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Bambola notes on Pirates

In The 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 Mayday.

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

Michael Briant

SY Bambola Quatre (36ft center cockpit Moody)

La Rochelle

If you want to read the story of the attack on Bambola as published in YACHTING MONTHLY then go to Attacked


is the link to the US agency reporting on piracy world wide

A useful link for cruisers to further pirate information is http://www.onpassage.com/Emergency_Medical/Pirate_attacks.htm

Treasure Island by RLS is about pirates it was the show I directed for the BBC little knowing......

Briton Murray Watson and Kenyan Patrick Amukhuma are missing since 01. April 2008. They were working on a U.N.-funded project in the Juba valley, were seized by gunmen near Bua'le and taken to Jilib, 280 km (175 miles) south of Mogadishu. According to media reports they are still being held and close sources maintain that the case is one of a so far Unsuccessful Resolution with no independent proof of live since a long time. The meanwhile penniless Kenyan-Somali spouse with 3 children of Mr. Watson appealed recently again for the release of the British researcher.

Political hostage:
French officer Denis Allex. Somali gunmen kidnapped two French security advisers working for the Somali TFG government from the Sahafi Hotel in Mogadishu on July 14 2009. Police said one escaped on Aug. 26 after killing three of his captors, but Marc Aubriere denied killing anyone and said he slipped away while his guards slept. A video released by Al Shabab was showing the second officer still being held  and political demands for his release were made by Al Shabab. On June 9, 2010 the video appeared on a website often used by Islamist militant groups, which said the hostage, named as Denis Allex, had issued a "message to the French people". The video showed the captive in an orange outfit with armed men standing behind him.


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