Cruising the Amazon River

Yesterday, Wednesday February 20th we crossed the eastern bar of the Amazon River This is a large sandbar at the entrance of the river which together with another at the port of Manaus, dictates the size of ships that can enter the river.  Our cruise ship, the Ms Maasdam,  carries some 1250 passengers plus crew and is probably the largest size of cruise ship to be able to navigate the river. Overnight we sailed some 160 miles up river to a place called Macapa which has a pilot station (photo).  The ship was subjected to  a two hour inspection by local officials to ensure she was in fit condition to make the trip up river and back. We could see freighters waiting for the same inspection and clearance (photo). Once cleared, we boarded new pilots and headed up river for our first port Santarem, which we will reach tomorrow after sailing an additional 300 miles.  We will have local river pilots on board during our entire time on the river.  We spent the day cruising along at a pace of about 13 knots.  The river varies in width and meanders up and down.  We had crossed the equator to the north before entering the river but then crossed back to the south and were only 3 miles south of the equator at Macapa.  I believe we will stay south until our return voyage.  Along the edges of the river we see a lot of dense vegetation (photo) and small habitations (photos). There are quite a few small boats on the river as this is the local form of transportation (photos). The water in the river is a caramel colour (photo) which comes from the silt it picks up along its route from the Andes. This causes a problem with making potable water on board as the ship cannot take on the river water.  We will take on some water from shore in Manaus and possibly somewhere else, but in the meantime, we are on a sort of rationing until we get back out into the blue water of the ocean.  The self service laundries are closed, we are using paper napkins in the dining room, laundry is limited and we have been asked to be careful about the use of water in our cabins.  I believe that this part our our journey will be quite different from what we have seen so far and I look forward to telling you about it.

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