Day 147 – Ships Crossing

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 9 May 2022 07:42
Noon Position: 00 31.7 N 089 19.1 E
Course: SE Speed: 7.5 knots
Wind: SW F4 Sea: moderate
Swell: SW 2m
Weather: cloudy, hot, humid
Day’s Run: 184 nm

Yesterday towards dusk another thunderhead passed over with associated rain squall. I put a second reef in the main and rolled up some of the jib, and collected a bit more fresh water. After it had passed and the wind had eased and the rain stopped, there were still a few more thunderheads in the area so I decided to leave the second reef in the main for the time being but unrolled the jib as it is a relatively simple matter to roll it back up again. By 1930 I was satisfied that the thunderheads had moved on or had dissipated in the cool of the evening and that we were not likely to be overrun by any more squalls until after dawn. Also I thought it about time we started making a bit more southing. The wind was firmly in the SW and with the jib poled out to starboard we were only able to make good a course of little better than due east. I certainly did not want to get pushed too close to Sumatera and then have to beat our way south so I let a reef out of the main, dropped the pole and came thirty degrees to starboard bringing Sylph onto a beam reach.
During the night we crossed the shipping lane between Malacca Strait and Cape of Good Hope and, unsurprisingly, crossed paths with about five ships. Nonetheless. apart from dodging a few ships, we enjoyed a relatively peaceful night and once again have made excellent progress, covering 184 miles in the last 24 hours. This morning at 0610 we were hailed on VHF by the motor vessel Bangkok Highway. It turned out the watch officer was curious as to what a sailing vessel was doing in this part of world. I explained and he told me he was from Bulgaria. I found the little gam quite uplifting, an old fashioned exchange of pleasantries between two ships crossing paths on the open ocean.
Two hours later we had a second encounter, this time with a small fishing vessel, the Imula 1868 MTR. As with our encounter with the Imula 1303 on 24 April, the vessel closed Sylph and attracted our attention by loud whistling and much waving. Again I could not determine what they wanted. I thought they might be warning me of fishing gear laying in front of me so I altered course to starboard as much as I could (there was another fishing vessel off our port side) but this did not satisfy them. I tried calling them on VHF radio but they did not respond (it was obviously a well-maintained vessel fitted with AIS so I am certain they must have been fitted with VHF). Fortunately, from my perspective at least, Sylph was doing a steady eight knots to their seven so we slowly opened the range. After following us for a half hour or so they gave up their pursuit and presumably returned to their fishing. I am pretty confident that they had no malicious intent but I figure contact with a foreign vessel on the high seas could cause any number of problems, not least of all with customs and immigration on Sylph's re-entry into Australia.
Another rain squall passed over late in the forenoon. I collected another ten litres of water and had a very pleasant and cooling shower. It was only a minor thunderhead and was quickly past, after which the wind eased sufficiently to shake out the last reef in the main, so we are now sailing under full sail.
Our latitude at midday was 31.7 minutes north. At our current speed we will cross the equator and back in the Southern Hemisphere at around 1800.
All is well.