Beautiful Tobago

Our time in Suriname had been good, but also very, very hot, and by early October we were more than ready to sail the last 400 NM to Tobago, the first island we would be visiting in the Caribbean. The trip became one of more work than we were used to, with big squalls coming through several times a day. When a squall arrives, the wind picks up and it starts to pour down with rain. We usually handled it by changing the course to make the wind come more from behind, pull in the genoa, so we only had the main up and finally close down to the cabin, so the boat wouldn’t be soaked down below. But it’s still quite unpleasant. Continue reading

Visiting the maroon tribe in the Amazon Jungle

In French Guiana, the convicts who arrived at the “Bagne” were told that they were welcome to try and run away; if the Amerindians didn’t catch them, the jungle or the sea would get them – and kill them. In Suriname, the slaves had the same problem if they escaped, except that many of them had been used to surviving in nature before they were enslaved. So once they had escaped from slavery, they hid in the swampy and poisonous Amazon forest, making it impossible for the Dutch soldiers to find them again. In time, the runaway slaves in Suriname started their own tribes far into the forest, the Maroons. To this day, the maroons still live in their villages by the jungle rivers, far from the rest of Suriname. Continue reading

Visits to Surinam’s past

The Dutch owned plantations that used to cover the coastal part of Suriname are long gone, and the rain forest has taken back the fields. But if you take at look at Suriname on google maps, the former fields of the plantations are clearly visible as green squares. One of the few plantations that are still run to some extend is Laarwijk, a small place just on the opposite bank of the Surinam River from where we were anchored. There is no way to get to Laarwijk by land, and many times every day we would see the “bus-canoes” sail by Chip-Chip, bringing people to and from the small village – and once even a car… When we went to the swimming pool in the afternoon, we would often meet a colorful Dutch character, now married to a Surinamese women and living in Laarwijk, where he grows oranges and lemons on the old Laarwijk plantation grounds. He would tell us crazy stories about piranhas, caimans and about working in the Amazon forest, and one day we decided to take the short trip across the river in our dinghy to see his place for ourselves. Continue reading

Anchoring in the Suriname River to the sound of howler monkeys

Suriname is such a strange country. It was a Dutch colony until 1975, and the people living there are a strange mix of blacks, Indians, Indonesians, Dutch and more. Already on the trip in on the river, we noticed how this country had a completely different style than French Guyana, which we had just left. The river was basically much more alive. We met plenty of local boats, and on the river banks we passed colorful villages, like the village Nieuw Amsterdam, where the Dutch used to have a fort, controlling who entered the Suriname and Commewijne Rivers. While navigating the 5 knot current, the half submerged wrecks, the local boats and the giant bridge that spans the river, we passed Paramaribo, Surinams capital. The old city of Paramaribo was built by the Dutch, and the white wooden houses are a beautiful sight from the river. Later we realized that on closer inspection, they are awfully run down, and UNESCO even threatened to take away the title of world heritage site because of the lack of upkeep. Continue reading

Sailing off the chart, down the Maroni’s jungle creeks

The Maroni River has loads of little creeks, where hardly anyone ever goes, so after visiting St Jean, we went out to explore a bit more. As always, we had to time our departure from St Laurent with the current, which meant that we sailed fast along once we got going. At the entrance to the Coswine Creek, we left the charted area, but we had downloaded the map for the area in google maps, we had the Imray cruising guide, and screenshots from the Noforeignland site. So with a bit of care, navigating the creeks was not a problem at all – and as it turned out, the depths were very consistent, completely different from the Gambia river, where we really had to be careful. Continue reading

Boat related expenses during our first year of cruising

Many people wonder about the price of making a trip like ours. And usually, the answer is “it will cost what you have”. Which isn’t very helpful. I have an app on my phone, in which we note every expense we have every day, so we know the price of our trip. And it’s certainly more than we would have guessed, had we estimated the costs afterwards.

We have decided that sharing the boat related costs during our first year of sailing is okay for us, especially as it is helpful for people who plan to go cruising themselves and wonder how much they will need. This is not the total cost of of the trip, but only the expenses related to the boat. Continue reading

A tiny house on the river; a different way to end an Atlantic crossing

One day, when we walked down towards the river, we were stopped by a young couple with a baby, asking us if the new boat belonged to us. Somehow, people seem to be able to tell that we’re sailors by just seeing us walk down the street. We’re trying to convince ourselves that it’s because we look really cool, and not because of our scruffy, sweaty, look completed sun bleached clothes… Anyways, yes, they were right, we were indeed the owners of that little red boat that had just arrived. Continue reading

Up the Maroni River; days in St Laurent

The Maroni River makes up the border between French Guiana and Suriname, and some miles up the river you find the town of St. Laurent, the capital of the former penal colony in French Guiana. We had a beautiful sail from the Salvation Islands – until I realized that we were going much faster than expected, meaning that we would arrive at the entrance to the river at low tide. The charts say that the depth is 0.3 meters in parts of the channel leading into the Maroni River, meaning that we wanted to arrive close to high tide. So when Esben came up to take over for his night shift, we took the main down, and he continued on with only the genoa out. The decrease in speed was also good for the dinghy, which we were towing behind the boat. The high speed had thrown it around more than we liked. Continue reading

In solitary confinement on St Joseph

After many visits to Île Royale, we figured it was time to visit Île St. Joseph; the island where inmates would be kept in solitary confinement and total silence for years. We took the dinghy across the small strait where the dead convicts used to be fed to the sharks, and soon realized that the island had no pontoon to land the dinghy, and that we would have to crawl up on the cement dock used by the foreign legion. Everybody got off without getting too wet, and we had a look around. The french foreign legion have a base on the island, and a couple of legioners waved as we passed by their living quarters. Continue reading