If the Somali pirates weren't considered dangerous enough before, the game has really hotted up in the past month, enough to cause many yachts now caught in Salalah to ship their vessels to Europe.
Following the murder of four American cruising sailors last month, latest developments include nine pirate attacks in the Red Sea itself, and one attack taking place within 30 miles of the normally safe Salalah area of Oman.
Pirates who captured a Danish family of cruising sailors from Kalundborg 75km west of Copenhagen more than a week ago have now reached the shores of Somalia, making a quick rescue almost impossible.
It had been thought that a rescue could be attempted while the yacht was still at sea, but pirates have warned successfully that rescue attempts will cause all hostages to be shot.
In the meantime, over 20 yachts in the Blue Water Rally, caught in Salalah in Oman, now consider it too dangerous to sail beyond the normally safe port, and have decided to ship their yachts to Europe, probably to Turkey.
One cruising sailor told Sail-World Cruising that it had been a gruelling trip, having to sail an extra 600 miles along a secret route to get to the stopover point, was simply 'not worth it,' and was like a 'very bad dream'. In addition, the killing of four of the group, who had departed the Rally and was well-known to them all, had 'sent a very strong message.'
As for the Danish family kidnapped by pirates who have now reached the shore of Somalia, officials and pirates think it will be a 'very long hostage ordeal' for the couple, their three teenage children and two other crew members.
The sailboat being piloted by Jan Quist Johansen, his wife and their three children, ages 12 to 16, anchored near the coastal village of Hafun late Tuesday, Yusuf Abdullahi Sanyare, the commissioner of Hafun, which lies on Somalia's northern tip, told reporters.
The chairman of the Kalundborg yacht club where the Johansens used to sail, Ole Meridin Petersen, said the kidnapped family were experienced sailors who were planning to enter the Mediterranean through the Suez canal from the Red Sea.
'They expected to be home in August,' said Mr Meridin Petersen.
Abdiaziz Mohamud Yusuf, the spokesman for a community group called the Puntland Peacemakers, confirmed to The Associated Press that the family has been taken on land.
However, a Somali pirate who gave his name as Muse Abdi said the family was transferred to another, larger pirated ship.
'They are safe. They were just transferred from the boat to the big ship,' said Abdi, who has provided reliable information in the past. 'They have been added to other nationals in another ship to avoid any possible attack.'
Yusuf, who said he has been contacted by a Danish official in Nairobi, said pirates moved the hostages from the sailboat because of a rumor that a warship was heading to the scene. Yusuf's group has been involved in anti-piracy campaigns.
'We are ready to play our role in the safe release of the innocent family,' he said. 'We strongly condemn the hijacking of ships and innocent people off Somali waters.'
Let's hope they can be more quickly successful than the efforts to have released the British cruising sailors Rachel and Paul Chandler, who were in captivity for more than a year.
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