The Sun Sets on Dawn on the Amazon III, Failed Salvage

by Captain Bill

The Sun Sets on Dawn on the Amazon III, Failed Salvage

I’m not having good luck. Chavir is supposed to be the “best” salvage company in Iquitos. They salvaged Felipe Letterstien’s wooden boat, and it had a rotten hull. Our hull was like new, so I was optimistic that they could raise the Dawn in a condition that would allow us to rebuild and restore her to her original beauty. That was not to be.

Part of the problem is because Peru ranks 5th of all the countries in the world in the volume of paperwork required to do business. Instead of starting the salvage within a few days, it took two weeks for the insurance company to investigate the accident, finalize the red tape, and sign off on the salvage operation. Then it took 3 days for the salvage company to arrive at the scene of the sinking. Most of those 17 days were an unnecessary waste of time. The only significant event during those 17 days was the water rose several meters, making the salvage operation correspondingly more difficult.

I was going to say Chavir Salvage could not have done a more incompetent job. That is not fair. Of course they could have…

There was one man in charge. I don’t know his name but he was the diver. The salvage crew did a good job following the divers instructions. Unfortunately his instructions consistently produced results designed to destroy my boat. The diver was a cocky showboat that knew everything about salvage except how to save a wooden boat. Maybe his style works for steel boats, but he personally finished destroying Dawn on the Amazon III.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but the divers crowning glory was when he ordered the salvage crew to pick the boat up out of the water upside down and shook all of the value out of the hull and into the river. All of the purple heart and blood wood planks, rails, furniture, carvings, tools, cabins…literally everything of value. The only thing left was the hull, which he had already mangled by repeatedly banging it up against the steel barge that the winches operated on.

I am trying to be a new man. I didn’t throw a gringo fit, raise my voice, or cause a scene. I called my motorista over in Dawncita, and Marmelita and I left for Nauta, and on to Iquitos. I knew that hull belonged to the insurance or the salvage company. That was not my hull.

Now we are waiting for the insurance company to pay us the full settlement.

Maybe I am a new man. I am trying to be patient.

The Sun Sets on Dawn on the Amazon III, Failed Salvage

Bill Grimes, new man

The Sun Sets on Dawn on the Amazon III

The Sun Rises on Dawn on the Amazon, the Insurance

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dottie Bonnett January 25, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Oh, Bill, I am so sorry. If it hurts this much for me to read this, I can only imagine what it must be like for you, Marmelita and your crew. Our thoughts are with you. We all will have our wonderful memories.

2 rob January 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Bill i am so sorry to hear about this.thank God no one was hurt.look forward to meeting with you again and the next challenge in sept.may i say SHIT that really sucks she was such a beauty.
kind regards rob ireland

3 rob January 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm

mike on a lighter note,cant wait to get back to my second home,miss all you guys.rob

4 rob January 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm

gosh i feel so mad after reading the salvaged diver,total moron…..just what is about some people ….again Bill i feel it for you my friend..rob

5 Bill Watson February 2, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Hi, Bill,
Sorry to delay in getting back to you on the blog. Of course, I understand what happened – I was there. It was one of the most important events in my long and adventurous life – meeting you and becoming your friend.
You know of my deep sorrow at the loss of Dawn III. We both felt it that day and in the following days. I feel certain that the whole enterprise will resurrect itself and you and Mermelita will live happily ever after.
Folks – those of you who haven’t yet traveled to Amazonia – take it from an experienced world traveler: There is no better guide and travel service than Bill Grimes.

6 Alan Sinfield April 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Hi Bill,

This is your friend Alan, as you know I was there when this terrible event happened. I felt sick when Mike first told me and even worse the next day when we all heard that the boat had gone under. I have been waiting to hear if the boat was salvaged or not….I missed this posting until today. I am sorry that I missed taking a trip on the Dawn on the Amazon III, I had just talked my wife into setting up a little trip for the two of us. My wife (as I believe I have told you before Bill) is scared to death of the water and boats…unfortunately I don’t suppose I will ever be able to get her on a boat again. Probably not even to go to the lodges out in the jungle. I felt like someone punched me in the gut that dreadful day…you where a pillar of strength that day when I know you must have been dying inside…I know it was your pride and joy. You handled the whole affair in a professional and dignified manner putting the guest and their welfare and belongings first…I greatly admire you for your strength in dealing with such a loss. For those of you that never saw the Dawn on the Amazon III, it was a beautiful sight, artistically built with all types of exotic wood, inlays and carvings. Good luck with your new endeavor. I will see you next week. Alan

7 Captain Bill April 7, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Thanks Dottie, Rob, Bill, Alan, and all of you who have expressed your feelings about this bad luck. Your opinions matter to me. I appreciate having you for friends.

We will continue doing the best we can with what skills and resources we have. Just like all of you.

We are living in the present, planning for the future. I am excited about building and growing my new projects.

Thanks for caring enough to find and read the story.

8 Curtis Jerrom May 8, 2009 at 1:35 am


I have just read the story and I am sorry for your loss! Let me know what your plans are as I am still in shock of the whole situation! I will let my fellow adventurers know! My best regards to such an amazing crew and high integrity businessmen/woman! I have some amazing memories and photos of that fine piece of artwork- again my deepest regards to your situation. If you need something let me know and I will see if I can help in any way possible!

Curtis Jerrom
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

9 Captain Bill May 8, 2009 at 6:09 am

Hi Curtis, thanks for finding this story, and of course caring, and commenting. I should have emailed and let you know directly, but it is not easy to talk about. Marmelita and I have had to tell the story too many times, and it still hurts four months later. The only good news is the insurance came through, and the money is in the bank, but we would rather have our boat back. Realistically that is not an option, so we have developed a small fleet of boats from around Iquitos, in several styles, and price ranges to charter, rent, or lease, and of course we still have Dawn on the Amazon I and Dawncita.

We have also started three new businesses that we are excited about, The Amazon Explorers Club, the Peacock Bass Club, and the Amazon Birders Club. They are fun businesses based on my hobbies, and I feel good about them. We are not just sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, rather we are redirecting our energy into other projects. You will be interested in the Peacock Bass Club when we get it up and running.

Thanks again Curtis, it is nice to hear from you.

Bill Grimes

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