Galapagos : Chased by Unlit Boats

Published 14 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Sent by Bill Tait on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

We are a husband and wife team sailing aboard our 55 ft yacht “Taku Tori” from the east coast of the United States to Australia.

On May 1st, 2009 we left the Galapagos for Hiva Oa, French Polynesia. We were approximately 200 miles out and well clear of any of the islands when at around 2300 hrs we saw the lights of three powerboats; two on our port side and one dead ahead; radar confirmed their positions to be within 3 miles of our position. I watched the vessel ahead of us move off to our starboard and at the same time move closer to us and then turn their lights out. I watched the vessels movements on radar and they appeared to be taking up a position behind us, still without lights.

My wife Sandy was off-watch and in bed sleeping, but with these strange movements, I woke her to stand-to just in case. We had a good breeze and were making around 7.5 – 8 knots. The vessel behind us now appeared to be gaining on us, we could hear the roar of the motor and we could see it’s bow wave in the starlight. I tried calling them on the VHF several times, but no response. Fearing that we were about to be boarded, I had Sandy stay out of sight below in the saloon at the nav-station, with the instructions to issue a Mayday on both VHF and HF and to activate the EPIRB if they came alongside. Meanwhile, I took our flare pistol, pepper-spray gun to the helm hoping that they might repel any borders. I changed our course for a faster point of sail, trimmed the sails and hoped for the best.

The chase continued for 30-45 mins and the pursuing vessel was within 200 meters of our stern, engine still roaring and large bow wave. It was obvious that this was a displacement boat of around 30-35 feet in length, however it didn’t have the horsepower to overtake us. After another 10 minutes, they turned and started going back and at which time they turned their lights back on. Then suddenly, they again turned towards us, turned their lights off again and roared forward towards us. However, the distance between us had increased now and they gave up the chase after only another 5 minutes.

The whole incident had left us fearing for our lives. Had we been in a smaller boat, going slower, who knows how this story may have ended. We doubt very much if these boats were from the Galapagos, more likely fishermen from the coast. But for anyone that reads this, you are the prize of opportunity for these people and electronics and alike fetch more dollars than fish!

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