Pirates Ahoy!!


Something that I was terrified about during my sailing days were Pirates. About our ship being attacked by pirates. Piracy is a big problem for seafarers especially in some key areas like Somalia, the Singapore straits among the others.

I remember we used to have quite a bit of cash at times on board and being the captain of the ship my husband was responsible for all the cash. I used to hide the cash in all sorts of places. But if I think of it today, had the pirates actually come on board would they have just accepted that there is no cash on board…….ok bye so long. Have a good sailing guys!! However, the money used to be quite substantial, even if we managed to salvage some of it, it would have been definitely worth it, that is if we made it out alive.

What didn’t help matters was that one of the ship we joined had actually been attacked by Pirates, just before we joined. I remember, the Captain of the ship telling us all the gory details. One of the officers had actually been held at gunpoint while the Capt was asked to hand over everything to the pirates. That officer had been traumatised, quite understandably. He had to be signed off and sent for counselling. Even the Captain was very shaken up and had requested an early sign off. After hearing all this I am sure you don’t blame me for my paranoia. In fact, I once remember hiding the money in such place a that I couldn’t reach it after we cleared the dangerous waters and actually one of the  bulk heads had to be dismantled to reach the money much to my utter embarrassment.Well, I am sure everyone understood I had their best interests at heart as it was the ships money after all.

When you are travelling through  pirate-infested waters,proper piracy watches are held on the bridge to spot any suspicious activity along with a proper contingency plan in the event of a pirate attack. I remember holding my own watch from the cabin, if I wasn’t on the bridge since the kids were sleeping or something. I would peer from one port hole and then the next.

One day I saw some movement in the distance. I could see a red light and hear the sound of a motor and my heart started beating wildly. I was convinced that the Pirates were going to attack our ship. I started pacing the cabin. The money I had hidden, now I wanted to hide the kids.However they were fast asleep and waking them up abruptly meant pirates or no pirates they would bring the house down with their wailing and crying. I paced a little more and looked out of the port hole again. The red light was closer. I quickly locked the cabin and ran to the Bridge where my husband and one of the officers were doing the watch.

On reaching the bridge I was very surprised to see them all calm and cool going about their business as usual. I also tried to act very nonchalant. I went on the bridge wing and i could see the red light even closer, and the sound that was coming from whatever it was, was very eerie. I went back inside. My husband was busy on the satcom, the ships communication system. I waled over to the third officer and I asked him how the watch was going on. He looked up and gave me a funny glance and replied all was well. I looked at the sea again and the red light was even closer.

I asked the third officer “How would you know if pirates are actually coming? You see that red light there?”  I pointed towards my source of fear and worry for the last half an hour. “See that, and the funny noise, it could well be pirates you know!!”

He smiled and said  “I understand Mam, being the only lady on board and of course because of the kids you are worried but its ok Mam, pirates dont come flashing lights or making any sound. They come very silently in small boats that sometimes cannot even be detected on the radar.”

Feeling a little sheepish i just nodded my head and when i thought about it I realised we often let fear cloud our judgement. We often make things worse by overthinking. Whats going to happen is going to happen, no amount of fearing it or obsessing about it will change a thing.

From then on I stopped my watches from the cabin and hiding the cash also. I guess I decided that fear of something that may or may not happen should not have the power of controlling me to the point of reducing me to a nervous quivering fool. Surprisingly the fear of pirates never bothered me after that.

However Piracy is a big concern for the shipping world.

“In 2011, there were 439 pirate attacks and 45 merchant vessels hijacked worldwide.  237 of these attacks and 28 of these hijackings occurred in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, and in the wider Indian ocean.  As of spring-2012 there have been more than 51 attacks off Somalia (121 worldwide), 11 hijackings off Somalia (13 worldwide), and over 158 hostages taken off Somalia. Currently, 12 ships and more than 170 seafarers are being held hostage by Somali pirates for ransom.  ” (sourced from google)

My heart goes out to the seafarers that are held hostage and their families. Piracy is indeed a serious threat and many efforts are being made to curb it. I have heard now a days armed guards are being allowed on ships but how effective that will be, well that needs to be seen.

As glamorous  as meeting Jack sparrow might have seemed, I can only thank God for sparing us the ordeal of a pirate attack.




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