Union island sucks…

Happy Island, Union

Not really…

I’ve just been selling that line via text message to my friends (2 at last count but rapidly decreasing), because I don’t want them to think I’m enjoying myself too much…

Can’t have them getting upset as they sit at their desks furiously shuffling paper to meet their latest deadline. They might get the bright idea of giving it all away by going out to buy a boat and then… horror of horrors,… Happy Island would be crowded with a multitude of ex-paper shufflers.

It’s just another white sandy beach in the Grenadines…

So let me reassure them that the beaches are just like what they have back home….

No bikini clad Brazilians… but lots of goats!

The only girls I’ve come close to here have beards…

Downtown Union Island, Saint Vincent

There’s nothing resembling a decent sized mall downtown…

I’ve been plane spotting!

Flights to the island are “at your own risk” (If you don’t believe me read the warnings at the airport)…

and while I’m at it, I might as well spread a rumor that there’s no more anchorage space.

It’s a dogs life…

In fact there’s absolutely nothing to do in Union…

So as soon as I’ve finished my next rum punch (at Happy Island), and watched yet another monotonous sunset (yawn), I’ll make plans for sailing further north…

 

Now what? Sail to Carriacou of course…

What do you do in Carriacou?

Hey, nice anchorage…

A great opportunity to make use of “yea old inflatable kayak’s” new replacement… meet Loko the rigid plastic sit on top kayak! The one man, wet bum answer to all my anchorage locomotive requirements… Yes there’s nothing better than arriving at immigration and customs with a wet derrière…. It’s the latest fad… Try it….

Loko the RTM kayak

I’ve had to learn to kneel rather than sit in this contraption… It’s less stable, but so far it has kept the underwear dry…

So what did I do in Carriacou?

Beer Time in Carriacou

Had a beer…

Anyone for cheap Venezuelan diesel?

Watched the Venezuelan ship sell smuggled fuel to fishermen.

No comment…

Watched the wildlife do something similar…

Café… Perhaps Cafe… but Kafe? 10 points for originality!

Had a great breakfast at this place… Obviously I was drawn by the name…

Is it just me or has the English language drastically diverged from its roots here in the Caribbean? I’m sure everyone believes I’m half deaf given the number of times I’ve said “pardon” or “what was that again”… I’m told Jamaica (or my misspent youth attending rock concerts) is to blame…

Why Jamaica? Good question! Apparently it is credited throughout the English speaking islands with asserting  Caribbean youth cultural identity.

Which is just a fancy way of saying they have a successful modern music industry. 😉

I’m old school… because I’m only able to make sense of Bob Marley’s lyrics. These days Jamaican artists might as well be singing in Hebrew for all I can tell.

….Maybe they are…

Or it has something to do with the new varieties of weed they can grow nowadays.

Booty at the local boutique!

A note to navigators clearing out at Hillsborough.

Please bring, and if possible donate a pen for your fellow compatriots. A dire shortage of these rare instruments (for use by visitors in Grenada) means you will immediately be sent to the local supermarket to acquire one. I’d have obliged, but the shop only sold red ones!

If it wasn’t for the kindness of a complete stranger (generously loaning “their precious”), I’d still be at the immigration office looking enviously at the pens reserved for immigration employees, staring at my incomplete exit form.

Next island….

 

They build them better in Grenada!

A typical speed boat in Grenada

Look at this!

I tip my hat to shipwright genius in Grenada! Boats that go fast and still let the driver see where they’re going. Eat your heart out T&T… I even took a ride in one just to check….

The Caribbean rasta-man ferryman

While there’s nothing but “yachty” things to do in Prickly Bay, some aimless wandering about St. George’s gave me the chance to take these holiday snapshots…

Postcard snapshots of Grenada

The views from just about everywhere are impressive, no wonder sailors like to take up temporary residence here during the hurricane season, but for some reason it didn’t take me long before I started to get bored…

Panoramic view of The Carenage, Saint George’s, Grenada

Call it what you will, lingering PBBS, or landscape attention deficit syndrome…. but even these bright red fire engines didn’t manage to enthuse me for long…

Look at the fire engines mum!

 

 

 

 

Now what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s carnival… French Guiana style!

Is this carnival... Brazilian style?

French Guiana has the worlds longest carnival… It can run for months….. As you can imagine, I’ve been busy…. but only on weekends!

The rest of the time I get to play castaway…

Sleepy Saint Laurant du Maroni

For those of you who can’t come join the party, here are a few photos to add a little colour to your day…

Carnival queen 2012

Looking rather leafy, it’s the carnival queen for 2012 leading the parade of… of…

It's Pirates of the Caribbean... not...

Pirates?

Closely followed by….

Dancing incognito?

The masked… the masked… OK, your guess is as good as mine…

You got something to say about my hair?

Apparently anything goes as long as it’s colourful…

Let me guess... Is it shrek?

Green is good…

It's Eliza Doolittle in French Guiana!

and so is pink…

Feeling blue?

But I’ve always thought I look better in blue…

So I’m off to the laundromat to take my mind off all this partying…

Now things are really heating up...

Friends think that this is more my pace…

More my pace? I hope not...

I beg to differ…

While I’ll never be able to compete with this fellow…  despite occasionally being labeled something of a  “space cadet”,

Welcome all Space Cadets!

I pride myself as being more the pensive type…

While everyone was at the parade, someone stole my hat!

But back to the parade… where young…

Young Amerindian on parade

and younger…

Children taking part in carnival parade

Make their way through the enthusiastic crowd of bystanders…

It's great to bee here...

Enthusiastic that is… until the weather puts a damper on things…

Don't rain on my parade!

Surprise surprise… a little rain but the party continues….

Bring forth the backhoe…

Even the backhoe gets a makeover for carnival

I mean the dragon…

Follow the music...

and the… the whatever it’s supposed to be…

one short cat nap later….

So that's what they carry in their handbags!!

and it’s off to my favorite bar for a nightcap…

Service with a smile at Mambari

Times are obviously tough… 🙂

 

 

 

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…

 

 

Kourou has everything you need!

It's a good sign!

First impressions? Encouraging.

For yachtsmen on route to the Caribbean from Brazil, Kourou provides a welcome oasis of European living in a convenient if rather unexpected location, (i.e.the Amazon). As I am a man of simple tastes, (I’m told it compliments my simple mind), European living means access to delicacies (of the culinary kind), I’ve craved since setting sail from the Canary Islands.

So, I think with my stomach…. what’s wrong with that?

Not that I’ve disliked the staple Brazilian diet of black beans with lumps of suspicious looking meat served on a bed of overcooked rice. It’s just that I do so enjoy a varied diet.

Splish splash.. he was having a bath.....

All this is possible in La Guyane, thanks largely to its primary industry….

Which contrary to what you see, isn’t in fact, children!

Missed the launch... but I did make it to the car park!

Though they seem to be very handy here at making those… Perhaps it comes a close second, given that French Guiana has the largest population growth in France. It certainly is not uncommon for the locals to have half a dozen children, or more…

No, the big industry here isn’t babies, it happens to be satellites, sent to orbit via the Ariane spaceport.

Fisherman's jetty, Kourou

Not that much of this high tech is visible to the visiting yachtsman. Quite the opposite if the fisherman’s jetty is anything to go by….

A look at the past...

or you happen to find yourself wandering in some of the older parts of town.

Anyone for granita?

Speaking of old, who can remember the last time they saw an authentic “snowball” or “granita” vendor? I thought they were extinct.

Visiting Kourou is just like time travel….

Trendy new housing in Kourou

Look a little more closely however and you realize “La Guyane” is really just like any other part of France. The modern suburban real estate may look a little odd,

Where do you think you are going?

and what passes for house pets might also surprise,

Room for one more on the scooter?

but the life-style is certainly very European (minus the miserable northern winters).

Bikinis beyond Brazil....

I felt much healthier emotionally (ahh, no more PBBS), once I spent a day or two at the beach…

The best place for sailors in Kourou to hang out....

and my regular doses of fabulous ice cream (plus a “planteur” or two) from this establishment did wonders for raising my previously somber spirits. Can you imagine why?

Going nowhere....

Well, I can now understand why some sailors have taken drastic measures in order to stay….

Taking root in Kourou

Though some crews might have exaggerated a little.

Late night action to be had at Beaubourg

While Kourou isn’t quite party central (that was Brazil),

Head south (to N41) for authentic Saramacca furniture

if you are looking for a place to unwind, Kourou, with its unusual mix of low…

Hmmmmm

and high tech…

is definitely worth an extended visit.

A sailors guide to Fortaleza

A skyhook for sailors ?

Don’t rely on skyhooks when visiting Fortaleza. Read this and save yourself time and money.

While I would like to take all the credit for gathering the following information, it was in fact a joint effort, with contributions from the many yachtsmen moored at Marina Park in May/June 2011.

Planeta Agua. Drinking water delivered to your yacht

I’ll start with the basics:
The water from the taps at the marina is of dubious quality (some days it flows yellow). Fill your tanks with it only if you have amazing filters or only use tank water for washing and showering.
Drinking water can be delivered to your yacht in 20 liter bottles (5 Real a Bottle). You can either catch up with the truck that delivers for the hotel 3 times a week (it parks just opposite the pontoon entrance in the morning) or you can give Ligou Chegou a call on 32121402 (the office), 30877972, 30941849, or 86861006.

Why they have so many phone numbers is a mystery to me but take note that they will also fill your cooking gas bottles for a fair price (3 Real per Liter).

The BR service station located near Marina Park Hotel

If you have trouble calling, their shop can be found as follows:
Walk across the freeway opposite the hotel (near the BR petrol station because the condemned buildings opposite are a hive for drug addicts, stay well clear day and night. Don’t take the stairs. Don’t take the bridge).

This is the road to take once you cross the freeway...

The road you follow to town is called Sem. Pompeu.

It takes you past a large mustard colored building (more on that later).

The bus station is behind the flea market.

Take a right (onto Rua Dr. Joao Moreira) and you will come across a bus station / flea market.
At the diagonally opposite end of this bus station square you will see fishing tackle shops (look for nets hanging outside).

You are getting close!

Follow the road (Rua Castro e Silva) and you will see the water bottles outside the Planeta Agua shop.

This way for the supermarket...

Retracing your steps to the square with the buses and flea market, take an immediate right and follow the road (Rua 24 de Maio for 2 blocks) to a small supermarket (on the left called Mercadinho Lene).

The small supermarket within walking distance of Marina Park

This is the closest to the marina. A couple of shops further up is a butcher.

The nicest (but somewhat overpriced) supermarket is Pao de Acucar, one street up from the night markets at Beira Mar.

Expensive, but you can find everything

It boasts free WiFi at the cafe inside (but no power outlets). Free Internet is a issue in Fortaleza. It’s 20 Real for an hour from the Hotel! Try the Internet cafe next to McDonalds for a better rate or buy a long range WiFi antennae for your boat.

You will find an automatic cash dispenser inside and to the right

The previously mentioned mustard building (with arched doorways) is a tourist center and contains many small shops. You will find a Bank of Brazil Automatic Cash dispenser here. Cover the keypad with your hand when using the cash machines in Brazil, two crews have already had their bank accounts emptied by thieves employing hidden cameras and card duplicators.

The first pedestrian walk crossing Sem. Pompeu.

If you follow the Pompeu road rather then taking a right to the bus station, you will reach several pedestrian only crossroads. Taking a left at the first or second will take you to the main square.

The only place to stock up on medicines...

If you need to stock up on pharmaceuticals the place to do so is here (on the side of the square with the taxi rank).

Hammocks galore opposite the cathedral

Head toward the obvious landmark of the cathedral if you want to buy a hammock (Fortaleza has the cheapest), and stock up on pet food or souvenirs. There is a post office here.

Varejao das Redes (the hammock shop where this lady works) is getting a free plug, so insist on a fair deal...

Diesel is purchased at the BR station just to the left of the hotel as you exit the foyer. You will have to carry your Jerry cans unless you are willing to part with 30 Real to entice a taxi driver to help.
A word on Taxi drivers. Make sure the meter is running when you catch a ride. Complain if it is not. It should be on setting 1 during the day and setting 2 at night. Otherwise agree on a price beforehand.

We all live in a gray? submarine...

Share a taxi to get your paperwork done as only the skipper needs to attend (must take crew passports).
For Fortaleza you visit 4 offices starting with the Federal Police, followed by customs, Health and the Port Captain. Wear long pants!! The same (less Health) on the way out. The officials are efficient and polite.
You can take the 52 bus to the Passenger Terminal where these offices are located (Look for a submarine conning tower as a landmark). Take the number 11 on the way back (2 Real per person per trip). Don’t walk!

Everyone hangs out here after sunset!

Going out you can book a free ride on the Hotel Bus which takes guests to Beira Mar (and it’s night markets). You need to reserve your place with reception. You can also catch this bus back (check times with the driver).

Note: There is an aquatic center opposite the night markets where divers can get their air tanks refilled.

Beira Mar is where everyone goes for their evening promenade. It also has the best beach (Praia do Futuro is a tourist trap, even though there is a free bus from the hotel, give it a miss).

Anchor opposite this new landmark

There is a new building going up (called landscape), and just opposite this development is a sweet day anchorage (03’43,404S 038’29.881W). If you get organized, 3 to 4 boats could anchor here indefinitely (in 3 to 4 meters) by keeping a rotating watch (to discourage night swimmers).

The beautiful people hang out at Boteco (on the western end of Beira Mar) opposite the pier, or at the Centro Dragao (great pizza there at Buoni Amici’s Sport Bar!).
Go to Pirata on a Monday night (Half price for guests… see reception), or take in a concert at Mucuripe (wild!). Too lazy? Don’t go anywhere… Some of the best concerts are held in the Marina Park grounds,in which case your entertainment is free.

I’ll leave you to discover the rest yourselves… Enjoy!

Plenty of “nuts” this side of the Atlantic

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts...

What have I been getting up to of late? Not much, just chilling out on the beach in Fortaleza with my favourite refreshment…. I like it so much, I bought two!

Luciana loves her coconut

Nah, just borrowed it from one of the locals… Mind you she didn’t let go easily. Never thought I’d be jealous of a nut, but here in Fortaleza anything is possible. It’s a sailors paradise…

I found this bunch at the end of the pontoon one morning!

No not that kind of sailor… the yachting bum kind….

My neighbour Daniel on Goyave

Yes… otherwise known in Portuguese as a Vagabondo do mar. The locals are more likely to be seen on something like this:

You don't suppose the locals have all gone commercial do you?

While the Brazilian tourists pay 20 Real for a ride on the pirate ship… What a deal! They even get to go swimming on the other side of our breakwater…

Let's all go for a swim from the pirate boat...

I prefer to anchor across from the beach on Beira Mar.

Eileen of Avoca anchored off Beira Mar

It’s just a short swim or paddle ashore…

Day crew for Eileen on kayak duty.

and what all the cool sailing dudes in the know do…

I borrowed some South African crew members for the day!

The locals seem to be enjoying themselves…

It's fun in the sun at Beira Mar, Fortaleza

Despite the lack of surf…

No waves... What a shame... What will we do?

And even if they don’t seem to have any reason to be happy.

The natives sacrifice another victim to the tide...

Perhaps he saw this man coming and was wondering how to place an order…

No need to move... Everything comes to you at the beach...

It’s been a month of song…

A song from the crew of Ercolausa II

and dance here in Fortaleza.

Dancing girl at Pirata Bar

The ideal balance of entertainment!

Try balancing on a truck strap at the beach for entertainment.

Fellow sailors have been great company…

The crew on Out of Africa

We’ve all been well fed, dining in

South African potjie for all...

and out…

Yes... it's even here in Brazil...

Met many a local for a taste of the exotic,

Get your acai from Paris Tropical on Beira Mar

and mucked about at the pool…

Beware of the pool noodle...

Always safe under the watchful eye of INACE.

Do you suppose it's loaded?

Marina Park is an excellent stopover. Don’t worry too much that it’s been shrinking of late…

Sunken pontoons are lifted for repair

There is still plenty of room to park your yacht, or helicopter…

Another VIP comes... or goes...

and party time is just around the corner.

Went to an ASA concert at Mucuripe... Have T-shirt for proof!

You can’t help but like the place….. even if at first it feels like you’ve arrived on some other planet…

I come in peace.... Deposit coin here...

This is Eileen of Avoca calling it a day here in sunny Brazil…

I'm getting more famous by the minute...

See you all for the next exciting episode of… nut’s across the Atlantic.

It’s all happening in Fortaleza

 

Marina Park Hotel. Note the 100ft yacht parked next to Eileen of Avoca

What a marina… what a hotel… what a city!

Not a day goes by without something to entertain, amuse or horrify the visiting yachtsman. My last stop in Brazil is fast becoming the most interesting and I am becoming increasingly reluctant to leave. Nor am I the only one. Everyone else at the marina has already doubled the intended length of stay and with a few photos I’ll endeavor to show you why. But before I deliver the rave review, let me point out some of the perceived inadequacies…

See this man for a better deal on mooring fees!

It’s not the price that has us all enthralled with Fortaleza. In fact, the marina is absurdly overpriced (1 US dollar per foot per night) given the appalling state of the facilities.

The pontoons are disintegrating rapidly, connecting (or should I say wiring yourself in) to shore power is a risky affair (I didn’t dare), and water (if you can reach it) is of dubious quality.

However, a little price negotiation with the marina manager yields dividends. I paid 700 Real for the month and 35 to 40 footers managed the same amount (+- 50R) for two week stays. Oh, and you didn’t hear any of that from me… 😉

The big plus is that you get to use the Marina Park Hotel facilities and one dip in their pool will have you sold on the idea of an extended stay. Last chance to swim for nearly 2000 nautical miles… Why not enjoy it?

Perhaps it is a bit unfair to criticize the state of the marina so flatly. Only last week there was a hive of activity as a dozen or so INACE workers chipped rust, welded fittings, filled holes and daubed fresh paint all over the place. It was almost looking rather spiffy!

Some of the marina pontoons have had a facelift

Unfortunately the renovations were limited to one third of the pontoons, those that were to be used in the commissioning of three new fast patrol boats built at the neighboring shipyard.

Mowe Bay, a Marlim fast Patrol Boat

Two were built for the Namibian Navy (Terrace Bay and Mowe Bay) and a third (Anequim) was reserved for the Brazilians. For those of you interested in this sort of thing, have a look at this link.

We took it in shifts to keep the pontoons afloat

The yachties, were assigned the other other end of the pontoons, given a pump to keep them afloat (I’m serious!), and left to their own devices.

Don’t expect to have marina staff lend you a hand with your warps upon arrival. Everyone relies on the good will of other sailors to move lines (strung across the entrance) or to help yachts maneuver to a safe mooring.

Marina staff move yacht...

This fellow didn’t have any marina friends…

I’ve probably frightened most potential visitors away by now, but I assure you that Marina Park is no junkyard. It’s the ultimate in luxury! Only the owners of that 100 footer (called Atrevida and registered in Rio De Janeiro) seemed to think it was a tip; depositing their mounds of refuse in front of Eileen of Avoca and expecting a non-existent pontoon cleaning staff to deal with it…

If you come across the owners, tell them their rubbish is still waiting for them to collect in Fortaleza. I’m not their cleaner!!!

Marina Park, Fortaleza... A dump?

One last horror story before I get to the good stuff! Despite our best efforts (including getting up at 4am for pump duty), Marina Park marina is now significantly smaller than it was a week ago. The above-pictured pump died in a squall over the weekend and with all the electrics shorted (and nobody at the hotel willing or able to lend a hand), three more pontoons have sunk.

Marina Park is shrinking....

Surely none of the above will put you off visiting Fortaleza!

Remember, it’s only a minor maintenance issue… nothing serious…. According to my South African friend John, Brazil glories in its state of advanced entropy. Maintenance just doesn’t appear in the Brazilian vocabulary, and in his words the whole country is: “Run-down”.

Due to certain redeeming features upon which I will soon elaborate, I remain ambivalent on this issue.

We love Brazilian bikinis!

Just another gringo with his camera

Like I said, the marina has seen better days!

So what wondrous tales of sybaritic excess have I to tell after my week long stay at Pier Salvador marina in Ribeira?

None!

While still harboring “great expectations” for Bahia, (I know I’ve experienced but a morsel of what the region has to offer) I’ve had to be satisfied with imbibing freely on its visual and auditory splendor (plus several cold beers for good measure).

Unfortunately I leave unsated.

No tourists on this beach in Ribeira

Yes, Salvador is the diverse and interesting metropolis I’d sought, yes, its beaches are spectacularly lively, and yes, music is everywhere, spontaneously encouraging both young and old to dance openly in the street (and wow can they dance!)….

However….

Music in the streets!

Salvador is also the first place where I’ve actually been made to feel like an intruder. Not at the marina, not at any of the restaurants or main tourist traps, so obviously not when I’m seen as a potential source of income (yes I’m a cynic!).

The “bad vibe” (a cynical wannabe hippie) is apparent when I’m out on the street, amongst the locals, making my habitual photographic rounds. Somehow I doubt it’s just a case of “gringo-photo-phobia” (fear of featuring in some tourist’s holiday snapshots, or heaven forbid… a sailing blog!).

No smile for the camera?

I chose to stay in Ribeira because it’s where the majority of tourists don’t. It’s my way of effectively mingling with the general population. Here the strategy has backfired!

Bahians appear troubled by my presence. It’s as though I’ve bullied my way into their last tourist free oasis. I’ve gatecrashed, an uninvited guest and I’m not sure they’re too thrilled about it.

Not too thrilled about being photographed…

Given that the city is overflowing with hoards of carnival party pilgrims, I can’t really blame them.

So if you were wondering why there are so few smiling faces in my latest collection of photographic impressions, you now know why.

It’s because the “gringo” with his pocket camera has been noticed!

Oops! I’ve been spotted…

So, I’ll just wander off to take a few shots without people in them before surreptitiously sneaking a couple in while they’re not looking… 😉

Knock knock….

Except it’s harder than you’d imagine…

Who’s there?

Ah! The secret is to catch them while they’re distracted…

Too busy to notice Mr Cameraman!

Yes, operation ice-cream is a success…

The best ice-cream in Salvador!

and I’m finally able to show you what the locals get up to on the beach…

Highlighting that Bahian tan!

Don’t ask me… I’m just the photographer…. but apparently this is the way the women work on their tan.

Under the inflatable doll tree

The men on the other hand look for some shade…

Sunglasses for sale, Ribeira, Salvador

Or shades?

Food served on the beach!

But Ribeira is not just beach, bikinis, beer and food stalls.

Freelance recycler

Some people have to work for a living (present company excluded).

Working out Bahian sty;e

Bahians don’t always get that lean muscular body by going to a gym.

I’m going this way…

I get mine by going for walks… 😉