The Thailand to Turkey Convoy (TTT), led by Rene Tiemessen, rejected for escort by the combined navies, has safely transited the pirate zone around Somalia, which has now spread so wide that vast stretches of the Indian Ocean have been deemed too dangerous for cruising sailors.
When the convoy left Thailand in January this year, transiting yachts had found a largely-kept-secret route to navigate the former danger zone through the Gulf of Aden between Salalah and the Red Sea. However, during their voyage from Thailand, the scope of piracy activities increased dramatically, both in violence and in geographic reach, so that all the areas between latitudes 15 and 20 N and longitudes 060 and 064 E are now high risk areas.
By the time the TTT Rally and the Blue Water Rally, which had negotiated the zone several times before, reached the eastern edge of the north Indian Ocean, the waters were judged too dangerous to complete their planned routes. Most of the yachts in the Blue Water Rally chose to send their yachts by cargo ship to Europe and it is believed some yachts chose to return to Asia against the wind.
The TTT Convoy, after being repeatedly rejected for help from the various forces situated in the area to protect commercial shipping, decided to go it alone, and following the plan and the route which remained secret for their own safety, have successfully arrived into comparatively safe waters.
Rene Tiemessen, leader of the convoy, sailing with his wife Edith and two-year-old daughter Devi on their 60ft yacht Alondra, reports that accompanying him in the final stage of their voyage to the Red Sea are yachts Baringo, Lizza Forte, Skylark II, Puerto Seguro, Vagabond, Apsara, Oukiok, Lyra and Second Life.
Rene and Edith Tiemessen on their yacht Alondra - .. .
Rene told Sail-World this week:
'All yachts have been on a voyage to remember, from the Maldives over to India, or in a few cases directly over to Muscat in Oman. Mostly far north, in favorable but sometimes wet conditions in the end we all made it to Salalah, Alondra joining a group of five just at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz.
'In Salalah twelve yachts of the Blue Water Rally are waiting for transport. After what happened to Quest their insurance was revoked. Their choice for Dockwise Transport seems a problematic one. The shipping company that is to pick up the yachts (Beluga) went Bankrupt and maybe this is going to have further consequences.
'Anyway, our convoy went well. No major problems, apart from some fishing nets and engine hiccups, no encounters with any other but fishing boats and friendly people. Mukallah proved a useful stopover to sleep and rest although the internal turmoil in Yemen was felt dearly.
'A demonstration went on, streets were not very busy and we had a Police escort going for dinner in the evening. Nevertheless a nice stop.
Then on towards Aden. Here's an excerpt from the blog: En route to salalah, Oman we passed a stretch of coastline famous for pirate attacks. It was as calm as the sea of tranquility on the moon. 2,000 meters deep and smooth as a lake. The coastal landscape was and is positively lunar. Sharp rugged cliffs on a ragged tectonic plate give birth to a very calm and deep sea with no wind.
Like a dreamstate with mixed messages, the irony of the fearfulfulness and tranquility on such a stretch of harsh yet calm coastline was a surprise to us all. Right at the cliffs edge the sea bed drops 2,000 feet below; the coastline so rough there is no access to the sea, yet the ocean is calm enough and deep enough to anchor a supertanker. A place where the ocean life thrives deep below, the surface is flat as a lake in Minnesota. There are no fishing boats, no sea birds, no flying fishs. It is where a wild desert land meets a very calm sea and they co-exist like two lovers each the opposite of the other.
On record there were a few pirate attacks here. More recently the Omani gunships have kept them at bay. They have been chased out of the coastal zones but intensify farther off shore outside Coast Guarded control.....
'The last part to Aden was a quiet one. Yes, a lot of conversations on the VHF about Piracy and coalition forces but nothing disturbing.
However, Rene's impression of the joint navy operations that are patrolling the Gulf of Aden and nearby areas is less than complimentary. He says that cooperation between the navies is non-existent, and they force vessels to indicate their lat. and long. position repeatedly via VHF radio, thus opening them up to attack by pirates.
Although they are glad to be through the danger area, Rene says they are constantly thinking of their four fellow cruisers who were killed by pirates last month, and the Danish sailors now held hostage.
'Our thoughts are with the souls of the crew of four of Quest, and of course with our seven Danish fellow sailors from yacht ING held captive in Somalia...we feel with them and their three children and hope for a safe and fast release.'
Congratulations, TTT on a safe transit.
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