Monday, March 8, 2010

Save Us From Ourselves

Day 5 in the Gulf of Aden:

Local Date: Monday, March 8
Local OMANI Time (4 hours ahead of GMT): 12:45
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 5.2 knots
Wind: ESE 12-15 knots
Seas: 2-3 feet from the SE
Distance to Aden, Yemen: 130 miles

I wake up to the startling blast of our horn and the boat hard over to port. I lurch up the stairs and hear Gar reporting a
sailboat coming head on through our fleet. Gar is shaking, scared, angry, and confused about what happened. It is clear a boat
from Alpha turned into the fleet to raise his mainsail without notifying the fleet or turning masthead or deck lights on. This
is maddening. We too would like to sail but we signed on to go at convoy speed without compromising our maneuverability with
sails. Once again, a very near miss, I can see his stern lights and the outline of his sails clearly. He was seriously only
feet from our starboard side. At night this is one of the scariest things to see. That makes three.

Everyone is rattled. There have been too many close calls, too close. Gar is trying to identify the boat so they know what they have done. Once the boat is identified Delta 5 is swearing insultingly at the "Crazy" French man. I am embarrassed by the
American's response and appalled at the selfishness I have seen out here. Close calls make everything more intense. I am happy
to be alive and in love. The captain will not take responsibility nor apologize and again we have another night on edge. Our
eyes are acutely sharp as we watch the entire fleets movements closely. We monitor real time with our eyes, the radar, and chart plotter. We are overly cautious. Gar is clearly freaked out. He asks the Delta fleet to give him space, a lot of it. Delta 4 respectfully agrees to a minimum of 800 feet from our stern. At last, they are far enough away I can no longer see them in their
nav seat.

I slip back into bed, wrapping myself up in my sheet and blanket like a burrito. i try to calm myself down. I am grateful for
another two hours where I do not have to watch this world and be responsible for our group and what happens in it. Sleep does
not come, my heart is racing, my stomach is in knots and I am dreading another night of this. Also, our instruments went out
again yesterday afternoon for a couple of hours so my hearing senses are acutely focused. I am listening for the alarm that beeps when they go out. Gar has been on watch for over 13 hours as he wanted to monitor the instruments. I am worried about him too.

Most of my watch is quiet. I came on at 22:00 as the big dipper climbed higher while the southern cross sat on our port side. I am trying to hold our position in the fleet but Charlie has slipped back again and Bravo is still behind us. My watch gets
trickier. I now have to watch Alpha in front and the Bravo and Charlie Group in addition to the rest of the Delta group from

There were more changes yesterday. Charlie 5's engine went out. He is a big 30 tonne mono hull. Some heartening things
happened here. The convoy slowed way down in order to give Charlie 5 time to fix their engine. The conditions were terribly
uncomfortable for traveling under reduced sails. We were making 2 knots in 3 foot swell and 16-20 knots of wind. Delta 5
called to tell me I could do my laundry we were pitching and rolling so badly. We were in the agitation cycle. Surprisingly
everyone in the fleet slowed down and waited. Almost no one complained as we all moved very slowly for hours despite the fact
that our Tuesday arrival seemed to be slowly slipping away from us. They got the engine fixed and then it faltered again. Fixed
and faltered. Selflessly, Bravo 1 volunteered to give them a tow. Towing can at times be very hard on the tow boat, strain on
the engine and the boat is very common. By nightfall, Charlie 5 agreed to a tow and they were towed by Bravo 1 to Alpha 2's
position. Their new names are T1 and T2. Charlie 5 moved with their engine assisting the tow throughout the night from 4.7 to
5.7 knots. Good speed. This act, gives me hope in humanity and this convoy.

Two hours into my watch I saw a boat from Alpha 1 move across the fleet and out to starboard well away from everyone.
Thankfully, they were moving out rather than towards the fleet. I made contact but with the wrong boat. Two hours later the
boat was still falling behind. At 02:35, four and a half hours into my watch, delta five contacted me asking about the boat that
was just crossing his bow and coming my way. He was out of his formation and coming into our Delta convoy, very close to Delta
5. It all happened too fast. I made contact but Delta 5 jumped in. "I don't care about what's best for your sail angle or your
speed, You are in my space, you cut across my bow. You f**king crazy Frenchman. What is wrong with you f**king crazy
Frenchman... and on and on. I was seething, my heart was racing. Embarrassed by Delta 5's attack on another nationality (Delta
is now definitely the A**hole American group), but also pissed that this French yacht thought that because he was "in control"
of his own yacht as a professional skipper with thousands of miles of experience and years on the sea it was ok for him to
maneuver into our fleet risking a possible collision.

It is amazing to us how different people are in this convoy. Some are selfless and completely willing to sacrifice for the
benefit of the group and others are selfish and continually want to do what's best for themselves. Thankfully this morning and
afternoon all has been quiet. We have a nice wind and are motor sailing comfortably at 5.2-5.8 knots. Thankfully our Tuesday
arrival is most definitely within reach now. The air is crisp and clean. A little bird has visited 3 boats in the Delta fleet
and has put a smile on everyone's face. (I hope it comes to us next.) We have seen no pirates, only two fishing boats at a far
distance. The radio in our large fleet is refreshingly silent and we hear no talk of pirate attacks by the warships in our area. If all goes well for the next 24-30 hours we will be safely in Aden and will likely have become our own worst enemies in these waters.

In Peace,

The Admiral and her Captain

1 comment:

Eric Dubai said...

Nothing, not even the threat of pirates, could convince me to participate in the shambles of the "giant convoy" that you are in. Mad dogs, Englishmen, rude Americans and Frenchmen...... No thanks, I will run the gauntlet on my own, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes! Thanks for your informative blog and website. Good luck with the rest of your voyage. Peace, Eric