leg 14: Lancois to French Guiana
Leaving Lancois we had another bumpy sail for over 100 nautical miles fighting across the current to get off the shallow continental shelf. We wanted to be far offshore when we crossed the Amazon river delta to avoid all the crazy swirling currents. We had a strong current with us and the wind on the beam, which Irene loved, and we screamed along faster than we thought possible. Unfortunately the beam on swell with a short period was incredibly uncomfortable and I’m not sure the speed was worth it. We reduced sail to try and reduce the slamming but it was still pretty unpleasant. To cheer us up Denzell caught us a Dorado, our favourite fish, and then also got a Cobia which he sadly lost off the deck in a particularly violent lurch. His fisherman’s enthusiasm was undiminished though and he was rewarded with a Queen Mackerel to keep us in fish for days.
Irene crossed the equator and we showed our respects with a generous splash of whisky over the side. King Neptune showed up to throw some water over the three of us who hadn’t crossed the equator by sea before. He was quite a dish even though his hair was a bit ropey.
Again we were headed for a night time arrival and with an increase in wind to 30 knots defeating our efforts to slow down we decided to lay a hull for the night. The squally weather that greeted us in the morning did not inspire us to attempt the river entry at Kourou, so we dropped anchor at the Salut islands, of Papillon fame, which are just offshore to wait out the wind. Once settled in the calm we were even less inclined to go into Kourou and so spent the day exploring the prison ruins and walking on these really beautiful islands. The prison was a lot bigger than we had expected and it was shocking to read that over 60 000 French prisoners passed through here. It was quite eerie walking around the ruins.
In the morning we dragged our anchor which we took as a sign it was time to brave the river entry to Kourou and we had a wet and windy time of it for the short sail across. The entrance channel is quite shallow and extremely narrow with the current pushing sideways, but fortunately there were no other boats coming out and it was pretty well marked. Pizza and French wine ashore for dinner.
Our reason for going into Kourou instead of just staying out at the islands was that the space centre was scheduled to launch a rocket and we thought that would be a pretty cool thing to see. Rocket launch day dawned overcast and it rained on and off all day. We had been too late to register to watch the launch at the space centre but we were told there would be a really good view from the beach and so we walked there anyway in the hope that the skies would miraculously clear. The rain steadily increased and although we heard the rocket we could see nothing, not even a glow in the grey sky. Morale on the walk home was rather low. Kourou had turned out to be a damp squib and we were keen to be done with brown river water anchorages and get on to the clean turquoise waters of the Caribbean.