Aground in Guyana
The night before we began our epic journey up the Essequibo River in Guyana we held station 20 miles offshore, surrounded by fishing boats, to await daylight, as advised in the pilot guide. High water the next day gave us safe passage across the shallows as our pilotage began, but there were some tense moments as the sounder recorded as little as 0.6m beneath us – an early indication that the charted depths in both paper and electronic were to be treated with great caution.
We anchored overnight at Roeden Rust, which provided us with firm holding and a pleasant overnight in water the colour of chocolate. The following morning we set off at low water to maximise the flood tide for our next leg to the Hurakabra Resort near to Bartica. As we made our way upriver the banks drew closer and at times we were just 30m or 40m from the bordering rainforest.
We passed the colonial fortifications on Fort Island, once the capital of Guyana, and colourful wooden houses would periodically be seen on the riverside and children ran down to the water’s edge to wave to us excitedly as we passed. We gently touched the bottom a couple of times and altered course accordingly as we felt our way through, ever aware of the 4m draught of the keel below us.
We began to study the ripples on the surface of the water and slowly edged our way further along, the clock constantly ticking as the flood tide carried us on our course. The chart was telling us where the sand banks had been in 1927, but even with the use of some recent GPS waypoints, we were effectively navigating blind as the riverbed is always changing.
If our RIB engine had been working at this point we