On Passage from Canary Islands to Cape Verdes: Attempted Boarding off W Sahara – November 2016

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Reported by SV Sherpa

On passage from Lanzarote to Mindelo, Cape Verdes

Approximate position: 27,07,34 N / 13,58 W

35 miles from shore off El Anjum, West Sahara.

It was 1300 UTC on 15 November 2016. I was the only one with experience on board (we were 4 male crew) and it was my watch. I saw a boat coming from the horizon directly towards us. It looked like an open fishing boat, wooden, in a local style – nothing special – but it had a powerful outboard.

We were on a Morgan 41, sailing at the time, but we started the engine to help our speed. I changed course three times and they did the same. As they approached the boat I could see there were 3 men on board. They held out their hands and asked for cigarettes, but I sent them away.

Instead, they came closer and looked very confident with their intention to come on board. We were lucky when they tried to reach our transom, our fishing line got into their motor and blocked it!

20 nm before this incident, we saw a Spanish patrol craft. There was a cargo ship nearby, that appeared to understand the situation, but we were able to run away. I had left calling on the VHF until the last moment and in the end, it was not necessary.

I have an electric wire around the boat, two crossbows and one flare pistol. If they had had weapons I would have done my best.

I would suggest keeping a minimum of 150 nm from shore in that area. There are many fishing boats without lights and the sea is full of fishing traps closer to the shore.

If they had not been so obvious I would not have paid attention to them. We were really lucky that we stopped them with a fishing line… but others may not be so lucky.

Thomas Whittall 

SV Sherpa.

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  1. January 7, 2019 at 2:01 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    35 Nautical miles from shore is indeed not a safe distance to travel. Too close!!! You are asking for troubles.
    If you travel along the african coast you should consider to stay away for at least 150-200 Nm.