Islands, jungle and a canal…Panama

Colourful, loud music, crowded and slow but…. so much fun to travel by bus in Panama.

It was a 2 day motor sail all the way to Linton Bay in Panama which was frustrating but we arrived in time to call into the marina office, pick up some parcels we had waiting for us and check into the country – all before dinner. We were spending a day or two in the marina while we waiting for Darryl to come in from the San Blas islands.

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Cartagena – hot hot hot..

Unbelievably good murals in Cartagenas back streets.

We arrived in Cartagena not knowing what to expect. Every time we come to a new country there is anticipation, excitement and a bit of nerves about the port entry, legal procedures etc but it’s always different and we are glad when we eventually find the right anchorage and get settled. Colombia need agents to check in so we called Maria (every lady in Colombia is called Maria we discovered!) And she sent a guy out who took our passports away, got them stamped and returned them to us that evening. We were now ready to explore…

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Curacao – a surprise visit

The Willemsted waterfront.

We arrived at Los Roques as planned at about 10am – as we needed eyeball navigation to get through the reef around the anchorage. We had made good time and had about 4-5 hours up our sleeve to make the entry. Problem was it was terrible weather – squally and dark. Too much cloud and visibility so low we didn’t dare attempt the entry. We waited for about 4 hours hoping it would clear up enough for us to see the reef but this front was here to stay and we didn’t fancy hanging around on a moonless night off a large reef. Decision taken- we would go straight to Curacao and miss Los Roques. It was a bit disappointing but as you can only enter Los Roques every other week we had to go to this particular anchorage to wait and it was untenable in those conditions. Safety first etc….

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Back to the Caribbean

We were lucky that Trinidad had opened their borders to yachts just as we were leaving Guyana so we had a wonderful easy sail back to the Caribbean. We entered Chagauramas harbour at 2am, dropped the hook in front of Peake Yacht club and fell into a deep slumber.

The next Morning we met up with Yvanna to check into the country. Yvana runs the Peake Boatyard and we think she has been the best liaison between Yachtie and authority we have encountered. She actually came with us to customs and immigration herself, which was only a short dinghy ride away, and smoothed the way for a completely painless entry. We then docked on the jetty as there are a few jobs we needed to do.

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Guyana and the mighty Essequibo river.

Sunset on the Essequibo river

We sailed up the Suriname river heading for Guyana – a mere 250nm, leaving at the break of dawn as we were trying to get the current in our favour. The sail was uneventful and we arrived at the mouth of the massive Essequibo river about 4pm. Ian didn’t want to go up in the dark so we found a good place to anchor between two islands and settled down for the night. The Essequibo river is enormous. It is so big there are no bridges scanning it and it’s so shallow in places it becomes impassable. It’s the largest river in Guyana and the largest river between the Orinoco and the Amazon. I was amazed at its size, having come from the Suriname river which was about half a mile wide compared to the Essequibo which is about 9nm wide at its mouth. There are various islands in it, most of them uninhabited. We had to go up to Bartica – the only town boats can check in and obviously motor the whole way. This was going to take a full day so we rose early and set off.

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A new Continent – South America

Indian Summer in Suriname

Our roughly 600nm sail from Petite Martinique was awful. We hit current against us almost immediately and only just managed to sail as the winds shifted from ENE to ESE giving us only a small sail angle. We motored into horrible seas which made for a really uncomfortable journey and also a slow one. We passed only one ship though saw more on the AIS. The one bright moment was when we got a call on the radio from Brickhouse – Rebecca was coming up from Brazil and we were going to pass! That kind of close encounter with friends is very rare and so we passed within about 50m of each other frantically waving and yelling. It was so good to see her after 2.5 years – we may catch up in Trinidad later.

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A stop in Grenada

A bus stop painted in the colours of Grenada.

We arrived in Grenada (pronounced Grenayda not Grenarda as I thought) at Clarke’s Court bay just as the sun was setting. Grenada is totally different from Carriacou even though it is only 30nm away. Grenada is very lush, has many bays to anchor on and has a thriving main town of St George’s. We caught up with JP on Big Dog but sadly the girls had flown home so it was just the three of us. There are so many bars and restaurants in Grenada- it’s the party island of the carribbean and many boats come down here to spend the hurricane season as it is just outside the hurricane belt. We moved the following day as the water round the Marina was really dirty and dropped anchor imbetween Rock and Roll Star – We hadn’t seen Matt since India and Segue – we hadnt seen Colin since Indonesia! Cruising really is a small community. They really cater for cruisers here with busses running to the hardware shops and the chandlers and supermarkets. They encourage people to take part in the hash – an activity where you can walk a smaller course or run a longer one. They drop you off at the different places it happens every Saturday and many cruisers love it. My back was still a bit sore to do a long hike which was disappointing as I had wanted to do the Grenada hash for a long time.

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Colourful Carriacou

Carriacou

We had to do another week quarantine in Carriacou which was fine with us. We were all in a cordoned off section of the bay and could swim, kayak and muck around as much as we liked as long as we didn’t actually go to each other’s boats. On the 4th day we were a called in for our 2nd PCR test where we all had to wait together – bizarre considering we were meant to be in quarantine, but it all went off smoothly and 2 days after that we were allowed to check into Grenada. Carriacou is a smaller island just north of Grenada. It’s very laid back and has one small town called Hillsborough. We were in Tyrell Bay which is the best anchorage and where all the cruisers hang out – and of course where all the small bars and restaurants have sprung up.

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A paradise found …

Indian Summer so close to the beach.

When the air was a lot cleaner and the boat stopped looking like a grey blanket we headed up to the island of Mayreau. We had been told that Saltwhistle Bay was the most beautiful anchorage in the Grenadines and we wanted to check it out. They were not wrong and we ended up anchoring closer to the beach than ever before and were immediately invited to some beach games by Julia and Mercedes who we had met in St Vincent.

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The Gorgeous Grenadines

Not a bad place to spend 2 weeks quarantine… St Vincent.

We arrived in St Vincent after an uneventful 2 day sail from St Martin, missing out Guadeloupe, Monserrat, Dominica and Martinique on the way. All islands we would have loved to have visited but they are closed to us due to COVID, so we will spend a couple of months in St Vincent and the Grenadines instead. We have to do 12 days quarantine, as they take days at sea into the equation (Take note Australia) so we hoisted the yellow quarantine flag and sat back and waited for instructions. A guy came round in a dinghy and sold us a SIM card and we were advised that on day 7 we must go into town for a second PCR test. 12 days sitting in a gorgeous anchorage with plenty to eat, drink and occupy us. Not too shabby – we can swim off the boat and finish all those niggling little jobs that have been building up.

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