Alone Like a Rolling Stone

St. Laurent du Maroni - City of rattling chains

Voices reach my ear. Chains rattle. A steamboat has docked at the wooden jetty in front of St. Laurent, on the Maroni River. The cargo, new prisoners, political prisoners. They are gathered in the large square in front of the old customs office, then taken to the distribution camp. There they are distributed, depending on the offense, to one of the five prison camps of French Guiana. 

Arrival at St. Laurent du Maroni

As a political prisoner, you don't have much to laugh about in France around 1900, the conditions of punishment are harsh, hardly anyone survives the first year. I ask myself, what is a political prisoner, what has he done and how is one sentenced to such a punishment? "A political prisoner is a person who is imprisoned for political or ideological reasons. The distinction between political and legitimate prisoners is ambiguous on a legal positivist basis." End quote. So there are legitimate prisoners, we are not talking about them here, and there are prisoners who are not legitimate. That's where the concept of the rule of law takes on a whole new meaning for me. But in a modern constitutional state, there is no such thing anymore; it is done differently today. So you can assume that most of the prisoners did not deserve the conditions that prevailed here. 

Prisoner wing St. Laurent du Maroni

Countless wrecks around the buoy field where we are moored and the city, with its numerous historic colonial-style buildings, bear witness to this time, when the chains of the foot shackles rattled along the dusty streets. Today, a colorful mix of people live here. In addition to Europeans, there are some mixed race, Creoles, Africans, Chinese and Hmong. In addition, six indigenous peoples, such as the Kalina, Pahikweneh, Lokono, Wayana, Wayapi and Teko live in French Guiana.

Main Street St. Laurent du Maroni. 

The marina is run by Davide, whose ambitions to build a large marina here have dwindled considerably. Due to Covid, there seem to be a few insurmountable hurdles in the way, but he tries very hard and is always a helping hand. Even if resignation sometimes shines through, the zest for action is quickly restored. The jetty is still not extended and can only be used by one boat and as a dinghy dock. Chaining the dinghy is still recommended. Chains probably have their tradition in this region. So the marina, is limited to the 20 buoys that are in the river in front of the wreck Edith Cavall. The steamship was built in 1889 and ran aground off St. Laurent in 1924. Meanwhile, a beautiful forest has developed from inside the hull. We are about 20 nautical miles from the sea, yet the tides are clearly evident here. 

Buoy field Marina St. Laurent du Maroni

Since I'm too lazy to screw the outboard to the dinghy and I tell myself every day anew that rowing is healthy and keeps fit, bridging the 300m to the jetty is often a challenge. Gaby as a talking figurehead loudly gives the direction and the beat, while I throw myself into the oars. The rising water and wind create a not inconsiderable counter-current, which can be quite a challenge for a man in his late fifties. Thus we provide, under the Frenchmen, who are here in the majority, each day for completely large port cinema. In the bar they bet and throw Euros into a pot, will he make it or will he drift to Suriname. When I then arrive completely out of breath, Gaby always asks what's wrong with me, the first beer is secured and they pat me, while passing, appreciatively on the shoulders. Since we were a little undersupplied on the Cape Verde Islands, which concerned the food, opens us, in St. Laurent, a clear oversupply of European goods. However, this temple of consumption is about two kilometers away and, at 30°C and high humidity, can only be reached by sweating. If the way there is still easy to manage, on the way back hallucinations, beer taps bubbling with drops of water, under which ice-cold beer glasses stand, set in again and again.

Sundownder Bar and Lounge Marina St. Laurent du Maroni

Whenever I reach for a glass, I reach into the void and Gaby then asks what I'm doing. I'm always happy when our boat Katinka reappears behind the beer tap. In the late afternoon we meet at Davide's bar for a sundowner. The community is quite small and consists of a few Frenchmen who we understand as good as not, but it is funny and they try to include us in the conversation again and again. In this respect, we feel very comfortable here and there is still a lot to discover. 

Wrack St. Laurent du Maroni

As usual, you can find out what all this is about at Until then, fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.