On one sunny summer's day, which was also a rather lazy day, our «Chameleon» was gliding in a warm breeze 800 miles off the South American coast. I just took a nap when suddenly our onboard radio squeaked and woke up:
- «Chameleon», come in! This is «Borderless».
It was a yacht that could be seen on the radar a couple of miles ahead of us.
- Come in, «Chameleon» here! - our skipper Colin has approached the transmitter.
- Guys, here's the thing: We just saw a panga with three guys on board. They're weird, but hardly dangerous - they asked us for water and food and immediately left.
Colin and Captain «Unlimited» talked a little more, discussing the details of the incident. As it turned out, the panga had grown in front of them as if out of nowhere. It was filled with fuel containers. Our interlocutor was quite calm and apparently did not think he was in danger.
Colin thanked him for the information, they said goodbye, and our yachts parted, each in a different direction.
- What is a panga? - I asked.
- It's a small boat like a water taxi from Santa Cruz.
- What the hell did that panga forget so far from the ground?
After talking to Colin and Emily, my girlfriend, we decided to take a little west: who knows what's on their mind, these guys.
But for the next hour, they wouldn't get out of our heads.
How could this boat have gotten here? Do they need help? There's no doubt they'd let the «Unlimited»know if something was wrong.
Perhaps they just needed food to keep up the piracy business - although I have not heard of pirates in this part of the Pacific.
We laughed at how we were overwhelmed by the small boat, but when we were asked to turn off the AIS (Automatic Identification System Transmitter) and turn on the radar, it was done the same minute.
We kept getting lost in guessing what these guys were after. The Phanga is a boat for coastal waters; its engine will be weak for the ocean. Perhaps they were behind the big boat and their provisions were running out?
Changing the course of the yacht made us feel safe, but the lively conversation was suddenly replaced by boredom. It turns out that the thought of pirates warmed up our imagination quite well.
But we didn't even have a good time to get upset.
- Hey, look! There's somebody here!
We were staring at the radar, and right where «Infinite» met the panga, we saw the signal. When I grabbed the binoculars, I stumbled on the tackle and threw myself at the nose. Looking closely at the distance, I finally noticed a black spot on the horizon.
- There's definitely something there! - I shouted to Colin.
Waiting for «Chameleon» to rise on the crest of the wave, I kept looking forward.
- Hell, yeah, it's a boat! If all they need is just some water and provisions, I'll just throw them a bag of that stuff, that's all.
- That's a good idea," Colin said as he turned down the sail.
I was already running to the galley.
Grabbing the bag, I slipped a two-liter bottle of water, some muesli bars, and a couple of bananas into it - Colin strongly recommended they be destroyed as soon as possible this morning. Feeling a little embarrassed by their color, I added a couple of fresh apples to the bag. At the time, I didn't know that a few weeks later, when we didn't have any fruit left on board, I would regret the sudden bounty of generosity, but what can you do in panic?
I stepped out of the galley and watched Colin change course and gain speed.
But the panga has remained indifferent to our manoeuvres. She came up to us with water on the side of «Chameleon». Yes, motors are rarely inferior to the dexterity of one-hulls.
Colin turned around abruptly, snagging the crest of the wave and hitting the panga with water. Once again, however, it didn't make any impression, only our «Chameleon» pumped harder on the waves.
The other one, with his head wrapped in a T-shirt, was sitting at the helm. I took a quick look around the boat-no fuel containers, no fishing equipment. Looks like they weren't the guys Bezrezhny»was talking «about.
The next second, a guy with a pot ran up the bow of a boat and grouped up to jump to us. I didn't let him come to his senses by throwing a bag of food at him, and Colin was standing ready at the helm to give the pushy guy a head start if he needed to. It seemed like they were not happy. The guy with the pot started talking fast in an unfamiliar language; the only thing I could make out was «pescado», a fish.
- They were wondering if we caught any fish?
«No pescado aquis» - I waved my head, pointing at an empty sparkle overboard.
Instead of answering, the guy took an empty tin can and started pointing at it.
- Aha! - Emily went to the galley - there should have been tuna cans left. While she was gone, I kept looking at the weird guy. It's quite unusual to suddenly meet a stranger in the middle of an ocean, especially when the only people you've seen in weeks are two of your friends.
There were no more questions, though.
If there's a big ship nearby, it should take care of providing food for its people, shouldn't it?
Now I was rather amused that we were so overwhelmed when we heard about them.
While Emily was downstairs, I noticed that the Ecuadorian flag had been painted on board and that «Punto Mantà»was on display. I asked them in Spanish if they had arrived from the Galapagos, and I heard back:
« Ecuador! Ecuador!»
For reference, Punto Manta is a city in Ecuador, 800 miles from where we were at the time.
Finally, Emily came back with two cans of tuna and threw them at the pot guy. Their pirating succeeded and they left at full speed, and the same guy smiled at us and shouted good-bye: «Bye-bye!»
We went back on track. I looked through the binoculars after the unexpected guests and suddenly made an unpleasant discovery: there were several boats within a 4-5 mile radius of them. We decided to get away from them and got up for the night with the lights and the AIS off.
That night, I was on duty first. I couldn't sleep a wink, listening carefully to the darkness, ready to hear the engine coming. But our fears were not justified. The night was quiet, and in the morning the whole story seemed a bit unreal.
We can only hope that those guys had fun, scared us and, of course, tasted our fresh apples.
Jake Pitts is a student from the UK. Before crossing the Pacific Ocean, he explored a small Lake Ozark in Central America.
According to sailmagazine.com.