I got a lovely Guyana update from Erik. What was notable about this is that he navigated on a 72 foot boat with 11 foot draft, way bigger and deeper than most who visit. Here is the update in full. He also sent a list of depths. I will try to incorperate all the changes below when we come out with a new edition. In the meantime, every navigator should pay attention to the below;
We visited Guyana aboard Sea Dragon, a 72′ sloop with an 11′ draft in December 2015 to January 2016. We have some additions and changes to the information in your cruising guide we think would be valuable to share with you and with any others hoping to visit Guyana, particularly with a deep draft yacht. I hope you find the below notes and attached soundings useful – we have found that your guides are the best and most reliable for use in the Caribbean, and hope we can contribute to helping you keep them that way.
The Scotia Bank in Bartica now has a withdrawal limit of G$40,000, not G$30,000 as stated in the guide.
The Church’s Chicken on 1st Ave downstairs from customs has free wifi (The only free wifi (and most reliable) that we found in Bartica.
Customs charges are still the same: G$2500 to clear in and G$2500 to clear out .
Immigration is open 7 days a week, customs is closed weekends and holidays.
There was no floating pontoon at Kool Breezes in Bartica.
Mobile Geographics timetables were not accurate in Parika or up the river with the offsets supplied in the guide.
The positions of some of the features in the river are a bit off in the sketch charts – for example, both Sail Rock and Two brothers islands are charted as being .06′ north of their actual locations. It also seemed that a lot of the areas without soundings on the sketch charts were just taken straight of the admiralty charts – I’m not sure if there’s any other source of info, but this is a bit confusing, especially when there are discrepancies in the shape of banks between a detail and an overview sketch chart, such as on page 230 and the detail chart of the shanklands-hurakabra route on page 228. (Doyle note: where we give both a general and detailed chart, the detailed that should always be taken as the most accurate).
There is a conspicuous wreck on the shore just south of GUYS~13 that may be worth noting.
The sketch chart “Detail Mamarikuri Island to Shanklands” on page 226 has a typo on the longitude scale – 34′ W is written as 37′ W.
Also, the resort is called “Shaklands” instead of “Shanklands” on the map in the lower right hand corner on the same page.
While I do realize that the sketch charts are not intended for navigation, it would be nice to have a bit more precision where possible, especially given the inaccuracies of navionics digital charts, and the age of the admiralty charts as well as the fact that they are not WGS 84.
It may be worth noting in the guide that the Admiralty paper charts, while useful, are very out of date, and that depths and some river contours have changed significantly since the surveys on which they are based. The sketch charts would be more easily translatable to what is in the river if more of the rocks were indicated, particularly Chou Chou Rocks (which are very conspicuous and navigationally important for the main channel) and Pigeon Island/Rocks, which gives a better sense of reason to the chart “detail mamarikuri island to Shanklands”.
Sail rock does not have a light on it, and whilst still visible, the cement beacon has broken off and most of it is lying on the side of the rock.
There were no navigational buoys in the Essequibo River – the only one existent was a pillar by GUES01.
Between GSL02 and GUES01 there were many unlit fishing piles.
We found your waypoints to be pretty good from GUYS03 to GUYS13 (we took the northern “ship channel” to Roeden Rust rather than go by Parika and found it deep and easy).
It may be worth emphasizing the importance of staying on the east bank of the river between Kwatta Banaboo and Worm Island, as our skipper found less depths than charted in the middle of the channel on her way upriver.
I suspect that beyond GUYS13 your waypoints might still be fine for shallow draft vessels, but would suggest a slight alteration for deep draft vessels as follows:
6 30.20′ N 58 34.66′ W
6 30.13′ N 58 34.74′ W
6 29.93′ N 58 35.00′ W
6 29.43′ N 58 35.34′ W
We found that at half tide neaps we carried at least 12.3′ along these waypoints, but our lead lining from the dinghy suggested that the route following your waypoints past Shanklands was shallower.
We found the water in the vicinity of GUYS09 to be shallower than indicated by the soundings on your chart – please find attached an excel spreadsheet with our soundings (corrected roughly to Datum) for some sections of the river.
The Shanklands-Hurakabra route as written is impassable – the shoal indicated on that chart extends much further east, directly across the route between GUYK01 and GUYK02. Sea Dragon was hard aground here for 24 hours. We later sounded this route with leadline from the dinghy, and the soundings are in the attached spreadsheet.
We did not investigate whether it would be possible to reach GUYK03 or GUYK02 from a point further south an east, more in line with the ship channel, but Mike, the manager at Hurakabra, told us that this route was not practical and has not been used by yachts recently. I would suggest contacting him for more info and pilotage if attempting this passage.
Deep draft vessels bound to and from Bartica take a different route from Sail Rock to Bartica than the one indicated in your guide – due to engine trouble we were unable to get waypoints for this section of the route, but it passes straight between sail rock and two brothers and up river, then turns starboard and passes about 200ft south of Chou Chou Rk, then turns port and passes up the east side of Calf Island. All the commercial traffic on the river used this route, up to and including a small freighter drawing 13 feet. It may be worth noting in the guide that deep draft vessels should use this route, either with a pilot or after sounding it in a small boat.
Kit Nascimento was unaware of the fact that the Shanklands-Hurakabra route was not viable – he told our skipper coming up river that the waypoints in the guide were correct. We were also told by Gem that it would be acceptable to go straight to Hurakabra and anchor before clearing customs/immigration, and that Kit had OK’d this with customs for us- however, the officials did not seem aware of this arrangement and were not amused to find out that Sea Dragon was not in Bartica.
We were very impressed with the staff at Hurakabra, they were knowledgeable, competent, helpful, and very friendly. Gem & Kit were very helpful in arranging logistics and transport as well as tours and walks for our crew.
From Anne Hulbert, Yacht Impressionist
Bartica anchorage rock – There is a rock at the south end of the Kool Breeze anchorage off Bartica, the jagged tip of which just shows at low tide.
Do-it Rock – Definitely there, we saw the jagged tip of it when passing in a dinghy at low water.
Dinghy Dock – The small floating dinghy doc by Kool Breeze dock is no longer attached to the main dock. The alternatives are to use the main, now rather ramshackle, dock with the local boats or to use the boatyard midway between that and the Town Dock (where the ferries pull in) which is directly in front of the distinctive blue and yellow Courts building. They will either tie up your dinghy fore and aft alongside another boat or direct you to do so, cost in December 2013 was 400GYD (about US$1.50). It is safe to leave a dinghy overnight here although the cost will be a bit more; this was recommended by both Joyce and Bernard. To get to the main street follow path to left. They often took our rubbish to dispose of; when they didn’t we put it in the large bin on the corner of the street opposite where the path joins the main street.
Note also another rock in the posts below.
Thank you Michael for this very thorough update to the new edition, I am sure it will prove useful. And good luck to all those doing the flotilla:
I just had the privilege to beta-test your Cruising Guide to Guyana (second edition) which I downloaded before sailing my boat (36ft sloop PADMA) up the Essequibo river. I thank you for writing this guide, without which I would never have visited Bartica. With the GPS waypoints it wasn’t so hard to do, without them I would not have dared. I wanted to send you my notes, so that you can consider them for new editions of the guide, to better help those that come after me. I crossed the bar and entered the river at low tide with no problems. Depths as indicated. However, I did not see any “Essequibo pile” or “Bluejackets pile” in the area where they should have been. In fact the only navigational aid I saw on the river was a green buoy (flashing green light at night) at the Rattlesnake rock. I found that the Navionics chart which I have in my chartplotter is relatively accurate if one applies an offset to move the chart S and E:
N-S = -660ft, E-W = 300ft.
I sail single-handed. To keep my hands free, I like to program my autopilot to follow a track from waypoint to waypoint. This worked fine mostly, but with your waypoints, there were a couple of times when the straight line would have taken me over land. I would like to suggest moving a couple of waypoints a short distance to avoid this:
GUYS07: 06.40.85’N 058.33.64’W
GUYS11: 06.32.59’N 058.35.11’W
GUYS12: 06.31.22’N 058.34.59’W
and between GUYS13 and GUYS14 insert a waypoint at Ampa Point:
You write: “Upriver to Bartica… On your left is Two Brothers Island.” This is wrong. As you go upriver, the islands are on you right, starboard side. To avoid ambiguity, depending on the direction travelled, it may be better to say that the islands will be on your west side, you pass to the east of them, passing between the islands and the eastern bank.
“The run from GUY14 to 15 is not a straight line; you will have to eyeball your way past the various shoals north of Dahli Island”. To help the eyeballs, I suggest inserting a waypoint between Dahli Island and the E bank:
From this waypoint you can travel in straight lines to GUYS14 and 15.
“take care in the Rattlesnake passage between Rattlesnake rock and other rocks and shoals to your east.” To avoid ambiguity, you should say that Rattlesnake rock (underwater at high tide, but with a green buoy nearby) will be to your west.
“There are some rocks about 400 meters out and forward of the market position.” It’s not clear where “forward” is. Better say upriver or south.
The small floating pontoon at “Kool Breezes” is a good place to tie up the dinghies, but not “around the back” because water taxis park there. Dinghies can tie up underneath the dilapidated little bridge leading to the pontoon. There is enough headroom under the bridge at any state of the tide. “Kool Breezes” is not a bar now, just a taxi terminal, and there is no name sign anywhere. You can recognize it by the green roof with faded beer advertising.
“Customs is 40 meters away around the corner.” Customs is now opposite the police station, upstairs of Church’s Chicken fastfood. Downstairs is the place to go if you have a craving for junk food.
Guyana flags are sold cheap at “WK Shopping Mall” on First Ave, next to Kool Breezes landing.
For loud music, party people and female gold diggers, go to Platinum Hotel at night. I wouldn’t recommend Platinum Hotel as a place to sleep.
I didn’t visit Hurakabra. I met Joyce Davis in Bartica. She loves meeting cruising sailers, but she doesn’t like visitors coming to her house unannounced, apparently. Mood Indigo has sunk, someone else told me.
German cruising sailor Bernhard Kleinhenz lives with his Guyanese wife in the house they built on a headland on the river 0.8 nm upriver from Baganara. They have a beautiful orchard garden and jungle walks. If you sail there, beware of the submerged rocky ridge just upriver (S) from his pier. Otherwise, it’s straightforward. Anchor at 06. 19.43’N 058.35.17’W. His yacht Meerstern is moored there, so you cannot miss it. He has determined GPS waypoints for the river’s west channel to the mouth, which he his happy to share. This route saves 11nm on the way to Trinidad.
from GTR03 to
0: 07.23.0’N 058.21.3’W
1: 07.10.4’N 058.22.4’W
2: 07.08.8’N 058.24.2’W
3: 07.01.5’N 058.26.9’W
4: 06.57.0’N 058.28.9’W
5: 06.53.33’N 058.32.16’W
6: 06.49.35’N 058.34.14’W
7: 06.48.45’N 058.34.30’W
8: 06.45.69’N 058.34.09’W
9: 06.43.13’N 058.34.29’W
10: 06.41.04’N 058.34.49’W
then continue to GUYS09.
I tested this route and found it, if anything, more straightforward than going via Parika. The bar is a bit shallower, though. I went over it at spring low water (0.0m tide) and found a minimum depth of 2.1m (7ft). My draft is 6ft, so I was rather nervous, but it went ok.
There is a report on Noonsite from visiting yacht Do It, who dented her keel on a rock on the way to Baganara. The rock, now named DoIt Rock, is reported at position 06. 22.28’N 058. 36.641’W. This is only 0.035nm or 60m from the straight line from GUYS22 to GUYS23 which passes E of the rock. The rock doesn’t break the surface, but I can confirm the position by the surface wave pattern over the shallows. For safe clearance, you may wish to add a waypoint at 06. 22.30’N 058. 36.59’W (100m E of the rock). Or even better is Bernhard’s suggestion to delete GUYS22. The straight line from GUYS21 to GUYS23 passes a safe 0.15nm E of the rock. The river is wide enough that there is no need to go close to the rock. But sailors should be warned of it. Bernhard says that SY Azimut also ran onto this rock. Other boats have passed DoIt rock on the W side where there is also plenty of room.
Kaieteur Falls (which I didn’t see) are superlative. But according to Wikipedia they are not the “highest sheer drop in the world”. It’s more accurate to say that of the worlds very high falls, Kaieteur has the largest amount of water. It’s not easy to write a straightforward superlative touristic description of the falls while staying factually accurate.
I was one of four visiting sailboats on the river at this time (late June 2013), but according to Bartica customs, less than ten boats have come so far this year.
One of the visiting boats is owned by Italian-Australian Davide Matelicani (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is organising a flotilla in September from Trinidad and Tobago to French Guiana where he is building a marina at Saint Laurent on the Maroni river. He will take the flotilla first to Guyana and Hurakabra River Resort. This effort will likely boost yachting tourism in Guyana and is supported by the Guyana government. His meeting with officials was reported in the local newspaper.
This covers the rock mentioned above which unfortunately did not get to me before the current edition;
A few weeks back, I sent an email about a rock we discovered the hard way in the Essequibo River that is not mentioned in your guide. I thought I would make sure the info had got through, and send a picture subsequently taken by another cruiser (Sandpiper).
We were Guyana in November 2012, cruising down the Essequibo River following your guide waypoints. We got as far as Bartica without incident although some of the depths have changed, however we discovered a significant “new” rock to report on the route between Bartica and Baganara Island.
We have named it “Do It Rock” and it is at 6. 22.280′ North 58. 36.641′ West on the WGS84 chart datum.
This rock is extremely close to the direct track between waypoints GUYS 22 and GUYS 23. The rock is just uncovered at LW.
Your guide correctly advised navigating with caution in the river, but we relaxed for a few minutes when in 7-10 metres when the leg appeared to be clear ahead. The water is opaque, and very few rocks are marked with beacons. There are probably other big hard rocks lurking unseen, unmarked, and uncharted.
Many cruisers have used these waypoints without incident – I guess we were unlucky (and grateful for the solid construction of our steel yacht). Local advice is to favour the west bank along this stretch or river, and this is what the barges do.
Hope that helps someone avoid some damage.
SY Do It
Guyana Admiralty Chart – make sure to get an updated one ashore.