Aground in Guyana

Yachting World - - Cruising -

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

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