24 April 2011
Suakin Sudan to Port Ghalib Egypt
Yes another update from The Red Sea
Friday 1st April
Tuesday 19th April
Well enough for this letter so I will away as Alec wants to add to it.
Love to you all
From The Admiral and The Commander
Alec’s view of;
Piracy unfortunately is just another peril of the sea. Other perils are, running aground on a reef, collisions with whales and or ships and getting caught up in a hurricane.
Piracy has been well documented over the years in the Gulf of Aden. For example back in 2003 eight yachts were attacked off the Yemen coast. Four yachts had formed a convoy and the other four were solo. They were between 30-50 miles off the coast when the attacks occurred. In another report on 8 March 2005, two sailing yachts, Mahdi & Gandalf, were sailing SW 30 miles off the coast of Yemen proceeding to the port of Aden from Salalah, Oman. Here is an account of their report. At about 1600 we observed two boats approaching us head on from the SW. These boats were 25-30 feet long, had high freeboard and diesel powered. They were coming very fast directly at us. There were 4 men in each boat. The boats separated at about two hundred yards, one boat ahead of the other, coming down Mahdi’s port side firing an automatic weapon. These guys were shooting directly at the cockpits, and obviously intended to kill us. The first boat swung around behind Mahdi’s stern to come up and board us. At that point I, Rod Nowlin aboard Mahdi and armed with a 12 gage shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot, started shooting into their boat. I forced them to keep their heads down so that they could not shoot at us. After firing 3 shots at them their engine started to smoke and I swung around to shoot at the boat ahead. At that point, I saw Jay Barry on Gandalf ram that boat amidships almost cutting it in two and turning it almost completely over. I turned back around to shoot again at the boat behind Mahdi and that is when they turned away from Mahdi and were heading toward the stern of Gandalf. Gandalf was beside us, about 100 feet away. The bow of the pirates boat came right up against Gandalf’s stern and two men stood up on the bow to board Gandalf. That was a serious and probably fateful error on their part. I shot both of them. That boat then veered away and I shot the driver, although I am not sure of the outcome because they were farther away and I did not knock him down like the other two. Mahdi and Gandalf kept going at full speed to put as much distance between the pirates and us as possible. As soon as we were out of rifle range we looked back and both boats were drifting and appeared to be disabled. We were extremely lucky. Rodney J. Nowlin, USN Retired. Some people believe that the piracy attacks on private yachts may at least in part be carried out by human traffickers.
We have heard some interesting stories from yachties who formed convoys to transit the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. One convoy of nine yachts had a German yacht in the lead. Divided in to two sections one with four German yachts in the front, followed by five English speaking yachts. Slower boats go in front and the faster yachts follow. An American yacht ( owner in his eighties and very deaf ) had a French/Swiss crew member who when on watch would leave his station in the rear of the convoy and sail through the fleet, narrowly missing other yacht’s, the tiller between his legs doing exercises, and shouting on channel 16 that he was going to teach these Germans how to sail. He would make comments on the radio such as we must follow the Fuhrer. This was bad enough during the day but at night bloody dangerous missing yachts by a few metres. At night the convoy sailed with navigation lights off and in a tight formation. One yacht who had left the Blue Water Rally in Salalah who was not prepared to pay a shipping company to transport his yacht to the Med. for US 40,000 had his Blue Water Rally Insurance cancelled one day out . He was not very happy with this maniac in the convoy. As the convoy sailed pass Aden they had now been at sea for four nights everyone was on edge. The rest of the convoy had to explain to him that he was a danger to himself and to the rest of the convoy so please leave. The yacht left the convoy and sailed in to Aden.
Another convoy of thirteen yachts had a solo sailor who of course had to sleep sometime. His position was in the lead in the convoy and he would advise the other yachts he was going down below for a few hours’ sleep. He would leave his auto pilot on and his yacht would stay on track, well usually. The other yachts would refrain from talking on the radio to give this guy peace and quite so he could snatch a couple of hours sleep. On one occasion he over slept and his yacht drifted off course. The convoy had to break radio silence to wake him up.
We spoke to a couple of yachts who sailed directly to Salalah from the Maldives who had an interesting voyage. Four days out from Salalah one yacht lost their propeller, no problem when it was windy just sail on sailor. The two yachts were 70 miles away when the Danish yacht was taken by pirates. An American helicopter spotted them and shortly thereafter a American destroyer escorted them to the 12 mile limit off Salalah. Two days out one yacht had to tow the other into port when the wind died.
The American yacht Quest which was captured by Somali pirates joined the Blue Water Rally in the Maldives. After paying their fee they were told by one of the Director’s to join one of the Blue Water Rally convoy groups which were basically made up of yachts who were similar in size and speed. This group didn’t want Quest as they had already bonded and been together for some time. A slower convoy group offered Quest a position in their group but they declined. We were told as they had already been shunned by the first group they decided to sail across the Indian Ocean on their own. All very sad in the final outcome. Speculation amongst yachties is that the American Navy unfortunately messed up the negotiations with the pirates. Who shot who ?, I guess we will never know.
We applied to join the Blue Water Rally from Salalah to the Red Sea but were declined. See enclosed email.
Anyway there are more pirates on land than on the sea. The biggest pirate we have met so far was Mohammad the yachting agent in Salalah. The Vasco da Gama rally this year bypassed Salalah due to his excessive charges.