Mon 7 May 2012 07:45
Monday, May 7th 2012
Position 5:34.5S 106:30.68E  Alongside the 'Thousand Islands'
Like a hospital, a boat at sea runs 24 hours a day, but our spirit is so damped at night: we deserve peace!
Yesterday it looked for a while like we would get it: a nearly full moon shining out of a cloudless sky, and for a change some useful breeze to push us along under sail, down through the Java Sea. It is dark at 6pm, so the early part of the night is easy going: washing, supper, all interrupted at ten minute intervals by the tyranny or the oven timer's bell: time to poke your head out, and have a look around. During the early part of the night I chanced upon an odd collection of lights: white lights everywhere, and both red and green showing together: the fishing fleet does not strictly adhere to the international code for lighting, and I simply made a note, and resolved to check his position in five mins rather than ten: by which time it has become pretty obvious that I was about to be run down by a large tanker, bearing down on me at some speed, bows on of course, so both port and stbd lights visible. Ashamed not to have worked this elementary problem out, but also relieved that there was time to take avoiding action. If you havn't tried night sailing, lights are quite interesting, as you get no sense of scale. So the brain constructs something that is familiar and comfortable, out of the incomplete data set.
Did notice some far off lightning even then, but it occurs every night, so no great worry. Until 01.30, when we were hit by a quite sudden thunder squall. Wind from behind, so good progress all of a sudden, and twenty five knots of wind no problem. Not even much lightning. After an hour it all seemed to have settled, but then another storm rolled in, gale force, for hours, and lightning and reverberating thunderclaps all seemingly overhead. Waiting for the strike I tried to follow all the fatuous advice: disconect the VHF, put the spare GPS in the oven to shield it from the volts. Make sure you have the sharp knife to cut the liferaft free if you are not toast and the boat is sinking, etc etc. As visibility disappeared I tried to make a mental note of where the surrounding fishing boats had been located, but after the first 30 mins this all became a nonsense: no one could see even a few metres forward, except when the floodlights came on, for half a second or so, with each lightning bolt. Good news is that when you are that scared you don't seem to notice the passage of time, and suddenly it was dawn, and at dawn everything gets better. It really does, but I'm not sure why: anyone? By 08.00 the wind was down to 17kts. We had logged over 50 miles, and broken the back of the journey from Banka to Jakarta