Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Richard arrives to sail to Surinam

Richard arrived on Sunday afternoon, and on Monday 30th April we cleared out of France bound for Surinam. The muddy ebb tides the Mahury River took us swiftly along the ten miles out through the narrow dredged channel to the sea. It's very shallow along this coast and the water is full of sediment, much of it apparently carried round from the Amazon.

We soon picked up the 3 knot current heading west, and by 1400 we were approaching our evening anchorage at the three islands of Îles de Salut. Of these Ile de Diable, or Devils Island, is the best known as the place where Dreyfus was incarcerated, and from where Henri Charriere, of Papillon fame, made his escape on a sack of coconuts.

Richard and Mark on Devil's Island
We found calm water in the lee of Île Royale and picked up a mooring belonging to the Guyana Space Centre which administers these islands. Ashore we met a couple of heavily armed gendarmes from Toulouse, and then explored round the deserted penal colony buildings, eventually climbing to the top where there's an auberge in the Governor's old house.

In the grey rainy evening light everything seemed very drab, dark and despairing. However there were bright blue and yellow macaws in the coconut trees, and agoutis scampered about across the open spaces like leggy hamsters the size of fat rabbits, with a peculiarly ginger fur on their plump hindquarters. Mark even found macaques and watched one pounding a stick as if cracking open a nut or shell.

The auberge was surprisingly large with dining tables for a good hundred or so. There must be times when people flock here at the weekend to get away from Kourou. I tried the Punch Fruits Maison which would have felled a horse and certainly knocked me sideways. Pure white rum in a large glass, a hint of maracuja juice and perhaps a couple of bits of orange pulp but essentially free of fruit! Slightly stunned by this refreshment we wandered off again to look at the ruins, returning eventually somewhat more sober for our supper at the auberge, before retiring aboard Tin Tin for the night. The heavens opened and it absolutely poured with rain.

Stairway to the Penal colony
Next morning we took the dinghy across the tide rip between islands to Ile St. Jospeh. It's partly a military base, but we were able to explore the strange overgrown ruins of this notorious penal colony. Massive stone stairways and walls led up the hill through jungle to the main site at the top. A huge roofless building marked 1897-98 stood with its iron roof beams intact, with trees growing up through them, and curtains of fine roots reaching down to head height from the trees above. Tiny cells, rusting iron bars, all overgrown and crumbling, and yet in one building we met a taciturn man in army fatigues wielding a rake, and from then on we spotted rake scratches on all the paths around the island. We circumnavigated the island on foot and then, as three catamarans full of tourists arrived, we headed back to Tin Tin and set off for Surinam.

Papillon's cell
Within half an hour of putting the fishing lines out we had a respectable sized fish, just right for supper. Now it's dark and I'm on watch as we make excellent progress westwards, with the current giving us 10 knots speed over the ground much of the time.

We should be at the mouth of the Surinam River by midday and then able to use the flood tide to travel the 30 miles up river to Domburg.

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