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Yemen: Zuquar Island - Attempted Pirate Attack whilst at anchor

By Sue Richards last modified Apr 19, 2010 12:15 PM

Published: 2010-04-19 12:15:07
Topics: Piracy Reports 2009
Countries: Yemen

Report forwarded to noonsite by SY Alondra of London on 30 April 2009, when the attack had just happened.

Posted 2009-05-08

A message from Chris Edwards delivering a Gulet from Turkey to Phuket.

Having departed Port Suez on 18 April, target date for ETA Aden was 25 april.

The first 850 miles of the Red Sea voyage was completed in 4 days so we were well ahead of schedule, but I knew we had been too lucky with weather and a nasty sting was in the tail of the south of this notorious passage. Sure enough wind switched from north to southerly and increased in strength dramatically, and soon we were in force 7 to 8 and with a very heavy breaking sea state running against us. From doing an easy 8.5 knots speed we were fighting to keep any headway and the Gulet suffered horrendous stress and strains as she rolls and laboured her ponderous way against the weather.

After 2 days I decided to take shelter in Hudadydah, Yemen, which proved a very wise move as wind howled up to 50 knots whilst we were hiding there on anchor in the lee of a small peninsula.

On the third morning wind abated and it appeared from forecast information that the "shimoon" wind had ceased. So we set off again towards the exit of the Red Sea which lay almost within reach, but in the first night wind came at us again, dead on the nose, and consistently 30-40 knots, building an ugly steep faced swell that battered us horribly. By dawn it was clear that there was no respite to be had so once again I headed for a protected anchorage.

The NW coast of Zuquar island off Yemen coast was the only feasible place........and the pilot book wrote of a safe and secure anchorage there. As we approached the shore wind speed was frequently gusting to 50 knots and the sea was streamed with white wave breaks and spray. Closer in we got I sudddenly saw a cluster of fishing boats also sheltering from the storm and respecting their knowledge of the local area, I inched our way in towards them with anchor ready and dinghy down.

But on the shore itself I suddenly saw a large group of men rushing down to the boats, and before we realised what was happening, our careful and much needed shelter from the weather became a mad scene of escape. Gunfire was heard and several bullets whined and cracked their way through our rigging.........we were under attack.

First 3 boats came at us and then another 3 all heavily armed and one at least with a mounted machine-gun. The only way I could calculate us making an escape was to cut free the dinghy, which was acting like a sea brake, and making out into the very rough seas which only moments before I had hoped to find shelter from.

So for the first time in my life I turned tail and ran......dinghy was cut free, which diverted the attention of two of the chasing vessels, whilst i put out a distress call on VHF Ch. 16. and used the immarsat phone to call the IMSO office in Dubai to alert the Coalition Naval forces to the situation. But as I knew they were all patrolling in Gulf of Aden, 300 miles south, we really had to make our escape or be boarded and captured.......................

Our saviour in the end was the sea state and the sheer brute force of our Caterpiller engine. Somehow I managed to keep our speed above a critical eight knots, and the further offshore I went the more unstable and dangerous became the breaking seas for the open small boats that were chasing us. They continued the pursuit and the firing for a period of 35 minutes, but because of the violent sea motion accuracy of fire was impossible, tho' a couple of bullets thudded into the hull.

An hour later we were back in the main shipping lane and fighting our way south towards the Bab al Mendeb. I helmed the boat through the horrible breaking seas and against the winds for 27 hours without a break, and eventually we emerged into the Gulf of Aden to be met by a British Warship who had been placed on stand-by in case we needed assistance.

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