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Yacht Pursued On Panama - Galapagos Route

By doina — last modified Mar 23, 2007 03:28 PM

Published: 2007-03-23 15:28:43

Australian yacht "CARDONNAY" has had a narrow escape from possible pirates en route from Panama to the Galapagos Islands, closely echoing two incidents in 2004. Karsten Staffeldt, the Panama contact for the Scandinavian Ocean Cruising Association, forwarded the report to Noonsite. The incident occurred on Friday February 11th 2005, at 02°13 N 86°22 W, about 300 miles from the Galapagos.

David and Roseanne's account of the incident is as follows: "On route to the Galapagos at around 4:00am on my watch things were going as usual. Our watch system had become more and more lax as we were not seeing any vessels and we were at great distance from any land. Something prompted me to get up and look around and I saw two lights of a ship on our Starboard side. I was very confused as the brightness indicated a very close proximity but I could not see the red or green navigation light that would indicate which side of the boat I was looking at. After a while I woke Rosanne up to get a second opinion. Over a period of about the next half hour the lights continued to get brighter and then I noticed a second set of lights on our port side getting brighter also. It was becoming obvious that it was not a container ship I was trying to identify but a number of small craft closing in on us from both sides. After another 20 minutes or so there appeared another boat coming towards us from another direction. At this point we were in the middle of at least five boats coming in towards us. I tried radio contact but none of the vessels responded. From a safety perspective the situation was becoming more serious until I started to consider these vessels were trying to engage us. I immediately turned off our navigation lights to black out our boat. I noticed then the random direction the boats on our starboard side started to move. I started to head for the gaps to keep them as far away as possible. We managed to slip the net so to speak except for one boat the fastest and brightest of them all. She clearly had us on her radar and was pursuing us on an intercept course regardless of the direction we took. With our engine in full power we continued to keep her at a distance but she was getting closer by the minute and it was approaching sunrise. As the sun began to rise we could see the vessel clearly and now they could see us not only on Radar but with their own eyes. Their vessel appeared to be about 1/4 to 1/2 a knot faster than us. We began to make preparations to be boarded. I asked Rosanne to make herself less attractive by covering herself up as much as possible and she got some money out which would be high on their priority list. When things were looking desperate. the wind picked up just a little. Enough to put out some sails which increased our speed by about 1/2 to 3/4 of a knot. Over the next hour we were able to put them over the horizon. I have since learned there was a piracy attack within 90 miles or so last April."

A Japanese yacht was attacked and robbed on April 5, 2004 about 400 nm south-west of Panama, and yacht Sandpiper just managed to outrun another boat on July 14, 2004 in a very similar incident to that described above. See Noonsite reports for more details:

Yacht Attacked 400 Miles South West Of Panama

Another Worrying Incident On Panama to Galapagos Route