08.04.09 – Paramaribo

Our romp last night became a lope and then a dawdle. 4 knots with 1.5 knots of corriente to assist. By 3 am we were in 15 m of water, with little breeze. At dawn that had become 6 metres ( still 20 miles offshore), with water the colour of weak milk coffee. Calm – I cannot imagine what this would be like in a gale. Small fishing boats galore. Dave has been doing mammoth sleeps and is not having a great time.

9 anxious miles in to the river mouth. Widely spaced channel bouys (port hand only) and a channel at times less than 20 m wide. Minimum depth at half tide – 2.7m! 1.5 knots of current across the channel.

A long trip up river against the tide. The journey in is worth it – a wide flat river, with palm trees, mangroves, abandoned plantations and fishing villages along each shore. It is 16 miles to Paramaribo, which has absolutely no facilities for yachts.


Wreck in the river

Wreck in the river

Paramaribo town is ramshackle. Not another yacht in sight. Lovely. Just my sort of place. Another shithole, said Dave. Busy little ferries with sharp bows criss-cross the river. Rusted hulks line the banks, and old fashioned tramps and trawlers. A wreck with a broken back sits high and dry in mid-river. Further upstream there are bauxite and sugar docks.

The town is chaotic, with two storey colonial buildings, timber-clad and in often serious disrepair, overhang the streets. Scattered brick buildings with wood clock towers in Dutch reform church style. You can see that the place has gone to the dogs since the Dutch left.

Moving up towards the Caribbean we have noticed the ethnic and cultural changes have been steady and interesting. The Dutch brought indentured labour from India and China. Perhaps they were more trustworthy workers than the slaves. Maybe the slaves just died too young to keep the plantations going. Anyway, here there are Singhs and Foy Lees. The Africans wear bright gear and tall coloured hats that look like Marge Simpson’s hair. They say “mon” and seem to be about to break out into calypso songs. Everyone is very friendly.

Ashore, I dined on the riverfront and drank guava juice while Dave made scrambled eggs aboard.  After a stroll through town we balked at the prospect of ship formalities, and cast off at 7 pm and motored downstream with the tide.

Suriname river pilotage: beware old charts. Coming downstream with the 4 knot tide in bright moonlight we had a very near miss with a line of fishing poles and got some abuse from the little boats setting their nets. We were right on the crossover leading lights at the time, but our chart (CM93) was 15 years out of date.

I contemplate our other near misses – the fouled prop in Salvador, squeezing out from Natal jetty in a strong cross-current, and of course the shallows at the Suriname river mouth. We have been lucky, I think.

We anchored at the wide river mouth in 4.7 knots of ebb with flat calm water and a full moon. A good night’s sleep after some cleansing rum and tang. The government of Suriname never knew we were there.

Tomorrow, destination Trinidad. Georgetown we will bypass because it is said to be quite dangerous and Dave is keen to get home.

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