still don’t know who or what hit Eileen but I have some minor repairs to do on her rubbing strake and toe-rail.

My wholehearted thanks go to the Gendarms at Saint Laurent du Maroni! They do a tough job, what with half the illegal miners in the jungle shooting at them, a somewhat porous border to police, and now, even the occasional stray yacht to recover!

That evening, two anchors redeployed with all the chain I carry, (despite the lingering ache in my back), I raised a glass to their health…

 

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!

;)