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Pirates and a Shooting

May 23, 2011

Position: 08.23.78S 137.29.48W
Course: 230t
Speed: 6.2 knots
Wind: 10SE
Sky: 50%
Sea: 3 feet, SE
Temp: 80 degrees
Bar: 1012

156 Miles since yesterday. Wow. A little current in the right direction really helps!

Pirates and a Shooting

One gets use to first light revealing an open expanse of water, variously disturbed, cloud cover, variously dense and intricately shaped, a setting moon and the occasional bird. In fact, one gets so use to these being the only elements of the day that on a morning like this one, when a distant but unmistakable triangle of sail interrupts the western horizon, there is a brief moment of panic before curiosity sets in.

The panic is due to thinking one knows where all the boats are. Murre and I have been checking into the Pacific Puddle Jump network every day since departure and we’re down to the last few boats; actually we’re down to the last three. A boat named Chantey should have made port today. Then there’s Murre who is in shooting distance of Hiva Oa, and northeast of us by about two days is Columbine. And that’s it for the season because hurricanes will soon shut the door to other would be southbounders.

So if we are the only cruisers left, who was this chasing Murre’s tail in the early morning? Certainly this was not good. The ship was hull down but with binoculars I could see that she was a sloop and quite large. Her rig was immensely tall and the main looked massive, fully battened and powerful. The shallow cut jib barely filled. The boat was taking the wind deep on the quarter because her course was intended to intercept ours.

Immediately I thought of pirates. I was that fat Indiaman, sluggish and slow to realize the chase; and my pursuer a lithe Baltimore clipper who’d been chasing me even while I slept. Of course that was silly, but such is the result of many long evenings spent with Golden Age of Sail novels.

For two hours the chase was on. I did what I could to outrun her: I raised the mizzen. That gave me all plain sail applied to a beam wind of 12 knots and was all I could do. At seven knots over the ground I could not complain of Murre, but my opponent bore down anyway.

At hull up she became a contemporary pleasure yacht of some seventy feet, white hull, sweeping lines, rounded windows in the main salon–the current vogue for yachts. At half a mile I noticed motion on the foredeck, a man rigging something, probably a larger jib but it appeared to be bulky and orange. At less than a quarter mile the contraption appeared to be a boat, an orange boat, inflated, bow facing us and ready to be launched.

So we ARE to be boarded, I thought. How odd. I raced below to tidy up. As it was the day before we were to make port, tidying was the main agenda item anyway, but I thought I’d have more time. The dishes were done (what a relief), but the sink needed scrubbing and so did the stove top…too time consuming. My hurried attempts at neatening the bed only succeeded in making its single sheet and two pillows look more wrinkled and forlorn. I tossed my shirt into the dirty clothes bag instead of putting it on, and I shoved the deck boots into a corner. It was all I could do.

When I went back up on deck, the yacht was abeam and passing so quickly I barely had time for a wave and a photo. The four cleanly dressed people aboard waved back.

I could see the radio go the helmsman’s mouth…

“Sailboat. Where are you bound?”, he said.

We exchanged a quick conversation, may particulars and his. Yacht Oningara of New Zealand, out 12 days from Galapagos to Nuka Hiva, Murre only the third boat he’d seen. They’d only motored two days. Fast passage. Etc.

“And if you don’t mind my asking, what’s the orange thing on the bow?” I said.

“Oh, that’s a diesel bladder. Last time through here we ran out of fuel. Brought extra. Just trying to rig it up. Cheers mate. See you in the Tuamotos. We’ll buy you a beer.”

By this time he was a mile ahead. I could have chatted longer, but the diesel bladder maneuver was taking everyone’s attention.

And then they were gone.

This close brush with pirates reminds me of a recent shooting incident.

I ended a previous post (Frustration, May 11) with “a grand cloud cell approaches and I’m not sure Murre will be able to dodge this one. I should be on deck for this,” but I have failed to mention the remarkable occurrence that followed.

I went on deck. I was dressed only in shorts and my harness. As is the pattern, wind increased sharply at the leading edge of the squall, but died right away with the rain. Rain was torrential, a cooling blanket over the whole sea. A tickle on the skin that is refreshing and almost immediately too much sensation.

I had been on deck only a minute when just off Murre’s port quarter a big splash on the rain-coated water-top–a big fish in mad chase of quarry. I didn’t see the fish, only the splash. And then I was shot with bullets. Six bullets came flying from the water, aimed directly at Murre. Two hit me, one in the chest and one in the right leg, both leaving immediate black marks. Two thwacked the cabin side and two others flew past me over the cockpit, one tangling with the rigging and the other clearing the whole boat before splashing down into the ocean on Murre’s starboard side. Squid in flight.

The two on the deck were already bleeding black ink into the stream of water coursing toward the scuppers. Pastel pink animals with small purple spots. And oddly, though able to fly, were weak out of water, unable to lift their tentacles. I tried helping them over the side, but they were already dead, and the black spots on me had already washed away.

Tonight we race. I have reefed the main and the jib and still we race our last 70 miles to Hiva Oa. It’s important we make the islands in daylight, so I’ve got to slow Murre down even more. I need to be on deck, so must close for now.

And that’s my report.

One Comment
  1. Geri Jahnke permalink
    May 27, 2011 1:31 am

    Randy, Very interesting commentary from you. Good Luck all the way.

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