Sunday, February 17, 2008

A New Type of Traffic

Indian Ocean coordinates 05.00.379N,081.48.299E
currently slipping past the southern tip of Sri Lanka

We were hoping to write to you this week a bit more about the adventures we had in Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia but there is a more pressing matter at hand. We are currently about 6 days into our crossing from Thailand to the Maldive Islands. We have snuck just under the Nicobar Islands and according to our charts are in the middle of the "Great Channel". Great in more ways than one we have discovered. We have left behind the crazy world of scooter traffic only to find ourselves smack in the
middle of giant container ship traffic.
These ships, as you can imagine, are huge and charge across the water like giant metal elephants with a purpose. By the light of day they are fun and amusing to watch as the different types pass by, Evergreen, Hyundai, oil tankers. On the radio their captains speak a variety of languages to each other, Russian, French, Indian. Usually you can hear them call out "port to port" or "starboard to starboard" as they decide which side they would like to pass each other on. They move along at a fairly
good clip too, the "Global Triton" sped past us like she was late for a really important date. Under the cloak of darkness though, it all looks much different.
On our second night out around 2am we hit something in the water. Likely to be a log or something similar, it happens from time to time, you check the bilge, no water coming in means no holes, good news. It frays your nerves a bit none-the-less and sets the tone for the night. From then on I felt like a matador in the ring with a bull and 3 of his best buddies at any given moment. Would they pass right, left or charge us down the center. Only a couple of hours into a shift and I stopped counting
after 2 dozen. Usually they are fairly easy to monitor on the radar and being that we can see up to 16 miles out you can imagine just how many you can spot at one time. Luckily, by sight they are only visible within a 5 mile range or you would go crazy trying to decipher just what was out there. Depth perception is of no help in the dark. The down side to that is considering the speed they are traveling, it doesn't leave you much time to decipher what it's intentions are until the last minute.
Every vessel displays red and green lights visible from the left and rights sides respectively, including us. This aids in determining which side it is you can see. It is surprisingly difficult considering the behemoth size of them. You would think it would be very obvious. Unfortunately sometimes it is not and on three different nights, Bruce, Lisa and the Kelly's on Moorea found themselves far too close for comfort. Within a mile range would be good enough, but nose to nose and under a quarter
of a mile was nearly too much. All's well that ends well, and we have to say that in general we think that they are doing a fantastic job out here. Very professional and keep very good tabs on us. When we shine our flood lights on them the respond right away. Good to know they are watching!
Days 5 and 6 brought lighter winds, which amazingly always do more damage to the boat that the stronger ones. Slapping sails mean tears and repairs for us. What else can one do in the middle of the ocean but fix things anyway.
until next time,
your Ohana Kai crew

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