“Calling coalition warships, vessel hijacked. Pirates on board, 19 crew in locked room. We are relaying from handheld VHF crew has with them. We see a fire on poop deck, skiff still attached on starboard side, four armed pirates on board. The ship is not moving, the vessel is hijacked. Our coordinates are..”
As we left India the second week of March, we left knowing Somalia had had it’s first successful hijacking in five years. Three weeks later after an eventful crossing and remarkable time in Socotra, we found ourselves sailing west along the Socotri north shore having learned of yet another two recent hijackings within 24 hours a 100nm away.
The plan, west then north-west to the IRTC or “Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor”. Piracy was a fear though not this soon..I expected it would someday rise, though not while we were out there.
When small vessels were spotted I dawned a ball cap, shades, a baklava and a toy MP-5, a premature caution but..safety is paramount and if it could work as a deterrent, OK. Of course, within reason.
“Help, help..any warships, count 8 rapidly approaching skiff’s. They stopped, they are moving again”. This communication we picked up by our VHF radio continued for a half hour until another voice came in reporting the boarding this story began with. Great.
The coordinates of the alleged attack underway was 40nm along our heading and the boarding was 30nm to stern, where we had been that same morning.
While the chatter of the impending attack soon stopped with no confirmation of further approach, I could only hope it was a false alarm. The chatter from the boarding behind continued for several hours.
In the night we heard a helicopter pass, in the morning we saw a Chinese warship. It was not until a week later I discovered that the pirates having not been able to grab hostages abandoned the ship when the helicopter flew over, by the time the Chinese warship arrived they found the crew still safely locked away.
What we opted to do..use the IRTC as a buffer and head 20nm north parallel to the corridor. In other words, just out of eyesight of small vessels operating in the corridor itself. We felt it was safer to sail closer to the civil war in mainland Yemen, than the possible abyss of Somali shores.
On the daily I emailed the UKMTO an update of position & status and the sail into Djibouti was by our account, great sailing. Wind to the stern with sails wing on wing, the main on the dominant side with the genoa propped out on the spinnaker boom to the other.
We caught a few durado’s, also known as dolphin fish or mahi mahi, the bonito tuna we let go, on the last day while entering Djibouti we caught a barracuda we soon gave to the Cote de Garde boat that guided us in.