February 27. 2000

 Early this morning about 0300 our small fleet of six boat were all trying to find our way out of the maze of a fishing net running for miles.  The net, or nets, are strung tightly with floats on the surface and the top line is of extremely large diameter.  The first night Sea Gem passed over the net and did not get caught.   Last night there was a thunk noise and there may be some damage to the starboard prop.  Stampede was snared again and for the second night running Stu had to go over the side into the dark water to cut their boat free.  Also last night Pimalo was caught and Ern also had to cut his boat free.  We heard the fishermen on the VHF speaking what we think is Japanese, and boat names cropped up in the conversation.  We tried to talk to them to attempt to find out where the line was strung but true to standard form the guy on the other end of the conversation just screamed louder and louder.  You understand that if the language is foreign and the person you are speaking to does not understand, you just talk louder and louder, works every time.  He did finally keep saying, "No speak English, no speak English."  We could have offered French, Tahitian, Luxembourg or German also, but I doubt he spoke those either.  We have decided not to broadcast our boat names again.  I am sure the fishermen are upset, as we are.  If a freighter ran into these lines it would do extensive damage also.  I wonder if the freighters have knowledge of where they are strung?  We only wish we knew where they are so that we could avoid them altogether.  We have no idea  from what port these boats are operating.  Meeting up with a bunch of irate fishermen, mad because their lines were damaged, is not my idea of fun.  Yesterday, what looked like a large fish processing ship passed very close to us in daylight hours. 

 Our major concern for this leg of the trip was supposed to be for pirates operating from either Sucotra Island or the coast of Somalia.  If the pirates and the fishermen got together it would be a sure fire disaster.  First you would get caught in a net and the next step would be for the small boat to come along and rob you.  We get piracy information daily about where the most recent attacks have been and most are aboard large commercial carriers.  The large ships carry small crews and the pirates come up from the stern, using fast boats and board with grappling hooks and usually hold the crew with knives.  So far yachts are pretty much left alone, but in some of the poor parts of the world I wonder why more yachts are  not robbed. 

 We are getting support from the French Navy and we are reporting our position twice a day instead of once.  Our best deterrent to piracy is our group sticking together and that is why we are so concerned about the nets.  When one boat gets snared it means they fall behind the others for it is hard get the sails in before you have traveled for some distance. 

 Another problem we are facing is that three of the boats with us are running low on fuel and we may have to make a stop in Yemen for them to get some fuel.  We still have over half a tank and we have offered to transfer some of our fuel to them by jerry can.  It would not be easy, but it can be done.  Putting in at Yemen would be a headache because of all the red tape and because it is not a scheduled stop.  Also Ern from Pimalo has crew that needs to get to Djibouti to fly home and they cannot get a flight out of Yemen.  Flights are very difficult because of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca for this is a special time for those of the Muslim faith.  Stay tuned for what happens tomorrow . . . I can't wait to see.  Until later ...