Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Suriname re visited!

Suriname is a multi cultural country with a varied ethnic mix and this is obvious by the range of different restaurants in Paramaribo. With our water pump broken and having to wait for parts we had the opportunity to check out quite a few. David the rally organiser took us to a beautiful one called The Garden of Eden. It's a bit off the beaten track but worth a visit...like walking into someone's home. The food is Thai and you can see it being cooked ...there is a peaceful air to the place and we had an excellent night there. In contrast to this we hired a car and went over the bridge to New Amsterdam and the Fort there. We had been warned that there would be no where to have lunch but did not heed this advice. When we made it to the Fort (a fort in the loosest sense of the word!) we asked at the office who directed us to a Chinese take away a little way down the road . We managed to sit down with a beer and order and were presented with the most enormous potion of chicken and fried rice ....it would happily have fed four for lunch at the very reasonable price of 15SRD! We took at least half back to the boat with us ....supper sorted!While at Waterland Noel the owners ,wife celebrated her 50th,it was quite a celebration with a band,dancing girls and bubble machine and bouncy castle for the kids. It was a great afternoon!

Paramaribo is worth a good look ....the markets are excellent and there are different ethnic areas Javanese, Brazilian, Chinese and Indian influences can be seen. There are European supermarkets but the majority of supermarkets seem to be run by the Chinese.
It is also the only place I have been to where the Cathedral(wooden and well worth a look) is side by side with the synagogue and mosque.
There are also a lot of Casinos in Paramaribo , we were told over 50 and I can believe it! There seemed to be three or four in every street in the centre of Paramaribo.
We liked Suriname a lot but it became obvious that our water pump was not going to arrive before we needed to leave so the question was what to do. We really did not want to miss the opportunity to go to see St.Laurent and all the celebrations at the end of the rally. We were lucky and managed to hitch a ride with another rally participant. St.Laurent is just over the other other side of the water to a town in Suriname called Albina. Pirogues ply back and forth across the water all the time so we decided to spend a few nights in a hotel in St.Laurent with the luxury of air con and then return to Orion via Albina.
The celebration in St.Laurent was great, bands came out to meet us and we were followed into Port by jet skis. The Mayor, or a representative for the Mayor,presented us with all sorts of goodies, rum,a beautiful bunch of flowers, a lovely book about rum making and other assorted nik naks. It was very generous of them and much appreciated by all. St.Laurent is not surprisingly very French!  There is a Super U hypermarket there which sent the Swiss contingent in the rally into ecstasies as they were able to buy decent cheese for fondue! There is also a very good market twice a week excellent produce on sale. However not having our boat there John and I were unable to take advantage of any of it! Shame. It is an interesting town and whilst the prison there makes pretty grim viewing it is a major tourist feature of the town. As you walk around the town areas of interest are well documented. It would be easy to walk past the tiny houses still occupied by families without giving it a second thought until a sign outside one tells you that these were originally houses for those leaving the prison and it was felt that one door and one window would suffice for their homes.

The first night there John and I were told about a classical violinist playing at one of the bars. We popped along for a look...he was very good and as we sat listening to him sipping our delicious Belgian beer a local came up to us and took us by surprise. 'I have just one question' he asked ' Why did you burn Joan of Arc?' Somewhat dumbfounded by this we of course protested our innocence! Only to have the violinist come over to us and tell to be quiet while he was playing!! You win some you lose some.....we apologised and carried on sipping our beer.
We enjoyed our few days in St Laurent and it seemed like the town was gearing up for the new marina there. The internet connection was in place and was ceremoniously turned on in front of crowds and the moorings should be in place in the coming months. There were already boats there when we arrived and I am sure more will come once the facilities are in place. All the yachties who were there that we spoke to had come up from South Africa and I think that this is the most likely route for many.
John and I made our way back to the boat in Suriname taking a pirogue for 4euros over the Maroni River to the other side. Albina is another world compared to St.Laurent. There were guys selling monkeys,parrots and budgies. These were all crowded into cages containing about 15/20 animals each cage. John considered buying the parrots and setting them free but decided that they would find there way back into the cages in a matter of hours. Our driver back to Waterland,Frank was an interesting guy who kept us entertained with interesting facts about Suriname for the two hour journey. We arrived back at the boat safe and sound with the news that our parts would be arriving on Thursday....and they did. John was up early on Friday to fit the part... fingers crossed it was the right one and it was !!
We are back in business and our plan is to move out as soon as possible.
My thoughts on the rally are mixed. In the main I really enjoyed it. It is not for the inexperienced sailor and the tides and currents need to be taken into consideration. It is also not for those who want to swim in blue water. We were in Rivers, the water was fresh and you could swim but you needed to be wary of the currents that could run as fast as 2/3 knots! I don't think it is ever going to have enormous numbers participating and that is the way the organisers want it I think. It will evolve as long as those involved are flexible and understanding of the needs of everyone. The docking issues in Suriname need to be sorted and I know this year promises were made and not kept but if all else fails those participating in the rally could always pop in if they are the way North to the Caribbean.All three countries are fascinating in different ways which is what makes it so different and thoroughly enjoyable!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Suriname and close encounters of the barge kind!

Having spent an excellent week in Guyana we celebrated our last night there with a BBQ and enjoyed the hospitality of the staff at the Hurakabra  Resort before leaving the following day. John ramped up the speakers and played 'Time to say goodbye' by Andrea  Bocelli  and we left to go down the River to anchor off Roden Rust and wait for the tide. There were two things we had to look for very carefully, fishing nets and the depth . It got very shallow at times and a careful eye was needed on our forward seeking depth sounder. We had plotted the waypoints that we had been given carefully but negotiating through what seemed like endless rows of sticks was a challenge but we made it through to the mouth of the River . The depths were shallow outside the river and we had to motor some 20 odd miles just to reach the 15-20 metre line. It was more of the same ....beating against the wind with the current sometimes as strong as 2 knots but after about 48 hours we reached the mouth of the Suriname River just in time for the right tide. This River is well buoyed  so it was a little easier to navigate than the Essiquibo but we did have just one minor glitch ....the overheating warning alarm went off  when we were in the middle of one of the channels. It was anchor down, engine off and Main down all in the space of  less than two minutes. John had been monitoring what we thought was a slight water leak all the way down but it appeared that this had suddenly got very much worse causing us to overheat. Engine cover off we filled up with hot water so as not to crack the block and we were back on our way but I was monitoring the water temp gauge like a hawk. We did not have much further to go so were able to anchor outside the ToraRica  hotel with no more problems. A closer inspection of the problem when the engine had cooled down revealed that our fresh water pump was now leaking like a sieve. Now we carry spares of just about every part connected to Dorothy, our  Perkins 4154 engine as it is no longer being supported, but......one of the few spares we did not have was....yes you've guessed.....the fresh water pump! We had to seriously consider what we were going to do.
                      Paramaribo from the bridge- the lump in the middle is a sunken German boat

In the meantime there were other considerations, like how to get ashore ...! The ToraRica had a jetty with a day boat tied to it. I have to say it was in poor repair and getting ashore involved climbing over the day boat, up the side of  the jetty and then over the gate to the hotel which for some reason they felt the need to lock. The hotel were really not helpful at all though they did seem to turn a blind eye to yachties clambering around their jetty it would have been nice if they could have at least unlocked the gate. It seemed like really they just did not want us there. David the rally organiser had to endure a number of broken promises as to what would be available when we got there but people smiled ,were friendly and in the main apologetic. However, the situation was far from ideal.
However, there was an incident in the middle of the first night anchored that was unnerving and was an example of how sometimes as a yacht stuff happens over which you have no control. John and I were woken up by a call from another yacht who were being pushed along into another of the yachts by a sand barge that was not under command or engine and was floating up river with the tide. It was fortunate in many ways that the anchor of the first boat hit was dragged by the 80ft sand barge otherwise it could have sustained some serious damage but to me by far the more worrying action was that eventually the engines started on the barge it pulled away and disappeared into the night! That was both negligent, outrageous and completely out of order! As it was no one was hurt or injured but the sand barge could not have known this and the enquiry that followed by the authorities could not identify the barge. They all look the same! The incident really unnerved two of the yachts whose first instincts were to want to go back to Trinidad. This would have been a great shame ..... We had a duff water pump and needed to source a replacement and fit it before we could continue on  so the suggestion was made that we help crew one of the yachts up river to Waterland Marina where they could chill for a couple of days before moving onto French Guiana. John and I were happy to do this and then return to Parimaribo  to take in the sights  with the guys before going up river ourselves and sorting out the pump tied to a quay with power.. Vinesh from METS travel helped the guys check into Suriname which is a bit of a palarva! This solution enabled the yachts to take stock ,calm down and de stress.
One of the things that I have learnt over the few years I have lived aboard Orion is that sometimes things will happen that are completely out of your control and it might be difficult but you have to park it .....else you might just as well jack it in and stay at home in front of the TV! This was reinforced to me when a 6000 ton dredger wiped out 14 yachts on buoys in the Medway recently. That guy even had a pilot. Stuff can happen to anyone but if no one is hurt, no one is injured then the sooner you can get over it and enjoy your sailing again the better!
Waterland Marina is a tiny marina up river from Domburg, Noel who owns the place is very helpful and with a good internet connection we were able to source our pump from TransAtlanticDiesels in the US. Noel was able to help us with shipping it to Suriname but it was going to take a week or so. John and I needed to consider what we were going to do....... 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

More Guyana ..... then onto Suriname

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Guyana. The people were friendly, helpful and the Rally had lots of activities arranged for us to and an official welcome for us in which John was asked to speak on behalf of all the yachties which he was pleased to do as it seemed that for a short while we had become local celebrities! We were taken to see some of the local sights on a very fast water taxi which hit speeds of around 34 knots!

One of the spots we were taken to was Marshall Falls, which involved a short walk though the jungle then a dip in the Falls. Before reaching then the water taxi pounded its way though Marshall Rapids ....the only time we were advised to wear life jackets! They were not particularly large Falls but the water was very fast flowing....enough to give you a significant massage. As John and I sat under the Falls enjoying the water pounding away on our backs he said ' hope there are no floating logs up river!' It had never even crossed my mind and on closer inspection we noticed that there was a large log close to us that had obviously been making its way down river when it went over the Falls!

Along the Essequibo there are large dredgers that sweep the bottom of the river in search of Gold. Gold is a significant part of Guyana's economy and looking at the size of these Dredgers it's easy to see how the guys live on the dredger and just ply up and down parts of the river going ashore in Bartica for R&R!

We decided that we would treat ourselves to a trip to the Kaitieur Falls which involved a fifty minute plane ride which was fun. Alot more fun than the bus ride to get to the plane...I thought the roads in Bartica were bad but the roads out of Bartica were almost non existent and all of us got out the bus with bruises on our heads from bouncing up and down the Sandy tracks. The Kaitieur Falls were beautiful and unspoilt. One of the nicest things was being able to wander around and take in the scene without someone on your back warning you of the Health and Safety Regulations. It was such a pleasant change.We looked for the Golden frogs that are tiny fogs that live in one particular plant that line the path ways to the Falls...but no luck!

 The plane ran into a bit of bad weather on the way back and we smiled as we saw water drip down the insides of the small nine seater plane!However, we landed with no problems at Baganara a really nice anchorage which I think we will re visit on our way back to Trinidad.