Mysterious Indian

Date: July 23, 2016, 4 a.m. Position: 12 14.13 S, 122 59.21 E

We exited Ashmore Reef this afternoon after a morning snorkel and the usual tidy-up before sea. We quickly dropped away from the Australian continental shelf and into deep water. Our course will take us along the Java Trench, the deepest part of the Indian Ocean where we’ll see depths of 22,000 feet. After the murky Arafura and Timor Sea, we are finally back into the crystal waters again. There were quite a few currents along the shelf and an enormous amount of plastic debris is strung out along the eddy lines as far as the eye can see. Also floating along the eddies were thousands of shark eggs. Hopefully a plastic-eating shark will evolve to take advantage of its new habitat.

A few hours before sunset we spotted a strange object on the horizon and sailed over for a closer look. From a distance it looked like a shipping container floating on its end like a deadhead, half out of the water. Or a submarine conning tower. The mystery intensified as we drew closer, and when we came to within a few boat-lengths panic ensued! It was a white object of which the the top ten feet were out of the water, but it was attached to something heavy and unseen underwater, and the scariest thing was that it appeared to be moving against the current. My first thought was that it was a life raft attached to a ship, but in hindsight I think it was the end of an enormous fishing trawl net. There were no ships on the horizon, though, so perhaps it was one of those 15-mile long nets. Either way, we got the hell away from it as fast as possible. It gives me the willies just writing about it. Approaching any unknown object at sea is tense and creepy, but this thing was moving.

We are taking a very conservative route across the Indian Ocean, pirate-wise. By avoiding the northern Indian Ocean altogether, we basically eliminate the risk. However, we are still taking a few precautions, even if they are a bit romantic. We’ve furled up the Stars and Stripes while at sea so as not to be recognized as a US boat, and we are keeping a large bottle of Jack Daniels and a case of beer near the companionway hatch. Booze is a better gesture than a gun. Also at hand are our canisters of bear spray from Alaska, as a last resort. We keep our radios on and visually conspicuous at the helm, along with the sat phone, so that we can look like we are talking to somebody if approached. It’s all a bit over-reactionary, but we’ve always played it as safe as we can. We’re a US boat sailing near lands that our government has royally screwed.

I’ve put a new air vane on the Monitor. The old one was slightly bent after the thousands upon thousands of miles of steering us, day and night, from Alaska. If we ever have a house, the old air vane will be prominently displayed on the wall.

The perfect breeze has developed and we are sailing along wing-on-wing, making easy miles. At sunset we landed a “6-dinner for 2” Tuna, and at that point in time Kelsey and I reflected on how much work we’ve done to get to this point in our lives–casually setting out across the Indian Ocean as a giant sun melts into the waves, our son sleeping peacefully, tucked behind his lee cloth. We can never lead rational lives after this. It’s too good out here.

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