Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shipping S/V BeBe to Turkey

Quite a few people have let us know that they applaud our decision to ship S/V BeBe to the Med.  But a few have also questioned this decision.  One person thought it was just too much money when we could sail it ourselves.  This person means well, but is not a sailor and has no conception of the realities of sailing up the Red Sea and the toll it takes on a yacht.  Experienced sailors estimate that wear and tear on a yacht our size sailing up the Red Sea would be approximately $5,000 USD -- sails,rigging, engine and all other things considered.  And he has no conception of the realities of recent pirate activity, which I elaborate below.  The other couple of folks who think we are over-reacting to the piracy and to the problems in Egypt are basing their logic on years past -- not on the current situation either of piracy activity or of what is happening in Egypt.  I think these folks are ill-informed.

While I don't feel we need to justify our decision to ship the boat to anyone, I did want address this idea that the piracy situation is the same as it has been for the past few years.   Oh, no; it most certainly is not.

As mentioned in a previous posting, we have been tracking pirate attacks since sometime in March 2009 when we were in New Zealand.  That was well before we changed our plans and decided to go to the Med rather than to South Africa.  At the time we were concerned about pirate attacks between the Seychelles and Madagascar, but Bill entered all reported attacks into his files.  The information was obtained through the international piracy website.  They have come to know Bill well through his frequent email contact with them.  Later, information also was obtained from MARLO.

Last month there was a NATO statement issued warning all ship traffic (commercial ships and pleasure vessels like us)  to go the South African route.  The NATO statement said that they could not provide safety to any ships continuing on the Red Sea route.  MARLO also issued a statement that basically said:  "DON'T COME."

As the official policy has always been "Don't Come" most of us wondered if this was the same old "Don't Come" or if it was a new "SERIOUSLY.  REALLY DON'T COME!!"  After further analysis of the piracy data, we now believe it to be the latter.

During the same "season" period last year (Oct 2009 to 10 Feb 2010)  there were 7 piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.  This "season" for Oct 2010 to 10 Feb 2011 there were 10 piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.  That is not much of an increase.  Probably because the attacks have moved farther up into the Red Sea and also much father out into the Indian Ocean.

However, last year between Oct 2009 to 10 Feb 2010 there were 6 piracy attacks in the Northern Indian Ocean (outside the Gulf of Aden).  This year between Oct 2010 and 10 Feb 2011 there were  78 piracy attacks in the Northern Indian Ocean.  I had assumed that the piracy had quadrupled this year, but I was way off.  It has increased thirteen-fold.  The latest information we have received from MARLO is that there currently are 5 cargo ships being used as mother ships by the pirates, and many captured fishing boats also being used as mother ships.  The pirates have blanketed the entire Northern Indian Ocean this season.

Yes, no pleasure yacht has been attacked in 6 years, except 2 south of Somalia who were in areas they had no business being in. ( Kind of stupid to put yourself right off the coast of southern Somalia.)   

The pirates out in the Indian Ocean are the more dangerous ones -- per MARLO -- than the pirates closer in towards shore in the Gulf of Aden.  The pirates go far out to sea without adequate provisions and water.  These are not rational people by our western ideas.  They have grown up knowing nothing but violence and lawlessness.  They chew qat to relieve hunger and thirst.  So you have hungry, thirsty, drugged up pirates farther out from Somalia.  Imagine how they would react if a pleasure yacht happens by after they have had a failed attack on a container ship.  Or if a pleasure yacht happens by when they have reached their physical limits of hunger and thirst.  They know there is plenty of food and water on that pleasure yacht and it would require almost no effort on their part to get it.  

If the piracy activity were the same now as it was last year or the year before, we would have no qualms about sailing through the Northern Indian Ocean.  Frankly, we have never been concerned about the Gulf of Aden.  It is the pirates farther out to sea that have worried us; and now there are just too many of them and they are too organized.  The ones in the Gulf of Aden (a/k/a pirate alley) have their picking of hundreds of cargo ships in a tiny area daily.  They are far less likely to be the slightest bit interested in pleasure yachts.

There are 2 other problems this year that have not been present in years past.  One is Al Queda.  There is now a very strong Al Queda presence in Yemen in the area west of Al Mukala, Yemen.  There is strong anti-USA sentiment among the villagers because of perceived USA drone activity in the region.  Supposedly (according to the Yemeni newspapers) the CIA has been quietly helping the Yemeni government rid the area of Al Queda camps during the past year.  Whether that is true or not, who knows.  But truth does not change the feelings of those on the ground in the area being affected.  Al Queda would like to kill any Americans; and some of the local villagers are pissed off with America and likely not to be so welcoming either.  There are nice welcoming Yemenis; there are also many who would like nothing better than for all Americans to die.

The other problem are the human traffickers.  More than 70,000 people were smuggled from Somalia up into Yemen during 2010.  Would not be pleasant to cross paths with them either.

I won't even go into the problems in Egypt.  The US news media is playing this up as being all about democracy.  We think it is all about jobs and money.  So Mubarak has stepped down.  The military is in control.  For how long?  And who will be in control next?  We prefer to give Egypt a very wide berth at this stage of their political and social change.

We regret that we won't be able to sail parts of the Red Sea -- we have heard some of it is unequaled anywhere.  But we are very happy with our decision to ship the boat to Turkey.


  1. We saw lots and lots of commercial traffic heading north when we were sailing south from the Canaries to Cape Verde. It seems many of the big guys are heeding the "don't come" message.

  2. We think you are very wise in your decision! It is sad that you have to miss parts of the Red Sea due to such heartless people, but better safe than sorry.

  3. I shipped Malua with Seven Star and have many photos of the operation. You may like to contact me to have a look at picaso photos
    malua dot com dot au


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