Thursday, August 11, 2016

AMIS Glory meets APL Qatar quite suddenly

We must be in the shipping lanes between Japan and the US West coast because since yesterday the AIS system has been reporting ships in our vicinity. When a ship comes into our AIS view which is a radius of 48 miles, the screen lights up. At night we see this, wondering "who turned on a light in the cabin?" Then we see the ship Gorgoypikoos is 42 miles to our north and will pass us in two hours with 30 miles to spare. Nothing to worry about.

If the ship is calculated to pass within 6 miles of us then a little alarm will sound when it is 6 miles away. That's handy. Then we can scan the horizon and maybe find the culprit. Earlier we had a ship that was predicted to pass .7 miles to our south, then a few seconds later, 1 mile to our north. Clearly we were on a collision course. We watched that guy carefully until he eventually passed .5 miles to our south. Whew! On the AIS report on that ship was the description "Not under command" That's unsettling.

And then there was the kicker. Two vessels were on a converging course and both were to pass each other only 5 miles to the south of us. We watched them on the AIS screen until we could see them visually on the horizon. The AMIS Glory was at a range of 7.39 miles, speed over ground 12.2 knots, on a course over ground of 189 true. AMIS Glory was headed to Osan Korea. The APL Qatar was headed to Balboa, range 8.94 miles, SOG 19.4 knots, COG 99 true.

We watched those two little arrows approach each other on the screen. We went to the cockpit and could make out both ships approaching each other on our horizon. One had towering cranes on board for unloading containers. The other was an oil tanker of some sort. Suddenly the VHF radio erupted with one ship hailing the other. It was hard to make out what they were saying but we assumed they were agreeing on how to pass, starboard to starboard, or port to port.

Suddenly we saw a flash of light south of us and the radio started chirping. As we watched we could see fire coming from one or both of the boats as they now looked like one ship. And then we heard the mayday distress call on the radio. "Start the engine, let's turn into the wind." I said. We did so and rolled up the genoa, watching the speck of fire on the horizon. I went below to the chart plotter and found the two vessels on screen with an X through the triangle. Then I made that position a way point with an established latitude and longitude.

From left, Georgios, Dimitris, Elias, Alexandros, and Bob

We headed Traveler south towards the waypoint and the little flame on the horizon. I tried channel 16 on the VHF radio but could raise no one. It took us an hour to motor to the location. As we grew near in the late afternoon light we could make out one ship leaning hard to port, its bow awash. The other ship was a mass of containers, some floating, others sinking as we watched. We looked for survivors. I switched off the engine so we could hear better and since it was dark by then I swept the scene with our big hand held searchlight.

Soon we heard yelling off our port bow. I started the engine and headed to port, then switched off and listened again. We launched the dinghy and I rowed toward the sound and soon found a small group of people in the water, their orange PFDs glowing in the blaze of my flashlight. I got on the handheld VHF and directed Connie to steer traveler to me. Then I was surrounded by men in the water yelling in a foreign tongue. We got them all aboard by heaving them one by one into the dinghy then onto Travelers deck.

Connie got out the blankets and we got them all seated on deck and in the cockpit. We had eleven survivors. "Get the rum!" Connie says, "We have a little Bacardi, will that do?" "Better get the Havana Club." I said. Connie gave me that look. You know that look. I shrugged my shoulders. So our eleven Greeks downed our two bottles of Havana Rum as quick as you could say, "Bob's your uncle."

Later, we inventoried the food stores, started soaking pots of beans, and broke into the cookie supply. The way we figure it, we can get the boat to Seattle with all 13 people and have barely enough food to keep us all fed. We might run low on toilet paper and coffee. Most importantly, we have 15 bottles of wine. That's two bottles a day meaning the Greeks get one bottle between them all and Connie and I split the other. We are locking our wine in our cabin. So, it looks like we'll see you in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, that is, unless the Coast Guard insists on finding us and taking off our Greeks.

That would be shame because Connie is teaching them the words to "Drunken Sailor" and they are starting to get the harmony down quite well.

All the Greeks ran forward so they could take this picture of Connie

Note: the first three paragraphs of this blog entry are quite true. Not so for the last seven.

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