Pirates in the Indian Ocean
– The Sea Gangsters
There is currently a very interesting Radio 4 news broadcast
about pirates in the Indian Ocean. The
broadcast makes several references to Quest, the Blue Water Rally yacht that
was pirated during our last passage, and also to the Danish yacht captured
It reinforces our decision to remain here in Salalah and to
arrange shipment to the Mediterranean.
You can listen to the broadcast at http://www.facebook.com/l/746e6Xun14p1ULitPTu3S25sz_w/www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01095mf
Blue Magic in pirate waters
We have not posted a detailed blog describing our last
passage and the events leading up to it and some of you may be wondering what
it was really like to cross the Indian Ocean.
So to give you some insight we have written a diary of a typical day at sea,
but first some background………
Sri Lanka 22nd January 2011
To set the scene let us cast our minds back to Sri Lanka on the dockside the morning we were
departing for Cochin in India.
That was the time we were first alerted to the ballooning
pirate activity in the Indian Ocean when we
received an e-mail from a friend to tell us about an open letter that had been
issued by EU Naval Forces. The letter strongly advised yacht rallies and
individual yachts not to “sail in high risk areas in vessels that are
venerable to pirate attacks”. The letter also stated that EU naval forces
had “no assets to provide escorts or support to rallies”.
Our friend also provided us with a map of the Indian Ocean showing attempted and successful pirate
attacks since the 1st January 2011. The map was scattered with attacks right
along our proposed course line.
Cochin 24th January 2011
Our arrival in Cochin 2 ½ days later saw the start of more
than a week of research, discussions and group meetings with yacht crews and
Richard from rally control.
Eventually a new route with additional refuelling stops was
The change of route took us Northwards close to the Indian
coast and up to Mumbai for refuelling, then further North, to avoid the centre
of the pirate activity, before turning left to cross the Indian Ocean to the
coast of Oman.
We then planned to keep close to the coast heading South again to our safe port of Salalah
on the Southern tip of Oman.
Yachts of similar size and speed began to group together
informally ready for departure as we all looked to each other for mutual
support and safety.
Our group consisted of six yachts, Blue Magic, Jackamy, Sol
Maria, Miss Tippy and Island Kia with Saildance joining us in Mumbai.
We sailed in sight of each other, with Jackamy calling
course changes and we dropped anchor overnight at Tadri for some rest. We felt
quite safe while in Indian waters as the Indian Navy have been very proactive
with their stance on pirates, shooting them out of the water on several
Mumbai 11th February 2011
The 4 day trip went well as did our brief stopover at anchor
in Mumbai where we refuelled, re provisioned and spent a couple of
delightful days exploring the wonderful capital.
In preparation for the next and most dangerous leg of the
trip we convened a group meeting on Saildance to decide tactics and
We decided to sail no more than ¼ mile apart in a box
formation of 3 and 3 with a lead boat, Island Kia, setting direction and speed.
In case of any suspicious activity we would practise closing in to a boat
length apart and changing direction to head away.
If we could look well prepared and together we would provide
a harder target, right ?
Saildance took on the role of communications boat.
Mumbai 16th February 2011
Our departure was delayed a day due to a couple of problems,
Jackamy had a lot of water leaking into the bilge through the keel bolts, so
Paul had to take the boat apart to tighten them. Meanwhile Brian from Miss
Tippy had an infected insect bite on his leg which was spreading quickly and
required a doctor’s visit to the boat followed by a course of strong
Yachts finally departed at 1000 on the high tide on the
morning of 16th February for the 8 day passage across the Indian Ocean to Salalah.
Successful Pirate attack on Yacht 18th
On the evening Day 2 of our passage we were informed by a
telephone call from UKMTO that one of our yachts, Quest, had been pirated.
A Naval helicopter confirmed that Quest was towing a skiff
(a high speed motor launch) and 4 pirates had been seen boarding the yacht.
We were all shocked, and praying for our fellow sailors
aboard Quest, the threat was now very real and we were still out there.
All four crew on board Quest shot dead 22nd
Another phone call from UKMTO on the evening of Day 6 of our
passage confirms that all crew aboard Quest have been shot dead.
There were 19 pirates aboard the yacht when the shootings
We are all distraught, numb, still out at sea.
Diary of a day at sea in the Indian Ocean
05.00 On watch, check course, speed
and position relative to group, check radar, keep look out.
06.00 Group to close in and get into
tight formation as dawn and dusk are the high risk times
07.00 Sails in and lights off so
less visible, keep extra good look out.
08.00 Mark up, position, course and
Saildance daily call to UKMTO for any updates, relay to group
08.30 Target on Radar, alarm raised
by Miss Tippy, course change to head away from target
09.00 Target dispersed, back on
Daily roll call on SSB radio with all rally yachts (we
take, record and report roll call on Saturdays)
10.00 Receive e-mail position
reports and notes from all yachts and e-mail updates on attacks, plot and
10.30 Check engine hrs and fuel,
Sails out, Mark on watch so I can sleep, sleep, sleep
13.00 Lunch whilst keeping look out
Check course and speed and
14.00 Pick up e-mails again to check for
any updates, plot any new attacks
Large military plane flies low
overhead, circling us 3 times, report to UKMTO.
15.00 Sleep, Sleep. Sleep
16.00 E mail updates, plot latest
attacks, relay news about Quest from CNN report
17.00 SSB net when all yachts listen
in, any updates reported and yachts can talk to each other
18.00 Dusk so close into tight
formation again, sails in, keep good look out
Lights on, Mark to gather fuel details from each yacht to assess requirements
and look at possible refuelling stops.
20.00 Off watch – to bed
for some sleep
20.30 Called up to deck as Mark
needs to go forward and cover low level navigation lights as they are too
Back to bed
10.30 Saildance has visual on a
large vessel nearby, possibly a tanker/pirate mother ship but no lights on and
no AIS (automatic identification system)
Called up on deck, close into tight formation ready for possible course change
Contact UKMTO to report, they contact ship and confirm it is not a danger
to us – back to bed!
On Watch – new pirate attack
at our next waypoint, maybe waypoint picked up by pirates on board Quest,
Group ahead may be able to help with refuelling so discuss options
No IPod and No reading, PC or TV this trip as good look out needed with regular
radar checks. Many Commercial ships travel through this area without
lights and without AIS in order not to be detected by pirates, which makes it
very difficult for us to detect and avoid them !
02.00 Off watch sleep, sleep, sleep
05.00 On watch – another day
Note: UKMTO stands for UK Maritime Trade Operations and
acts as the primary point of contact between merchant vessels and military
They record, report, monitor and relay
incidents so that vessels can act on up to date information, they do not
protect or support.
Fly past by a military aircraft and yachts in close
formation when under threat
Safe 24th February 2011
Day 8 and our group arrive safely in Salalah, but there are
more yachts still to come.
The six yachts in our group follow each other into Salalah,
passing a military boat on it’s way out, the deck loaded with big guns !
Briefing and Decisions 26th
Today the rally briefing with Tony was very emotional and we
have already posted a blog about the decision process that day.
All safe 27th February 2011
‘Journey’ the final Blue Water Rally yacht
arrives safely in Salalah – and then we were 20.
Yachts moored in Salalah waiting for shipment