Amazon River – Day 4 & 5 – The Search for the Pororoca

cap’n alex

12 March 2012 | Guama River, Brazil

We gathered together the six crew (myself Diego, Steve, Molly, Dave and Elias) for departure just in time to get to the boat and have to wait 4 hours for the tide to switch. The current was strong against us at five knots. Even though we were anchored it gave the appearance that we were on the move (half the crew actually thought we were until I explained that we were anchored). By the time the slack tide arrived and we were able to get going up river, another rain storm hit which was the third for the day.

We were in search of the ‘Porooca’ which is the surfable tidal bore wave that occurs at certain times (full moon) and certain locations (typically small tributaries of the Amazon). The tributary we were looking for was actually a tributary of a tributary and so we began our journey by hanging a left up the Guama River in search to the Capim River. Trying to even determine if the river was even navigable proved tricky as everyone we talked to gave different answers with the Brazilian Navy Hydorgraphic office the most vague.

My biggest concerns were if we had enough water beneath us (we have a keel that requires five and half feet of depth) and enough air clearance above us (our mast stands 64 feet off the water). I was able to acquire charts of the Guama River showing depth, but without latitude and longitiude coordinates the charts fell short of ideal. Our first obstacle, just outside Belem, were the powerlines, but as we approached could see there was plenty of clearance and so we carried on underneath. Later that night Dave spotted a bridge up ahead. The charts showed no bridge and I was assured by multiple people there wouldn’t be one, but there it stood and so we had to determine if we could fit underneath. It was dark and we had four knots of current pushing us towards the bridge; we were in dire straights. On approach we readied both anchors to act as breaks if we thought we couldn’t fit. I turned the bow into the current, motoring against it to slow us down. Diego went up the mast with a flashlight we backed underneath it at one knot. We cleared it by only six feet.

We were now well away from the city and few lights were seen for hours as we carried up river. The full moon revealed the shoreline helping guide us. When we neared shore the jungle noise would intensify with all the frogs, bugs and birds making such a racket that its decibel level would render a fine in most places.

By three am with everyone passed out except for me I caught myself twice falling asleep standing up but carried on knowing we had to keep moving when the current was favorable. Then I saw three faint red lights crossing the river up ahead. Once again not seeing anything on the charts I woke Diego and Elias for more eyes to confirm that we were quickly approaching powerlines, although much shorter than the previous ones. Slowing the boat down I was now yelling to Diego for information as he had the best vantage point, but all he replied with was something about crossing his fingers. We held our breaths as the current swept us under that lines with only a few feet to spare. Elias went back to sleep and had a nightmare about the event.

I passed out and Diego took over until the tide reversed and we anchored. In the morning we could now see the muddy brown river water we floated on and the dense jungle that surrounded us. When the tide reversed again we weighed the hook and proceeded on. By noon we reached a fork in the river and the small town of Sao Domingo (60 miles up river from Belem). A group of jetskies and powerboats was heading in the direction of one of the forks. We waved one of the jetskies over to ask what all the excitement about (we hadn’t seen a single boat in the previous six hours) and he told us that the ‘pororoca’ was on its way and everyone was heading to where it breaks. We asked where and he pointed out the Capim River and said the break spot was ’20 minutes away.’ We turned towards where he pointed and quickly found ourselves stuck in the mud, but after some maneuvering were able to free ourselves. Of course he was on a jet ski and so his 20 minutes was over 2 hours for us. By the time we arrived the first ‘pororoca’ had passed (there were two more coming, one later that night and another the next day), but the party on the river bank was still rocking. Even though we were in a remote jungle location, a DJ with massive speakers that could be heard a couple miles away, was set up on the muddy river bank to celebrate the wave that had just passed. We spent the rest of the day dancing in the mud and swimming in the river with the local kids.

search for the poraroca
Amazon River Map

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