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Addendum to Official Report of Attack on the Sailing Yachts Gandalf & Mahdi

By doina — last modified Mar 23, 2007 03:29 PM

Published: 2007-03-23 15:29:51

The attack on Gandalf and Mahdi, which occurred on 8 March 2005 in the Gulf of Aden was perpetrated by pirates (?) or terrorists (?). They did not act like normal pirates (how do normal pirates act?). They were certainly trying to kill us from the outset. There is a very real possibility that it was an attempted hostage situation, especially if advance information was sent from Salalah, Oman that 4 US boats had departed for Aden, Yemen. The 2 slower boats were 20-30 miles behind us at the time of the attack. The real motivation for the attack will probably never be known. You would like to think that it is possible to transit the area at night, but the area of reported attacks is too large. You make your decisions based on circumstances at the time and live with them. We have had a lot of feedback concerning the attack from various sources. Most of it supportive, but also some from armchair pundits uttering stupid and ignorant comments and questions. "Walk in our shoes"! The whole episode was very traumatic and we will not respond to any of those.

We have been in contact with Commander Webber, USN at 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain concerning the attack. He seems to think that a commitment to provide an escort for yachts grouping in Salalah, Oman and requesting an escort is possible, but there will have to be some pressure applied from higher sources ("political"?) or it probably won't happen. Let's not attempt to put all of the pressure on the US Navy. There are yachts from numerous nations affected. The international yachting community has the capability of applying some pressure to their governments to follow up on this (please do so).

As far as we can determine at the time of the attack the US Navy and the British Navy were patrolling the Arabian Sea and points north. The German, French and possibly Italians were in the Gulf of Aden. One of the yachts with us was stopped in the Arabian Sea, SE of Oman by the US Coast Guard for a "safety inspection". They asked the Coast Guard for emergency HF radio frequencies that the coalition forces would be monitoring and were supplied with two frequencies. We tried calling on these frequencies over the next several days. It turned out that they were fictitious, and no one was listening. One was actually a broadcast station. All of us tried contacting coalition vessels by VHF radio to clarify the frequencies but no one would ever respond.

At the time of the attack we broadcast Mayday calls on all known VHF and HF radio frequencies. The only response was from a commercial vessel (see Noonsite report ). This vessel sent out reports via satellite. The next morning a German warship was close by and we were able to report the incident to them. This was 12 hours after the attack and they hadn't heard anything about it. When we arrived in Aden we gave the Yemen Officials the report and had a long talk with the Yemeni Coast Guard commanders. They are just getting organized and do not presently have the capability to actually patrol the Yemen coast. They stated that a lot of the Yemen coastal areas are tribal and the central government doesn't have any control at all. They also warned us to be careful of retaliation by the families of the bad guys. We then contacted the authorities in Djibouti to voice our concerns about retaliation and requested that they keep an eye on us between Aden and the entrance to the Red Sea. They assured us that they would inform the naval authorities so that they could provide assistance. We did manage to contact a French warship outside of Aden when we left there. They had no information about our request for assistance and if you can believe this, didn't even know about the attack 8 days before in their patrol area! They did consent to watch over us until we made the entrance to the Red Sea, where we stayed on the west side going north. No sense in tempting fate twice.

Gandalf was struck by bullets about 14 times. Mahdi was struck 3 times. Fortunately none penetrated the hulls and no one on either boat was wounded. Thank goodness for steel boats!

Conclusion: Emergency HF radio frequencies, like 2182 MHz, no longer exist in most of the world. No one is listening. Any request for immediate assistance will probably come from a commercial vessel in the vicinity, but commercial vessels are not capable of effectively dealing with attacks of this type. At the most they might scare the attackers off. These attacks happen so quickly that unless you had an actual escort in the immediate vicinity getting help quickly will not happen. The "Coalition Forces" out here are a myth. It appears that there is no central authority i.e. no one in charge. The right hand does not know what the left one is doing and most certainly there is no communication between them. You are on your own out here and you had better be prepared to stand on your own two feet.

S/Y Mahdi

Rod Nowlin, USN Retired, Rebecca Nowlin, Jamee Nowlin

From Clinton, WA USA

April 21, 2005

Abu Tig Marina, El Gouna, Egypt