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From Trinidad back to Suriname

 

Witte Raaf is home again! What preceded:
In the beginning of December we flew to Trinidad to sail Witte Raaf back to Suriname, so we started with waiting for a weatherwindow. Factors we wanted to take into consideration: wind north from east and not too strong, seastate tolerable, counter current as little as possible and lots of moonlight. An impossible combination!
After two pleasant weeks at the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association (TTSA) - of which we became members with as spin-off that we were invited to all parties, we decided to take the easterlies (unusual for the time of the year) for granted and gain some leeward. So Christmas was celebrated at sea, sailing north.

The passage from Trinidad to Grenada was uncomfortable as usual, so our Christmas was wet and salty while we were seeking shelter under our doghouse with our cosy inflatable christmas tree. After the third day of sailing we arrived in Bequia, where we surprised our friend Toko.
Toko’s bar is located on the south side of the island, where the breeze is fresh and the views are splendid. It is always enjoyable and Toko is a great chef. Fish, lobster - the meatball from the Caribbean - and conch, but also whale and sea turtle are on the menu.

The turtle we declined, bu the whale was recommended as THE basis for a great old year's eve, preventing a hangover on new year's day. By the way, it was combined with “goat water” (soup).

In the first week of January the weather promised to improve somewhat, but alas. The wind remained in the east at 25 kts and the swell was awful. For that reason we sailed first to Carriacou and Grenada and then to Tobago, before setting off for Suriname.
It became a tough mission. The weathergods did not fulfill our wishes: although the wind was north from east, it was strong, the swell considerable, last quarter moon thus a lot of counter current, and every night less moonlight.
We could sail 50 degrees to the apparent wind, but the seastate appeared to put an enormous strain on crew and rigging. Not only a connector from the main mast's running stay broke; BENG! said the fitting on which the mizzen's (luff) forestay was mounted. Fortunately this happened in daytime so an emergency forestay was quickly attached and the emergency repair was done in a jiffy.

Situations become more awkward when the shit hits the fan at night, for example when we sailed 30 nm off Guyana's shore at full speed into a floating fishing net.

The net was attached to an unproperly lit Venezuelan fishing boat and the net itself was of course unmarked. On top of that it was several kilometers long, so the wide berth we always give fishing vessels was not enough. A net can be cut rather quickly if you jump overboard, but in those seas this was way too dangerous: one blow of that pitching boat and you are unconscious and will drown. The Venezuelan fishermen also didn't feel like it, but after a lot of struggling and various breakers into the cockpit we managed to clear the boat from the net. But we lost our nice wooden boat hook, which was stuck in the net and now probably serves on board of that Venezuelan boat.

Five days at sea with winds screaming in the rigging, is something that may drive a man crazy. That you are indeed far gone, is what you think upon hearing voices!JW appeared to already have experienced the phenomenon but now we both heard it: continuous music and singing, or buzzing as in a busy pub. Perhaps the shrouds pick up a certain radio frequency?
Anyway, when we approached the Surinameriver in the early morning of the fifth day, especially JW was deliriously happy. The welcome party with the members of the Sailing Club Suriname was wonderful and for the coming 2 months we will be working hard on the construction of our own SCS marina.

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