Saturday, November 29, 2008

Close Encounters of the Large Kind - Part II

There was quite a bit of shipping activity along our route. Out past San Clemente Island is a north south corridor. Given the relationship of Los Coronodos, San Clemente and the Banks, traffic is funneled east-west along the path we took.

Once we had turned around, I noticed a tanker running parallel behind us a few miles on AIS. This turned out to be the TI Africa that was moving slowly at 9.5 to 10 knots. It took him hours to catch up since we were doing 6.5 to 7 knots. During this time it got very dark and started to rain hard. I had been on watch a while ducking under the dodger.

Occasionally, I would go down and heck the AIS display on the computer since when you looked around the boat you saw nothing. I was surprised to see that the TI Africa was only .75 miles behind us since I could not see him. That was no big deal compared to what I saw next. The Oakland Express was 4.5 miles off the port bow doing 22 knots on it's way to Panama. The Express seemed to be coming at the two of us on the display. I sat and watched the little triangle between the three of us growing smaller. You start to think things like, "Big ocean, wonder why everybody is HERE".

TI Africa
was now about a half mile back on our port stern quarter. I began to see scenarios like he would catch up and then be forced to turn away from the Express, towards us. I still could not see him or any lights. I decided to call the Express and see if could see us on radar or AIS. He saw us and said in a very heavy Panamanian accent that he would pass 1/2 mile **** of us. Was that before or behind, I could not tell, but I think before. I hear the TI Africa call the Express and to ask if he sees him. He did. Must have been before or he would hit the Africa?!

About this time, the Express was less than a mile off and the Africa was between a quarter and a half a mile. I still could not see anything. The triangle shrinks some more. Zoom in on the map and the triangle gets bigger -- that's better, for a couple minutes.

I now saw some dim lights aft of the beam on the port side. I think that it must be the Africa back there. AIS shows it is the Express, who burns across our bow at a sharp angle over the next few minutes. 22 knots looks really fast when you are used to six. He could only be 1/4 mile away at the most. Now I can see the Africa right off the port stern about 1/4 mile away. These are big ships, 300 meters or so. We all must have been crowding into a half mile circle. I spent a few minutes counting rivets. The Express disappeared into the dark and rain never to be seen again. I could see the Africa for a half hour or so as he slowly pulled away.

I began to wonder where we stowed the single malt.

1 comment:

John Fryer said...

That's cool! Love it

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