Returning to Saint Laurent du Maroni

We did leave at 10H00 on Saturday (25 July 2015) morning and motored out of the Maroni river, heading for the open sea. The trip down river was simple, easy and uneventful whilst we did last preparations to Revelations in the calm river water and before entering the ocean. Where the Maroni river enters the sea, the depth is shallow for a long way offshore and we followed the beacons indicating the channel for about 8 nautical miles off shore before we turned west and started sailing towards Trinidad & Tobago.

We unfurled the jib and in about 10 knots of wind, Revelations settled into a 5 nautical mile rhythm which would be our daily routine for 4 to 6 days. After unfurling the jib and now on the correct compass course, I switched off the starboard engine, lit a cigarette and settled in for the first shift until 18H00 when Sue would relieve me when she came on duty. We sailed for about 30 nautical miles and I then switched on the starboard engine ... but nothing happened, only deathly silence from the engine.

Already the port engine was not working due to a major water leak, the generator also not working as it needs a new sea water pump, we cannot raise the main sail due to tangled ropes within the mast, we cannot raise the screetcher because of damage on the top of the mast ... and now the starboard engine also fails! We only have the jib to sail to Trinidad & Tobago and this makes for a slow journey. Running the navigation equipment 24 hours a day and also fridge, freezers and other electrical equipment - there is no way in hell the solar panels, which are our only means to generate power, would keep up with the battery power drain. This means that we would be without battery power within two or three days and then we would no longer have any means to keep the essential navigation equipment on.

We decided it would be best to return to Saint Laurent du Maroni and have the engines repaired. with this came a new set of challenges which would soon be upon us. With sunset within the next 4 hours, some 30 nautical miles away from the river mouth and channel, which does not have lighted beacons, a strong up river current (fortunately in the direction we wanted to go) and with dying wind the further we sail up river. Fortunately, our chart plotter shows a snail trail and we could follow our own tracks back. We reached the channel at sunset and slowly sailed in the channel towards land in the fast failing light. The tide turned 2 hours ago and was now rising, the flow reversed up river and we soon we where in the clutches of the strong current sweeping us along at about two knots per hour. The wind dropped and now there was only a slight breeze, barely enough to keep the jib deployed. But this was enough to give water flow over the rudder, so we had traction and could steer Revelations - back tracking our previous exit trail.

We sailed like this until about 23H00, slowly making headway up river but the wind kept dropping. For several minutes at a time, the jib would collapse upon itself and with that, we had no steerage. Unable to steer Revelations, we were at the mercy of the current only and then there would be a slight breeze for a minute or two - just enough to make a course correction before the wind would die again. But then the wind died completely and for the next forty minutes there was not even a slight breeze - only the current sweeping us up river. Fortunately, high tide at Saint Laurent du Maroni is some two and a half hours later than at the river mouth - so in other words, we had a prolonged rising tide.

Slowly the current took us off course and we were no longer following in our exit footsteps. This was a problem especially in view that the charts are off by at least half a nautical mile - at certain sections of the river, it was off by almost one nautical mile. This means that we could not be sure of our exact position in relation to the actual surroundings, with no visible lights, numerous shallow areas and other obstacles and only the light of the half moon, we could barely make out the river banks. It was time to drop the anchor and continue the journey the next day. We had everything ready, was about to go forward to drop the anchor when I decided to one more time try and start the starboard engine - it did!

With the engine now propelling us, it was a simple task to continue our journey up river to the SLM Marina. We arrived at 02H00 at the marina and with the aid of the town lights reflecting on the water, it was easy to spot our buoy. By now it was also slack tide and with no current running it was an easy task to tie up to the mooring in the middle of the night. So we are once again tied up, safe and sound - but back in Saint Laurent du Maroni until we can get things repaired.

Port engine fixed
Leaving for Trinidad & Tobago

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