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Selling Hashish in VIETNAM. Chapter 6 - Departure from Vietnam: July 1973

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The soldiers didn’t want us to leave. Hashish could not be the reason since we were sold out. There was no more hashish available. Jim and I were adding no value to the camp. But the girls were. That is why the soldiers were not happy to see us go. In the one week in camp everybody had come to know about us – the hashish and the females. Besides, Jim had a destination==Tangier (near Gibraltar), and probably a schedule to keep. Beyond Singapore he had to cross the straits of Malacca (Melaka), the Bay of Bengal, The Arabian Sea / Indian 0cean, the Red Sea, Suez Canal, and the entire Mediterranean lengthwise from East to West. 

Many of the soldiers would have had enjoyed the company of the females. Many more would have had a taste of hashish. But the hashish was finished and the females had objectives and schedules. Reading the Bible to horny American soldiers was not their final 0bjektive. Besides, after the Viet Cong attack the day before, the girls were shaken. I myself was definitely shaken. Jim may or may not have been shaken - he was a soldier – we were not. 

After the AXARA was fully repaired and the paint had dried, we were helped by the soldiers to dig a channel from the waterline to the AXARA to re-float the grounded AXARA. On a bright morning about 10 days since we were shipwrecked in Vietnam, we set sail. The weather was good. There were clouds but no indications of any storm. In any case, we had no choice. All of us wanted to get to Singapore and staying on in camp was not our cup of tea, especially after the Viet Cong attack three days ago, even though the soldiers would have liked us, especially Janet & Janice to stay. 

Our departure was quite an affair. A lot of US soldiers came to say good bye. Many locals were also there, especially the people who had helped us repair the AXARA. As we made off into the open sea and the coast was out of sight, we had to set course. Question was: should be sail due south along longitude 105 East of Greenwich and head directly for Singapore about 500 miles (800 km) away or sail south-west and head for the Malaysian coast of the state of Kelantan 250 miles south-west, diagonally across the Gulf of Thigh Land? There were two issues: Pirates and storms. 

Out of the shipping coming east through the Straits of Malacca (Melaka), 90% would head north-east across the South China Sea bound for Sarawak, Brunei, Sabah, Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan, while only shipping bound for Bangkok would go due north, making this region unattractive to pirates. So our chances of encountering pirates would be low but having lived thru the kind of storm we had just lived thru ten days ago, we thought heading south-west towards the Malaysian coast and sailing along the coast would keep us safe from the storm and the distance to the Kelantan coast of Malaysia was only 250 miles while sailing 500 miles due south along 105 East latitude would take us to Singapore. 

We were in a dilemma. We literally had a choice between THE DEViL (Pirates) AND THE DEEP SEA (storm). So sailing along the Malaysian coast would mean more chances of encountering pirates. In the event we decided to set course due south along longitude 105 East. The journey would be shorter and the chance of encountering pirates would be lower. 

We quickly fell into the routine we had followed earlier. Reading the Bible was our main pastime. Barring mishaps we could hit Singapore in five days. Winds were not strong and we made slow progress, but we were not complaining bkoz strong winds means greater chances of storm. Five days after sailing out from Ca Mau in Vietnam we had covered about 400 miles and were not more than a day away from Singapore. 

On the morning of the sixth day, we had finished breakfast and were playing with udders. As we were sailing due south along 105E between Malaysia’s Pulau Tioman island and Indonesia’s Anambas islands, Jim noticed a boat on the horizon. He quickly went up the mast with binoculars and yelled from above, “I think we are in trouble”. 

He quickly came down and handed me the binoculars. I saw the boat and passed on the binoculars to Janet and Janice. They both had a look. Jim said, “It looks like a powerful boat about double the length of the AXARA. It’s a cinch they are pirates”. 

What do we do now? 

Absolutely nothing, bkoz there is absolutely nothing we could do. We had discussed the possibility of encountering pirates before we left Bangkok and had a pre-decided course of action. Janet and Janice were to immediately go amidships down the hatch and get under the bunks. I was supposed to go with them and place various stuff on the lids while Jim held the wheel. 

What could we do? 

“Hey girls” I yelled at them. “Quick, get down the hatch and get under the bunks. What are you waiting for?” 

“It’s no use” Janice said. “If we could see them thru binox, and if they are pirates, do you think they wouldn’t have already seen us? I am sure they have better binox than we have. I don’t think it makes any sense for us to hide under the bunks. Let us just take it as it comes. 

Fair enuff. Surrender. If rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it. 

Obviously they had seen the AXARA. Whether they had seen the girls I was not sure. But it didn’t matter. The girls were not willing to go down and hide. In ten minutes they were almost alongside. 

All four of us were standing on deck like dumb0s, like a welcome party. What else could we do? 0ur cred0 for the moment was already decided: “If rape is inevitable, Lie down and enjoy it”. We were all dressed (or undressed) as befitting sailors at work on the equator in mid-summer. Temperature was 45 degrees Celcius, which in the US language is 113 US degrees which means Fahrenheit, a word which 97.36% of US citizens and 89.17% denizens do not know. Jim and I were wearing shorts and were bare bodied wearing sports shoes without socks. The girls were equally undressed: panties covering the crotch and bras holding the boobs and wearing similar shoes without socks. Nobody wears much clothes on sailing boats because there are too many protuberances on a sailing boat such as the AXARA in which loose clothing could get caught, with disastrous consequences. 

They had obviously observed us well. There were three men on deck. One was carrying a rifle. The other two were unarmed. All were wearing dirty jeans, dirty T-shirts and cheap canvas shoes without socks. All three appeared to be the same age as us, give or take a dozen years this side or that side. It is difficult to tell their age because beards just don’t grow on mongoloid types, i.e. they just don’t have facial hair. It is anthropologically so. For Caucasoid types like Jim and me, facial hair is natural. 

The boat didn’t look very spic and span. My eyes first went to the bow of their boat. Was it built for ramming? Didn’t look like it. Jim did the same and our eyes met and we exchanged knowing glances. We couldn’t see any swivel machine gun mounted on the deck either, and of the three on deck, only one appeared to be armed, though there could be handguns in the pockets of the other two. The rifle one guy was carrying also did not look very modern or powerful. I had seen & tried out the guns the GIs were using in Vietnam, which were much more sophisticated and effective than the guns the Viet Cong were using – which also I had tried out. 0ne gets to learn much about guns and armory when one is SELLiNG HASHiSH IN ViETNAM in 1973 to American soldiers in their camp with a war going on around you! 

Their boat didn’t look like the classic pirate boat. No rammer. No machinegun on deck. Stuff was lying on deck, and the deck looking unkempt. The clothes they were wearing didn’t look, at least to me, well… very “Pirate-ish”. Only one of them was carrying a gun. Another had binoculars hanging from his neck. How many more could be inside amidships we couldn’t say. Yet from all the knowledge I had learnt from street fights in college days, as well as from Jim was: “If at all you hope to win, your first hit should be the most powerful you can deliver. Which in naval and pirate terms means: All hands on deck – shoot first – 0verawe and 0verwhelm the Enemy – Throw grapplers – board the enemy – and then ask questions – if there are survivors! 

These guys hadn’t done any of this. So as compared to the stories we had heard of pirates, neither these guys nor the boat were fitting the pattern. Yet there was a man on deck who was carrying a gun. As the boat came within hailing distance, the man with the binoculars shouted something and the gunman raised his gun and pointed it at us. We put up our hands. The man with the binoculars threw a grappler and boarded the AXARA. He had a knife tucked in his belt. 

He pulled out his knife, touched it to Jim’s neck and yelled something in his language which none of us understood. He motioned to me and the girls to stand close, touching each other, while the gunman on the boat took aim at us. Then the knife man pushed Jim, motioning him to go amidships down the hatch. 

This was stoopid. The pirates were not acting as I expected them to. If I was in their place and had not started shooting, the first thing I would do would be to tie up everybody hand and foot. And then with a gun pointed at the tied up people, I would go down the hatch myself and look for booty. A tied up man is much safer than a hands free man with a knife touching his neck. Shit, these pirates seemed to be novices. My confidence level went up slightly. 

I was shitting in my pants yet my mind was racing. I was sure there were only three of them. “All hands on deck when attacking” has been the cred0 of pirates worldwide from Morgan the Pirate of the Caribbean Sea 350 years ago to Sandokan the Great of the South China Sea 120 years ago. And we were exactly in the place where Sandokan operated in his time. 

I sized them up. At five –foot – nine I was bigger than all the three who were all about five – foot – six. Jim and the girls were also the same size as them. If that guy on the boat did not have a gun, we could take them on in a hand – to – hand hassle. 

But with a gun pointing at me ten feet away, the idea of immediate heroics did not look very attractive. 

By now I was sure there were only three of them and only one gun. If the knife guy behind Jim had a gun, he would surely point the gun at him rather than use a knife. Also both the boats were bobbing in the sea as all boats must and do, and missing the shot was quite possible with the guy pointing the gun at us. Could I take a chance? 

What chance could I take? The guy with the gun was on another boat. If I made any move, he would shoot. I gave up the idea. There was nothing I could do at the moment. 

Meanwhile Jim went down amidships with the pirate holding the knife to his neck. I was sure Jim was also thinking on the same lines as I was. I was sure Jim could take on the knife pirate 0ne-to-0ne. After all, he was a trained soldier. The only thing stopping us was the pirate on the other boat with the gun. 

For what seemed like eternity Jim was down amidships with the pirate, though it couldn’t be more than a few minutes. Jim came up followed by the knife pirate. As he stepped on the deck, the knife pirate shouted something to his partners on their boat. The gunman kept steady aim at us while the third pirate went amidships of his boat and came up with some rope and came aboard the AXARA. He then proceeded to bind Jim hand and feet and left him lying on the deck of the AXARA. My turn would be next. What they would, could and might to with the girls I could not think. In any case the girls were not holy virgins, and if the pirates simply wanted to fuck and move on, I would not give it more importance than the time lost. 

By the time Jim was tied up the two boats were alongside each other for about 10 minutes. The propeller had been disengaged, the engine was running and the boat was still. The pirate boat was about double the size of the AXARA, but the sound of the engine was not commensurate with what I expected of an engine powering a boat of this size. This motley group was not behaving like professional pirates. 

My erstwhile employers M/s Kirloskar Oil Engines Limited of Pune, India, the largest diesel engine maker in India at that time in 1973, where I had worked for three years, used to make engines from 3bhp single cylinder engines under license from Petter of UK to 440bhp, eight cylinder heavy marine engines under license from M.A.N. of Germany on which I had been trained, and as I said before I knew a thing or two about marine diesel engines.

 

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