The Sun Sets on Dawn on the Amazon III
On January 4th, Captain Jhony ran Dawn III onto a submerged log. I was by the pilot house of the boat when the accident happened. There was no limb or twig sticking out above the water; no disturbance of the current to warn us. When we ran up on the log, I was frightened. It felt like we were going to tip over, but the boat righted itself, came down hard on the log, then slid on past. A limb apparently pierced the hull and ripped a hole.
The superstitious river people living in a nearby hut believe it was the same Giant Anaconda that turns their dreams into nightmares.
Whether log or giant anaconda, there was no chance to try a repair, or to pump the water out. The boat probably sank in 7 or 8 minutes. I was proud of my crew. No one panicked. We were close enough to shore that the Captain was able to steer to the bank, and we all had a couple of minutes to get ashore. I took charge of the passengers, made sure they had shoes, and got them off the boat. I was the second from last person off and the Captain was last. My crew quickly tied us off with ropes, bow and stern, but she sank anyway.
It was no one’s fault, just bad luck not to be two feet in either direction on a river over a kilometer wide.
We untied our jon boat before Dawn III sank so we were not stranded. We had plenty of gas and were only one hour from Nauta, a large village with the only road to Iquitos.
About 1/5 of the boat was still above water. I used an ax and chopped a hole in the part of the wall sticking up and we were able to save all of one guests luggage, but of course everything was soaked and some was ruined. The other guest’s cabins were under water but when we poked a hole in the window, one passport floated out, then a bag, and the bag had his money. We were unable to retrieve other bags of our passengers.
As soon as possible I sent our guests in the Jon boat with their soggy belongings to Nauta with one of the crew, who escorted them by the only road back to Iquitos safe and sound.
We called in a diver from Iquitos who arrived around 3:30 that afternoon. He was afraid the boat would roll over on him and was nearly worthless. Most of what was recovered was from our own effort, but it was not much. I lost all my cameras, binoculars, laptop, and pretty much everything. One of my crew risked his life underwater in my cabin and found my wallet, with my documents and S/ 500 soles, which I was happy to retrieve. That S/500 soles, was all the money we had to purchase supplies and negotiate our way back to civilization.
When I got off the boat I only had a sharp knife and a machete. I thought it might come down to survival. I wish I had taken the time to get my cameras and laptop, but in the heat of the emergency, I grabbed what seemed most important.
We got back to Iquitos around 3:00 the next afternoon, after a fairly miserable night. We hired a small boat in Nauta, then a truck, and returned with what we had salvaged. Not much.
My guests were anxiously waiting in the office for us. They were wonderful. Although we had only spent 30 hours or so together we made a close bond and they were happy with the way the crew and I conducted ourselves before, during, and after the emergency. Now they are more like friends than guests. We shared an adventure not many have experienced.
We are extremely upset. Marmelita is very sensitive. She is taking it hard. I am not taking it easy. We still cry a lot. We loved that boat. We put so much of ourselves into it. We dreamed.
The most important thing is no one drowned, no one was hurt, we are all safe and sound. It has been an adventure. Another chapter of my life story.
I believe I have the best insurance in the upper Amazon. The company is named La Positiva. Dawn on the Amazon III is insured for the maximum amount La Positiva allows. It is not the replacement value or restoration value, but if La Positiva honors their obligation it will valuable.
I wanted to start the salvage operation on January 6th, but the insurance adjuster told me if I did it on my own and the boat broke, it was my boat and they would not pay. If we wait for their red tape to clear, and they break the boat, they will pay.
I am trying to be patient.
The Sun Sets on Dawn on the Amazon III
Bill Grimes, dreamer