April 28, 2012-Stories from Ilha Dos Lencois (Island of the Sheets)
We’re anchored in the middle of the river, which is not a river but one of the many winding saltwater filled channels which separate the island of Dos Lencois from the other islands of this group, most of which are low, muddy mounds covered with mangrove swamps, behind the giant sand dune which dominates Dos Lencois. It is a maze getting into this spot in the delta of Rio Macuripana and, as usual for this part of the Amazon basin, the charts lack detail, however we had local knowledge, some of it wrong, but mostly right, which told us how to get here and here we are.
“A lovely spot,” we were told, and that is true. It is quiet, scenic, filled with bird life, and peaceful Portuguese fishermen from the village around the bend who seine the river from small wooden boats for Covina, eels, and prawns. We can see the surf in the distance, and hear it roaring on the miles of banks to seaward of this island but in this river, behind this dune, we are sheltered.
We’ve been here three days, and we are going to leave this morning with the tide. The only way out is back through the channels and we need 10.5 feet of tide, which happens today at 9:50 and not again until May 2, then into the main river, and a long beat out to open water, 17 miles. After that we can bear off and head towards Trinidad.
The village is between the dune and the ocean, and surrounded by smaller dunes and scrub brush. The people here are European, not Amazon Indians. Besides the family units which fish the river in small boats there are men who take bigger, motorized, fishing boats out the channels into Rio Macuripana each morning.
We watch their path and can see where the channel is so we are better prepared to follow deep water than when we came in here, when we were blind.
We’ve watched these villagers as they fish and otherwise go about their lives near this village. We saw a young man on a returning boat, one of four men aboard, wearing only a pair of blue briefs, who, as the boat got close to the village, reached into the cabin and withdrew clean clothes: a shining pair of long red shorts and a bright yellow soccer top with the number “10”. When the boat nosed up to the steep side of the dune this young man got off, well dressed, and carrying a large fish at his side, his day’s pay perhaps, and headed off towards home.
The fishing boat, having dropped off the crew member from the village, pulled back out and headed down another channel. As it grew dark other boats came in and anchored near the point, and left their lights on which we could see from Wings. That evening we could hear music from the boats or the town but we stayed aboard.
We also watch, every afternoon, several young adults appear on the top of the dune over our boat looking back into the delta, and holding cell phones! There is no cell system here but apparently, from the top of the dune, they can get a signal from somewhere. It is obviously a social event as well as a time for making a call to friends in the outside world, and they sit around in groups on the dune until dusk while the dogs and kids play nearby. Once a solitary caller sat in a bowl in the dune which directed her voice our way and we could hear her talking.
A man named Vas and his two boys came by and sold us a beautiful bowl of fresh prawns and the next day two more young men came by and sold us more. They were friendly and shy and Judy gave the second group some cold cokes as well as the 20 reals they asked.
Another afternoon a couple of men beached their boat on the shore and cleaned a fish, and it must have been a big fish, because they were quite proud of the fillets they held up as they sailed past Wings afterwards and a large group of vultures found the carcass and fought over it for a while, gorging until they could not fly. We watched several of big black birds hop up to the top of the dune with their wings outstretched where the winds helped them lift off. Others, not so lucky perhaps, simply flew away.
Now it is 7:00 AM and we are stirring on Wings, making a pot of coffee and listening to the fishing boats departing for the day’s work.
Soon we will follow them but unlike the boats of this village, we will go onward to the next port instead of returning afternoon to Ilha Dos Lencois.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Ilha Dos Lencois
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