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

 

The Nereid’s Rally 2014 French Review

The Nereid's Rally send off in Tobago

The Nereid’s Rally send off on Swallows Beach, Tobago

I spent September and half of October doing this…

In the words of our Swiss contingent on Magic Swan:

If you can’t read what follows, it’s not the beer… you probably just don’t understand French… No matter, you can always look at the pictures!

Amis navigateurs,

Après plusieurs mois passés dans les Caraïbes, nous nous sommes rendus à Grenade afin de laisser passer la saison des ouragans. Le plan initial était de naviguer entre Grenade et Tinidad&Tobago pendant cette période afin d’y être « en sécurité ».

A Grenade, nous avons entendu parler d’un rallye (http://www.marinaslm.com/rally/) organisé par David, qui partait début Septembre de Trinidad ou de Tobago avec trois escales au programme. Bartica en Guyana, Paramaribo au Suriname et St Laurent du Maroni en Guyane Française. L’idée de quitter les Caraïbes pendant un moment en attendant la belle saison et de découvrir ces pays nous a immédiatement séduits.

Nous sommes donc inscrit et avons rejoint un groupe d’une dizaine de bateaux pour mettre le cap sur le Guyana. Bien sûr, certains vous diront que les conditions de navigation le long de la côte sud-américaine sont difficiles car les vents et les courants ne sont pas favorables.

Our GPS tracks to Guyana

Our GPS tracks to Guyana

Certes, il ne faut pas s’attendre à faire du portant et quelques bords sont nécessaires pour rejoindre le Guyana mais est-ce si difficile que ça ? La première étape nous a donc mené de Tobago jusqu’à Bartica en Guyana. La navigation était plaisante, 10-15 n’uds de vent et nous avons atterris à Bartica après environ 6 jours, en comptant qu’il faut un ou deux jours pour remonter le fleuve Essequibo (magnifique !).

A trip to the local falls!

A trip to the local falls!

A Bartica nous avons été très bien accueillis par les autorités et une multitude d’événements avaient été soigneusement organisés par David. (visite d’un village amérindien, baignade aux chutes d’eaux, barbecue, etc..). En même temps, chacun était également libre de vaquer à ses occupations, visiter Bartica et rencontrer ses habitants très sympathiques.

Anchored off the Torarica Pier in Paramaribo

Anchored off the Torarica Pier in Paramaribo

Après un séjour merveilleux à Bartica nous avons mis le cap sur Paramaribo au Suriname. Grâce à notre organisateur, nous avons eu la chance de pouvoir mouiller en face d’un hôtel qui se trouvait au centre-ville.(et de bénéficier de la piscine!) Il s’agit d’une bien meilleure option que de se retrouver bien plus haut sur le fleuve, à environ une heure et demi de Paramaribo où, il semble que quelques corps-morts soient installés.

I say... Who wants another drink?

I say… Who wants another drink?

Là, de nouveau, des activités étaient prévues en collaboration avec une agence de voyage locale. Après une bonne semaine à Paramaribo, nous avons mis le cap sur St Laurent du Maroni en Guyane Française. Et quelle surprise quand nous avons atteint cette petite ville sur le fleuve Maroni! Un comité d’accueil impressionnant nous attendait et une fête avait même été organisée pour l’arrivée des plus beaux yachts des Caraïbes (comme il le mentionnait dans le journal local).

They had been running ads about our arrival for weeks!

They had been running ads about our arrival for weeks!

La radio et la télévision étaient là ainsi que tous les officiels. Nous ne nous attendions pas à un tel accueil et il faut bien avouer que nous avons été traités comme des princes par les autorités. (Réception de bienvenue, cadeaux, etc.) Les locaux étaient également curieux de voir arriver ces voiliers et nous avons pu partager avec eux de très bons moments.

An Amerindian welcome!

An Amerindian welcome!

A St Laurent du Maroni, l’organisateur du rallye et l’office du tourisme avaient co-organisés certaines activités comme la visite d’un village amérindien, une après-midi dans une belle propriété au milieu de la jungle, une expédition au super marché (c’est pas très exotique mais ça fait plaisir de retrouver du fromage!), la visite du Bagne, etc.

Nous tirons un bilan plus que positif de ce petit voyage le long des côtes sud-américaines et ne pouvons qu’encourager d’autres personnes à participer à ce rallye. Nous souhaitons ajouter qu’avant ce voyage, nous n’étions pas vraiment enclins à participer à des rallyes, mais celui-là est à taille humaine, avec un organisateur qui se plie en quatre pour rendre service aux participants et surtout qui apporte sa bonne humeur et partage ses expériences préalables.

The authors of the review!

The authors of the review!

A noter que David est en train de travailler sur un projet de développement du yachting dans cette région et qu’il sera ravi de vous donner plus de détails. N’hésitez pas à visiter le site : http://www.marinaslm.com/rally/ pour plus d’informations.

SY Magic Swan

“Gullibles Travels” in Cuba

Sunset in Cuba

Sunset in Cuba

I arrived in Cienfuegos on a Sunday. Taking a stylish 1950s taxi to town, my first stop was for money (how capitalist of me). To an ATM to be precise, so that I could withdraw CU (convertible dollars).

The typical Cuban car tourist photo

The typical Cuban car tourist photo

No luck… The machine kept the money and swallowed my credit card.

Let me digress a moment here to explain that tourist currency isn’t the same as local currency, and the CU purchasing power is a highly sought after commodity, even if it is not a necessity.

So much so that just about every scheme you can imagine (legal and otherwise), has evolved to obtain it. More on that later.

Feeling somewhat responsible for my evenings misadventure, my taxi driver promised to accompany me to the bank first thing in the morning.

Sorted!

Cienfuegos port, Cuba

Cienfuegos port, Cuba

Cashed up I spent the following day playing “tourist”, my taxi driver, “guide”. I offered to buy drinks, he offered to show me highlights of Cienfuegos, I bought lunch, he procured discount Cuban cigars (a must have souvenir).

All well an good.

I wandered all over town,

City centre, Cienfuegos

City centre, Cienfuegos

took some fabulous photos,

met the locals and

Cubana

A typical Cuban girl?

satisfied that I’d had a glimpse of the real Cuba, prepared to leave.

Che Guevara?

Che Guevara?

Four officials waited to board Eileen of Avoca the morning of my departure. Two made their way inside and rummaged around taking particular interest in sundry electronic devices such as mobile phones, memory sticks and cameras. I have a collection, many don’t work, but that did not deter them from suggesting they were gifts.

Fair enough, I had no real use for them.

I was amazed at how quickly and with what practised ease these items vanished into jacket pockets.

When asked if I had bought cigars, I retrieved the boxes my driver had procured and that’s when the excitement started…

Apparently they were counterfeit and must be confiscated!

Who would have thought that you can buy fake Cuban cigars in Cuba?

Is there some factory in China producing them on mass and somehow smuggling them into the country?

Well apparently they were imitation “brand name” cigars. I’d bought the Cuban equivalent of fake Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses or a made in China Prada handbag.

Maybe they need to update their welcome...

Maybe they need to update their welcome…

I was not overly concerned at this point, but unfortunately customs were not satisfied with their newly acquired electronic gifts and counterfeit cigars. For when I returned to Eileen I found that the last of my Cuban cash, a USB memory stick, and a fishing lure (of all things) had also mysteriously disappeared.

That the officials conducting the search were responsible, I have no doubt. They conveniently made me leave Eileen before they did. Presumably so I would not see what transpired. But after living aboard a 23ft boat for so many years I can’t help knowing where and what is in it…, intimately.

A poor show Mr Fidel!

In my travels, officials have occasionally hinted at gifts, but never before have they blatantly stolen items from my boat.

What time is it?

What time is it?

I would still go back to Cuba, but never again with my boat, for the following four reasons:

  1. There is little to offer a single handed yachtsman in the numerous southern cays. What fun is a deserted scrubby island (or hundreds for that matter), when you sail alone?

  2. It is illegal to invite a local aboard your yacht. There goes my social life!

  3. And horror of horrors, you are not allowed to catch the local lobster. This is by far the most difficult prohibition to live with given that their consumption could almost be used as an unofficial unit of time here. “How long will you be staying at this anchorage?”… “Oh, about three or four lobsters…”

  4. You already know the fourth reason.

Death of a kayak

The kayak is dead… long live the kayak…

As all good stories should, this one starts in Brazil…, you see, my inflatable Sevylor kayak, i.e. the deceased, was just too novel for its own good, and probably also too yellow for the local natives to ignore.

Even before I’d reach the shore from my anchorage of the day, children would inevitably be climbing aboard or seeking a handhold for a free tow to the beach. Mind you, there were times when I didn’t seem to mind if it was treated a little roughly… ;)

I'm not going to interrupt this...

and if the interest had stayed at just wanting to hitch a ride, perhaps my kayak would have survived a little longer. But no…, for some inexplicable reason, a surprising number of people seemed to think that inflatable kayak was a synonym for public trampoline! Even adults!!! Why on earth did they insist on walking all over it in their shoes and then feel compelled to take a nap on it? Right under my nose! The mind boggles…

I’d almost consigned my poor kayak to the trash while visiting Tobago, after a crowd of mini delinquents spent an evening leaping from one sailor’s dinghy to another, deflating the lot. But with a little first aid, Thierry and I managed to resuscitate the craft. At this point it’s innards were securely held together with bicycle patches, but how much patching can keep a kayak together when mysterious somebodies insist on stomping on it while you’re away?

So, what's the verdict doctor?

The straw that finally broke my kayak’s back remains a mystery. Perhaps it was being used as cushioned seating, or as a convenient step to climb over the pontoon fence it leaned against. I’ll never know..

Do tell however if anyone has an indestructible dinghy for sale…I’m in the market. Preferably an electrified one fitted with steel jaw traps to deal with stray budding gymnasts…

 

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!

I sailed to Barbate

Church in main square, Barbate

My Atlantic Spain and Portugal pilot refers to Barbate as a practical stopover in a somewhat soulless town. The marina certainly isn’t packed with nightclubs and restaurants. It has two of the later and none of the former. More distressing, for any slothful sailor like myself, is the 2km hike into town to buy provisions. Despite this, I wouldn’t go as far as calling Barbate soulless. I’d settle for a tad dull.

I wandered aimlessly about the town for days, took the obligatory snapshot of the white sandy beach, church and town hall (all very nice if you frame the photo well), and loitered suspiciously for hours at venues offering Internet access (both restaurants at the marina have WiFi, and in town there are two “cyber-cafes”. The coin operated one near the beach is probably your best bet).

Despite enthusiastically delving into the myriad of touristic offerings (attempt at dry humor here), I couldn’t quite get accustomed to Barbate and eagerly awaited an opportunity to depart.

The regular jogger set, dog and power walkers, passed by frequently as they made their daily pilgrimages between downtown and the marina. I lived in fear that they’d move beyond our now customary brief nod of recognition, and stop to converse.

For someone as poorly versed in Spanish as myself, (my conversational repertoire is currently limited to boat talk and the weather), the mere thought of engaging in serious small talk is traumatic! Mind you, I did plan to take it in small steps… starting perhaps with a few words to the dogs and slowly working up from that. ;)

Barbate beach in March

I needn’t have worried. No one ventured to go beyond the briefest “Ola”. Perhaps I’d already outstayed my welcome. This paranoiac notion grew as staff at El Espigon, (where I visited daily for a morning espresso and tostada), suddenly appeared reluctant to provide me with Wi-Fi access (it’s mysteriously switched off when customers linger for more than the briefest of sessions).

Even the restaurant at the other end of the marina has started using the “silently switch it off” strategy to ration Internet usage. It’s a Barbate conspiracy. True, I’m no big spender, (I can only drink so much coffee), but I’m also very unlikely to seriously impact their bandwidth quotas by writing my blog.

To add insult to injury, they’ve only given me one packet of jam with my toast today! Simply outrageous! It’s clearly time for me to move on, but where is that weather window when you need it?

Something to write home about

Smartly dressed dog

While many of my emails to marinas on my route (requesting the availability of a berth), are either ignored or given short thrift (i.e. “go away.. you are too small a boat to bother with”…take note Italy and Gibraltar!), it was an unexpected pleasure to deal with the small boat  friendly and professional staff at Fuengirola.

For what it’s worth, the marina gets my enthusiastic recommendation. It’s inexpensive (7.45 a night with electricity and WiFi), secure, well managed, and situated in a real town!

And while I’m unashamedly giving plugs for the city:

If you see this smartly dressed dog, be sure to say hello to her very simpatico owners for me!

If you fancy dining on authentic Italian pizza (not the popular Spanish equivalent that’s made of cement and seemingly flattened by a steam roller), then seek out this establishment.

Best Pizza in Fuengirola

I admit to having cravings for pizza while cruising. If I could fit a pizza oven on Eileen, I’d be in gastronomic heaven, but alas I have to make do with a plastic box for germinating alfalfa sprouts… Not quite the same, but I’m trying to convince myself that it’s a far healthier substitute.

Oh, and if you’d rather frequent a locals establishment (for drinks and tapas), go no further than ‘La Fonda’ (opposite the bus station). You will undoubtedly be well looked after.

All of which made my stay in Fuengirola grand. I liked it so much, I went to fetch my mother and inflicted a weeks holiday (with me) on her. I even bullied her aboard Eileen to endure a day-sail / fishing trip and have the photographic evidence to prove it!

Where are the fish?

Our amateurish attempts to harvest the seas bounty here were however, frustrated by one small issue. The complete lack of fish to be caught anywhere near La Costa del Sol.

I’m told by a reliable source that the local ‘sports fishermen’ now often resort to accidentally having their lines stray into fish farm enclosures to guarantee that catch. Is this so that they can return home with enough bounty to justify the cost of taking out the diesel dollar guzzler… I mean… the leisure cruiser?

No surprise given that trawlers by the dozen sieve the sea of everything edible, leaving nothing but plastic bags, bottles and assorted junk in their wake.

I might have to wait until I reach the Atlantic before I can catch another meal, but the lure goes into the water despite the dismal prospects.

Aigina (the tourist trap)

Aigina, Greece

Aigina, Greece

With continuing fair weather we set sail for Aigina near Athens, skirting the south of Sifnos and west of Serifos. The sailing was uneventful, and only the port of Aigina is worth a special mention.

Warning! This is a quaint but expensive tourist trap!

To be avoided, unless you don’t mind paying 3.50 for a lukewarm espresso or 3 Euro for just a few minutes Internet usage in a cafe exuding unpleasant plumbing odors. The miser in me suffered considerably. :)

Note: This was the only port I visited in Greece since leaving Kos that charged me for the privilege of tying to the quay.