This is not a work of academic history. Julio Estrada Ycaza, a local historian of Guayaquil and its region, constructed the book by combining the written memoirs of Clemente Yerovi Indaburu, a steamboat captain and entrepreneur in the 1920s, with his own commentaries based on research in newspapers and other records.

The result is a series of apuntes. But they are a rich mine of many kinds of data on paddle-wheel steamboats and related topics in the Guayaquil region. The book provides information on the names, dates, and histories of steamboat enterprises, including some details on the operations, expenses, and profits of one small company in the 1920s. There are many details on the steamboats themselves—where they were built (iron hulls often in Wilmington, Delaware; wooden hulls in Guayaquil); their plans, dimensions, tonnage, capacity, and speed (five to eight knots normally); the characteristics of their steam engines, the power they generated, and the techniques and problems in their operation (including those created by the salty water in the Guayas estuary); the types of wood used for fuel and how they were obtained; the number in a crew, their special functions, their wages, the food they consumed, the diseases they suffered. Shipping routes and navigation problems are described. The book tells about the kinds of cargo carried (cacao and cattle, above all), how they were deployed on the boats, and other details of river commerce. We learn about passenger accommodations and social life (professional gamblers were generally on hand to entertain with cards).

The discussion of technical details makes clear why steam-powered paddle-wheel boats competed with difficulty against diesel-powered propeller-driven craft. The combined weight of steam engines, fuel, water, and paddles was roughly six times that of diesel engines, fuel, and propellers.