Sunday September 30th, 2001
And going to become hotter and more humid as we head further up river.
All of the fans are humming - including the 8 new ones we managed to buy yesterday that are now in each cabin, as well as the saloon. One is right next to me here in the communications room.
The breeze they circulate is warm - there is no getting away from that fact. Between 2 and 4 pm seems to be the worst - then it quickly eases away, particularly if we have been fortunate to have had some rain.
We spent all yesterday, 1st October, getting ready for the “off”.
Seamaster now sports white plastic tables and chairs on the aft deck - each table with its own blue and white sun umbrella.
The crew searched the town - several “teams” with shopping lists headed away from the yacht club before 8am and had the best part of the day finding mosquito nets for all of the hammocks; lightweight tarpaulins for each hammock for when the rain and the wind combine and blow underneath the awnings; extra brightly coloured hammocks from the market (the sellers couldn’t believe their luck - 15 in 2 days); more fresh food for the trip - the fruit is very plentiful and cheap - and if one likes papaya, mangos, large passion fruit, bananas, pineapples, oranges and limes, this is definitely the place to come to.
Ollie cleared Seamaster “out” with the port authorities and the yacht club, went to the bank to change dollars for Reals; had a taxi take him and Miguel to an industrial part of town to buy a gas-fired barbeque (now set up on the aft deck), and generally everyone came back hot but successful.
There is a saying here that “man in a hurry has no place in Brazil” - and it is certainly true here where the heat eventually grinds you down.
We up-anchored just before sun-up this morning. Daylight comes very quickly here - with only a few minutes separating dark from full daylight. The sun was a blazing orange disk behind the high-rise buildings of Belem - with a surrounding hazy reddish glow - as we motored away down the river with the outgoing tide giving us a good push. After passing through a narrow and shallow channel past islands with sandy beaches, some with overgrown ruins and chimneys showing through the canopy of the trees, we turned south-westwards up the Rio Para - a long day ahead of us to our anchorage just short of the point where the river becomes a number of narrow fingers - we are heading for the narrowest.
The river was calm to begin with but now has a short steep chop following us along. The tide has turned again and is favourable once more, speeding our progress considerably.
At the anchorage at Belem, the river was full of brown silt - really quite thick - but here in the bigger river, whilst still brown, it is much clearer.
Janot and Rodger have the river water sterilization system in operation - and it is so far working really well. The tanks should soon be full again.
We are very conscious of waste, and both our toilets have high quality sewage treatment systems. But these are normally used in sea water - where natural chlorine is produced by an electrical charge thru the salt water. The river is fresh water, however, so to continue treatment we now add a measured quantity of fine salt to the water in each toilet pan after use - which in turn produces the chlorine as before. We have a lot of salt onboard.
A number of craft passed us earlier in the morning - most heading for Belem, including a barge loaded with lorries - probably at the end of its 10 to 15 day trip from Manaus. The river system is their highway. There are no suitable roads linking these far-apart cities, although there are ones in the planning.
The river is now quite wide - around 8 kilometres at this point - and the jungle on each side is a hazy smudge in the distance.
We have a long day ahead, the first of many.
1030 hrs: The sea breeze is on the increase and keeping conditions on deck under the awnings very pleasant. The pilot, Jose’, is on the bow with a VHF radio link back to the steering position. He doesn’t use any onboard navigational aids, just his long-time knowledge of taking vessels up and down the river from Belem to Manaus. We, however, are tracking our course carefully on the very detailed set of charts we bought in a chandlery down near the docks.
1130 hrs: 32 deg C on deck in the shade.
Our water tank is full (it overflowed) - the new system pumping the river water works well, producing approx 1 tonne of drinking water every hour. We can now have as many showers a day as we want!!
1230 hrs: We are in narrow channels between some islands - small villages to starboard nearly hidden by the trees.
Coconut palms show above the rest of the dense foliage, and trees with red and yellow flowers are common.
A double barge loaded with logs sits waiting to leave; fishermen in their dug-out canoes come alongside wanting to know if we will buy their shrimps - cooked a bright pink - in baskets.
Other river traffic converges on the narrow sections, then we seem to be almost on our own in between.
The on-deck watch has to keep a good lookout for fishing nets that are difficult to see.
Paolo is cooking thin fillets of pork for lunch - on the barbeque on the port side deck. This is the first time it has been used - but cooking in the open will certainly help keep the saloon cooler.
Our chef also appears from time to time in the cockpit with jugs of strange-looking juice - cold and refreshing but often of unknown origin. The latest concoction was a very deep red in colour - with bits. This was the juice of the acai berry - a fruit about the size of a large blueberry that grows in the jungle nearby. We are eating well.
1330 hrs: What a visual feast. The very narrow but quite deep channel between Ilha da Jararaca and Ilha do Murumuru was lined both sides by small houses - mainly thatched - with rickety wooden jetties. Many had large satellite television dishes.
Some of the houses were of 2 levels - brightly painted but with no need for glass in the windows. Most were on short poles - built over the water - obviously the closeness to the ocean means that the changes in river level are probably more tidal than whether it is the wet or dry season.
The tide is still helping us up-river at over 10 knots, but it will soon turn against us for the rest of the afternoon. Our next anchorage is still about 50 miles away, so we are unsure if we will make it before dark. There will be a full moon later, but the problem will be to avoid the large rafts of plant matter floating down river, as well as any unlit craft. Maybe the searchlight is about to get a work-out - its first since that miserable night in Antarctica when we were caught in the ice, in a gale, at sea, with Seamaster frozen over, and the lookout on the bow in survival suits with their eyes freezing shut.
The contrast could hardly be greater.
Until the next Log,
All the best,
Peter and crew.