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Amazon River – My Journey as a Deck Cadet

The Amazon river in South America is one of the largest rivers in the world. It is also the second longest and the largest river with tons of water flowing along its course. It is 6,992 km. long surrounded by the Amazon forest. As a kid, I use to read about this in my Geography classes and always wanted to visit here and experience a voyage along this river.

I consider myself lucky that I was able to fulfil my dream as I got a chance to visit the Amazon and experience the beauty of this exquisite river surrounded by the greenery of the world’s largest tropical forest.

Ship transiting Amazon River
Ship transiting Amazon River

Planning


Our ship was heading to Manaus, a country in Brazil for which we had to transit through the Amazon river. So in this passage, we had to cover a distance of 1000NM and for the first 250NM we were supposed to manoeuvre the ship on our own and for the rest of 750NM, the Pilot had to come. I knew 1000NM of manoeuvring is going to be tough, but I made up my mind to give my best for it.
Now that we had the plan for this voyage, everyone started preparing for it.

The Second Officer started making the passage plan for reaching Manaus while the Captain was continuously checking the accuracy of the plan. Captain was continuously working and monitoring all the things that were happening during the course of time for making this passage a smooth passage.

This was a new experience for everyone onboard as no one on the ship has conducted a 1000NM pilotage before this. Captain had to look over multiple things like the depth of water, tides and so much more. He made sure that everything goes in sync and no stone remains unturned so as to make this passage a successful one.

Everyone onboard the ship had done pilotage before but no one had done a pilotage of 1000NM so it was new for everyone. Now as we were about to start the passage, the Captain and Chief officer briefed everyone about the passage and everyone’s responsibilities. Everyone was prepared for the passage physically as well as mentally. We all knew the next few days will be going to be very much hectic.

The Biggest Problem we faced


The passage comprised 250NM of distance which was to be manoeuvred by us in which we had to cross the north bar and drop the anchor at Fazendinha anchorage from where the pilot had to board the vessel. Now the problem was that the depth at North Bar was 9.4m but our ship’s draft was 10.85m so it was kind of impossible for us to pass that area as there was a risk of our vessel getting ground. So we calculated the timings and height of the tides at that place and decided to pass that area with the help of the tides. The Second Officer calculated the tide timings and we started our passage accordingly i.e. at midnight of 25th August 2022.


I was asleep when the passage started. I woke up at 3:30 am and went to bridge at 4:00 am. When I reached the bridge, I saw AB steering with the help of Captain sir’s instructions, and the Second Officer was handing over the watch to the Chief Officer. I took over the watch and was given instructions to calculate the height of the tides and monitor the UKC. I was checking the UKC and calculating the height of the tide at frequent intervals. At 7 o’clock in the morning, the UKC was around 50cms and I got afraid as it was too low. I was keeping a lookout but deep down I was scared because of the less water under the keel. Whenever the UKC was going under 1 meter the echo sounder was giving the alarm.

The Most Amazing view of the Amazon river


With the help of tides and the perfect calculation of timing by the Master, we crossed the North Bar around 1136LT and started moving at our normal speed. I knocked off and came on the bridge again at 1600Hrs. As I came on the bridge, I saw a huge river with a length of 5-7NM covered by forest from both sides. I was amazed to see that view. It was so wide that I felt that we were still in the open sea.

I kept the lookout at small boats and other ships and reported it to the duty officer. At 1700Hrs, it started raining. The smell of nature at that time reminded me of my childhood days when I used to play around and enjoy the rain in my village. After the rain stopped, a blue Vertical Rainbow was visible in the sky which was showering and pouring its colours to the nature surrounding it.

The view was really mesmerizing. I had never experienced such a lovely and magnificent view before in my life. Soon it was 8 o’clock in the night and my watch ended but when I came into my room I couldn’t think of anything but the rainbow that I saw today. I wish I could have captured that.

 Rainbow in Amazon River
Rainbow in Amazon River

Transit through the Amazon River


At around 2200Hrs, we reached Fazendinha Anchorage. The next day at 1100Hrs, pilots were supposed to board the vessel. Bosun and AB made the pilot ladder ready and in the morning two pilots boarded the vessel.

I was at Anchor station with the Chief officer, Bosun, and the OS. We picked up the anchor and started the passage with pilots. At around 6 ‘o’clock in the evening, I went on watch and saw that it was raining very heavily and which made visibility very poor and it was really hard for us to see what was there in front of us. We managed somehow and after 30 minutes the rain stopped and the sky was clear.

Soon after the rain, I saw the sunset which was looking extremely beautiful. I was keeping a lookout and was doing my duties on the bridge. I was doing watch with Captain sir and the Third Officer. Captain sir relieved me earlier that day as I was tired of the anchor station and other things.

I came back to my Cabin took a bath and went to sleep. The next day continued in the usual routine. Now on 26th August 2022, the Pilot came and stayed till 27th August 2022.

Clouds forming rain in Amazon River
Clouds forming rain in the Amazon River

On the next day, we sailed and I continued my watch while enjoying that breathtaking view of nature. Then at midnight both pilots unboarded the vessel and another two pilots boarded the vessel. I came in the morning and saw new pilots with whom we reached Manaus.

Summary

This is how we transited the Amazon river. This 5-day passage was nothing but a beautiful and productive passage for me. I got to see the beauty of nature filled with colours of calmness and serenity and I was able to see different vegetation all around me in the Amazon forest. I am glad that I got to experience this tough yet beautiful passage and I learned so much during this course of time. Often we forget to appreciate the things around us and worry about the things that aren’t there. But if we look around, we have so much natural beauty surrounding us that is alone enough to calm our minds. This passage taught me the importance of cooperation and planning as it played a major role while passing through the Amazon river.

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