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… 😉

 

Putting the students to work…

Little house on the Maroni...  Almost sounds like an old TV series

Little house on the Maroni… Almost sounds like an old TV series

Back in Saint Laurent du Maroni, it was time to finalize plans for the construction of the marina’s club house / bar restaurant…

Meeting with technical college directors, it was decided to put the task to the students in the form of a design competition. Several colleges will be involved and the winning design (judged by yours truly, the mayor’s department and town planner), will be the one that I build… Err… That they build….

Yes, not only will the technical college students design the marina, they will be put to work building it!

My part will be the construction of the jetty upon which everything else will stand.

Perusing the visitors book in the tourist office opposite Saint Laurent's anchorage

Perusing the visitors book in the tourist office opposite Saint Laurent’s anchorage

But all this will take time, and can only be undertaken during a scholastic year. So in the interim I’m concentrating on the first rally. No point having all this infrastructure if there are no  real sailors to make use of it…

The fish at hte entrance to the Maroni River literally jump into your boat...

The fish at the entrance to the Maroni River literally jump into your boat…

So I spend my free time fishing…

The Saint Laurent du Maroni sailing club is back in action!

The Saint Laurent du Maroni sailing club is back in action!

while watching the next generation of sailors hone their skills….

Next stop, Trinidad and Tobago for more boat maintenance and rally preparation.

 

 

 

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….

 

Pleasure before travel…

s/v Sandpiper visits Saint Laurent du Maroni

Would you look at that! A UK registered vessel here in Saint Laurent du Maroni, and all because they read about it here.

What did they have to say about their stay?

  1. Click here:
  2. here:
  3. here:
  4. not to mention here:
  5. here:
  6. did I mention here:
  7. and here:

to find out.

While all set to sail to Domburg in Suriname, I’m certainly not going to miss out on Saint Laurent’s “Fête patronale”…

Why are my internal organs vibrating so?

While the idyllic anchorage becomes relatively noisy during the 5 days of festivities I’m not one to complain.

What harm can a little music do?

Buy your hair here! All shades all textures!

So let your hair down and join in on the fun…

Move over…. I’m driving!

Lots of activities for the children,

Welcome welcome… to the greatest show on the Maroni….

in fact, everyone is welcome.

A little more light over here please!

As you can see, the stage is set….

Testing 123 testing testing…..

Sound systems are go….

I’ve been assimilated by the borg… resistance is futile….

The cameras are rolling…

Ground control to Major Tom….

And all brought to you “live” from the Amazon!!!

Who will be Miss Saint Laurent 2012???

Election 2012 of Miss Saint Laurent du Maroni…

You dare wonder why I have not yet left for Suriname?

 

 

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.

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…

 

How to get to Saint Laurent du Maroni

Heading North from Fortaleza, Brazil

Already on your way to Saint Laurent du Maroni?

From Brazil it’s a leisurely sail with favorable winds. It took me 10 days to reach the Salvation Islands (Iles du Salut) following the rhumb line and while it would have been nice to visit São Luís (Saint Louis) and Belem on route, my tourist visa had already expired. They will have to wait for Eileen of Avoca’s…. Brazil take two adventure…

Reaching Saint Laurent du Maroni from Trinidad and Tobago

Heading South from Trinidad and Tobago isn’t as hard as it’s been made out to be. Yes, you may have days where the wind is on the nose and yes, there are places where you will battle a ferocious half knot of current, but if my boat can get there, so can yours…

The best departure point is Store Bay in Tobago. Head past Toco Trinidad, and take a direct bearing from there. The only obstacles you will encounter are Trinidad’s oil platforms to the southeast of the island.

Friends who have experimented with a more coastal route, following the 20m depth contour along Guyana and Suriname, have found that the winds and current are more favorable. Go for it by all means if you have crew. It takes about the same amount of time but you will avoid some motoring.

Here is the official list of buoys marking the entrance and route to Saint Laurent on the Maroni River.

Position of buoys on the Maroni River

NOTE: M14 may have been moved… I’ll check the position shortly.

Last but not least, tide data can be found here and here.

I expect to have a number of supervised moorings available for sailors wishing to leave their boat during the hurricane season. For inquiries contact www.marinaslm.com

For flights in and out of French Guiana, you have the choice of Paramaribo and Cayenne as departure points. They are about the same distance in terms of travel time from Saint Laurent.

 

 

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…

 

 

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.