Pirates thwart plans
01 May 2011 | Maldives
Early January I received an email from a sailing friend Matt, the skipper of Island Time. He asked if I was interested in sailing with him from the Maldives to the Med via the Red Sea in March and April. I jumped at the idea as Di was teaching during that period and I was at a loose end. Also it would be good experience before we undertake the same passage next year.
However in the week before I flew to the Maldives to join Island Time, Somali pirates captured the American yacht Quest and the four American crew. A few days after their capture the crew were all killed by the pirates. We had met them in Vanuatu in 2009, so this was a real shock to us. Quest was captured in an area that up till then had been considered a low risk area for pirates. Clearly the pirates now had the capability of travelling thousands of miles from the Somali coast and were now after yachts as well as merchant ships. In the weeks that followed the Quest incident, the Danish yacht ING was also captured and the crew of seven taken to Somalia.
These two incidents and other reports from yachts making the passage to the Med via the Red Sea indicated that the risk of being attacked by pirates had dramatically increased.
When I joined Island Time in the Maldives, Matt was still keen to make the passage to the Med. But as we learnt more about the pirate situation and also political uprisings in Egypt and other Middle East countries around the Red Sea, he reluctantly had to concede that it was now too dangerous to attempt the passage.
The decision was made to sail from the Maldives back to Sri Lanka. Spend some time there, then sail back to either Thailand or Malaysia. Our stay in the Maldives came to abrupt ending when we were told by the authorities to leave. Apparently the agent that Matt had used to obtain the required cruising permit and other formalities had not done a thing. The end result of their inactivity was that Island Time with crew had cruised some of the islands without a permit - a situation frowned upon by the authorities.
The passage from the Maldives to Sri Lanka was uneventful - winds were very light so we had to motor a good part of the way. It was hot with the occasional respite when a thunderstorm provided a downpour of rain that cooled the decks, topped up the water tanks and cooled the crew.