Don’t sail south in April!

Why it's no fun sailing South in April...

Why it’s no fun sailing South in April…

I was told that April is the worse time of year to sail from Trinidad and Tobago to French Guiana. Now that I’ve done just that, I concur. Not that I had much choice. My visa for Trinidad and Tobago was about to expire and I was well overdue for another visit to Saint Laurent du Maroni to follow up on marina developments.

But, if you have the choice, take my advice and don’t do it.

Of course those who know me are well aware that I don’t readily take advice, least of all my own, so I can’t honestly expect many to follow this recommendation.

But I like being annoyingly pedantic, so I’ll repeat it anyway…

Don’t sail south in April!

April and May is when the mythical contrary current becomes not so mythical, and while I did everything I could to find an easy way around it (including the sailors equivalent of ritual voodoo), my improvised flirtations with the occult proved futile.


Let’s play dodge the oil rig…..

Perhaps the only way to escape the northerly flow this time of year is to is to hug the coast near the 5m depth contour. Much as I hate giving up easting, I’ll give it a try sometime, despite my healthy aversion to single handed sailing near the coast. When it’s bed time, I’ll thwart running aground by dropping anchor. It’s what the local fishermen do, and I have it on good authority, (Bernhard from Guyana), that the strategy works.

In a horrendously agitated sea I motor-sailed against the prevailing current for 12 days…

Daily runs were often less than 40 nautical miles and as evidenced by the censored comments in my ship’s log, it was not much fun.

Fortunately my little 10HP engine is in good running order and I’d stocked up on plenty of diesel in Tobago, because otherwise I’d probably still be at sea.

Guess what this fisherman is about to do!

Guess what this fisherman is about to do!

A warning to yachts approaching both Suriname and French Guiana. Do not trust the placement of navigational buoys! They are often dragged away from their position by fishermen who use them as anchors for their vessels and nets.

The official positioning of buoys marking the thoroughfare on the Maroni River is given here. It will be a considerably less exciting trip across the bar if you take note of the coordinates.

On my way in to Saint Laurent, I did try and prevent one of the above mentioned culprits from inadvertently displacing one of the remaining buoys. With smiles all round they politely waited for me to sail by before ignoring my advice.

Remind you of anyone?

More amazing sailors!

Viana do Castelo

I am blog writing while sailing! A real novelty for me because reading or writing below deck is usually a recipe for instant nausea. But today the sea is calm and I am motoring toward Aveiro at a brisk 5kts. So if you were ever wondering why my posts are delayed by several days, it is either because I need to be on steady ground before I find the incentive to write, or I’m having difficulty finding Internet access (which happens rather frequently).

It has been an interesting couple of days as I travel south from Bayona via Viana do Castelo and on to Leixoes (near Porto). I’ve seen some beautiful boats and some rather scruffy but functional ones all migrating south with Madeira or the Canaries in their sights.

Just to highlight this, what follows are a couple of photos taken on route:

Swiss tall ship in Bayona

I didn’t expect to see the Swiss out and about sailing in this fine vessel.  Pictured here anchored off Bayona, it made quite an impressive sight.

The not so glorious Gloria

Not so fine but certainly impressive, is Gloria, an English registered ferro-concrete yacht (you don’t see many of them these days), that perhaps has seen better days. Never mind, it hasn’t stopped the crew from patching her up and setting sail from the UK for warmer climes. Having paid just 1500 pounds to buy her, it goes to show that even on a boat budget considerably smaller than mine it’s possible to go cruising. I wish them well.

Cavok 5 and her Japanese crew

Even the Japanese have made an appearance in this years southerly yacht migration! I am pleased to say that I have made friends with the crew of Cavok 5, sailing their French built yacht to the Mediterranean, but returning each winter to Japan.. We had a short but enjoyable stay as marina neighbors in Viana do Castelo, conversing over espresso coffee and a glass of fine port. I do hope to see them again in the future… who knows, perhaps it will be in Japan!

The control center of Voya

I finally had a chance to look inside Rowland’s yacht ‘Voya’. Very nice! Though I think he has enough instruments to control the next space shuttle mission. Makes me think of the David Bowie song with the lyrics “Ground control to Major Tom….”

Saying goodbye 🙁

In Viana do Castelo I said goodbye to my “3-week friends”, and set sail alone for Leixoes. Frederic and Vivien on Avel Vat will stay near Porto for a week and the crew of Voya and Cavok 5 have decided to take a short break.

I hope to make the most of a patch of fair weather to reach Lisbon within a week.

Attempted repair of jammer handle

While I’m making good progress since leaving Spain, I have had the occasional hiccup. I now need to source a replacement part for a rope clutch that broke on route, and this is proving difficult. I’ve put the word out with the Yarmouth23 user group and perhaps they will be able to assist me with tracking down and sending me a replacement.

Fingers crossed!