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Cruising Notes French Guyana From 2002 Visit

By doina — last modified Nov 02, 2006 10:34 AM

Published: 2006-11-02 10:34:47
Countries: French Guiana

Kourou is a small and fairly unattractive town on the river Fleuve Kourou, about 40 nm north of French Guiana’s capital, Cayenne. Don’t let the town’s appearance put you off. There is much more to it than what you can see at first glance. Though the river appears very muddy and dirty, it is in fact a lifeline for nature into the jungle further upstream.

The dominating feature of the town is the ARIANE space project. About 500 people are directly employed around it, a few thousand are indirectly involved and it is by far the biggest income for the town. Security, politics, infrastructure and development are geared towards this enterprise. Those who do wish to visit the ARIANE space center should go there the day before to make reservations. Don`t forget your passport on the day of the visit for identification.

People are very friendly, there are quite some sites to see apart from the ARIANE center, and those who are interested in flora and fauna will find a lot of interesting material, especially when going up the river. Amongst others, there are large green iguanas and eagles at the anchorages. You can rent huts up the river if you like to spend a night in nature seeing, hopefully, even monkeys, caymans and parrots. There is a very nice Zoo just north of Kourou and many small projects based around environmental ideas.

Some 2 km north of the YC (1.5 miles from the mouth of the river) is an Indian village which is proudly presenting its culture. Also included are two handicraft shops, which are very well worth a visit. Though the housing appears slightly simple and in need of some repairs, the area is reasonably safe. Even the poorer parts of town have got a taste for tourists and have started a number of moderate restaurants. Though it is left to one’s own discretion if you like to wander around those areas after dark.

Most helpful to us was the Danish born Bent Lorenzen, who is representing the Danish Bluewater Cruising association FTLF/DOCA here. His email is [email protected] Having lived here for 20 years, he is a very forward thinking member of the YC and we do thank him for the excellent support.

While Kourou seems to be the favoured place for yachts at the moment, there are other marinas and anchorage possibilities in Guayana which we haven’t visited, namely in the river “Fleuve Mahury” at the Marina Degrades de Cannes. Though a marina was designed and constructed there with money which should have gone to the development of a marina in Kourou, the result is a ‘White Elephant’. A marina miles away from the next shop will hardly serve any yachts.

Therefore sailors who opt for the Mahury river go much further upstream and enjoy nature with parrots, monkeys, and many more creatures right around the boat. (see also excellent report in German language at in their magazine 92/01, page 23, Yacht “Angelos” ) for those who like solitude.

Cayenne itself, is silted up and has not been recommended to us. The 50 ton travel lift, installed on the northern shore, is almost useless to yachts as only boats with max 1.5 mtrs draft can approach the facilities at Spring High Tide. The place serves the local fishing industry.


Possible at day and night through a well lit channel. Due to currents flowing at a rate up to 4 kn, we would recommend a day entry, preferably on a rising tide. Also thanks to a special freighter regularly for the ARIANE project, the channel is dredged to min 1,8 mtr. (at Low tide) with the shallowest spot at the beginning of the channel between the second and third “gate”.

Following GPS data is based on WGS 84 chart date. Our C-Map chart was out by a maximum of 0.5 miles against the actual GPS reading. All depths mentioned are actuals measured in September 2002 at mean low water. The “gates” are well maintained, well lit, buoys red and green, with the red ones marking your starboard side. All gates are almost perfectly in line of 203 degrees true bearing or 215 degrees on the compass.

Approach buoy, find it by heading in a SW bearing towards it to avoid shoals 1 mile east of it. Better to arrive from the Iles du Salut. Red/white buoy, 4 mtr high at 05.13.053 N and 052.36,246 W, marked KO.

First gate at 05.11,529 N and 052.36,767 W, marked KO 1 , 2 mtr depth

Second gate at 05.10,983 N and 052.36,976 W, marked KO 2, 1,8 mtr depth

Third gate at 05.10,488 N and 052.37,134 W, marked KO 3, 2,1 mtr depth

Fourth gate at 05.09,806 N and 052.37,355 W, marked KO 4, 2,0 mtr depth

Single red marker at the starboard river entry at 05.09,513 N and 052.37,444 W, 4 meter depth, turn 120 degrees to starboard, keep well clear of the cape and anchor off the YC (mind the moorings) or continue to:-

Fifth gate at 05.09,292 N, and 052.37,722 W, marked KO 5

Sixth gate at 05.09,093 N, and 052.38,079 W, marked KO 6

Keep well clear off a “South” marker, black/yellow and find an anchorage just 0.3 miles up the river from the marina ( 05.08,8 N and 052.38 W) or contact marina management for a berth.

Whatever anchorage you choose, make sure you stay out of the channel to avoid any dangers when larger vessels are passing. Holding in this mud and rocks is surprisingly poor so make sure you checked your anchoring and if possible, put out two anchors allowing for the tidal flows.

Thomas Mueller & Lilly Vedana

Yacht MIZ MAE, September 2002