Pirates and Volcanoes

I figured the title of this post would get the attention of my Lewiston Middle Schoolers, and hopefully prompt a batch of questions from them…

Before leaving Komodo, we did some spectacular snorkeling at Pink Beach. Then we spent two nights at an uninhabited islet nearby called Gili Lawa Laut, where we did more delightful snorkeling. It was so nice to be in a deserted place; no one selling things; no trash; swim right off the boat.

However, as we were preparing to leave for Lombok we got word that a 60′ German sailboat crossing from Lombok to Bali had been attacked by pirates! This part of the world has a long history of piracy. But according to Luc no yacht had ever been attacked. The piracy focus has been on stealing oil from tankers, etc. Obviously this was very disconcerting. We had no details about the circumstances, and whether the people were held for ransom, or what.

One can argue that this must be a one-time event. One can argue that there will now be heightened awareness/patrols, and so things should be safer now than before this happened. Argue all you want, I can’t help thinking a lot about the subject. We have discussed contingencies — who does what if people try to board the boat. We’ve discussed the use of our meager makeshift weapons, and concluded that they would just enrage attackers without deterring them. We’ve reviewed the priorities of making a lot of noise and light, calling our fellow BPOers on the radio, setting off emergency beacons and hiding them, etc.

We set sail for Lombok in relatively close convoy, but last night we got out ahead of the group because it was beautiful sailing and we were fast. We were still in sight of the other boats, but five miles away. Didn’t seem like an issue, until a couple fishing boats approached. Suddenly the body/mind goes into high alert…fight or flight. At what point can you determine hostile intent, and at that point how much time do you have? The mind races. Of course the boats went on with their fishing and all was well. But we “closed ranks.” The internal/mental stress was intense, even though “nothing happened.”

Now at Lombok, the guys here at the marina tell a different story about the “piracy.” Luc says he knew the boat, which is actually American, and the owner, whom he says is eccentric. The marina folks say he took on an equally eccentric German woman as crew shortly before he left. And they say that the woman reported (how and to whom?) a sexual assault. They also say they sailed to Christmas Island (Australia), not to Bali. They say the “pirate attack” was actually the Australian Coast Guard coming to investigate.

The locals here have an interest in minimizing the event so it won’t affect their business. But it seems almost certain that there was no piracy. Interesting how much we are affected by just the suggestion that there was. Perhaps this has been a good “drill” — to get us thinking and talking about how to be safe.

[Luc was present during a real attack in his marina in the Philippines, complete with automatic weapons. Two people he knows are still being held hostage.]

About the same time that we heard about the pirates, the volcano on Lombok erupted. A minor eruption, but enough to close the airport in Bali, downwind. The airport is open again, and all seems to be okay, except…the whole boat is now covered with a layer of dust/ash, inside and out. This is extremely annoying, and feels like a violation of my personal space. I don’t want to open the hatch over my berth, because my bed will get covered with dust. But you can’t NOT open the hatch; too hot. I don’t want to breathe either, but again you gotta… I’m hoping/wishing it will be done “ashing” after a day… I’d like to get both pirates and active volcanoes behind us!!

Alone at last! At anchor at Gili Lawa Laut -- beautiful, clean and nice snorkeling.
Alone at last! At anchor at Gili Lawa Laut — beautiful, clean and nice snorkeling.
Whale in the distance
Whale in the distance
Dolphins playing nearby
Dolphins playing nearby
VERY nearby
VERY nearby
Jesse tries to make friends
Jesse tries to make friends
An extra challenge here is that the electronic charts are not accurate. Note that it shows us sailing across the land...
An extra challenge here is that the electronic charts are not accurate. Note that it shows us sailing across the land…
Sailing by the volcanic island Gili Banda
Sailing by the volcanic island Gili Banda
Somewhere in there is the two mile high volcano on Lombok that erupted. Not sure if the cloud formation is related to the volcanic activity.
Somewhere in there is the two mile high volcano on Lombok that erupted. Not sure if the cloud formation is related to the volcanic activity.
As we approach our destination in the morning we clearly see the band of ash from the volcano, streaming to the right, and bound for our deck...
As we approach our destination in the morning we clearly see the band of ash from the volcano, streaming to the right, and bound for our deck…

5 thoughts on “Pirates and Volcanoes”

  1. Real life ‘seaworld’ with the whale & dolphins,,,volcanos are both beautiful & scary! wishing you
    smooth sailing,,,,

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  2. I have a question from my friends in Lewiston middle school, On a scale from 1-10 how would you rate this wild exciting adventure?

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    1. A wild exciting adventure is a good description. I’d rate it a YES! (Can you really have a 1 to 10 scale of wild exciting adventures? Maybe so, but I’m inclined to think of them all as…well…wild and exciting and adventurous.) I never anticipated/expected the people-oriented aspects of this trip — the feasts and dances and tours and all the smiling faces. My focus was on the sailing. But if sailing were all that I did, I would have missed out on so much of the adventure that stems from learning about the diverse people and cultures of our world.

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