notes on Pirates
Gulf of Aden
We were attacked and robbed by 3 pirate boats in the Gulf of Aden on
Sunday March 2nd 2003.
Our position was 13*31N 48*24E
We were attacked by 3 old ships lifeboats the sides of which were raised
by blue plastic sheeting. The boats were crammed, with what appeared to be very
frightened Somalia people.
This description is similar to the description given by yachts attacked
in previous years - sometimes only 2 boats.
The ‘crews/pirates’ of these life boats appeared to be Arabs not
Africans. All the evidence is that
these 3 boats were in the business of ‘people smuggling’ from Somalia to
Yemen. Interestingly all the
attacks in the previous 5 years (except one on a Thursday) happened at a weekend
- Saturday or Sunday. The aborted
attack on the fleet of five boats following us happened one week later -
Saturday - The next aborted attack this year was the following weekend.
There was absolutely no evidence of the pirate boats having VHF and they
certainly did not have HF radios. We
were attacked at dawn and I am certain they were following our navigation lights
- both Josephine and Bambola were exhibiting masthead tri-colour lights.
Although the pirates fired rounds at both boats (hitting a shroud on
Josephine) they were not interested in harming us physically.
Certainly we were threatened with loaded guns but their interest was -
Cash (US $’s), Radio equipment - carefully removed, binoculars (they asked
where they were) and wrist watches. They
did attempt to remove the solar panels but they were too well bolted on.
They were not interested in other things - no demands for credit cards or
passports or cameras. They were in
a hurry to get in, grab the swag and get out.
The attack was opportunistic.
I am certain these boats were heading for the Yemen out of Somalia and
happened to see our navigation lights before dawn and stalked us. (I know many
yachts practiced radio silence or coded waypoints. I do not believe these ‘pirates’ have the ability,
direction finding equipment or indeed VHF radios to track radio transmissions.)
Traveling in a group will not deter them.
There were 6 yachts in the group that was attacked the following weekend.
The pirates gave chase. If they had not been able to outrun the pirates
and one boat had been boarded by armed men what would the crews of the other
yachts have done? When gunmen are
firing Kalashnikovs - AK47s and machine pistols towards you there is not much
point in resistance. The next attack was also on a group of yachts and the
pirates only gave up when an American aircraft buzzed them in response to a
The distance off shore Yemen is irrelevant - Do not go near the Somalia
coast - a merchant ship was robbed, with loss of life, around the same time near
to this coast.
It could be worth considering sailing without navigation lights whilst in
the danger zone.
It could be worth avoiding transiting the danger zone at weekends.
Personally I would not carry guns to defend myself with.
I would have to be a very good shot to avoid hitting the innocent
passengers in the pirate boats. I also wonder if the pirates would run or just
return fire that would outgun most yachts.
I think it worth asking coalition forces for escort.
There is normally a coalition warship in Oman. In the end the Americans
stationed a warship near the danger area and had aircraft regularly over flying
the yachts as they came through. This was a successful tactic although why they
were not prepared to ‘arrest’ the pirates on the high seas, outside any ones
territorial waters, is beyond me.
In 2002/3 Only 1% of the yachts heading for the Red Sea are actually boarded and
robbed in any one season - I just hated being that statistic.
Some sort of escort by coalition forces
through the 'safe zone/corridor' seems to be the only really
answer if you are determined to use this route.
Tuesday, 23 September 2003
SY Bambola Quatre (36ft center cockpit Moody)
you want to read the story of the attack on Bambola as published in YACHTING MONTHLY then go to
is the link
to the US agency reporting on piracy world wide
useful link for cruisers to further pirate information is
by RLS is about
pirates it was the show I
directed for the BBC little knowing......