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Zhik Isotak Ocean

So you still want to sail through the Gulf of Aden?

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 17 Jul 2011
Traveler near pirate infested Somalia - cigarettes for fishermen SY Traveler
So you have an ambition to circumnavigate the world, and, in spite of all the warnings you still want to sail your cruising boat through the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea?

Despite the horrors and the incidents in the last year - nine cruising sailors still in captivity and four shot dead, scores of sailors did take yachts into the dangerous waters off the Horn of Africa this year.


There was only one reported successfully repelled attack, on the 72ft Capricorn.

It was high morning in the middle of the Arabian sea, more than 600 miles from land, when the pirates struck the Capricorn.

The Somali marauders opened fire on the yacht, then clambered aboard as the Dutch captain and engineer took refuge in the engine room.

Meanwhile, a team of armed Ukrainian guards on a 42m former naval vessel hired as an escort returned fire, then came alongside the Capricorn. A guard jumped aboard and raised his weapon, and the pirates fled aboard their skiff.

The boats suffered only minor damage and the crew were uninjured.

'They were, of course, in a bit of shock,' said Thomas Jakobsson, chief of operations for Naval Guards, the Cardiff-based company that supplied the escort ship.

'If you're not used to having people shoot at you - and I guess even if you are - it's always an unpleasant experience.'

The Capricorn was one of at least 133 yachts that are known to have sailed the region this year, according to the Maritime Security Centre - Horn of Africa, a European Union agency.

While most pirates aim at commercial vessels, apart from the Capricorn at least three other yachts have been struck this year and none of them so far has a happy ending.

In February, four Americans were killed after pirates hijacked their yacht, the Quest, off Oman. That same month pirates seized seven Danes, including three teenagers, from their yacht ING. Earlier, a South African couple were kidnapped from a yacht they were helping deliver, although the skipper refused to leave his yacht and was finally rescued by a passing Russian ship.

It is generally acknowledged that, in spite of 23 nations keeping a military presence in the area, they have great difficulty in preventing piracy of cargo ships, and almost no hope, even if they tried, of getting to a yacht in time to prevent a successful attack.

'My advice is pretty consistent: Don't come if you don't have to,' said Capt Michael Lodge of the US Maritime Liaison Office in Bahrain, which advises ships travelling in the region.

'If you decide to come anyway you need to carefully consider the risks associated with the trip. Plan accordingly, be aware of the dangers.'

Mr Jakobsson, a former special forces soldier from Sweden, was more blunt.

'Go bicycle camping in Afghanistan,' he said. 'I'm sure it's the same experience.'
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