Selling Hashish in VIETNAM. Chapter 2 - The calm before the storm

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The first three days out of Bangkok were a breeze. The winds were good. The sea was not too rough. The Gulf of Siam (now Gulf of Thigh Land) is a fairly shielded waterway. Till up to @ eight degrees north of the equator (exactly the same latitude as Kanya Kumari in India which is eight degrees north of equator) this waterway is fairly shielded from the great Oceans. On the east it is shielded by the Indo-Chinese peninsula up to eight degrees north, and on the west it is shielded by the Malay peninsula up to Singapore, which is @ two degrees north of the equator. 

All four of us had watch schedules on the AXARA. Someone had to be on the wheel all the time. Whoever was on night watch could get lonely (and sleepy). So each watch was by pairs to ensure that no one (being alone) would fall asleep. The udder two would be sleeping (or trying to), on the open deck, or amidships, down the hatch, if it was raining, which it did quite often. It was decided before we left Bangkok that after dark we would have two-hour shifts in pairs, so that the two udders could get some sleep. The pairing was always 0ne male + 0ne female for obvious reasons. Two hour night shifts were the norm on all sailing ships since the time of Columbus 500 years ago. Two hours was Long enuff for udders to get some sleep yet not too long a lonely watch for the helmsman to fall asleep on the wheel. 

[Note: I have made “Udders” synonymous (same usage / meaning) with “0thers”. They mean totally different things. 0thers means ‘other people’, while Udders means BooBs==human female breast. We also drink Cows milk. Cow’s breast from whom we get milk is called Udder. LuuK in dixionarreee==dictionary. Attribute meaning to interchange of Udders / 0thers by context]. 

And the udders really did need sleep. When there are two stud males and two Venus females all in their mid twenties, strangers confined for days in a space smaller than a bathroom when amidships, or the same amount of open roofless space when on the deck, with nothing to do except keep watch, how do you pass your time? You use udders to amuse yourself, if you know what I mean. Of course, we had the option of reading the Bible, but there was a severe shortage of Bibles on board the AXARA (the Hippie generation traveled light – and the Bible is HEAVY). So the Bible reading option was not available. So when udders were not asleep, udders played ding dong. It was the most sensible and automatic thing to do. We lived, existed, survived, and moved 0n. 

We were in the tropics. Temperatures hovered close to around 40 centigrade / Celcius, that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It was always hot. Out of the four of us, three were anthropologically white Anglo-Saxon== natives of cold climates. They just could not wear clothes at 40 degrees Celsius. It was too hot for them. I was the only tropical guy who grew up in the tropics and was used to wearing clothes at 40 degrees Celsius temperature. But with the other three NOT wearing anything, I felt a bit out of place wearing clothes. Besides Janice and Janet just wouldn’t have it. They said putting on clothes and taking them off every time you play with udders is a waste of time. I agreed with them. Besides, not wearing clothes on a boat such as this had its technical and safety advantages. On boats such as the AXARA, there are innumerable pegs and other protrudes in which clothing could get caught, which could lead to nasty outcomes. So being in the buff made sense. And in the buff I stayed. So did the udders. 

This was purely a sailing boat. There was no engine – inboard or outboard. An outboard would not be effective on an ocean going AXARA type and size of boat. An inboard was possible on the AXARA, but the Arab guy who got it built in Borneo did not say anything about an engine nor paid for it. So there was no engine. Pirates (sea bandit robbers) were an issue. A bloody life-and-death issue! Any kind of speed to outrun motorboat pirates was impossible for the pure wind powered AXARA. These powerful pirate motor speed boats could do 44 knots, while in the best of winds, the purely wind powered AXARA could never do more than 14 knots in a direct 180 degree tailwind, with mainsail, jib-sail, and blooper-sail flying. 

A knot, in shipping terms, is a speed of 0ne NAUTiCAL mile per 0ne hour. 0ne nautical mile is 0ne degree longitude measured along the Equator, which somehow, (dunno how!) varies between 6076 feet in some cunt rees to 6083 feet in some udder cunt rees. In the US it is taken as 6080.2 feet for whatever reason. This is @ 1.85200 km. However, a mile as people measure on land and the distance at which MiLESTONEs are fixed (on backward American roads — not on Indian roads which use kilometers), are STATUTE miles. A statute mile is 5280 feet, which is 1.609344 km. Why there are TWO kinds of miles, of different lengths in British measuring systems I dunno. 

The foot is the standard unit of length on which all British length unit derivatives like inch, yard, mile, furlong, etc. are based. Foot is the length of the foot of a British King from heel to thumb (=big toe). Some say the king whose foot was measured and adopted as standard F00T was King Richard the Lion-heart [who was king of England in the time of Robin Hood in AD 1190, and who led the crusades against the hated Muslims of the middle-east in the area around Jerusalem where El-Krist0 was born and lived]. Others say it was the foot of Henry I==Henry the First. 

However, a foot is a foot which so ever British King’s it is! I have a foot-ruler which is 0ne foot long, and its length has not changed in the 64 years since I have been using it. So a foot is pretty well defined even though miles are different. 

Legend has it that King Richard the Lion-heart was away in Jerusalem for the THiRD CRUSADE to kill muslims between AD 1189 to 1192. During his absence he would nominate his younger brother John to rule as regent. But John was a very corrupt man. During John’s time there was an argument about the quantity of land, between a woman who was selling her land and a man who was buying it. The price of the land was agreed at 20-Shillings per Heel-Toe. The way of measuring was by walking along the boundary of the land, ‘Heel-to-Toe’, and counting the number of Heel-Toes. 

The problem was that when the woman measured the land it was 108 Heel-Toes, but when the man measured the land it was only 88 Heel-Toes, since his feet were much larger. When this argument reached King John (he was ruling Britain since Richard was away in Jerusalem killing muslims), he asked for bribe from the woman and man. Whoever paid more bribe would get the judgement in her/his favor. 

While this case was still not yet decided, King Richard came back from Jerusalem after killing muslims and started ruling again. The case came to him, and he found that the argument arose bkoz of different size of feet of the woman and man. So he said, “MY-FOOT”. And from then on (AD1191), 820 years ago, the Length of King Richard’s foot has been the standard unit of length in the British F.P.S. system of measurement. 

Sailing and navigational aids in 1973 were much different from what they are today. Those were the days (1973) when there was no GPS or GPRS. No satellite navigation. No mobile phones. No internet. Nothing. All we had was a compass, exactly what Columbus had almost 500 years ago. Jim Taylor had done his homework. We had a compass and we had a sextant. But we had no charts of the Gulf of Siam. To overcome this I had to climb up the mast many times a day. To look out for landfalls, reefs, lagoons and other obstacles (we had a binocular). Now I understood why Jim made me climb up the mast the first day I met him aboard AXARA in the Bangkok Sailing Club. 

We were in the Gulf of Siam, which today is maybe known as Gulf of Thigh Land (Thailand?). Everybody knows there is always a gulf between the Thighs and that is where you enter to Bang Cock! We were a bit short of about halfway to Singapore. So far there had been no Pirate attack on us. Pirates are endemic even today in the Straits of Malacca. They should be. It is the busiest natural waterway in the world. 34% of world shipping passes the Straits of Malacca. 

The Pirates used PT104 type Torpedo boats. The kind of boat that JFK, who was President of Amerika (USA) very long ago commanded in the 2nd World War. The Pirates have machine guns mounted on the deck. They come at your boat at very fast speed with rapid machine-gun fire, terror shooting, basically to 0ver-awe the victims. They throw grapplers and board your vessel. They take whatever they can or want. Shoot everybody on the boat. Get back to their own boat, go back some distance away, speed it up to 40+ knots and ram the victim boat amidships. They had metallic bow frontals, very sharp. Specifically purpose built for ramming. The victim boat would break into two pieces and sink without a trace. No evidence left. People disappear without a trace. This is still happening today in 2011. 

In the four days since we had left Bangkok, we had not encountered any pirates. We had been lucky so far. Our time on the boat was mostly doing two activities: playing with udders, and fishing. Catching fish was important. It was our only source of fresh food. Apart from eating, sailing & sleeping, fukking (udders) is what we were mostly doing, in broad daylight, on the deck for the hole world to see. But no one was watching. Digital cameras did not exist then. If digitals had existed, I could have vide0ed them and made a fortune on You Tube ! 

The first three days had been guud. Janet, Janice and me literally LEARNED THE ROPEs. Before we hit the storm, we had at least learnt the basics of sailing this boat, which was lucky. If we had hit the storm on the first day out of Bangkok, we would have surely sunk. 

The AXARA would be somewhere west of Poulo Panjang island now known as Tho Chu island around the same latitude==Nine degrees north, in the Gulf of Thigh Land when we hit the storm on the fourth night out from Bangkok. The border between North and South Vietnam was the 17th parallel. Just like TODAY the border between North KOREA and South KOREA is the 38th parallel. We were off the west coast of South Vietnam somewhere near the ninth parallel. That is when I first saw the storm coming. 


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