First contact

with the Amazon

In a small town in southern Italy, the dream of a lonely child was focused on the vast chestnut forests that grew next to his home. The child became an insatiable explorer, and those woods were like the wild Amazon. On summer days, during school holidays, the child’s imagination found a way to evade adult supervision and delve into that dense vegetation, at least in that circumstance. As time passed, that dreamlike dimension faded, sinking into the depths of the unconscious, where a news story, a television program, or a book could awaken it momentarily. But the dream remains a dream until the moment of the first real contact with the Amazon.

Clandestine on board

Sailing from Fortaleza to Cayenne, French Guiana, with the wind at our back and the current in our favor, I was approaching the mouth of the Amazon River on the most pleasant navigation. The 55-foot sailboat sailed up to 200 miles a day with ease.

During this cruise, in 1988, as a precaution, I maintained a distance of at least 100 miles from the coast when approaching the mouth of the Great River.

Even with this distance, the giant did not fail to show its size: the Atlantic water changed color to brown and murky, logs and islands of grass floating among the waves. Remembering that one fifth of all freshwater on the planet empties into the ocean through the Amazon.

For two days, the presence of that giant was recorded in the logbook. It was also recorded in the fascinated thoughts; they fluttered about that mythical forest that spread to the starboard. In the long hours of steering the helm, reflection tried to penetrate the mysterious geography of the dreamed Amazon; the imagination ran over the thick water… peoples of ancient cultures, explorers and researchers immersed in the jungle, the purest oxygen, the abundance of water, unbelievable forms of life…

In my imaginary vision, I fantasized about that mysterious land, I had already entered the mouth of the Amazon River, and going up more and more upstream, I found myself flying over the Sweet Sea. The fantasy gave me wings, in a low and tailing flight. I climbed the current, with reverence, admiring the majestic bed, accompanied by the uninterrupted parade of tributaries to the feet of the Cordillera. A very distant past was unveiled, once the great river ran on the opposite side, it emptied into the Pacific, until suddenly, two tectonic plates collided, overlapping. The Andes emerged abruptly, creating a barrier for the waters that began to descend in the opposite direction, forming a large lake, and finally, draining into the Atlantic. Thus, in that same imposing mountain barrier, my first Amazon expedition took the path back to the ocean trade wind and the salt-saturated air that woke me from the dream.

I continued my maritime navigation, wanting to learn more about that geographical being that I had glimpsed, and spontaneously the promise of returning emerged. The vow acquired consistency and hid on board, just like a stowaway passenger. The ocean left behind the color of mud and fully regained its navy blue that belongs to it, slowly making that premonition fade away. Days and more days of navigation until the expected destination, the Caribbean! paradise for sailors, celebration of the sea gods. From island to island, new friends, new stories, places to admire.

The paradisiacal Caribbean lasts until the hurricane season, when sailors either leave for another place or pull the boat out of the water. At this exact moment, with the boat on dry land, from the bottom of the hold, the stowaway passenger who had boarded at the mouth of the Amazon revealed himself and invited me on a new flight, from Barbados to Manaus. Now legalized, the former stowaway let me sit by the window, where I was glued, watching that green mantle that would cover my shoulders for the next thirty years of my life, and I hope for even more. My clandestine friend, now with a legalized passport, took me to a meeting with a researcher from INPA, Dr. Vera M.F. Da Silva, coordinator of the Laboratory of Aquatic Mammals, thus creating the foundation for a stay that rooted my feet in the forest. From that meeting was born the first report about the “Encantado”, the pink dolphin of the Amazon.


Sailing from Fortaleza to Cayenne, French Guiana, with the wind in our tails and the current in my favor, I was approaching the mouth of the Amazon River in the most pleasant navigation. The 55-foot sailboat covered up to 200 miles a day effortlessly.

P34_809 – Leonide Principe
Camera Nikon FM with Nikkor lens 35mm f2.8 – Diapositive Film Ektachrome 100 – Scanner: Nikon SUPER COOLSCAN 5000 ED
Digitised from a positive on film –
Original file size: 5286px x 3574px
Location Taken: in navigation (Castries – Santa Lucia Caribbean Islands)
Date Taken: 1988
Collection: Memories – Persons shown: Leonide Principe
Leonide Principe, GENTE, PEOPLE, veleiro, sailing boat, navegação marítima, maritime navigation, TRANSPORTE, TRANSPORTATION, mar, sea, águas, waterscapes
EN Sailing to Caribbean P34_809
PT Velejando para o Caribe P34_809
© – Leonide Principe, all right reserved

Version 0.2, first proofreading


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