Friday October 5th, 2001
We woke early and headed up the side river (the Rio Curua) in the RIB, before dawn had more than stained the eastern sky a delicate pink. Flocks of parrots in the high palm trees made a real racket, while clouds of white herons and cormorants set off for their first fishing trip of the day.
Fishermen’s huts dotted both banks—built on stilts to avoid being underwater at high river. Two old craft lay ending their days next to the houses—well clear of the water.
The ever-attendant pink dolphins followed us, surfacing quietly with a gentle “woosh”, rather than the more energetic hunting of yesterday. Marc did get into the water before dusk—and the dolphins came around him—as he had predicted. They really are extraordinary looking—as Franck’s photo shows.
Well after dinner last night we took the two dinghies up the Rio Curua to look for caimen. There were ten of us in the team, all with long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, shoes or boots, and with a good splash of insect repellent. It was very dark as the moon had yet to rise, but the stars and the milky way were shining as they only can well away from a city.—No “light pollution” here.
Turning left down a narrow channel that was overhung by the undergrowth and large trees, we stopped the outboard motors and carried on paddling for the next quarter of a mile or so against a sluggish current. The torches showed us the way, and also alerted many fish to our presence. They were jumping very close to the boats—one came aboard the RIB – and certainly made you flinch when they unexpectedly smacked into the water right alongside where you were paddling.
Our torches shone on pairs of eyes glowing from the river banks—but we didn’t get close enough before the owners disappeared.
At the end of the channel was a lake—looking large and black in the night—so we turned and headed back out.
As we drifted back down the channel, keeping as quiet as possible, we could hear the sounds of larger animals crashing around in the undergrowth.
There was no wind and, surprisingly, few mosquitoes.
Back at Seamaster there were bats flying around the bow—attracted by the many insects that had themselves been attracted by the bright anchor lights. We could hear the bats distinctive high-pitched squeaks – their form of radar, not too dissimilar to the dolphin’s.
It’s now 1100 and the day is warming up. The city of Santorem on the Rio Tapajos is only a few bends of the river away—a few more hours of motoring against an increasingly strong current.
Miguel, our guide, is already there—he flew back from Manaus and will be with us until Seamaster exits the river at the end of November, having left the jungle team to head off into Venezuela in their dugouts.
The brown Rio Amazonas gave way to the blue of the Rio Tapajos earlier than expected—we made good time and are now anchored in the blue-green and comparatively clear water off the yacht club at Santorem. Golden sandy beaches stretch as far as the eye can see. Here it is ok for swimming—we are told we do not have to worry about the dreaded toothpick fish. But the temperature of the river water is 31deg C—the warmest we have experienced so far.
It is great to jump over the side knowing that you will be dry again a few minutes after getting out. The relief doesn’t last for long, but it is still refreshing, and can be repeated as often as you like.
It’s Sunday afternoon—most of the younger crew have gone to a beach, leaving the rest catching up on some sleep, or reading in their hammocks on deck.
There is little current past Seamaster, and for a change we are facing into the moderate breeze.
It is good to be here.
Tomorrow will no doubt be spent re-provisioning with fresh food from the markets (supposed to be better than Belem), servicing the main engines (not an enviable task in this climate) and generally getting ready for the next few days.
Today is Sunday onboard—so it is a brief Log today.
The photos tell the story far better than any words.
Best wishes from all of the Seamaster crew.