Tuesday November 13th, 2001
At 0600, our Jungle Team onboard “Iguana” headed away up river.
They have a number of days of daylight travel ahead of them before arriving near San Gabriel and then trucking to the Venezuelan border.
From 17th November they will begin reporting their own Logs every two days.
I’ve just spoken to Ollie on their Iridium satellite phone and they are making good progress - averaging around 5 knots against the current that will become gradually stronger over the next few days.
The photos taken a couple of days ago were from when some of us were invited to spend an hour or two at the Rio Negro Lodge.
We flew there, courtesy of Phil Marsteller, in his 4-seater float plane.
His pilot landed alongside Seamaster after taking our film crew aloft to get some shots of our vessel from the air - and Don, Leon and I then flew the 20 minutes or so from our anchorage back to the Lodge.
In the middle of the Amazon on the banks of the Rio Negro, Phil and his wife have made a commitment to the community quite unlike any other that I have come across in my travels.
The Lodge is a fishing haven where mainly Americans come for a few days at a time to fish for the famed Peacock Bass - but only as a tag-and-release programme.
The thatched main building has a huge fish tank inside, opposite the entranceway - full of examples of the river life that is present in the surrounding area - turtles, peacock bass, catfish, tambaqui, neon tetras - and other small aquarium fishes.
To come here to the Rio Negro to fish, though, is more than just a holiday for some of his customers. At present he has a group of dentists visiting - so they roster his dental clinic on certain afternoons of the week - to give free treatment to people of the surrounding area.
We met Clyde - a doctor from Florida. He was manning the doctor’s surgery as part of his “deal” with Phil. Clyde has already provided $50,000 worth of equipment to make this the best equipped practise around - also offering free care.
They are building a bigger school capable of accommodating 120 children; and 20 family houses - small by our standards but exactly what is required for the families that work here; They are also in the final stages of completing a research centre for the University of the Amazon so that the scientists can have a base to undertake research work in this remote part of the region.
There are more than 250 people from the surrounding area of the Rio Negro employed in the business that Phil has set up - partly for the tag-and-release fishing, mainly for his “not-for-profit” organisation to help the local peoples. All of his carpenters, gardeners, teachers, fishing guides and pilot are from the surrounding area.
As the son of a missionary pilot, he was raised in Brazil and the USA and has come back to give something back.
He is certainly doing that.
Also, as an example of “sustainable” fishing, Rio Negro Lodge’s tag-and-release programme has much to recommend it.
This form of tourism will bring far more to the local economy - on an ongoing basis -than the strip-fishing that is currently in vogue - where, in a few years time, there will potentially be nothing left - of anything.
Then where will the income come from?
For further details about Rio Negro Lodge, go to www.peacockbassfishing.com
We had a visit this morning from a large praying mantis - approx 15cm long, with extraordinary legs. It stayed in the cockpit all day, ever since Rob rescued it from the river where it was attracting the attention of the fish. It was the brightest of greens, with huge green eyes, and feet that could grip on almost any surface - shiny plastic included.
But as we anchored off Barcelos in the last of the light, there was a whirr of wings and it was gone - heading for the trees on the other bank of the river.
Tomorrow will be a cleaning day, and a time to restock with fresh food for the run down to Manaus over the next 2 weeks.
The smells of the smoke from the cooking fires in the town are wafting down the hatch here in the communications room. Don is selecting photographs and most of the rest of the crew are on deck at “Rodgers” where Dr Mark Orams is giving a talk on reptiles and amphibians.
For me, it will be an early night - but there is no point in heading for my bunk for a while yet as it is just too hot and humid to have any chance of sleep.
So, until tomorrow,
All the best from the Seamaster crew.