From Suriname to Tobago
Mooring in Suriname
In the Suriname river near Domburg there are five moorings where you can moor your sailing boat. This means you don't need to use your anchor, but it does have a price tag: it costs €3.50 per night. Which is why we have been using our anchor for months. Normally, that isn't a problem, but here on the Suriname river conditions can be extreme at times.
A few months ago, Gaston from "De Rob" woke us in the middle of the night and shouted: "You'd better wake up right now!" We don't understand, until we go outside. Our Happy Monster is in the middle of the forest. It turns out the forest is surrounding us and we have drifted up the river for quite a distance. There are tree trunks on either side of our ship and the branches sticking out are at least four metres high. We start the engine to prevent drifting further and Gaston, our ministering angel, is standing barefoot on the tree trunks and starts sawing away. After quite a bit of pushing, pulling and sawing, we are finally set free and we can raise the anchor to sail back to our own spot. It's not very common for such large pieces of forest to float on the river, so we drop our anchor again with an easy mind.
In August, we decide to sail along the Commewijne river to Stolkersijver, together with to other sailing boats, André and Ludy's "Erna" and Rob and Ingrid's "Torn Too". Exactly two hours before our departure we are bewildered by the movements of our ship. Our anchor starts to drag. We quickly start the engine and try to raise the anchor, but after we've hauled in the first ten metres of the anchor chain it will no longer budge. Fortunately, Mark, a clever Belgian from the "Blue Cristal", is coming to our rescue in his dinghy. Bit by bit we manage to raise the anchor chain until we see an enormous tree trunk come to the surface. Our chain has been wound around it at least twenty times. Again we have to set to work with the saw. This time, Mark is our ministering angel and without any major problems he releases us from the tree trunk so we can depart for Stolkersijver at the planned time after all.
With three sailing boats we sail up the Commewijne river (also known as the Kromme Wijne) together. Towards the evening, we find a beautiful place to spend the night. The next morning we explore a small cove before we depart and we enjoy the quiet and the scenery. Fortunately, we manage to raise the anchor without any problems.
We sail on to Stolkersijver where we drop anchor again in the middle of the river. The next day, on shore, we enjoy a delicious portion of chips and chicken, served by a Polish lady married to a Surinamese man she met in the Netherlands. She is looking after a young monkey which lost its mother.
The next morning we want to raise our anchor to depart and well... you can guess what happened. We are unable to. After twenty metres of anchor chain, it gets heavier and heavier. Wet with sweat, Hans manages to haul in the chain millimetre by millimetre, until it won't budge any further. However, we can feel from the movement of our ship that we are no longer attached to the bottom. We can sail and come alongside the "Erna", where André and Ludy help us. Hans is hanging from the dinghy to help pull and Dory turns our own anchor winch little by little until... rrrrrrrt the anchor chain falls all the way back to the bottom. Our anchor winch is broken!
We then set up a construction that allows us to use the "Erna"'s anchor winch, which is much stronger, plus five people's manpower to haul in the anchor chain bit by bit. At last we can see what the problem is: the chain is wound around a tree with a diameter of at least one metre and a length we estimate at more than ten metres.
We have been saved again, but we decide not to anchor on rivers for now; although Hans has become very fit during our trip, raising an anchor with a 30-metre chain isn't exactly his favourite hobby. Fortunately, the winch can be repaired in Domburg by the Holsu fishing company and during the last few weeks we moor at the mooring to prevent any more problems until our departure.
Last trip to the interior of Suriname
After our last day at work we treat ourselves to another trip. Together with Ingrid, Rob, Hester, Kees and Ludy we set off on a four-day trip with Mr Twist. On the day of our departure we wait all day, but Mr Twist doesn't turn up. The next day we finally depart and we'll probably never know the real reason why he didn't turn up and couldn't be reached by phone, but then again, that's what the Surinamese are like sometimes. First we visit Tonka island in the Brocopondo lake. Sailing on this reservoir, in which trees still rise above the surface because the land was flooded without cutting the trees, is a very special experience. The cabin in which we spend the night offers a view of the lake. We swim, take a walk and hang our hammocks with mosquito nets outside. When we want to get into our hammocks at night, Hans is dancing under his mosquito net. This cannot possibly be because of mosquitoes. It's because of hundreds of ants which are found not only below the hammock, but also in the mosquito net, and they bite. Unfortunately, Hans cannot use his hammock, but fortunately there is a bed available in the cabin. The next morning we realise how much damage the ants have done: they have eaten holes in the mosquito net.
We then continue to Brownsberg, where we take another beautiful walk to a wonderfully refreshing waterfall. We spend the last night near Jodensavanne. This is an area where Jews used to have a plantation. 9,000 slaves used to work there. The area is deserted now and the remains of the synagogue are still visible. Everything is in good repair and signs provide information. Again, we sleep in a beautiful spot in hammocks with a small roof over our heads and a view of the river.
All in all it was a successful trip in very good company.
Departure at last
Finally the last day before our departure has arrived. Supplies have been replenished and fresh vegetables for the first few days have been brought on board. For the last time, we drink a djogo at 3mahbon. We say goodbye to Greet and Ronald, to Erik, to the fishermen of Holsu and of course to all the sailors with whom we have sometimes spent months, and we enjoy the view from our foredeck for the last time.
The next day we sail out, with a few more people waving goodbye. The wind is favourable to sail along the Suriname river for quite a distance, but near Paramaribo we have to start the engine because the wind is from straight ahead. When we turn off to the Commewijne river, the dolphins, which welcomed us nine months ago, wave goodbye. At the river's estuary, we are caught in a current and sail on to the sea at 10 knots.
We're no longer used to the sea's swell. We have to try and get back into the rhythm and despite the patches against sea sickness we still feel rather queasy. Our trip is beautiful with a good wind on the quarter. When on the fifth day we are approaching Tobago, we sail with studding sails set on both sides with the wind vane. We had never tried this before, but it turns out to be successful. If we had done this while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we may have arrived in Suriname days earlier.
Our arrival in Tobago is breathtaking, magnificent green mountains rise out of the water. In some places, we see the seawater spurting metres high against the rocks. We drop our anchor in the bay near Charlotteville, a charming little town where we immediately feel very relaxed. Everything looks clean and well-kept and the people are very friendly. The official language here is English, but we have to get used to the pronunciation.
The day after our arrival we enjoy a cold drink on a bench with a view of the bay where Happy is rocking on the anchor and the world seems perfect.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)