Saturday, April 20, 2019

French Guyana

Hi all
October has come and passed so I am due to write up my travels for that month again but I am starting where I left off in Lencois and we headed toward French Guyana
On the way out of Lencois the wind was very strong and we hit fishing nets but I dived up and turned the engine into neutral and Carlos turned the steering so we drifted off of them and were ok. Well that was the beginning of the nets sagas and during the next 768 miles of sailing I chose to sail on the 50m line and I admit it was a really big mistake because it was a constant watch out exercise with fishing boats all around us all the time and twice we had to motor nearly four miles to go around nets across our path. I couldn’t just sail over them because I have the keel then prop and then a skeg all of which can get snagged and will give headaches for cutting away in the high seas.
Next time I will go over the continental shelf and do the extra miles at sea just to avoid the fishermen, who were all the way along the Brazilian coast and seemingly disappeared when we crossed into French waters.
We arrived at the perfect time in the penal island group of Isle de Salute (Papilion fame) and dubbed by Napoleon as paradise in prison. I think the people sent there had no chance of being in Paradise and checking the stats only 900 of all the prisoners sent there ever made it back to France so Devils Island earned its name
The group are beautiful and the history was wonderful to see and spend time on  

Devils Island                                                                    Only way onto the island was with the kayak
When we arrived we found some of our friends there from Taurus and they gave us advice where to anchor. We immediately put the kayak into the water and went onshore to explore the first of the islands which was a leper colony and found it interesting.
We spent the next day there as well and chilled before heading into Kourou to check into the country and well as always as soon as I arrived we went ashore and on the jetty we met one or two of the sailors who live on their boats on the jetty and headed off to Customs
Well we had been given good advice about the busses but got it wrong anyway and instead of a no 3 bus we got on a number 2 and the poor driver tried to speak English to me but we seemed to miss it over and over. So at a point he (the bus driver) told me we should get off and walk the rest of the way (we thought it would be a short walk but it turned out to be a serious long walk in 40 Celsius and Carlos was complaining bitterly so he decided to hitch hike and once we were nearly there we got a lift but the guy also only spoke French so he tried to drop us off at customs but we never found it. As we were walking I decided to ask for directions and a young lady working on her catamaran spoke English from behind her dust mask and wow that was welcome. Anycase her boyfriend offered to take us there and as I was climbing into the car I saw another cat and recognized the name Entheos and quickly knocked on the side to see if anyone was at home. Well Bertie saw me and that was the end Teresa came down and instead of the frenchies helping us Bertie took us around and gave us a guided tour.

                                                                 Carlos and Chris    
                                                    Theresa Calipso and I at the birthday party




                                         All the others at the birthday party
It was Teresa’s birthday so we were invited to a party under the boats that night and of course we stayed without going back to the boat. Carlos wanted desparately to phone his wife and kids so Teresa put him on skype and we went walking to fetch ice and braai meat and charcoal and other stuff when we came back we set everything up and after about two hours Carlos joined us but so did every other person living on a sailing boat in the town and the party was great with loads of laughing and fun until 2 am in the morning
So the next morning it was back to customs to try again but we failed because one of the ships had come up the river with things for the launch of a rocket I into space so everything was focused on that as Kourou exists for the launch site. And that afternoon we went to get supplies and I was looking at the racks and a pretty French lady was next to me so I chirped and she responded in English and soon I was introducing her to Carlos and well sparks flew between them and Chris took us to another supermarket which was cheaper and had more stuff so I was happy.
That night we all had drinks together and stayed out late drinking and having dinner at a mobile kitchen and there we met some of Chris’s friends who worked at the space station and she eventually dropped us off sometime in the early hours of the morning and she had to go to work the next day.
That evening she invited us to dinner at her place and we agreed but when she came to collect us another party had begun with all the yachties on the jetty for Adrians birthday so Carlos persuaded her to stay and we enjoyed the evening on the pier with all the others. I had decided we were leaving the next morning so Carlos and Chris went home and we arranged that I would collect him on the jetty the next morning which I did and we were off at 8.00am towards Isle da Salut again
Once there we met up with Barbera and Christof again and spent the day exploring the islands again. While we were walking around we felt like some coconut and Carlos tried to get us one from the tree but failed and to my surprise Christoff just put a rope on his feet and within seconds he was up the tree and throwing coconuts down for us like a proper monkey. Carlos then taught us how to open them and get the milk and then the white meat to eat.








  
      
Pics of the main island and then Christoff in the tree and me eating the fruits of the adventure




It was great and I shared my coconut with all the people around me and we enjoyed it a lot
The next day was Friday and I don’t leave on a trip on Friday so we chilled much to Carlos disgust as he had checked the wind and there would be good wind on Friday but not Saturday. However I was adamant and we stayed and left the next morning in light wind and we sailed to St Laurent du Maroni very slowly. Actually it worked out perfectly because at 0530 am we arrived at the river mouth and it was exactly where I wanted to be because the tide was in our favour and we would be pushed into the river for six hours. The 30 miles up river were great with the tide pushing us along with the engine at 6 to 8 knotts and an hour before the tide swung we were 1 mile from our destination. Perfect timing.


Sailing 30 miles up the Maroni river towards St Laurent Du Maroni
We anchored and went ashore and met a whole bunch of new yachties over happy hour drinks at 1 euro per beer and we were informed by David the marina owner of all the procedures and we settled in
We walked around in St Laurent du Maroni and looked at the history wth the connection to the islands and wow I am glad I was not one of those prisoners again. The town is truly a reminder of French Colonisation and  the people are mostly of slave decent and are friendly. The markets in all of these places I travel to are a real treat and this was one of the better ones I have been to but the truth is that almost all the people selling at the market come from across the border in Albina in Surinam and trade with the French locals. Chinese control the economies of both Albina and St Laurent because they work hard and they own the shops and supermarkets . At the Market we were told to try the Mung soup offered for sale so of course I did that and it was delicious so every market da after that I went for soup. But also sometimes the Mung tribe had some small shops and I would go and have food there as a treat
Albina is a town in Surinam and I took a ride in a Pirogue three time over there to explore and each time was a new experience. The place is thriving with all the French doing there shopping over there because the prices are so much cheaper (non Euro prices) and the illegal Brazilian miners come there for there pleasures and supplies when they come out of the jungles so watching the goings on was funny even down to the vigilantes guarding their space with semi automatic rifles so as to keep the Brazilian miners identities from any photos and the price to those guys is gold everything is paid in gold. Except for people like me who paid in Euros which were happily accepted. 
One day in the week one of the other  guys came and told us all the yachties were taking our dingies and having a picnic on the leper colony island and we should bring our meat and food and join in so we did it was a five mile run for mrs 2hp each way but we made it and it turned out to be fun (this is the Island shown in the movie Papilon when he was being ransferred)




Picnic on Leper Island
During the stay Carlos had invited Chris to come and visit and she brought Bertie and Theresa with so she could have time with Carlos and Bertie and Theresa and I could catch up while the work was being done on their boat in Kourou. And it was during this time Carlos decided that it was very important that he go home for his daughters graduation so we sat down and discussed the trip to Tobago and when I was going to carry on. I had decided I was going to spend my birthday going to see the launch of a rocket into space at the space center and the graduation was on the 8th of November so Carlos took a decision that he should travel home to Brazil from French Guyana and miss the last leg of the trip to Tobago. And so when Chris came down to visit him it was arranged that he would get a lift with her to Cayenne and fly home from there and that is what happened. Bertie Theresa and I had a lovely weekend together and Carlos and Chris had a good time together and they all left together on the Tuesday. And that was the end of my crew experience.
In reflection it was good for me having Carlos as crew because he was willing to learn and I was willing to so him what it was like to sail in rough and sort out problems underway as well as sail really slowly with less than five knots of wind (that is when most other sailors switch on engines but living slowly allows you to go slowly as well). I enjoyed having the boat back for myself for a while and when Bertie and Theresa came again for another visit a few weeks later Chris stayed with other friends. I think also it will be a long time before I think of new crew unless I know them as I have found I am difficult to adjust to.
After Carlos had left there were a couple who were Americans at the marina and they suggested a Halloween party and there was not even a squeak before it was arranged and the theme was orange and black using things we had on the boat. Well it turned out a great evening with all of us doing something and the cobb society came out with four Cobbs and we braaied and I took music and we partied until late with Sameul and his friends joining us and adding a local flavor for all of us
Barbera and Christoff showed us ballroom dancing as well to add to the fun




Haloween party in St Laurent
Chris had told us about a cultural festival and we all went together to see it even though David had warned us not to go to that part of town. It turned out to be an interesting occasion meeting many new people and two of them was Oceana and Camille a pair of gorgeous young ladies having a blast. Chatting to them they didn’t know where they were staying after and because Bertie and Theresa were sleeping outside the front cabin was free and they were invited to lay there heads there. Bertie took the phone numbers as I must say I never expected to see or hear from them again but at 4 am bertie’s phone screamed into life waking us all and it was Oceana asking to take up the offer for a place to stay, so I had to get up get into the dingy and go and fetch the two girls and get them back to the boat. It was a big palava because I had to give direction on how to get to the jetty and I didn’t really know much about the town however between Oceana and I we made it and two giggling ladies looked at the dingy and weren’t sure at first but got in and we were on the way to the boat.
Oceana first had something to eat and then the two climbed into the cabin giggled a bit more and passed out until about 9.30 am. When they woke I made breakfast for all of us and stretched the bacon and eggs to small portions but with coffee it worked out. We chatted and I found out that Oceana was the journalist for the Space center and Camille was doing a thesis on local environment issues but both were very interesting and confident ladies. After a short while I took them back to shore and walked them to their car and they left to go back to Kourou. Bertie, Theresa and I spent the rest of the day on the boat chatting and later Chris came to collect them to go back to Kourou as well.
On the 10th I went to the launch which entailed catching a bus to Kourou for two hours and going to a site 5 km from the Launchpad and watching from there. Because the launch was after dark I didn’t get many pictures but it was impressive even though I had seen one in USA before. The wait for the bus after the launch was dragged out because we had to wait for all the speeches to finish (two or three hours before they left and I got back at 11.00 pm
The next morning I lifted my anchor at the change of the tide and I was off initially I had decided to spend the night at the entrance to the river but when I got there the current was in my favour so I just carried on sailing to Tobago.
I too a decision I was going to sail slowly to Tobago so I put three reefs in the main and a sliver of a genoa out ad was going to leave it like that irrespective of how much wind I had and sail. Well except for two incidences it was a fantastic sail, I had a fishing boat chase me for miles and miles and I thought of Venezuela pirates but I started the engines and with motor and sail ant 16 knots I outran then and eventually they gave up and disappeared. Once out of sight I was over the continental shelf and the wind picked up to 20 knots from behind and stayed like that all the way to Charlottesville Tobago where I am at the moment
I have applied for a visa for USA and have an appointment on the 3rd December and once I get my documents back from them I will sail to Grenada for Christmas and New Year but the exploring here and the sail there will be for the next journey

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