Pirate Threat

Date: July 27, 2016, 4 a.m. Position: 11 22.23 S, 112 27.79 E

We smashed out another 168 NM since yesterday. The decks are completely plastered with flying fish scales. Each night a dozen or so flying fish make their last leap onto Privateer and end up stunned in the scuppers. By early afternoon their bodies have hardened into little cooked sausages, seared by the tropical sun. I make the rounds on deck each day to un-glue the unfortunate creatures from the deck and toss them back into the sea. I suppose it’s the same concept as driving and collecting many bugs on the windshield and radiator screen. No bugs out here–just millions upon millions of flying fish. Vast swarms of them leap from the waves all day long, bouncing over the swells like skipping stones.

The motion of the sea changed in the afternoon, when we sailed over and between the summits of two 11,000 foot underwater peaks. Suddenly the seas got choppy and confused, and we rolled from side-to-side very annoyingly all afternoon. It turned into one of those days where you just get comfortable and do as little as possible.

Suddenly Kelsey shouted down below to me “Pete, oh my god there’s a boat right next to us!” I shot above decks in a quarter-second and instantly saw an open boat not more than 15 feet off the side of our boat, and a man on the bow with a long line coiled in his hand! The bastard had snuck right up on us in the 3-meter swells and had approached us. In the second instant I saw two more boats, surrounding Privateer. “Get below and stay down–HIDE!” I urgently hissed to Kelsey. In that moment, we both assumed that we were under pirate attack. It was a terrible shock. I frantically tore open the sat phone case and emerged into the cockpit with phone on and radio in hand, to let them know I was talking with the outside world. The boat alongside caught a glimpse of me and fell away. The three boats gathered at our stern while the men shouted to each other, and circled their bows back toward Privateer. It was a very tense moment. We continued sailing along at 7 knots, wing-on-wing. And… we slowly sailed away. The boats did not come back toward us.

There are numerous reports of small fishing boats approaching sailboats and asking for booze, cigarettes, or medicine. But we were 200 NM off the coast of Java. These guys were way offshore for the tiny boats they were in. Also, 1/2 mile is considered a very close distance for vessels to pass at sea. These guys were looking into our portholes! There is no way a boat could safely come alongside in 3-meter seas. Their boats were low and small and impossible to see even from a few swells away–they simply vanished behind the walls of water. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were just overly-curious. But there’s no way around having suspicion–we are sailing astride some of the most notoriously pirated waters in the world, where even Indonesian Customs officers have been known to turn rogue.

We’re all settled down now, but have blacked out our lights tonight and are running dark, to avoid revealing our position. I can’t even imagine what a hard life it must be for those fishermen way out here in those tiny, crude boats. I don’t even know how they can carry enough fuel to make it out here, fish, and back! Thank god they didn’t try to board us. What a shock, to feel like you’re the only people on earth while sailing at sea, to be suddenly face-to-face with an unknown entity.

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