Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

The Ultimate Cruisers' Planning Tool


You are here: Home / Users / doina / Unpleasant Encounter In Indonesia May 2007

Unpleasant Encounter In Indonesia May 2007

By doina — last modified Nov 20, 2007 05:16 PM

Published: 2007-11-20 17:16:49
Countries: Indonesia

Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to inform you of an event that happened to us while sailing in Indonesian waters on 28th May.

We are sailing our British registered catamaran through Indonesia on route to the med via the Red sea, there are three of us on board, myself Tracey, my husband Richard and our son Luke, all British citizens, travelling with all the correct and valid documents needed to travel through Indonesia. We were headed for an anchorage on an Island called Wetar, from the South East Asia volume 2 book. We approached the coast heading towards the anchorage and passed a small village on the way, we politely waved to the many fishermen out in their canoes and wondered up the shoreline looking for the 22-meter spot. Not long after we had turned away from the village we heard two, what sounded like gunshots, we both looked at each other and said no it couldn’t be they must be letting off fire crackers or something to welcome us, and so we carried on, we then noticed a small boat coming our way at great speed. We then heard the gunshot sounds again, this time about 5 of them, closer now, Richard looked through the binoculars at the approaching boat just as another shot rang out and this time he could see the flash from the gun pointed in our direction. There were four men on board the boat dressed in civilian clothes, one holding a large semi-automatic gun.

Oh my God they are shooting at us, I quickly got Luke to duck down under the table, hid the laptop and GPS, everything else they could have if it came down to it, Richard issued a Mayday on the VHF saying that we were being attacked by pirates and needed help, We put the engine in full, put out the jib and hid in the cockpit with the binoculars watching the boat slowly gaining on us, they got closer still and a couple more shots were fired, what could we do put give ourselves up, so we knocked back the engine speed and all stood up with our hands in the air, we brought out Luke to hopefully mellow the situation a little. They told us to stop the boat and two of them got on board with the gun in hand. By this time our hearts were beating wildly, what was going to happen to us, you hear so many stories of things like this happening to other boats, we never dreamed (or at least we hoped) that this would never happen to us. The man without the gun was all smiles, he couldn’t really speak any English and he proceeded in telling us that he was Army, Army Army he kept saying, Both myself and Richard could not believe it we had been stopped at gunpoint by the Army, relief first hit us that it wasn’t pirates (well not in the sense that we associate them with anyway), we asked for ID and he showed us a tatty old plastic card with his picture on it which said army, OK so we were now a little more hopeful that we were not going to get robbed at gun point, but the gun was still there and loaded. He asked us (a lot of pointing and gesturing) to return back to the village following the two men in the boat. The man without the gun then asked us if we smoked and if he could have one, we don’t but we do keep a carton of cigarettes on the boat for exchanges and favours with the locals, we gave him a packet of cigarettes, he took one, threw the plastic wrapper straight over the side and put the rest in his pocket. We tried to make small talk with them, trying to find out exactly what they wanted but we couldn’t get past the language barrier. The man without the gun then asked if he could take a look around the boat, how could we refuse with another man sitting in our cockpit with a loaded gun. I showed him around, watching him closely, he seemed to be looking for things that he could ask us if he could have rather than actually looking for guns, drugs etc that you would expect the army to be searching your boat for. He finished looking and then the other man with the gun gave it to the first man and he went for a stroll around our boat. He went up into the spare cabin area and spotted the mattresses for the spare bunks, he suddenly got very excited and asked if he could take one for himself back to the army, No, No this was not possible. We finally approached the village again, and the man without the gun sent the boat that we had been following back to the base to get his camera, we thought that it must be for evidence, they must be taking a picture of the boat for their records, but no the boat arrived back now with another four men and they all piled on board uninvited in civilian clothes, they all gathered around us and one of them took a couple of pictures of us all together, the man with the smile then told us that it was for him to remember us by, his own personal camera, they then took turns taking photos of each other on the bow holding up the gun, looking all proud and smug with themselves, by this time we had had just about enough of this, we asked them to leave saying that we needed to go back and anchor before it got too dark. They got the idea of what we were saying and said no, no anchor, they were going to send us back out into the squalls late at night after having kept us for the best part of an hour to take photos of themselves standing on our boat with their guns …. We were now very angry with them and said you must leave then so we can get going. Before they left they asked for more cigarettes (for his army friends he said) he even went as far a drawing us a picture of a carton of cigarettes, no we lied we don’t have any more, so they then asked for alcohol, we had a couple of half bottles of gin and vodka, but again we said no, we were too mad at them by that stage to give them anything. And then to put the icing on the cake they asked for money, for the army they said, we said no again, they wouldn’t believe this and asked for American dollars, we must have some of those, we said that we needed to go to the bank and didn’t carry any money on board (again lied), They were not intending to leave without some thing and so they asked again about money, we showed them a small pot that we have with coins in it that we have accumulated over the last 2 years from the different countries that we have been to. Also in the pot was a Tongan dollar worth pennies, he took it, folded it up and put it in his pocket. We finally managed to get rid of them and waved them away from the boat and headed back out to sea for another night of wet/squally conditions.

Once they were gone the blood started to boil, how dare they we thought. They shot at us, although they said that they were shooting up into the air, Richard is ex-military and said that you wouldn’t have been able to see the flash if the gun was pointed up in the air, they came on our boat, uninvited, went through our personal things, got us to follow them under armed guard just to take a photograph of us so that he could remember us, and then had the cheek to ask us for cigarettes, alcohol and money, at no point in all of this did they asked to see passports or ships papers, they never once asked for our names or the name of the boat, and to top it all the next day after looking back through the boats equipment we found a number of personal items missing. Some people may not call this piracy, but in our book it was, it may have been in the politest way but still piracy none the less.

Yours sincerely

Tracey, Richard and Luke Bailey