Visiting Salut Islands in French Guiana and Sailing to the Suriname River

Ruins of Prison Building, Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

(January 9 to 10, 2018) The ruins of an old French Prison on the Salut Islands were interesting, especially the solitary confinement. I watched the old movie “Papillon”, as this is where he was imprisoned, and finally escaped. I understand many prisoners died because of the hardship in the tropics. Despite of seeing some cute jungle animals during a half day strolling on the island, I had enough of the island because it was hot and humid. We went to back to the boat.

S/V Bad Bunny Tied to a Yellow Mooring Ball in Salut Islands, French Guiana. Later, We were told all mooring balls are not for private yachts to use.

A loud horn woke us up when we just started taking a nap in preparation for night sailing to Suriname. Our plan was to leave at midnight. Looking out, there were two French Navy ships right next to us. They told us that the mooring balls are not for us to use, “Leave now or anchor somewhere!” We were using one of the yellow mooring balls at that time. Earlier that day, we saw another sailboat struggling to remove an old car tire from their anchor when they lifted the anchor up from the bottom. We are not anchoring here. We raised the sails up seven hours earlier than we planned.

At first it was beautiful night sailing and watching the shooting stars in the clear sky! Then, the wind died. We dropped the sails and motored. The next night, we arrived at the Suriname River channel at dark, midnight. Our original plan was to arrive here early in the morning. Going through the long entrance channel will be challenging at dark but we decided to try instead of waiting for daylight wandering at sea. When we were ready, there was a huge freighter ship coming to the channel. We talked to the Maritime Authority Suriname (MAS) on the VHF radio. They told us to wait so that the freighter goes first.

Sailing at Sunset from the Salut Islands, French Guiana to Suriname

The Moon didn’t come out until 4am. We made a 120% effort to look for channel markers at dark. Missing one, and a bad thing could happen. Being tired and tense, we wanted to drop an anchor at the river mouth but it was too rough. For the next six hours, we motored up the channel carefully and nervously, the GPS was perfectly right. Arriving at the Domburg anchorage in Suriname River, we couldn’t see any free anchoring space because of fog and darkness. Knowing the current is still behind us, we drove 6 more miles up the river into the jungle. When we arrived at the Waterland Marina Resort around 6am, it was still dark. Waiting for daybreak, we saw an empty spot and tied our boat up at the marina just before sunrise. What a relief! We managed to drive the boat for 42 miles into a jungle river in the dark. Feeling proud, I sensed all my nerves quickly relax. Everything can wait… The sun started coming up but I curled myself in my cabin and fell asleep in a second.

View of Devil’s Island from Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

at Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

at Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Animal in Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Walking Trail, Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Fuel Delivery Truck Landing on one of the Salut Islands, French Guiana

Water Storages, Royale Island, Salut Islands, French Guiana

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings, South America

No Rental Car and No SIM Card in French Guiana

S/V Bad Bunny at Anchorage near Cannes Port, French Guiana

(January 10, 2018) Upon arrival in French Guiana, we cleared our entry at the Main Port (Degrad des Cannes). The Harbor Master near the anchorage kindly drove us to the French Customs Office. He also showed us a series of animal pictures we can look for in French Guiana: Jaguars, Monkeys, Birds, Snakes, and more. We were excited to meet the exotic jungle animals.

On Saturday, we hitchhiked to a town (Cayenne) to get a rental car. It turned out we needed an International Driver’s License. With a US Driver’s License, we couldn’t rent a car. We didn’t have enough time to get a SIM Card because they were closed for their long lunch hours. We browsed a busy colorful produce market (Fruits and Vegetables) and had lunch in a Chinese restaurant nearby. Interestingly, I see most local people were eating Vietnamese Noodle Soup ‘Pho’.

The marina and anchorage are in such a remote location, it is difficult to do anything without a car. Taxi ride might be an option but it cost 30 Euros (USD36) just to get a main town (Cayenne). Besides, jungle bugs started attacking me when there is no wind. I frequently sprayed bug repellent on me. I wore long sleeve shirts and long pants in this tropical humid hot weather. In the meantime, John is topless but bugs didn’t bother him.

On the following Monday, we cleared out at the Customs and had a nice local Creole lunch with French Wine near the port. We left the next day at 1am, timing with outgoing tide on the river, we lifted the anchor and drove the boat for 7 hours to Salut Islands (Iles de Salut, Salvation Islands). This is the island where the old movie “Papillion” was based on. After seeing the Salut Islands, we will sail to Suriname.

We often have pouring rain here. It cleaned our boat nicely washing off the salt and thick yellow dust from cruising in the Atlantic Islands for last six months. It is nice to walk and sit on the deck without feeling crispy salt or fine sandy dust.

Cannes Marina, Port de Degrad des Cannes, French Guiana

Marine Store in Cannes Port, French Guiana

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings, South America

Sailing from Cabo Verde to French Guiana and Suriname – Day 14 (Arrived Safely! Huge Applaud Goes to Bad Bunny and Mother Nature!)

(January 4, 2018) No words can fully describe our current feelings. After safely arriving in French Guiana, South America; John asked me how many people I personally know who have crossed the Atlantic Ocean by a sailboat. I took a moment and said “Nobody except certain cruisers I have met.” Thank you all for wishing us a safe journey crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

From the channel entrance to the marina (Degrad des Cannes) is about 8 miles on the Mahury River. The river water looks like milk coffee or yellowish chocolate milk. It is so thick and creamy looking as it is mixed with a tremendous amount of soft yellowish silt. We don’t plan to make water from this river because it will plug our water maker system filters very quickly. The boat needs a really nice Beverly Hills Shower but it must wait, as the marina was full. We anchored near the marina. We are on water conservation until we go out to the Ocean and make water or find a space in the marina.

Our friend Toni brought his beer (Shimitte Bier from Switzerland) when he came to visit us two months ago, and we saved the last bottle to celebrate this moment. Sitting in the cockpit postponing all the clean-up; we opened the last Shimitte Bier bottle. Jungle sounds and tropical heat go well with Shimitte Bier! I told John “I’ve never heard such beautiful set of sounds in such an exotic location.” He said “He had not either.”

—Statistics of This Sailing Trip—

  • Distance: 2,047 Nautical Miles (about 3,275 Kilometers)
  • Duration: 13 Days and 12 Hours (Total 324 Hours)
  • Diesel Used: Less Than 20 Gallons for Running Generator and Engine
  • Fish Caught: Wahoo and Tuna (More than Enough)
  • Books Read/Listened: For me, 7 Books (Downloaded from Broward County Library in Florida). I liked “Wealth Secrets of the One Percent” by Sam Wilkin (Audio Version) and “The Little Book that Builds Wealth” by Pat Dorsey (Audio Version). I plan to read them again in eBook version. I don’t know how many books John read. It must be tons as he spends most of his time for reading.
  • Laundry: None (We have lots of laundry to do.)
  • Internet Use, Money Spent, TV Watched, and etc.: Zero but we really need Internet access.
Posted in Sailings

Sailing from Cabo Verde to French Guiana and Suriname – Day 13 (Losing Speed by Equatorial Counter-Current and Guiana Current)

(January 3, 2018) Finally, we have a nice angle of sail. No more rolling and no more pounding of downwind sailing with the unaligned wind and waves. Waking up, I found myself well rested and fully charged. What deep heavenly sleep can do for me!

According to our Garmin Charts, there can be a strong current running in this area. John didn’t think it would affect us much. We learned it the hard way. We have been sailing against the Equatorial Counter-Current and the Guiana Current. These currents flow toward West and North Westerly. It reduced our sailing speed 2-3 knots. Because of it, we were sailing 3-5 knots instead of our normal speed (6-8 knots) with 15-20 knots of wind.

After 16 hours of slow sailing, we passed the counter-current zone and have finally returned to our normal speed. It looks like we will be arriving before dark. Another 70 miles (about 112 kilometers) to go, equal to a half day sailing!!!!

Kay Chung @0800 UTC on Thursday, January 04, 2018
GPS Position @N05.42/W51.42

Posted in Sailings

Sailing from Cabo Verde to French Guiana and Suriname – Day 12 (French Guiana and Old Movie ‘Papillion’)

(January 2, 2018) The boat has been rolling even more than ever last night. It occurs vigorously especially when large waves from one direction meet big swells from the other direction. Trying to sleep on the boat was like trying to sleep while riding the Disney Rollercoaster Splash Mountain. I gave up sleeping and made a cup of coffee and went to the cockpit. Recently, the nights have been so beautiful with a soft full moon beaming on the ocean. I sat in a salty corner holding one hand on the cockpit entrance handle and keeping both legs on the corners of the stairs so I don’t slide side to side. The other hand held a cup of coffee, I enjoyed super early morning coffee break at midnight.

It looks we have another 30 hours at sea to get French Guiana. We have only simple information on this country as we didn’t plan to visit at first when we left from Cabo Verde. A couple of days ago, we asked one of our friends to send us basic information (Clearance, Anchorage, and Marina) in a simple text file format via Ham Radio. The information was helpful. We know where and how to go now (sort of). It is also important to time with the current and tides at the harbor entrance before going up in the river as the tide difference is about 11 feet (high and low tides) and the river current might be 3 knots. Knowing this, we may have to stay outside the harbor entrance in order to time with the tide and current.

Going to a new place is always challenging. Some worries and some excitements. Most of all, I am so ready for sleeping without rolling. Besides, I plan to see the Formal French Prison Town where Papillion was jailed in cell# 47. Growing up, I watched the movie “Papillion” three times.

Kay Chung @0800 UTC on Wednesday, January 03, 2018
GPS Position @N07.02/W50.37

Posted in Sailings