HEY! HEY! HEY!
Our tourist guide puts his hands on the sides of his head and slides his fingers through his hair. He is speechless. In horror he watches as our boat strikes two fishing vessels full of shell fish and squid.
I barely had time to understand what was going on in the middle of all that screaming. Because of my journalistic instinct, my first reaction was to grab my iPhone and start taking pictures.
I was coming back from visiting Koh Rong island off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, with the "Happy Boat" tour group. It was around 4pm and I was tired from a long day of snorkeling and swimming, just like the other 10 or so other people on the boat. It was that time of day where everyone is so tired they can't even speak.
I remember noticing the captain wasn't at the wheel. It was one of the younger kids that worked on the boat. I looked at the scene and thought to myself "that would be a nice picture. Nah, no camera today, I'm on vacation." So I let it slide. Looking back, I wish I had taken the photo.
We had just left the island ten minutes earlier. I was looking starboard at the island when I hear voices screaming. We were heading straight towards two fishing boats that where anchored and tied together so they wouldn't drift away from their fishing spot.
When the alert came we were less than 20 meters away from them. The captain reverses the engine but there was no time for anything.
I hear the crack. There was no bang. It reminded me of the sound of a tree cracking in half from tornado winds in the midwestern USA.
Panic set in.
The fishing boat starts to take water. We throw them a rope and one guy starts tying it to their boat while the others start transferring stuff quickly to the other ship. I notice there is a fisherman in the water on the opposite side, he must have jumped on impact.
The fishing boat disappears underwater in seconds. I froze. I just stood there looking without knowing what to do trying to understand what just happened.
All that was left were bubbles coming from the boat now lying on the sand beneath us. Little by little pieces of cloth and plastic items come floating back to the surface and are taken by the currents. Soon there was stuff floating everywhere. Then came the oil stains.
One fisherman grabs his radio. "Mayday! Maday!" is all I'm able to understand. They call the help of other fishing boats in the area. I'm sure they alert the Coast Guard too.
The first boat is gone. The panic gives place to a different type of tension. They yell at us. I can only assume these were insults, well deserved I may add. It was our captain's fault no shadow of a doubt. The captain comes up to the front of the boat and talks to them. Within the situation, everything was ok.
I was very surprised at how everything was handled. There was tension, of course, but everything was taken care of in an orderly fashion. No fights, no arguments, just talking.
While all this is going on, we just look. Can't understand a word of Khmer. No one translates anything. We have no idea of what will happen or how long we would stay.
I ask one of the Cambodian tourists to translate what is happening. She says that they tried to negotiate to leave and take us back, but the fishermen didn't want to. Of course they needed the boat to stay to ensure some kind of compensation.
Finally we get the news, through the tourist, that a speed boat would pick us up.
We can only imagine what was going through their mind in that moment. I overheard that insurance only paid 70% of all costs and that the crew would have to pay the rest. I really hope this is not true.
The boy that was behind the wheel when the accident happened sat quietly. He didn't say a word. He just stared blank at the floor with water in his eyes.
After over an hour a speed boat arrives. A woman quickly hops on the Happy Boat and goes check the damage done to her boat. I think she's the owner.
We transfer to the speed boat, crew stays on board waiting for the coast guard.
Not because of the accident itself, but how the second team treated us passengers, I advise agains using this company's services. They already have a terrible score on Trip Advisor and it should be worse.
... and that's the story of my first - and hopefully last - shipwreck.