Tuesday 8th May 2018
It may have been a mistake to clear out of Surinam at the same time we cleared in, even though at the time it seemed to save so much hassle. That meant we had no slow time to discover any more of the country and had to leave on Saturday morning. Quite what else we could have done is unclear, but there are always encounters that unfold in unplanned ways.
So, as we set sail down the Commewijne, watching the early river taxis zig zagging from one landing stage to another, I felt rather sad that I had rushed it, having acted in concert with the pace of life that we encounter when visitors join us from the "normal" world with tight schedules, planes to catch and places to be.
Having reviewed Guyana as our next destination, I decided against, as the authorities insist that yachts head 50 miles upriver to clear into the country and, for safety, deter them from lingering at Georgetown on the coast. So now we had a week in hand before our planned lift-out in Trinidad.
As the strong breeze and tide took us rapidly out to sea in muddy water only 4 metres deep, Mark suggested an interesting idea; with spare time, and Guyana not seeming so attractive, why not sail north to Barbados, before we head to Trinidad?
So here we are three days later about 12 miles short of Barbados which is hidden in a rain storm ahead as I eat my muesli at 7am.
In truth it has been a trying voyage as neither of us has got our sealegs, and are both struggling all the time with feeling so queasy that we are having trouble eating. Most unusual and it's made this leg a mini-trial rather than the relaxed enjoyable sail that we'd expected. The wind and current gave us a fast ride, and the sea has been very lumpy as we buck and smash along at 9 knots, making 195 miles from anchor in the first 24 hours.
Mark heroically made spaghetti and tomato sauce on night one, but we couldn't look at it, and ate cold rice pudding instead. I managed to reheat Mark's spaghetti on night two but, although he ate his, most of mine fed the fishes. Then last night Mark did a spaghetti in cheese sauce with crispy bacon, but although I enjoyed mine he couldn't look his in the eye and it sits there under clingfilm waiting for happier times.
However we have both made soda bread for lunch, and yesterday Mark produced drop scones for tea. Some still sit forlornly hoping to tempt us!
We've had problems with the hydraulic steering, which is worrying. It gets very stiff and "George" the autopilot struggles to steer the course. By hand it feels all wrong as though the rudders are sticking on something. We will have to investigate and get it repaired. It's fortunate that it hasn't been a major problem yet.
There have been more birds around; white tailed tropic birds with their long white tail feathers and yellow beaks, a booby (or maybe it's a gannet in the Atlantic) diving repeatedly into shoals of fish near us, storm petrels fluttering like little black bats close to the surface, too fast to make out their defining tail shapes and give them their full name. Yesterday I saw a skua fly past, Arctic I think, and again later an immature one bullying a tropic bird to get his fish in a wild aerobatic fight.
The sea has been stranded with long lines of golden ochre sea holly, or sargassum seaweed, somehow channelled into long lines trailing downwind, giving a curious sensation as they writhe and undulate with the passing waves. The waves breaking over Tin Tin have festooned the guard rail netting with holly in a rather festive way.
So now for a few days exploring Barbados, and then a 24 hour sail to Trinidad to deal with repairs and laying up. As I look up from writing I am rewarded with the unmistakable grey outline of land ahead, with a shaft of sunshine picking out one white building in the gloom.