Motorbikes and Boats

This weekend we visited Naice’s brother Romulo and his wife Vanusa in Careiro do Castanho. We crossed the Rio Negro and Solimoes, passing over the famous meeting of the waters, and arrived safely on the other side with the car and Ozzie intact. The fact that the ferry was quite obviously shipping water as we crossed didn’t seem to alarm anyone except us. On the way, there was a group of motorcyclists sitting on their bikes drinking beer (what else?). One of them had a Honda Biz (photo), which is marketed here with aplomb by Honda as a cheap and effective way to get around Brazil. One of its main features is the ‘boot’ under the seat, which is so voluminous it can comfortably take a helmet and a few other oddments, um, to boot. Well, the chap with the Biz had obviously been studying this feature, and found an alternative use. He had filled the thing with ice, and had at least 8 cans of Skol chilling nicely inside. Damned good idea if you ask me, and I’m now seriously thinking of buying one of these instead of one of those silly cooling box things which you have to lug around with you…

We reflected on our luck at crossing unscathed (apart from getting our feet wet from the ingress of water), compared with the fate of the 106 people who went down last weekend with the Almirante Monteiro (pic) when it collided with a barge at night in the middle of the Amazon. The present body count is 16, and since no-one is quite certain how many people were aboard, looks set to rise further. This has prompted calls for the proper navigational signage to be implemented along the Amazon – although the likelihood of this ever happening is pretty remote – and better policing of the state of the thousands of boats plying their trade along the 2000 kilometres of waterway. It was ironic that I first heard this news while I was at the Port of Manaus registering the Shamrock with Capitania. Although Shamrock (and to be fair, many many other boats), is fit for service, there is a distinct lack of policing, particularly of pleasure craft. Conventional wisdom has it that the Capitania will only stop those boats that look like the owner/captain may have a lot of money (more scope for bribery, obviously). I don’t know how true this is, but I’ve certainly never been stopped, and people think I’m mad having the boat MOTd at all. I figured that, me being a gringo, it was worth doing if only because gringoes tend to attract more attention than the locals. However there is another good reason, too, and that is that by registering your craft and paying what is a relatively small fee, you are automatically insured for 3rd party damage. An excellent idea, I think, and it would be nice if more people would do it (or were forced to do it, as the case may be)

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