Final Passage To Devil’s Island and a Visit From King Neptune

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Tue 18 Dec 2012 18:54

Position 05:17.084N 052:35.389W  Iles du Salut, French Guiana

Date: 18 December 2012


Final Passage To Devil’s Island and a Visit From King Neptune


Sad that we were not able to stay much longer in Ilha Dos Lencois and get to know this extraordinary island, its wildlife and its people much better, we weighed anchor last Thursday for our final passage 630 miles northwest up the coast of Brazil and into French Guiana. This was where Sally and Lawrence were to leave me with a long maintenance list to get on with over Christmas. The passage took four days and it was very pleasant and uneventful, the steady trade winds from the east and north east wafting us to our destination. En route, we passed the delta of the mighty Amazon and even though we were 125 miles offshore, Mina2 was periodically pushed offshore and six hours later sucked back in again as the tidal effect of the enormous river inhaled and exhaled like enormous watery lungs. But once the tidal effect of the Amazon receded, it was replaced by an enormously strong northwest flowing current which sucked us to our destination at a rate of 2 knots (so even if the boat was not moving through the water at all, we would still be travelling nearly 50 miles a day).


On the morning of the second day into the passage, there was an enormous commotion. The screaming “Man Overboard” alarm went off as did the ear-splitting fog horn. Sally and Lawrence scrambled onto deck to find at the wheel that monstrous old queen, King Neptune, with his mane of white flowing hair and long beard, and wearing a fetching grass skirt. Being a frustrated thespian and a show-off to boot, he was banging on about being “Lorde of the Domaignes Of All The Seas” and all pollywogs must pay homage to his Courte to enter his Northern Domaignes. It was like having Brian Blessed on board. Forfeits had to be paid: any Equatorial virgins on board (neither Lawrence nor Sally had Crossed The Line before) were to be shorn of all their hair. Lawrence looked unconcerned as he has very little hair left, whilst Sally looked positively alarmed and was only let off when she told Neptune that she already had an appointment for a haircut in Kourou. Neptune was cut off in his prime by the countdown as we approached the Equator and at the moment we left the Southern Hemisphere and re-entered the Northern Hemisphere, Neptune produced a chilled bottle of exquisite champagne, and toasts were drunk all round. Meanwhile, I slept through the whole thing.


As we’ve become used to, wildlife was sparse. We had a few terns round the boat, one of which hitched a lift on our dinghy overnight, and we were paid a visit a couple of times from small pods of Bottlenose dolphins. Meanwhile, Lawrence, hunter-gatherer supreme, rustled up an excellent lunch, having caught a smallish dorado. Absolutely yummy.


Yesterday morning we saw land, three small islands ten miles off the entrance to Kourou. This were the Iles du Salut, including Devil’s Island, the notorious French penal colony made famous by the book and film “Papillon”. At 1300 we let the anchor go in 5 metres of water in the well-protected bay, surrounded by palm trees and the cries of monkies and parrots coming from the wooded slopes of the island.