A little infrastructure too!

A mooring field is born... Good news for some... Others... well...

A mooring field is born… Good news for some… Others… well… time to pay I’m afraid…

And now for the hard part…

There’s some yachting infrastructure I’ve promised to develop and jobs to create. All well and good having an office, but noone is going to be paid a salary if I leave it at that. Just for the record… no… I don’t pay myself a salary… but I do get a free mooring!!!

boat party

Note to myself: Never mix alcohol and job interview…

Speaking of jobs… Meet Samuel, my right hand in Saint Laurent du Maroni. Here he is at his job interview (where the work criteria was: being flexible on the job)…

I’m the one gaping like a fish out of water on the left…

Oh, and this is Marie making Internet access codes…

I'll just take a quick nap while the boss isn't looking...

I’ll just take a quick nap while the boss isn’t looking…

I obviously work them too hard.

And so, with an office fully staffed it was time to play “lay the mooring”… Not quite as easy (or as fun) as it sounds. The first workers I’d hired for the job simply gave up (“It’s all too hard”) after day one.

As luck would have it, an American salvage diver visiting Saint Laurent by yacht (meet Travis), volunteered to help get the job done and in no time at all, voila!

Meet the dynamic duo... No-one else offered to help!

Meet the dynamic duo… No-one else offered to help!

Two moorings a day positioned with a 5HP dinghy!

All the moorings were floated into position and then sunk.

All the moorings were floated into position and then sunk.

It’s amazing what you can do when you are……  desperate…

 

What’s-up in Saint Laurent du Maroni?

webcamSo what happened next?

Plenty! In fact it has been so busy of late I’ve not had the time to update this never ending blog.

But all that is about to change, and to whet your appetite have a wander over to this site and see what’s happening yourself.

Yes it’s a live (or quasi-live) webcam of Saint Laurent du Maroni.

Behold and be amazed… It’s even been described as MAGNIFICENT!

 

Update: The natives are restless…

The natives converge on Eileen?

The natives converge on Eileen?

Time to get this blog up to date and fill in some missing details…

In our last exciting blog episode, rally organiser pseudo-extrodinare and sometimes navigator, yours truly, was dealing with some negative feedback from one unhappy rally customer (there is no pleasing some…), while making a last round of compulsory visits to friends and family before the big push to start building some infrastructure in French Guiana and Guyana.

Could it get more exciting than that?

Definitely! But probably somewhere other than here…

Working with the marina architect... :)

Working with the marina architect… :)

Mind you, my quick visit to meet with the marina architects in land locked Matto Grosso, Brazil had some high points.

But all too soon I was back in Saint Laurent du Maroni opening the new office of the association “Friends of the Nereid’s Rally”, and doing something that looked a lot like “real work”…

for a change…

The new office of the association "Friends of the Nereid's Rally"

The new office of the association “Friends of the Nereid’s Rally”

It’s now the end of January and I’m pleased to announce that Saint Laurent now offers a whole range of services to visiting yachtsmen including:

●Check-in Check-out Assistance
●Help with Provisioning
●Internet & Laundry
●Technicians & Spare Parts
●Repairs
●Fuel Bunkering
●Yacht & Freight Management
●Airport pick up & drop off
●Mail Order Chandlery
●Commercial Diving

There is even a mini cafe just for the sailors!

But wait… there’s more…

While I can’t offer you a set of free steak knives with your visit…

Nor will I guarantee 100% satisfaction or your money back…

Moorings here soon!

Moorings here soon!

I can at least tell you that the material to install 20 moorings is on its way, and if all goes well, you can pick up a surpervised buoy in Saint Laurent for around 10 Euro a day (extra services for long term stays) starting May.

For details, contact the association at:

office@marinaslm.com

 

Aruba to Santa Marta, Colombia

A Renaissance Hotel beach in Aruba

A Renaissance Hotel beach in Aruba

OK, this is a tough one. I can say nothing bad about Aruba. My stay was hassle free, the people courteous, the facilities second to none and yet… and yet, I’ve been bored out of my wits.

This is definitely the place to go when you want to relax and do nothing.

The trouble is I do exactly that… every day! The last thing I want to do when I make landfall is nothing.

Your Hotel beach shuttle awaits!

Your Hotel beach shuttle awaits!

What fun is there in taking the hotel boat to the private beach when you have your own boat and see nothing but isolated beaches on an almost daily basis? ;)

What a conundrum! Do you suppose someone will let me mow their lawn or do some other fun activity like answer their phone in the office all day?

I took this photo from a bridge at the private beach.

I took this photo from a bridge at the private beach.

Oh look, a fish! How exciting… not… Let me take a picture…

Everyone that passed by wanted their photo taken by the white boat. :(

Everyone that passed by wanted their photo taken by the white boat. :(

If I were a gambling man, I’d be in paradise. Just ten paces from my mooring is the resort casino… Except I find casinos depressing. Nothing depresses me more than loosing my money (well, perhaps having it stolen does), so it remains a wonder to me that people frequent them at all. Or am I the only one that loses money in a casino… Perhaps there is a way to enjoy being depressed?

I’ll have to ponder that.

I think that the real reason I’m bored is that Aruba has very little to offer eligible young bachelors… or me for that matter… It’s a family destination.

Eileen of Avoca arrives in Santa Marta to a jubliant crowd.

Eileen of Avoca greeted in Santa Marta Colombia by a jubliant virtual crowd.

So I’ve braved the January gales (it really does get rather windy in this region), the enormous turbulent seas (OK, I’m starting to exaggerate now), and rounded one of the top 5 most dangerous capes (every sailor coming through here mentions this piece of J.Cornell trivia just to let others know how courageous they’ve been), and made the arduous passage to Santa Marta Colombia.

Voila…

Haven’t I been brave? (rhetorical question… said with a dollop of sarcasm… just in case any of my so called friends were thinking of making some clever comment at this point).

Now, who else can I tell…

Dullburg not Domburg?

The Domburg jetty. Not for the use of cruisers.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, there’s plenty of positive press on the Internet touting Suriname as a must see cruising destination (see www.noonsite.com), but having experienced it’s wonders first hand, a word of warning…

Would be journalists, travel writers and bloggers take note… (yours truly included). There is a negative side to too much flattering press, and that is the risk of raising the expectations of prospective visitors to unrealistic levels!

Harboring just this type of expectation for Domburg, which in my mind had become the lost “Garden of Eden”, set me up for some seriously disappointing disillusionment.

Note to navigators planning to visit Saint Laurent du Maroni… I’m making no claim that it’s Shangri-La…

You have been warned!!!

So, where did it all go wrong?

What cruisers really get to use as a dingy dock.

Perhaps Domburg was a navigators paradise, but that was yesteryear. I found the site in obvious decline. Many of the buildings lining the square are now abandoned and in severe disrepair and the only semblance of vitality is limited to Sunday afternoons, when the odd dilapidated restaurant reopens for business.

The children’s playground in Domburg and my kayak parking spot!c

Rusting children’s amusements and sheltered seating areas that threaten collapse, simply underline Domberg’s former glory.

Where were the promised new developments including a dingy dock? Apparently someone is building one further up the river… sometime… but don’t hold your breath…. Remind you of someone? lol

Where was the cafe crowd of restaurant goers and shopping enthusiasts expected at a site like this?

Apart from the Sunday revival, they’ve come and gone…

Meeting of the single handed sailors association… Domburg Suriname

Domburg’s heyday was in 2007, when it boasted 10 swinging moorings and a lively social scene for visitors. They are now down to 3 moorings and what social scene remains is limited to “happy hour”. Cheap beer from 4pm to midnight at the only snack bar open during the week. When you’ve had your fill, it’s back to your boat until 4pm the following day to repeat the ritual.

This is where the sailors currently hang out in Domburg.

Yes, It’s fun…. but only twice…. or thrice….

Fortunately, Paramaribo, a cheap bus ride away, is Domburg’s saving grace. But you need to get up early and return by 4pm or it’s a 70 SRD ride (one way) for the 20km trip to town.

I was never awake early enough (after the 4pm to midnight beer sessions) to catch this bus, and I’m habitually allergic to taking money out of my wallet (for taxis). What a conundrum!

I’m told the best option for visitors, and lightweight beer swillers with painful hangovers (that would be me), is to hire a taxi (minimum 4 hours) for “business purposes”. This way you get a chauffeur for 30 to 35 SRD an hour willing to take you where you wish. Good news because you can expect to make several trips to town (over several days) just to officially check in!

Many don’t bother, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be unlucky enough to be “caught out” without the proper paperwork…

Get your provisions at the corner Chinese store..

The more cynical than me types (admittedly a rare phenomenon), and the occasional conspiracy theorist (I met one once but the black helicopters took him away), believe that the venue has been earmarked by the government for large scale development. Hence the slow push to stifle what small business remains and the total disregard for maintenance.

Dutch speakers tend to feel right at home here (though not because it looks run down). and non-Dutch speakers, who may feel less at home, make up for the lack of belonging by going shopping! What else?

You can definitely find bargains at nearby Paramaribo on everything from solar panels and deep cycle batteries, to anchor chain and galvanizing services.

No bikini clad beauties to photograph? I’ll just feed the stray kittens instead…

But if you came to Domburg for the nightlife, or the beautiful bikini clad girls, you may be sorely disappointed.

I came to see the beautiful girls in their bikinis…. :(

 

Business before pleasure…

Where to moor your yacht in Saint Laurent du Maroni

Visa, check…. Fuel, check…. water, check… all set to go so… just one last look at the weather forecast…. and while I’m at it, any new e-mails?

Yes…

Suriname holiday goes on hold!

My request to place swinging moorings on the Maroni River has reached a critical phase and I’m off to Cayenne to discuss final technical issues with the authorities.

If all goes well, I’ll be keeping to my proposed timetable of having supervised moorings in place before the year is out.

Here’s a sneak peek of a proposed placement.

Now it’s off to another meeting for discussions on electricity, water and Wi-Fi placement.

It turns out that building a marina in French Guiana takes tenacity…. Fortunately that’s a quality solitary sailors have in abundance… Otherwise we tend to fall off our yachts and drown.

Getting the ball rolling…

No marina... yet....

There are currently just four yachts other than Eileen of Avoca anchored off Saint Laurent du Maroni. Two aren’t all that seaworthy and the owners of the remainder have apparently settled in for the long haul (they’ve been living aboard in the same spot for years)!

So with new services (marina phase I) in the works, I guess it’s time to do something about attracting the active cruising community. Not so easy when you consider that there’s hardly a mention of Saint Laurent du Maroni in the sailing literature or even on the Internet for that matter.

Mind you, noonsite has recently updated its listing and Sail The World  (the Standard & Poor’s of the French sailing community) may be forced to upgrade its marina rating (currently CCB) once the word gets out!

Gendarmerie on river patrol

The security rating is particularly harsh given that the Gendarmerie regularly patrol the area ( I can report that there have been no thefts in the time I have been here), and I certainly don’t see how a free anchorage could have attracted a C rating… ;)

For your web browsing pleasure, I’ve collated some web links to fill the information void:

First up, the official web site for Saint Laurent du Maroni:

Run through the translator it even starts to make sense:

More importantly (for sailors of course), what’s the weather like today?

And how’s the provisioning (for like-minded souls who also regularly think with their stomach)?

For the virtual tourist voyeurs, here are some photos of the place that I didn’t take:

And for the budding botanist, a video of the local flora. ;)

Well, I guess it’s a start… More soon, of course…

 

 

A little more information on Saint Laurent du Maroni

The secluded anchorage of Saint Laurent du Maroni

As I am now involved in this ambitious project to promote and develop Saint Laurent du Maroni as a commodious stopover for visiting yachtsmen, I might as well pass on the following supplementary information….

Despite what noonsite states, Saint Laurent is in fact situated on the Maroni river rather than the Moroni…., though I must say that the later does have a certain humorous dyslectic ring to it.

Oh, and it really doesn’t rain here 9 months of the year…. It’s more like 7… lol. OK, so I’m nit picking, but some of you might find the following useful given that the only data currently available for yachtsmen on Saint Laurent is…

Quote (without spelling errors): “This is French Guiana’s biggest and busiest river, and is is on the border with Suriname. There is reported to be a marina 20 miles up the river, at St Laurent.

If this can reach Saint Laurent, so can you...

 Climate:

  • The big dry, from August to November
  • The small rainy season, from December to February
  • The small summer, from February to March
  • The true rainy season, from April to July

Paperwork:

Saint Laurent du Maroni is an official point of entry.

Visit the PAF (police aux frontières ) at the car ferry to have your passport stamped (entry and exit). Not obligatory for European citizens, but prevents issues when your next stop is Suriname.

Customs (la douane) is in the administrative center.

See image for directions (X marks anchorage, yellow highlights for offices mentioned above).

X marks the anchorage

 Docking:

Saint Laurent is approximately 15 miles from the mouth of the Maroni River. A buoyed channel for cargo vessels marks the route (3m minimum depth at high tide). If in doubt (buoys are widely spaced), keep as close as possible to the French side of the river.

Beware of fishing nets when approaching the Maroni river’s safe water mark. While night entry is possible, it is not recommended as buoys closer to Saint Laurent are not lit.

Yachts anchor on the upriver side of a semi-submerged (tree covered) wreck in 4 to 6m. Holding in mud and sand is good.

 Local services:

  • The anchorage is within walking distance to all amenities and the city center.
  • The tourist office is situated beside the anchorage.
  • A public swimming pool is located at the opposite end of the park from the tourist office.
  • Water by Jerry can from the old prison yard (turn left upon entering the main gate. Fuel at local service stations.
  • Several Internet hot-spots,and cybercafes in town.
  • Good provisioning.

Proposed Marina:

Development is currently underway for a marina, providing finger pontoons, mooring buoys, secure dingy dock, club house, and Wi-Fi.

 

Mixing business with pleasure

Eileen at anchor, Saint Laurent du Maroni

After a week at sea, the little blue boat is back in French Guiana…. Saint Laurent du Maroni to be precise. Why?

Is it because the leopards here are considerably more desirable than zebra?

Perhaps… I’ll certainly endeavor to devote some of my time and energy to properly reflect upon the pros and cons of each regions disparate fauna. ;)

But there is another underlying reason for my abrupt shift in sailing itinerary…

Model of proposed marina

Had my stay in Chaguaramas been pleasant, had it adequately accommodated my yacht maintenance requirements and had it more or less met my expectations, I would now be on my way to Martinique and beyond.

Instead, my disenchantment with the yachting services and facilities in Trinidad and Tobago have prompted me to seek out alternatives….

Model of boat yard

Unfortunately, there are very few, and evidently the yards at Chaguaramas are well aware of this, (having adjusted their pricing and work ethic accordingly).

This particular sailor wasn’t happy. Nor were many others I’d met along the way. So, with a little help from my friends, some of us decided to do something about it.

The idea of a marina and yacht maintenance complex in Saint Laurent du Maroni was born. Plans were drawn up, a proposal submitted to council and upon acceptance, I sailed back to French Guiana to make it all happen.

View of proposed yacht service complex

Does this spell the end for the adventures of Eileen of Avoca?

Not likely, if anything, it is a new impetus, the stimulus required to ensure Eileen’s adventures continue. My Yarmouth23 has simply found a temporary home in the jungles of French Guiana, and if all goes well, Saint Laurent will soon offer everything a sailor needs.

Undoubtedly I will derive considerable satisfaction in developing a new viable alternative to Chaguaramas.

Feel free to come and visit!

Bound for Itaparica

 

Bedsheet and tablecloth sailing in Bahia Salvador

Convinced that there was more to Bahia than tourist traps and “gringos aren’t welcome here” zones, I motored Eileen of Avoca across the bay of Salvador to the northern tip of Itaparica. The island was once a popular getaway for the well to do of Salvador city and still attracts many a floating “gin palace” (or should that be a “cachaça palace” in Brazil?) on the weekends, but the “in the know” crowd have adopted Morro de Sao Paulo as their current playground…

I’ve taken note of this and will investigate soon… ;)

Mural map of the Bay of Salvador. Itaparica in green.

I found thirty or so sailing vessels anchored outside the marina. Quite a crowd, and not the most considerate in terms of swinging room. It’s an unwritten law that there must always be a few anchorage hogs with boats bigger and uglier than yours threatening collision as the wind or tide turns. For peace of mind I moved several times to avoid them. It’s times like these I wish I sailed a rusty steel monstrosity. :)

What could possibly draw so many yachtsmen here anyway?

Admiring the flora of Itaparica

Is it the women?

 

Where are the beach babes?

The beaches?

 

It's rush hour in Itaparica

The slow pace of village life?

 

The seaside promenade at Itaparica

The sea side promenade?

No…None of the above….

In fact it’s fresh water!

There is a natural spring across from the marina and everyone here is filling their tanks with wonderfully clear mineral water. Nobody dares taint their storage tanks with what comes out of the hoses at marinas elsewhere. So my first day was spent toting water to claim my share.

 

Filling up at the natural spring in Itaprica

I also tried to restock my boat larder but there is a very limited range of packaged foodstuffs to be had. Other than fruit, nothing is very fresh. If you are not quick enough to eat what you have bought, you get to share your biscuits, pasta or rice with all sorts of critters. Fine if you’re an entomologist, but I’m not too thrilled about the added protein, especially when I discover that I’ve been charged 20% more than what the price tags indicate I should have.

Hint: Advice from a local….Make a list of everything you buy and do the sums yourself. If you are asked to pay more, make a fuss! Even suggest that the police might want to check their dubious accounting practices.

 

Fortaleza Itaparica

The northern tip of Itaparica has its share of white sandy beaches though only the tidal sand spit across from the marina is frequented by the boating crowd. Other attractions include one old Dutch fort, a collection of reasonably priced restaurants / bars (the unreasonably priced ones are situated within the marina complex), and a small town feel.

Weekends is when things get lively as there’s usually plenty of organized entertainment in the main square. I had my heart set on a “Miss bikini” contest but had to settle for “drag queen night” followed by “children fantasy fashion night”.

Disgruntled, I did not linger in Itaparica….