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Sri Lanka - Yacht Pursued off the Sri Lankan Coast

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

Published: 2009-01-21 21:09:46
Topics: Piracy Reports 2008
Countries: Sri Lanka , Thailand

On voyage to the Red Sea from Phuket/Thailand
MoonFlower - Bowman 47

We had been warned from others in Thailand, so we took their advice to stay at least 60 NM off the Sri Lankan coast. To make sure and to be safe we sailed a distance of approx. 85 NM off the coast.

We entered the "Danger Zone" at sunset and opted for a "No Lights" sail. On the horizon we spotted a boat about 4 miles away. Next to it were 2-3 smaller vessels, all not showing on the radar. As soon as they spotted us they sent the smaller ones toward us. We started the engine, rolled the genoa completely out and headed higher into the wind, which gave us a speed of nearly 11 knots. This was just enough to keep the chasing vessel at bay. After 1 to 2 hours they gave up and we could resume on our course. During this chase we heared them on the radio communicating with the mother ship and other vessels. Some of the words came in English but it was clear that they were pissed off as we had escaped.

Later that night my partner was on watch, she saw strong lights heading in our direction. She woke me up just in time to play the same game again. We were lucky as the wind was a steady 18 knots from the NE and with pointing MoonFlower higher up we had enough speed to stay ahead again. However, this time they didn't give up so easy and chased us for more than one hour. The chasing vessel got as close as half a mile and again we heard them on the radio. When they finally gave up they screamed a "F... You" and some other stuff. I was almost tempted to tell them "catch me if you can", but stayed calm.

We sailed on our previous course again as morning came. There were some lights ahead of us but we thought that we had passed the danger zone and stayed on course. The other boat did not see us for a while but when the sun came up they noticed our presence. We really thought that they were honest fishermen, so we made no attempt to change our direction. As soon as they saw us they started the chase. At first we thought they had finished their work and were headed home, it looked like this as they were not on an interception course, just heading towards Sri Lanka approx. 3 miles down from us. But we were wrong, when on the same height they changed course, heading straight for us.

There were three smaller vessels right behind them, which we hadn't noticed in the poor light and wave action, but it was clear now what they wanted. Two of them changed direction and by spreading out they tried to cut us off further down. This was a real chase now, my engine was running on full throttle, all sails up and we were headed almost straight into the wind. The boats got closer and closer, we had to tack, changed course a few times, and when the mother vessel came from the portside we thought that this time we would lose the game.

They were cutting our path but fortunately a good puff of wind came and only about 50 meters away from the pursuing vessel I steered hard to the side and we passed in front of them. They made no attempt of slowing down and they would have clearly hit us on the side, sinking our yacht. We could see their angry faces and throwing fists, but we escaped by an inch. The vessel kept chasing us from behind for another 20 minutes, then finally gave up as we had enough speed to outrun them.

With shaking bodies we continued our voyage but stayed alert till we reached the Maldives. No matter what other sailors say, we believe that this is organised piracy and those boats are just there to wait for any yachts that come by.

We were lucky but any slower boat would not have escaped them.

Capt. Fearless
SV MoonFlower

August 22, 2008
We completely agree with Captains Fearless's tactics and are glad they were succsessful. We have been chased several times over the years and know that its something you have to experience to appreciate.

We would point out though that things are not always what they seem. Two years ago after leaving Sri Lanka we were also chased when about eighty miles offshore. In our thirty one foot boat with light winds and only fifteen horsepower we were not able to escape.

As the Sri Lankin fishing boat came along side with four or five guys on deck. we thought we had had it - but they just stood there smiling at us! Then as if tring to think of something to say in English asked for cigarettes. We had none but Barb took out the camera and asked to take their picture. They were delighted, posing and smiling for us before going on their way.

In the furure we still plan to run.
Jim & Barb
S/V Spanish Stroll
Southern Cross 31