The date was Oct. 23, 2009 and so far, the sailing route from the Seychelles to Tanzania had been fairly clear of pirate activity. It was certainly considered a safer route east than taking the Suez Canal through the Gulf Of Aden, a.k.a Pirate Alley. But, for a British couple traveling the world on a modest 38-foot sailboat, the route picked was a disastrous decision.
The New York Times magazine this week tells the story of their year held captive in Somalia. They tell us:
By the time she heard the high-pitched whine of outboard motors at full throttle, she had only seconds to react. Two skiffs suddenly materialized out of the murk, and when she swung the flashlight’s beam onto the water, two gunshots rang out.
“No guns! No guns!” she screamed.
The crack of assault rifles jarred Paul awake. He had been sleeping naked — as he often does on tropical nights — and hesitated before jumping out of the cabin. “The first thing I thought,” said Paul, who is 61, “was pirates.”
Within seconds, eight scruffy Somali men hoisted themselves aboard, their assault rifles and rocket-propelled-grenade launchers clanging against the hull. Paul activated an emergency beacon, which immediately started emitting an S.O.S., and then went up on deck. The men stank of the sea and nervous musk, and they jabbed their guns at the Chandlers.
“Stop engine!” they shouted. “Crew, crew! How many crew number?”
One pirate was particularly concerned about anything flashing, and Paul’s heart sank when the pirate stomped below deck and discovered the emergency beacon, blinking like a strobe, and promptly switched it off. The pirates ordered the Chandlers not to touch anything else, and then they demanded a shower.
This was Oct. 23, 2009. The Chandlers would be held for the next 388 days.
Click HERE to read the full story.