Thursday October 25th, 2001
1pm: For the first day in a while the sky is a clear blue - the overcast and haze have gone.
There are some towering cumulus clouds behind us as we head northwest up the Rio Negro - a very different looking river to the Amazon.
White sand beaches reflect the afternoon sun in all its intensity, and the river banks are far less scoured-out than before. The flow is only a knot or so - quite a change from the 3 or 4 we have had to battle against for the past 1000 miles.
There seem to be no farms - just solid tropical forest right down to the water.
2pm: Don is getting to grips with the new satellite system that Chris Coffin has provided for us, to enable the jungle team to send regular updates and photos from very remote areas.
Rob and Janot have one of the bilge pumps working to keep the steady stream of water from the port rudder (now in the half-up position) under control - every half an hour or so they are pumping the rudder bilge of a few hundred litres of river water - but they plan to modify the sealing system before we get underway again tomorrow.
8pm: Most of us have just returned after an evening trip in the 3 dinghies - about 3 miles up-river and through a narrow, but deep, channel in the bank. Each team entered a different small tributary, shut the outboards down and sat quietly drifting in the late evening air.
The parrots were screeching in the treetops from time to time, but on the whole it was very still and quiet. At dusk a number of bats appeared as the moon rose above the dark forest and the cats-paws ruffling the water disappeared, leaving us with a mirror calm, reflecting the scene around us.
The dusk quickly turned to night - with a myriad of stars visible, even though the moon is now over half full.
And with the dark, our torches showed the reddish-orange glow of eyes watching us - probably caimen (alligator) eyes.
We paddled towards a pair of glowing coals right on the edge of the bank and came across a small caiman - no more than 0.4 of a metre in length.
Miguel picked it up for a few minutes while we had a look at it - then placed it carefully on one of the dinghy paddles and back into the river again. It didn’t appear disturbed by the experience at all and swam away quite slowly without a backward glance.
Some of the crew saw much larger caimen - ones that you certainly wouldn’t want to play with - or even get too near to. Where there are small ones, the parents are usually around also.
9pm: I should have had this Log out ages ago, but after the dinghy trip, dinner intervened. And it is such a perfect night here on the river that it needs to be felt, listened to, (even though that means hearing total silence) and being a part of - even if only for a while.
Our night watches are underway - 2 crew on deck all night (in a rotating watch system) because we are now in a far more remote part of the river system than ever before.
And I am about to head off to my bunk for a short read of my latest book, “Head-hunters of the Amazon”, from 1898. Even though we are on the same river, “then” sounds far different to “now”.
Being on a black river means a lack of insects.
We still put on insect repellent when away in the dinghies, but we haven’t even seen a mosquito, and the bugs are few and far between. The air temperature today has been warm but of easy humidity - so all in all, a very pleasant climate. Long may it last!!
Tomorrow some of us will be up and away - before the first hint of dawn is in the eastern sky - to sit and listen to the dawn chorus of the jungle. I hope that it lives up to our expectations.
This is the Rio Negro.
This is the Amazon.
All the best from the Seamaster crew.