The Oldest Boat In The Amazon

by Captain Bill

Guest post by Erica Handahan


The restored historical Amazon River boat, the Clavero, operating today primarily as a research vessel for AmazonEco, and occationally for eco-tourism into Pacaya Samiria National Reserve with Dawn on the Amazon

The Clavero is the oldest boat still navigating the Amazon River. Originally named the Cahuapanas, she was built by Claparede Freres in Paris France in 1876. 

The Clavero was one of the most important naval ships of the Peruvian Amazon. She was used for military services to protect Peru’s frontiers; she explored many of the unknown tributaries, and she supplied vital communication through her mail delivery. She now navigates the Amazon in her former glory and is a tribute to naval steamboats, reminding us of the security and services they so gracefully provided


The Clavero was restored by AmazonEco to preserve the history of the Amazon, for use as a research vessel, and occationally by Dawn on the Amazon for a combination of research and tourism

The Cahuapanas


This is the earliest known photograph of the Clavero on the Amazon River, around 1900, when she was a steamship named the Cahuapanas

The Cahuapanas, commissioned by the Peruvian government in 1876, was a vital member of Loreto’s navy for over fifty years. Throughout her years of service, the Cahuapanas navigated more rivers and tributaries in the Peruvian Amazon than any other steamship in the naval fleet.

Aboard the ship, the navy accomplished numerous firsts. The Peruvian presence in the Putumayo, for example, was first established in 1900 with the Cahuapanas. Carrying military crew and equipment, a customs house was installed at the mouth of the Putumayo. Additionally, during this mission valuable navigation information was recorded, such as hours and distances between ports and river conditions.

The Cahuapanas was used by the Peruvian military during their victorious campaign to expel the invasion of Ecuador on the Napo River in 1903. She was commissioned in 1905 by the joint Peruvian-Brazilian exploration of the upper Purus River to settle their frontiers, captained by D. Numa P. Leon.

Captain Numa of the Clavero from 1905

Between the years 1900 to 1930, the Cahuapanas was repaired countless times. It was often suggested that its upkeep was not worth the costs and that she should be retired from the fleet and sold. She even acquired the nickname Charapanas after the slow moving turtle, the Charapas. The Cahuapanas, however, remained servicing the state for years despite the various reports over the years that rendered her useless.

The Clavero


This photo of the Clavero was taken in the 1960s

By 1927, L.F. Morey had acquired the Cahuapanas from the state. Under his ownership, her name was changed to the Clavero in recognition of the most famous naval hero of the Peruvian Amazon, Teniente Primero Manuel Clavero.


The restored wheel house of the Clavero

In 1938, after L.F. Morey’s death, the Cahuapanas/Clavero presumably reverted to state ownership. That same year the government placed the “ex-Cahuapanas” up for sale by the government. On November 17th, 1938, a resolution was passed authorizing the sale of the “ex-Cahuapanas” to Enrique Reátegui Alvarez for s/3,000.


One of four comfortable cabins on the Clavero

In the following decades the Clavero worked the rivers around Iquitos as a barge. She was acquired and restored by AmazonEco between 2007-2009, ensuring that the oldest boat on the Amazon will see many more years of service. We see this as the best way to pay tribute to her heroic military heritage and distinguished naval services.


The dining room of the Clavero restored to the Victorian era.

Today the Clavero is used for expeditions to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve and the Yavari River, as a scientific research vessel transporting and accommodating biologists, school groups, university students, volunteers and ecotourists.

clavero-upper-deck-observation area

The observation deck of the clavero

In her various forms and uses, the Clavero has been a constant on the Peruvian Amazon. AmazonEco is dedicated to ensuring that she retain her presence and pride.

The restored amazon riverboat the Clavero

The Oldest Boat On The Amazon

By Erica Handahan

Bill Grimes here, reporting from Iquitos Peru, for Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises. If you would like to book a cruise in the Clavero into Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, then please contact me.

Erica is a historian specializing in steamships of the Amazon, and how the steamships affected the course of history. If you would like to read more from her perspective, click this link to;

Steamships of the Rubber Boom: Recovering history in the Peruvian Amazon;

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 joe plumb November 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Congratulations Erica…”El Clavero” looks incredible.

An amazing story and an incredible feat of restoration work.

I have two groups of young people from County Durham in the North East of England, visiting Iquitos to do some voluntary work in barrio situations and to experience the Amazon next July/August and would love to discuss hiring “El Clavero” to take a river expedition for a few days.

Much success in your exciting ventures…

Joe Plumb.

2 Leo November 26, 2011 at 11:26 am

Great blog. And very well researched.

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