Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pirates, Storms and Sharks

When meeting new people and sharing our lifestyle of sailing we often get questions about Pirates, Storms and Sharks. All sensational topics that get lots of media attention. Truth be told Pirate attacks are still very uncommon and our sailing lifestyle remains one of the safest of all recreational sports. Granted there are piracy hotspots in the world which seem to become more dangerous all the time. Areas such as Somalia are scary and to be given a wide berth. By avoiding these areas we can avoid the associated risk.

Isolated piracy events do pop up in unexpected places from time to time, but these are more similar to a home burglary or car jacking than out and out organized piracy. 'Pirate Attacks' certainly make good attention grabbing news headlines, but attention they garner is largely disproportionate to the 'real' risk. Everyone whom uses an automobile on a daily basis has chosen a more risky lifestyle than those of us whom float around on the ocean in the absence of road rage!

This being said I was sitting in the hot tub after a game of volleyball yesterday and heard a chilling first hand account from a Chilean sailor whom had been legitimately attacked by pirates just three days earlier. Sailing off the coast of Nicaragua on a Beneteau first 47.7 with four persons aboard the boat was approached around 7AM by a high speed launch. The occupants of the launch had on some military style clothing and banished shotguns and pistols. The launch signaled for the boat to stop (this could have been just a routine inspection by local authorities as often the uniforms are incomplete or non-existent). Then the pirates started pointing guns and boarded the yacht. They tied up most of the crew and then proceed to take everything they wished including money, cameras, vhf radios, outboard engine, etc. The crew of the sailboat was wise to cooperate and thus no violence ensued. About $10,000 in cash and goods was lost, but everyone was unharmed and the boat reached port safely. I've encouraging the sailor to report the incident to international authorities so that other boaters can avoid the area in the future. Look for the report on soon.

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