Sunday, September 20, 2015

Coastal Indonesian Nights

Another constant threat, the Fish Trap.  That's a log attached to it.

The coasts of Indonesia are full of fisherman.  It seems like half of them are out at night.  There are the small net fisherman with the small blue and red flashing lights.  There are the bigger boats that are brightly lit with white light.  And, then there are the real small guys with a flashlight.  Of course, this last group doesn't want to use up valuable battery power so they will shine their light only at the last moment.  What if we're inside checking the charts.  Hopefully they would move but you never know.  We did find out that they can be seen on our Garmin Digital Radar at about 2-3 miles.  This is quite amazing since their boats are the size of a canoe, and the only metal onboard is a 5hp Honda engine directly coupled to a pipe with a propeller on it.   Good job Garmin.  We now have enough advance notice to know where to look for that flicker from a flashlight in the dark of night.

There is quite a bit of interisland barge traffic in Indonesia.  Toward Borneo, there is even more and the cargo is usually a mountain of timber about 30 ft high.  We have seen them and know the lights they display at night.  They actually seem to be one of the only type of boats out at night displaying the correct lighting.  During our first night out of Bali, after dodging fishing boats for most of the night, a tug was paralleling us to the north. We were sailing slow around 3.5 knots.  This guy kept getting closer and closer.  I know he has the right of way but don't know what his intentions are.  In most other countries, you give a call on the VHF and all works out.  In Indonesia, the VHF is a party line for all the bored fisherman.  The other problem is that they only speak Indonesian and you can't get a word in edgewise.

So we watch and watch and he gets closer and closer.  In the star lit sky, I can see the huge barge piled to the sky with wood.  There were no lights on the barge.  It looked like he would pass behind us, and I think he wanted to get to the other side of us and didn't understand why he just didn't turn and go there.  Then it looked like he wanted to pass in front of us.  No problem except the barge would pass behind us and the steel cable right through us.  I fired up both engines, floored it, and passed in front of him.  That was a very close and unnecessary call.  After all this, he loops back the way we came, back toward Bali.  So, he stalked us, just to try to kill us, couldn't, so he high tailed it away.  Just doesn't seem right but I have no other explanation.

Daytime photo of a Tug/Barge hauling timber
There does seem to be this game that quite a few boats play with us.  It's called "try to pass as close to the front of the yacht as possible".  I don't like this game.

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