It appeared out of the fog off the starboard side of the Zodiac, hazy and silent at first. I immediately steered toward it, though anxious that it might be another military ship. I debated whether to kill the engine and wait until I could determine the type, but I was moving fairly quickly, so my presence would be obvious to anyone watching their radar.
I opened it up and sped toward it, the six meter Zodiac popping over the swells and slamming hard over the other side. I braced myself against the port side trying to keep the sidelong waves from upending the boat as the sea water spit into my face, but the excitement of being rescued overruled any of the pain and frustration. Moments later the ship’s bow finally broke out of the haze, a mammoth black, sloping prow that dwarfed my little inflatable, and seemingly, even the sea itself. Beige towers rose high above the deck, capped with a staggering array of twirling radar and radio antennas. Thick columns of water streamed into the ocean from holes in the mid-ship, presumably wash from the desk. Written alongside its bow was the ship’s name in Japanese and English: 丸新日 Nisshin Maru, and in the middle of the starboard hull in giant white capital letters was the word “RESEARCH”. A Japanese whaling ship. The thing was massive. I caught myself gawking at the monster and realized just how fast it was traveling—I was on a collision course. I turned hard to avoid being crushed under the prow, and came up up along side of it, matching its rapid clip, which had to be at least 15 knots.
Alarms went off all over the boat. Blaring, deep throated horns pulsing in half-second intervals. I winced at the deafening sound which was suddenly accompanied by a pre-recorded message in English:
Warning, warning! This is the Nisshin Maru Captain. Stop your aggressive action immediately. If you dare board this vessel, you will be taken into custody and restrained as illegal intruders.
Men in blue helmets were scrambling on the deck. One of them grabbed what looked like a small gun bolted to the deck and swung it around. A blast of water erupted from the barrel and suddenly I was drenched in a column of powerful water which nearly threw me from the Zodiac. I braced myself against the stream and steered out of its range. What the hell was going on? I waved my one free arm and screamed at them to stop. Seawater spit and showered me from every angle. Warning, warning! This is the Nisshin Maru Captain. Stop your aggressive action immediately. If you dare board this vessel, you will be taken into custody and restrained as illegal intruders.
“HELP!” I screamed at them. “I’m not an intruder!” But my voice was lost in the noise.
Suddenly one of the helmeted men appeared on a high tower with a circular black dish in hand. Holy shit. They had an LRAD. I clenched my jaw and was immediately engulfed in a screaming, high pitched blast of noise that penetrated and shook my muscles. My eardrums exploded in pain and I had to let go of the throttle to cover my ears. Warning, warning! This is the Nisshin Maru Captain. Stop your aggressive action immediately. If you dare board this vessel, you will be taken into custody and restrained as illegal intruders.
My vision fluttered and I fell over in the boat, convulsing from the deafening power of the acoustic weapon. The Zodiac slowed to a drift and the behemoth growled by, the warning message constantly repeating, the shrill of the LRAD hammering my ears. I choked on the seawater that had accumulated in the boat, the stench of rubber filling my nose and stinging my tongue, and the muscles in my arms and legs twitched as I curled up and buried my head in the boat.
I laid there, shaking until the LRAD was effectively out of range. They kept it on anyway, and it was still horribly annoying, like a ten-thousand ton alarm clock. I got to my knees, my muscles sore from the onslaught. Christ, that thing was effective. I waved my arms in desperation, praying that they’d have a change of heart. What the hell was the international hand signal for S.O.S.? I had no idea. But they weren’t stopping. A few men were gathered on the stern, just watching me flail around. I screamed and screamed, but it was utterly pointless. They couldn’t hear, and apparently they didn’t care. I glowered at the men as the Nisshin Maru disappeared into the fog, the whale’s slipway like a giant white tongue rolled out into the water, chuckling at my misfortune.
I fingered the throttle, unsure if I should chase them, but they had made their point, and death on the high seas seemed like a reasonable alternative to facing the water cannons and the shrieking LRAD a second time. The Zodiac pitched and rolled in what was left of the ship’s wake, and it wasn’t long before even that dissipated and the desperate, horrifying realization that I was alone again settled in.
I sat down in the fucking boat and punched the hull. I stayed there, shaking my head, staring at the sun as it edged toward the horizon. Night was coming. The puddle of fresh water I’d saved in the outboard’s cover was lost in the confrontation, the plastic shell floating around inside the boat. I glanced at the Zodiac’s fuel gauge and found little more than 1/8th of a tank remaining. I had no choice but to drift until if and when I spotted another ship.
I grabbed the outboard cover and starting bailing water.