Cruising in Guyana
Situate on the North Eastern seaboard of South America, though it's name translates from it's Amerindian origin to mean, Land of Many Waters
, Guyana was not, until recently, considered a cruising destination. But, four years ago a flotilla of some 4 yachts sailed up the majestic Essequibo River, the third largest in South America, to discover that it's fresh waters offered amongst the most attractive anchorages in the South American and Caribbean region.
Jack Cooley, captain of the yacht, Mystic Adventure
, one of the four cruisers, making the voyage from Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago to Essequibo, was later to write in the Caribbean Compass "cruisers bored with sitting out the Hurricane season in Trinidad, often look for additional areas to cruise that are out of the 'Hurricane belt'
. Popular destinations include Grenada, Tobago, the Delta Rivers of the Orinoco and other nearby rivers… I believe that Guyana can be added to this list of Hurricane season cruising favourites"
. Cooley observed that the sail from Trinidad to Guyana was "not overly rigorous
" and noted that "for voyages from South Africa to the Caribbean, Guyana could be a welcome respite and in fresh water too
Encouraged by the first flotilla, in 2005, a second flotilla of 8 yachts arrived and were full of praise for the hospitality they received and the beauty, seclusion and security of the anchorages which they found.
Today, the mining town of Bartica
, 30 miles from the mouth of the Essequibo and at the center of the confluence of three great rivers, the Mazaruni, Cuyuni and Essequibo, where a number of Guyana's leading nature resorts are located, is an official port of entry
and welcomes the arrival of cruisers.
Cruisers may now sail up the Essequibo River, about a 4hour motor sail from the estuary, to clear customs, immigration and health authorities within an hour of checking in by completing the simplest of customs clearance forms to be found at any cruising destination in the Caribbean and South America.
The Essequibo River now features prominently in the Third Edition of the Chris Doyle Cruising Guide for Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana. After visiting at the invitation of the Government of Guyana, having been encouraged to do so by former international sailor, Simon Wall, former Cabinet Minister and Public Relations Consultant, Kit Nascimento and Trinidad and Tobago's, Donald Stollmeyer,
Doyle, regarded as the guru of pleasure cruising in the Caribbean and North Eastern South American, decided to feature Guyana in his guide.
The Doyle Guide (www.doyleguides.com
) provides full chart and waypoint navigational advice on approaching the Essequibo River and sailing upriver to Bartica and the attractive anchorages in the vicinity off Baganara Island Resort, Hurakabra River Resort and the Shanklands Resort.
Simon Wall, known internationally for his single-handed transatlantic crossings and vice President of Canadian Bank Note which operates the Lotto in Guyana, in his introduction to the Guide, noted that he first ventured on his 50-foot sloop into the Essequibo River in 2005 and has been attracted back on a number of occasions since then.
He writes "I would urge cruisers to visit Guyana and enjoy some of its many attractions that include being outside of the hurricane belt, fresh water, exceptional low cost of living, quality services, English speaking and extensive safe anchorages
". According to Wall, the more he cruises the Essequibo, the more he appreciates "the spectacular beauty and many attractions that Guyana has to offer
Navigation up the Essequibo River to Bartica, using the Doyle waypoints, is relatively simple for yachts drawing less than 15 feet. Cruisers should keep a look out for small outboard power boats, water taxis, fishing nets and floating debris. Cruisers must, however, take notice of 10 foot and more tidal variations and a somewhat shifting sandbar of about 10 foot in depth at the mouth. Entering on a rising tide and for sailing upriver is therefore recommended. The river floods at 1.8 knots, roughly, and ebbs at about 3.5 knots. Muddy at the mouth, the river waters gradually turn a golden brown coloured by vegetation. The banks display magnificent white sand beaches
The Baganara and Hurakabra Resorts, in particular, now cater to receive cruisers anchored close off-shore. These Resorts are exceptionally beautiful nature destinations which offer exceedingly comfortable and well appointed accommodation, jungle walks, birding, beach front dining, well stocked bars, recreation facilities, water sports and dingy docking.
Cruisers can make arrangements with the resorts for support services such as fuel, laundry, ice, potable water, groceries, garbage disposal and fast boat transport to Bartica and river and road transportation to the capital city of Georgetown. Baganara has a small, light aircraft landing strip and Hurakabra, similarly, at a close by Island.
Bartica, with a population of about 10,000 is a bustling, somewhat quaint, hinterland town servicing Guyana's flourishing gold and mining activities in the upper reaches of it's rivers. It offers small Creole, Chinese and Brazilian dining, a wide range of fresh vegetable and meat market and supermarket shopping, banking facilities, hardware shops, general merchandise and a very active native nightlife. Boatyard facilities are not available, but, Bartica has workshops capable of carrying out most running repairs
Guyana is home to the magnificent Kaieteur Falls, the highest single drop waterfall in the world, much of what remains of the Amazon Basin's untouched tropical forest, virgin savannah lands and almost 800 species of bird life and a huge variety of wild life and flora. Cruisers visiting Guyana can easily access all of this from anchor by making arrangements with Evergreen Adventures, who operate Baganara and Public Communications Consultants/GEMS who run Hurakabra.
From Kit Nascimento:
I am attaching for your information, an article by Rory & Wendy on the yacht Zingara who are currently anchored in our Essequibo River in Guyana, about their experience here and also my note to Val Ellis, Asst. Editor of Noonsite, to which I attached an Article I have written to be published in "Table Top" about Guyana. I hope this information will bring you up to date on the pleasures in cruising in Guyana and the enormous changes we have made to welcome yachts to our country. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me about sailing to Guyana. Yours sincerely,Kit Nascimento.
Thank you for the useful information Kit.