1 The boat, crew, event and the story
It is hard to believe until you've had the 1st hand experience of it. I wonder how many sailors experienced the magical, enchanting, mystic, hard to believe, hallucinating effects and sightings at the open sea? Well, sailing yacht Lara II and her crew did, I DID…
The experience happened for four consecutive nights at the Arafura Sea along Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya on our voyage from Australia to Indonesia . SY Lara II ended up in the shallows, stuck on mud (note that sirens lure boats onto rocks and sands) near Meror of Maluku Islands on our 5th night of voyage.
So, here is the story….
The boat: Lara II, a registered Australian vessel, 40 ft steel sloop, a motorsail leisure yacht. Her yellow hull made her stand out from all other participating yachts.
The crew: Piete, Australian, a 72 year old experienced sailor who also use to fly helicopters. Sailed for almost 40 years.
Emalyn, Filipino, 46 year old. A nurse turned sailor. Free spirited woman. With sailing experiences in the Philippines and Malaysia.
The event: Multihull Wonderful Sail2Indonesia 2017. A program executed to develop yachting activities in Indonesia participated by at least 12 countries. This event is supported by Indonesian Ministry of Tourism, Maritime Affairs, Local Governments of each destinations and the People of Indonesia.
July 16 onwards, yachts started clearing and departing Thursday Island in Australia towards Debut Island in Indonesia where the muster will be on July 22-27. Lara II departed Thursday Island at 0800H, July 20, after calling the Border Protection that the boat is now underway. It was a nice clear day. Full of excitement, Emalyn volunteers to do most of the steering especially with the strong winds and waves. Autopilot did not work, so, the crew takes turn on navigation and steering. With enough provision, crew manages to cook and have meals. Shifting during the night was done. It was kind of Piete to lend Emalyn a water repellant jacket with hood for the occasional rain and splashes of waves to keep the latter dry.
In the morning of July 21, Piete woke up Emalyn to check a nice sight. Dolphins were playing with the waves. Emalyn was directed to the bow and was able to witness them jump over the bow. It was a really great morning. It started to get gloomy in the afternoon. Nothing else to do but to continue sailing.
Piete took his afternoon nap and Emalyn woke him up at 1600H for her to take her turn to rest. At 1900H, Piete noticed four boats along the horizon astern Lara II. It is always a delight to see boats in the open sea knowing you are not alone. Emalyn was then awaken. Emalyn was amazed of the sight of the lights but it didn't appear as boat to her. "Piete, look!" as she pointed out along the horizon. "They don't look like boats to me, more like… lights! " " One, two, three, four…28″ "Piete, this is weird. Is this something like E. T?" Emalyn still is clueless of the lights along the horizon (360°) with equal distance from each other. "Look, that one is moving " Piete pointed out at 11 o'clock direction " Go that way" he instructed Emalyn. True enough it was a boat, it seems like a cruise ship full of lights. As the boat get nearer, Lara II was parallel to it. In a split second, Piete grabbed the steering wheel "It's a tug! " He claimed while doing a sharp turn to the starboard side of Lara II. Emalyn sat still at the portside of the cockpit, shocked and wondering why Piete was steering like crazy. "What's happening? " she asked with a shaky voice. "Come, sit here beside me " Piete uttered. "We are in a strange place, strange things are happening " he continued with a soft voice. "You are scaring me" Emalyn said while she moved the closest to Piete, her right hand and arm pushing inside Piete's left arm for comfort and security. "Look around you, look at the lights, look in front of you. Do you see a wharf/ a wall?" Piete asked Emalyn. "Yes, far from us" she said. " No! About two meters away." Piete claimed. "Yes! Far away! Oh, it's gone" Emalyn uttered in surprise. "So you see what I see? That is what I am trying to tell you. Strange things are happening. Do you still see the boat? " asked Piete. "Yes" Emalyn replied "It stopped moving. It seems that there is no one in it. Why does it seem to be floating one foot from the water? " she asked. "Strange,huh, and AIS looks like it's not working" Piete replied while reaching out for the HF radio on channel 16 "Any station, any station, any station, this is Lara II. Can anyone hear me? Over. " he recited. Then he again started to drive like crazy. Only after few to and fro movements that he told Emalyn that he had been seeing that Lara II was about to hit the walls. Both of them continued seeing the walls, Emalyn at long distance and Piete on a closer view. It took two hours until the AIS worked again. They have decided to just ignore the walls and continue sailing. The well lighted boat did not disappear until dawn.
22 July, gloomy day with scattered rain showers. Lara II continued on her course towards NW on sail. Emalyn excitedly waited for the dolphins, but they did not appear. Piete had a check on the wind vane. They take turns on sleeping. Piete either makes his own coffee or tea or sometimes asks Emalyn for a favor. Piete, most of the time prepare the meals. In the afternoon, the fuel tank was refilled. Emalyn held the Jerry can while Piete did the siphoning. Then evening came. The boat appeared again. "Can you see the boat? " Piete asked. "Yes. " Emalyn replied. "Can you see the walls? , can you see structures building up?" Piete continued asking. "No! " Emalyn replied trying to ignore the same things that she was seeing. "Look Piete! We are the only real person here. Everything else is not real. The structures etc…, they are playing on us. Ignore them, just ignore them please. " Piete continued on pointing out stuff while Emalyn was thinking about sirens that takes sailors. " Piete whatever or whoever talk to you, always remember, you have to stay with me. Do not go anywhere but stay with me. " Emalyn pleaded. "Look, can you see the fishing boat on our port side?" says Piete. "Ignore them! Ignore them please! " In a loud voice, Emalyn commanded Piete. It was then that Piete started to ignore things and did the steering. Then they sailed on. The lighted boat was seen til dawn.
23 July, another gloomy day with scattered rain showers. Boat still underway. Another learning day. "Go with the waves so you will not be rocking the boat. " Piete instructed Emalyn as he continued doing some boat stuffs. Then evening came again. The well lighted boat appeared again. "Piete, we are not moving " "Yes we are. Look at the coordinates it is moving, we are at 4.7 knots. Okay? " Piete tried to give assurance to Emalyn. "Uhm… Okay. " She replied. "Em, will you be happy to take the wheel while I make coffee and have a smoke? " Asked Piete. "Sure. " Em replied. "Just stay on course, OK? " says Piete. The moment he turned his back. "Piete, the compass moved. I cannot go back on course. " The latter came back to fix it then moved to make himself a coffee. But everytime Piete turns his back Emalyn calls him back. Piete got furious. "What is happening to you? I thought you were smart, a natural sailor but now you can't read a compass? Did my ex sent you to annoy me? This is how they do it. " Piete complained. "Then stay here, experience this yourself!!!" Emalyn was almost teary eyed in fright. To Piete's surprise, he witnessed and understood Emalyn's fright. It seems that a force keeps pulling them back to a certain point. Then a boat suddenly appeared about 7 meters from them. "Continue towards the boat. "Piete instructed Emalyn. As they get nearer she claimed " It's the same boat since the first night! " " Turn around! Hard left! " Says Piete, as they moved away from the boat. AIS stopped working again. Structures and what seems to be a community on the water started appearing and disappearing again. And to their surprise, they haven't move a bit since 6pm until 6am of the next day.
24 July. It was raining almost the whole day. Bed weather as it is, Emalyn spent most of the afternoon sleeping. Almost same things happened during the early evening except that Emalyn saw a girl on deck waving, as if inviting her to join them in the water. They heard singing from the lighted boat. Piete saw a bearded man behind Emalyn. Four ancient boats were following them then disappeared. Piete saw a creature on board tried to smash it and asked Emalyn to get phone and take photo – when they checked it, the creature wasn't there. Thinking that Piete is tired, Emalyn encouraged him to sleep. Emalyn was on night watch. During the night, Emalyn saw a dark image of a man in front of her. She thought it was Piete checking her out. Piete had an eight hour sleep.
25 July. When Piete went to the cockpit, he asked. " Where is Emalyn? What did you do to her? " Piete sees Emalyn as another person. "Where are we going? " Referring to the AIS. "What's happening to you?! " Emalyn asked. Then Piete realized that it was her. "Look Piete, as if we did not move again. Can we check the radio? Let's try if it works. " Em asked Piete. "I did already, try it yourself. Speak Indonesian. Just try if anyone hear. " Piete replied. "Okay." Says Emalyn while reaching out for the radio. "Ini adalah Lara II ,siapapun mendengar saya. lebih. Ini adalah Lara II, siapapun mendengar saya. Lebih. " No reply. "We did not move right? " Em asked Piete. He did not reply. Instead he pointed out an island. "We can anchor here for the night, it is not far from Debut. Tomorrow we will be in Debut. " Around 6pm we were heading to the left side of the island to anchor. Piete dropped the anchor. Had a meal then Piete proceeded to the aft cabin to sleep while Em slept on her favorite comfy spot at the cockpit. She can see the lighted boat from afar. Around midnight the wind got stronger, howling. The boat is moving. "Piete! " shouted Emalyn. "The wave is pushing us. The banging is the anchor hitting the hull. Don't be scared. Go back to sleep. " Piete assured Emalyn. She easily fell back to sleep.
26 July. The boat was pushed into the shallows. Tilted sideways. EPIRB already turned on by Piete. It was then that the local fishermen saw us. Told them to alert police and ask help.
In the evening, local police, navy and medical team came to help.