Thursday, April 23, 2009

Journals on Pirates

10 March 2009, 8:15pm Tuesday - At sea…end of day 7 to Maldives

The pirate scare: Sacha came in and told us to get ready for the pirate attack. Turns out some little fishing boat spotted us and turned around then came toward us. When I got out on deck it was pretty close and approaching us directly. John had binoculars and didn’t seem fazed, but Sacha mimed the teeth chattering look at me. I can’t say I was totally freaked, but I was kind of like wtf, why are they coming straight at us? After a while they turned and went away. I guess they just wanted to check us out. It is a no man’s land out here and boats could do whatever they want, but I guess it’s just not common. Or, who knows. No one on this boat has read anything or checked on anything. John talks to other yachties though, so in general I think it’s safe. In general.

12 March 2009, 5:59am Thursday - Day 9 at sea on the passage to Maldives, 282 miles to go.

I've thought many times on this journey, how exhilarating it is to be sailing across the Indian Ocean. It's a reminder of how big and daunting things seem when you are far away from them, but then seem so obvious, so safe when you're in them, living them. When I think back to all the warnings and fear that people expressed to me and how much of it I believed myself, it seems more frightening that I could have let fears like those prevent me from doing something like this. It's amazing out here and I'm certain the only way to understand what it's like to be propelled by the wind against sails across the Indian Ocean, is to be propelled by the wind against sails across the Indian Ocean.

We have had a couple of incidences with fishing boats approaching us where we initially flash on the possibility that they might be pirates. The first time it happened we'd been at sea a few days with no sign of life, just southeast of Sri Lanka, when a fishing boat came straight at us. It was momentarily nerve racking because it was the first time it happened, John was asleep, and they so aggressively come at our boat with men on deck, positioned to make contact with us. But they were Sri Lankan and were frantically waving fish in each hand, so their intent to sell us fish became obvious quickly. Yesterday, though, we were long past Sri Lanka, there were three wooden boats in the distant horizon and one approached us rapidly. The men looked African and were not waving fish so their intent was not clear. It is disconcerting how quickly their boats travel straight at us and how everyone aboard is on deck watching us. There's no use getting freaked, so we silently agreed to assume they're friendly and we waved. Eventually, they returned our waves and one man finally waved a single solitary fish, which nearly completely satisfied us that they were safe. When they passed and the second boat approached in the same manner, we joked that they were pirates and the first boat was radioing the second boat to say, "Affirmative. Sailboat is filled with a bunch of happy waving idiots. Wave a fish at them then proceed with abduction." We were laughing comfortably, but admitted these incidences (3 or 4 in 8 days) do remind us that we're out here in the open sea, not that far from pirate territory and we have no real protection. Then, Sacha noticed that when John had come up to check out the approaching boats, he'd quietly placed some sort of emergency flare device onto a bench in the cockpit. Maybe he was a little fazed.