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Old 11-04-2009, 18:44   #1
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Sailing the Amazon ???

I have spent a fair bit of time in the South American jungle, and plan to spend a lot more time there in the future. I was curious if it is possible to sail up the Amazon from Belem? They obviously take large vessels up the river, but I was wondering if draft or mast height would be an issue. From what I have seen of the river it seems current would not be a problem. I have never seen any topics here about cruising the Amazon, or on any other sailing forum. Is it possible, and if it is, why don't more people do it? Thanks. -Jake
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Old 11-04-2009, 19:20   #2
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I have been to Iquitos in Peru which is the last navigable point in the Amazon. I dont know what the draft restrictions are up to there but I saw some pretty big boats - small ocean going freighters can make it up there.

As for air draft it shouldnt be an issue. The Amazon River is HUGE. As in miles across at the bottom and at least a mile way up stream and that is in dry season. In the rainy season the whole countryside is under water. As far as I know there are no bridges or power lines up to Manaus and I thought not even up to Iquitos but I am not sure.

When I was there it was hot humid and there wasnt a breath of air. I wouldnt want to depend on a sailboat - it might be a very long trip.

Eat your malaria pills!
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Old 11-04-2009, 19:37   #3
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I would be more worried about Pirates cruising the Amazon

Just eight years ago, one of the world's most respected sailor, Peter Blake was shot there by pirates.
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Old 12-04-2009, 06:27   #4
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"Sailing" the Amazon would be impractical, due to it's convoluted course. Motoring the Amazon would be quite practical.

No bridge spans the Amazon river.

Transatlantic ships call regularly at Manaus, nearly 1,600 km (1,000 mi) upstream; and smaller ships can reach Iquitos, Peru, 3,700 km (2,300 mi) from the river's mouth, the farthest point from sea of any port serving ocean traffic. The width of the Amazon at Iquitos is about 2 km (1-1/4 mi). The mean depth of the current-canal of the Amazon is between 40 and 50 m (or up to 150+ feet deep), and in places, over 100 m (over 300 feet) deep.
River steamers of more modest tonnage navigate on more than 100 of the larger tributaries.

Despite the low slope of the Amazon, the river currents can be surprisingly strong. In the lower Amazon (with the lowest slope), current speeds range from 1 - 2 knots at low water, and twice that at flood stage. In localized areas, currents can exceed 6 knots.
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:02   #5
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Thank you for the excellent information. I should have specified that I would assume that I needed to motor going up the river, and hopefully could use the sails a bit going back down. I did not realize that the currents were that strong. Whatever pocket cruiser I end up with will probably have an insufficient motor to motor up it against those currents for any length of time. I wonder if it is possible to pay one of the cargo ships for a tow? Anyway, the fact that it is possible to travel up the river means that I can make it happen, it will just take some planning. Again, thank you for the information. Safe sailing. -Jake
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Old 12-04-2009, 09:37   #6
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We have friends that did a cruise up the river on a pretty small cruise ship. Aside from a few stops they found it very boring. While they had fun on the trip it had nothing to do at all with the scenery or the river. There certainly are a great many things to see but the river isn't really the best method of seeing them. There isn't a lot of things even close to the river due to the massive flooding. Most of the things that would be fun to see are a very long way up river. Access to fuel might be a serious problem as well.
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Old 12-04-2009, 10:08   #7
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Thanks Paul, I am familiar with the river and what surrounds it. There are several cities located on the river I want to spend more time in (Leticia, Manaus, Iquitos), and I figure I could leave the boat in Manaus while we tour northeastern Bolivia (Noel Kempff NP is very high on my list). I have a dog so leaving the boat in Belem and then traveling inland to Bolivia is quite difficult. Getting her on a passenger boat from Manaus to Guajara-Marin is definitely doable though. Anyway, these plans are way off in the future, I'm just happy to know that it is theoretically possible. -Jake
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Old 12-04-2009, 10:15   #8
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We spent some time in the upper Amazonian basin last year. Even there the current ran strong and we had to stop as the water levels dropped so much. A great experience though. I write about it on my website, see Review of 2008

About 25 years ago catamaran designer Pat Patterson sailed into the mouth of the Amazon. Basically because he wanted to go somewhere where the charts said "unexplored". He nearly lost his boat in a tidal bore one night. Both anchors snapped as a 10ft high wall of water washed him 5 miles downstream.

More recently we did meet some cruisers who had gone up the Amazon. As I recall it isn't quite as simple as it sounds. For a start, they had to have an escort, if not a pilot on board, they had to travel in convoy and they said it is very boring scenery, as other posters have said.

I suggest you contact the Brazilian authorities to learn more.

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Old 12-04-2009, 10:23   #9
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Wow, I didn't realize they got surges like that in such a large river. Maybe this is not possible after all. Thank you for the sobering information. I certainly do not want to undertake a journey that unnecessarily jeopardizes my boat. -Jake
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Old 12-04-2009, 14:05   #10
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the tidal wave occurs alongside certain tides according to a pattern.. there's even a surfing film about it

Pororoca - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 12-04-2009, 14:39   #11
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Interesting. Sounds like once you get more than 13 kilometers up the river this is no longer an issue. Clearly I will need to do a lot more research before undertaking this journey. It doesn't appear many people do it though as I have scoured the internet and this thread is the only place I have obtained any sort of solid info. -Jake
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Old 18-12-2011, 21:51   #12
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Re: Sailing the Amazon???

Hi, if anyone has sailed up river and has some more experience since the last post, please let me know! I'm planning to motor up as far as possible next year. Thanks!
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Old 25-02-2012, 16:33   #13
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Re: Sailing the Amazon???

Check out htis book: https://www.createspace.com/3353550

They sailed Venezuela rivers and Guyana!
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Old 25-02-2012, 16:39   #14
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Re: Sailing the Amazon???

I have been to the Esquibo and Mazaruni river in Guyana. They were very wild and beautiful. A check in port is Bartica which is a ways upstream and kind of a neat little outpost. If you want to get away from civilization check this place out. I would even like to buy a little property down there on the river.
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Old 25-02-2012, 19:28   #15
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Re: Sailing the Amazon???

I have sailed the Orinoco delta in Venezuela and it is a great trip! I highly recommend it to all cruisers!
Next year I'm planing the Amazon, but I can't find too much info about it...
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