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2001 - Piracy Reports

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 21, 2009 12:09 PM

Published: 2009-01-21 12:09:01
Topics: Piracy Archive 2000-2005

20 March, 2001
VENEZUELA - Pirates attack Swedish yacht

Contributors: Jack Dausend, Editor "The Boca", [email protected]

Trinidad 31 March 2001
Venezuelan pirates attack Swedish Cruiser
By Vivi-Maj (Lorna) Miren, s/v Lorna

Carnival time in Trinidad was over, all the planned boat work was done and we were ready for Los Roques Islands in Venezuela. On Margarita we experienced very strong easterly winds and we were no longer so eager to go west. The wind was roaring in the rigging 24 hours a day and we were worrying about the trip back to Trinidad. We did not feel comfortable on the island and after discussing this we decided to return to Trinidad as soon as we were able to clear-out of Venezuela.

On March 19, 2001 we sailed from Margarita in an ENE wind, heading for the Venezuelan coast where the current is weaker as well as the wind. Next morning was beautiful, no wind, calm water with a slight swell and we skipped the first anchorage and headed for the Bay of San Francisco. The engine was running at "vacation speed" and we were making about 5 knots with no vessels to be seen. As we progressed east, I had noted that the land was very desolate, no villages, no roads, no smoke from burning fires in the hillsides. This must be land's end was my thought.

At noon when I was serving lunch in the cockpit, we saw a pirogue coming from behind us. The pirogue was filled with men; they came alongside and started asking for cigarettes in Spanish. My husband went outside the cockpit and told them we had no cigarettes. Then everything happened very fast. I heard a gunshot, my husband screaming "No" several times in anguish and he came back in the cockpit. I saw he was hit and pushed him down below where he collapsed on the floor. At the same time four men with guns came on board and three of them entered the doghouse. They wanted jewellery and money. When I told them we had neither they were very upset, they apparently did not believe me. My husband tried to talk and lifted his head; one of the men put his pistol to my husband's head.

I was screaming and this made them very nervous. They took a knife in the galley and threatened me with it; they wanted me to be quiet. Then two of the men started grabbing things which were around like binoculars, sandals, sunglasses, chewing gum, flippers, snorkels, masks, a Sony Walkman, a portable GPS, a handheld echo sounder, watches, a life vest, a small camera etc. They demanded alcohol and I gave them three bottles of rum and some beer. They found a purse with a few Bolivar's and also our credit cards in a small plastic bag. When I begged for the cards, they threw them back. Locker doors were torn open and the contents thrown about.

Finally I stopped screaming and said "finito - me marido muerte" and went towards them. They indicated that my husband's wound was nothing serious and then they collected the stuff in a sleeping bag and went outside. I was told to sit down in the cockpit, when I stood up, one came back with his gun pointing at me.

In the pirogue circling the boat there were two men, one of them looking like an elderly fisherman. They jumped into the pirogue and sped away. The pirogue was white with a green stripe, no name, and no number. It had a big grey outboard engine as well as a big black smudge on the starboard side at the rear end. I took the position, N10 44.6 W62 22.1 near Punta Toleta. My husband was conscious, complained of pain in the abdomen and was bleeding from the wound on his back below the waist. After covering the wound and moving him outside, I started on the HF radio, frequency 2182. Very quiet. The two VHF sets had been ruined by the banditos, the cables were torn off.

My husband told me to activate the EPIRB, which I did. Handheld VHF was used until the battery went flat. There was no talk on the HF-radio and I was searching the frequencies. Finally I thought I had to wait for Southbound II to come on at 2000 UT. At 1900 UT I found people talking on the frequency 14000 MHz and could finally relay a Mayday message and get an answer. The people assisting me were very professional; I could even consult a doctor. My husband was still conscious, in pain and bleeding while lying in the cockpit. He was very calm assisting me and not complaining. Sometimes my head went absolutely empty and simple routine things I had done hundreds of times were very difficult. I could not understand why the autopilot did not work until my husband told me that the transmitting was disturbing it. This is a daily problem and I often hand steer when my husband is on the radio. We headed for the Grand Boca and just before sunset I spotted the vessel from the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard. Just 10 minutes earlier a Venezuelan Coast Guard vessel wanted me to come alongside. The heavy swell made such a manoeuvre very risky and when I realized that the vessel was from Venezuela, I turned again and headed for Boca Grande.

The Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard put a big rubber dinghy in the water, two paramedics and two seamen came on board Lorna. What a relief to have professional assistance. Now we headed into the narrow channel on the north side of Chacachacare where we could go alongside a Coast Guard vessel and my husband was placed on a stretcher and transferred to the boat. The two seamen stayed with me, took Lorna to the Coast Guard station where a car took me to the hospital so I could see my husband and talk to the doctor. After 5 hours of abdominal surgery the bullet was removed. The doctor told me that my husband is a fighter and his strong determination would help him through. I want to thank the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard for their assistance, the net controller Bob and everyone else helping out on the radio. The SSB saved the day and with the help of the friendly people in Trinidad & Tobago and the cruisers, we will get over this and head for more peaceful waters.

This is the second recent pirate incident reported by the Boca that involved a sailing vessel travelling along the north coast of Venezuela toward Trinidad. In each case violence had erupted. (See Dutch Concrete Attacked - Boca January 2001). It is suggested for sailing vessels transiting the desolate Venezuelan coast, travel in the company of a buddy boat. In the last report prior to publication, St. Clair Medical listed Lorna husband, Bo, as satisfactory improving slowly.

Boca Editor.... copyright 2001

Early August, 2001
SOMALIA - British Yacht attacked off Somali coast

Contributors: Paul von Zalinski

British Yacht Swan 40' (approx) 200nm SE of Djibouti accosted by three "yamaha" type 18-20' outboard powered boats - armed. Vessel approx 20nm off Somali Coast. Crew detained ashore for about ten days. Pirates took nothing - apparently only after money.