News Home Cruising Photo Gallery Video Gallery : Should I Carry a Gun? – We ask a Pirate Survivor

Should I Carry a Gun? – We ask a Pirate Survivor

'Carol and Jay'    Media Services
When traveling to far-off places in a small sailing boat, is it wise to carry a gun? Would Peter Blake be alive now if he hadn’t possessed a gun? Should the boats heading for the Red Sea now, in the migratory season, have a gun on board? Whoever you ask, you get a different answer, so we decided to ask some people who have been there – some piracy survivors, one year after an attack that could have cost their lives.

Jay is what you might call an archetypal American guy in the best most traditional sense of the description – clean-cut handsome looks, big boned, laconic in movement and word. Not prone to exaggerate, kind to a fault. His partner Carol seems an ideal match. Tall slim and good looking with a ready smile, Carol gave up her medical practice to accompany Jay on a world circumnavigation in their sleek 47ft steel beauty Gandalf. They both laugh easily, and seem eminently sensible enough to handle any crisis. This was tested sorely in March 2005, when they were attacked by pirates in what must be the most vicious attack in yachting memory. Characteristically, when asked - as piracy survivors - if they would talk about their current attitude to carrying a gun Jay grinned. 'Survivors?' he said, We're not just survivors - we won!'

With their buddy boat Mahdi they were transversing the pirate area of the Arabian Gulf on their way to Europe via the Red sea. They had been somewhat delayed by the attempt to assist some other boats who had technical problems, and were therefore doing the transverse in daylight. Both boats are fast and the crews very experienced ocean sailors.

The story is well known. Suddenly, they were approached at speed by two fast speedboats firing at the cockpit and dodger of the boat. Gandalf was unarmed, but Mahdi was armed and successfully fired at the pirates while Gandalf rammed them. With this quick retaliatory action, they survived the attack - later they found fourteen bullet holes in Gandalf, five of them through the dodger.. News of the attack soon flashed across the world, with all major news streams picking up the story including CNN and BBC World.

Gandalf -  Media Services  
Six months later Gandalf has been repaired – the bullet holes gone, the ramming damage on the bow disappeared, the dinghy patched, and the crew of Gandalf have switched their attention to happier subjects than piracy as they gamely continue their world voyage. Sail World caught up with Jay and Carol last week, and we asked them what they feel now about carrying a gun on board a sailing boat.

Here’s Jay’s reply:

Well, we’ve naturally given it a lot of thought. With this kind of attack, the obvious question you have to ask is: are they trying to rob you? - or kill you? Should cruisers carry a gun? Should we have been carrying a gun? What would have happened if Mahdi had not returned fire?

I would like to keep my discussion to “ At Sea” attacks - the true definition of piracy. The inshore or at anchor incidences are really more akin to robbery that can find you anywhere. In these attacks, when the bad guys get onboard, even if you are armed, you have already lost. There are always more of them than you. They are not asleep in bed. They have a plan and you are the target. Their guns are up and ready. How ready are you?

At sea the situation is very different. Assuming you are keeping a very good watch, on the water it will take a little time for all the players to manoeuvre. In this case you just might have time to prepare.

Would you consider shooting to kill?
If you do even consider carrying a weapon, the next question is: Are you willing to shoot to kill someone? Well, I now know that it is very easy to do just that when you are under a hail of bullets! Any pretense to the “Gentleman Pirate”, for those whose first weapon is intimidation, is gone. To fight, how ever abhorrent that might sound to you, is the only option you have left.

Which weapon, and how much skill in marksmanship?
So if you have decided that you are willing, the next two related issues are choice of weapon to carry aboard and skill in marksmanship. A pistol is useless at distance and from the deck of a yacht at sea. My choice now would be a twelve gauge shot gun loaded with “OO buck”. It is a very formidable weapon from the deck of a sailboat. Having chosen the weapon, one still has to acquire a sufficient degree of marksmanship to make it an effective device. However, of the hundred other skills you had to learn in order to sail beyond land, the reality is that this is one of the easier to pick up. There are no easy answers to this issue..

Where will you need the weapon?
After twenty five thousand miles of cruising through 53 countries, my estimate is that you might consider the need for a gun for three to four hundred sea miles in the world. This mostly refers to the most active pirate zones. These almost always seem to be found in the area of “failed or failing states”. Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. To be sure there are other places - recently attacks have happened on the rhumb line from Galapagos to the Marquesas. However, these seem to be isolated incidents and not a thriving industry. This leg and the Gulf of Aden are the two main areas of the world where you can expect trouble.

How do you sail these areas?
I think convoy sailing provides people with a false sense of security. My reason for this is that when we were attacked, our friend’s boat returned fire. The pirates simply abandoned that attack and motored over to us, the unarmed yacht! But they didn’t know whether we had a weapon or not. As reported in news stories of the attack, our friend bravely stood his ground and protected our backs while I rammed the other attacker. Both pirate boats were dead in the water as we made best speed to Aden. What would they have done to any passive group? With yachts brought together for sailing, not for armed battle, what would be the reactions of the group under pressure? Which of the group would stand and fight? Who would radio for help? (Help would not be there in time anyway). They would still be helpless as the pirates attacked one boat after another. With others under attack, who would just turn and run? The only practical convoy would be one with some sort of armed escort. I wonder why a private company has not stepped up. A big enough group of yachts should be able to pressure some government into organising some action. As independent as we yachties think we are, this would be when organisation and numbers could count.

Where can you go with guns?
Some countries and governments are antagonistic to every type of gun on foreign boats. Some are more tolerant of some types of weapon, like a shotgun – as this is considered more as a defensive, rather than an attack weapon. But make no mistake, wherever you sail, carrying a gun as far as formalities are concerned will be a huge inconvenience in terms of additional time and paperwork in order to declare it. This is a fact in even some of the countries where everyone carries a gun, including the children!

From my perspective, I grew up with guns. From the age of four, I “played” with guns - first BB guns, then bigger guns as I grew and demonstrated more responsibility. Later in life, I was a successful hunter and have won some minor prizes. So guns are something I am very aware of, and I hold much respect for what they are and what they can do. I think of a gun as a tool like so many other things in life. With proper training and respect, I feel guns are safe and useful. . I understand this is not an option that everyone is comfortable with.

So, after all these experiences and after all this time, what do I think now?

If I were to do the Gulf of Aden passage again, I would be carrying a shotgun.

Click Here to comment on this article

by Sail-World


Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

1:42 PM Mon 13 Feb 2006 GMT

Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.

Click for further information on
Piracy and the Cruising sailor

Related News Stories:

05 Nov 2013  Maritime Anti-piracy - The Captain's Guide Book
17 Jul 2013  Somali Piracy lowest since 2006, but stay away from West Africa
04 Jun 2013  Gulf of Guinea replaces Somalia as most dangerous place to sail
17 Apr 2013  Maritime Anti-Piracy: The Captain's Guidebook
02 Feb 2013  Message to yachties from MSCHOA - Maritime Security Centre Horn Africa
21 Jan 2013  Somali pirate attacks wane, hope for yachts, but not soon
18 Jan 2013  Piracy Report - not a single yacht attacked in 2012
07 Jan 2013  Now Dad's Navy takes charge of pirate prevention
29 Oct 2012  Pirated sailors away on their dream sail
08 Oct 2012  Indian Ocean 'High Risk Area': Sailing yachts urged to stay away

News - USA and the World

The first annual WetaFresh is a big success by Tim Wieringa, Muskegon, MI

Techno 293 Worlds - France and Italy claim titles by International Windsurfing Association,

420 World Championship - Singapore and Spain out front by 420 International Class Association,

2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup final qualification system published
Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac - Karma Sailing Group wins
Red Bull 49erFX: Easing into the Olympic scene at Rio
Kempe thrilled to invite himself to Gold Cup party
2014 420 World Championships - Singapore wins Day 2 race
Lightning strikes cut short CFJ Nationals
Etchells Invitational Cup - Girls on top in Cowes
National Sailing Hall of Fame reveals inductees
J/111 North American Championship - Wind Czar victorious
Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race sets off August 10th
PWA Fuerteventura Grand Slam - Antoine Albeau victorious on day 5
Snipe Western Hemisphere and Orient Championship headed for San Diego
WPA Championships - Kids race divisions offered
New Clever Pig launched by US Sailing
America's Cup: Group agrees to co-operate in London Meeting
Copa del Rey Mapfre - Build-up reveals some remarkable enthusiasm
Marblehead NOOD Regatta - Images by Leighton O'Connor
America's Cup: Two AC72 skippers discuss Foiling Moths and the Cup
RS Feva World Championship - Brilliant sailing on day 2
America's Cup: Alameda makes overtures on Venue hosting for San Fran *Feature
Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Race Week 2014 - Relishing a challenge   
Edgartown Race Weekend - BBBR and Round-the-Island Race winners named   
Etchells Invitational Cup - Aussies take early lead in Cowes   
PWA Fuerteventura Grand Slam - Antoine Albeau strikes back on day 4   
Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta - All set for test event   
ISAF World Sailing Rankings for 28 July 2014   
29er World Championship - All set in Kingston   
ORC World Championship - Third Course area opens for huge fleet   
Day one of the Allen RS Feva World Championships   
Anna Tunnicliffe: Final two days of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games   
Joachim Aschenbrenner takes gold at ISAF Youth Match Race Worlds 2014   
Maxi Soh scores double wins in CMRC Summer Doubleheader   
29er World Championship opening ceremonies in Confederation Park   
PWA Fuerteventura Grand Slam - Action resumes on day 3   
Vic-Maui Yacht Race - Polishing the silverware   
Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race Start 2014 VIDEO   
Laser Radial Men’s World Championship 2014- Final day   
2014 Pacific Cup - Scarlet Runner wins   
Gladwell's Line: America's Cup - Joint Statement is a curious note *Feature   
ISAF Youth Match Racing World Champ - Top four battle it out for final   

For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News  

Switch Default Region to:

Social Media





New Zealand

United Kingdom

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World






Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text


Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery


Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery





Privacy Policy



Cookie Policy



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT