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Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 1 – 2, 2012 Passage across the Java Sea From Bali to Borneo – “Dodgy First Night!”


We enjoyed beautiful sailing winds on this passage and enjoyed the familiar swish of water passing under the hull without the loud grinding of the engine. The closer we get to Singapore the heavier the traffic becomes out here on the open water and for some reason known only to perhaps God, it is always heavier and more challenging at night. Within 15 minutes after my taking over the watch large ships materialized on the horizon. For the most part they cut us a fairly wide path of a couple of miles, however, one cargo ship came directly at our port beam at 15 knots. I had been watching him on the AIS and as he/it came to within the 5 mile zone I began to hail the ship by name. I received absolutely no response to my persistent calling. Before long the large ship was within 1 mile sending our alarm into a frenzy as I attempted to maneuver out of its path. I continued to hail the ship to no avail and couldn't seem to shake him with my evasive maneuvers, for by now I had turned on the engine and had reefed the sails in order to move about more quickly. Eventually, when the other ship was just under ¾ of a mile away and as I had the engine revved to over 3200 PRM racing to get beyond its path (forget evasive moves now), it turned to starboard passing our port side within a half-mile.  Crisis averted. Now in hindsight, I should have recorded the vessel's information and made a report of his asinine behavior to the shipping company that owns the vessel. For anyone who doesn't sail/cruise ½ or ¾ of a mile doesn't seem like much and yet out here it is a hare's breath between a large fast moving cargo vessel and us.

Afterward traffic on the sea increased and before long I encountered another tug that did not appear on either radar or AIS, and an unidentified uncharted island off to starboard. Hmm, which way to go?  Eventually I broke down and went to awaken Frank. Two heads are needed now. He watched and then after a while said to me, "Barbara, that is not an island, that is a barge being towed about 3 miles behind that tug". Shocking that they are not required to carry some sort of transponder. The barge was completely unlit.  Had it not been for the light of the moon we would never have seen it's pale profile in the distance. For over half an hour we watched and tried to hail the tug. There was no way to get a trajectory of his path so we attempted to get beyond it, but absolutely could not judge his intent. We turned on all of the deck lights and continued to try to raise the ship on VHF. Eventually the boat shined a very powerful spot light at us. We realized there was nothing to be done but to turn about and try to get the heck away from this one. He had no intention of responding to us. We put the iron jib on high gear and completely circled three miles away to get behind the massive barge that looked like an island.

After that Frank was fully awake, and as we were discussing what had just happened we noticed on the AIS a fast moving passenger ship heading across our path. Here we go again. We didn't pussyfoot around this time. We pushed the RPM's until the poor engine sounded like it was crying for mercy and sped past the point of interception. By now I was completely worn out and went down for my sleep. Three hours later Frank awakened me with the news that after I went to bed he did not pass another ship. He had a quiet, easy watch.

The wind abated sometime during the second day as we noticed more and more local fishing traffic. In fact, by nightfall we were literally surrounded by 50 or more fishing boats with nets. They carefully avoided US and were very well lit so for a good while we traveled unmolested by commercial traffic. Eventually as we neared Borneo the cargo and towing barge traffic picked up again. We arrived at the mouth of the Kumai River at Kalimantan by 4 PM. We dropped the hook just inside the river mouth for the night rather than try to enter at this time because the river is chock full of traffic and a bit dodgy to navigate without full light. The air here is very thick with smoke; burns the eyes and makes breathing very uncomfortable. Wonder what they are burning all the time?

1 comment:

Ruth Cawston said...

Hmmmm - all sounds very hairy. We will definitely be getting AIS before we leave Aus' AND getting our engine sorted out as it died on us again today for no apparent reason - can't have that happening when trying to dodge barges and tugs towing islands! Glad you made it safely. x