by Brian "BJ" Caldwell

"For many cruising people, like snails with their homes on their
backs, the freedom offered by this life is the main attraction.
We live as we like to live, the boat is our house and we change the
garden whenever we feel like it."

- Unknown

Onward we sailed, through the Arafura and Timor Seas and into the South Indian Ocean. One night, I marked my place in John Grisham's - 'A Time To Kill' and climbed topsides. There was a light stationed directly astern. It was obvious he was following me because his red and green lights were visible.

I switched on my running lights but he continued his pursuit. The fact I was south of the Malacca Straits (renowned pirate territory) did little to comfort my now active imagination of knife wielding boarding parties. However, it could also be the Australian military keeping such dangers from nearing their home-land.

However, I had no doubt some hell-ship from "Pirate's of the Caribbean" was in hot pursuit. Joshua Slocum had dealt with a number of pirates a hundred years before but that was a century before! Besides, word had it that today's water-born criminals were after the 'big guys'. They'd pull along a super-tanker and scale her steel sides with suction cups to rape and pillage as they pleased.

I switched off my lights and - oh %$#!, he shut his off too! Now things were looking scary. Officials don't switch off their navigational lights...I then drastically altered my course. Unfurling sail, my boat speed increased by a knot.

About ten minutes later, what appeared to be a speed boat sped past in the blackness at probably thirty knots. I was sure I was doomed! I thought back to the 'canon' we used to carry while cruising. We had bought 'Dirty Harry's' 44-magnum, especially for the eventuality of transiting the Malacca Straits. The thing had been so powerful that when we fired it from the side of the boat while far to sea, it had shut our Sat-Nav positioning system off! Not to mention the flame that leapt what seemed like twenty feet out of the barrel! Why hadn't I loaded a couple of those aboard? I had nothing but a plastic fantastic single shot flare gun aboard.

The only consolation now was that I had been running my cabin lights before to read, but we were now running in complete darkness...unless they had night vision goggles? Sailboats are also renowned for being near invisible on radar screens. So I couldn't help but feel relieved when the shadow astern disappeared to starboard. The speed boat was soon joined by a second - what a nightmare! However, they were way off target. Finally, the zig-zagging lights disappeared below the horizon.

The next day, the Australian met service notified mariners transiting the Arafura Sea of a joint military excercise with Britain. Thank God I wasn't blown out of the water!

A memory of this area, were the big bright orange sea snakes I saw careening over the water's surface, I must have seen a hundred! I knew the serpents were highly poisonous, so I declined a photo shoot with one wrapped around my neck...Minimize the risks, BJ!

While passing Darwin at the north-western corner of Australia, a small jet plane screamed past the mast-head untill I switched on my VHF radio to dissuade the nuisance. It was the Australian coastal patrol and they wanted vessel particulars and where had I left from and where I was going. I figured they'd order me not to tangle with their military forces anymore. I wasted no time giving reason for skipping their country. They didn't say but probably thought - "Oh great, another record-chaser and potential rescue". Nevertheless, they wished me good luck and let me go on my merry way. The aircraft disappeared to the south.

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Copyright 1996 Brian "BJ" Caldwell
Published electronically by HoloHolo Internet Publishing, all rights reserved