Voyage of Traveler / Blog

March 23, 2009

Traveler in Gulf of Aden, Day Four

Filed under: Year 2: July08-June09 French Polynesia to Greece, Indian Ocean — mrlawlerjr @ 7:48 am

Hi, Everyone,
It’s Monday, March 23 at 0400 and now the beginning of Day Four for us on our passage from Salalah, Oman to Aden, Yemen, through the notorious Gulf of Aden’s pirate-infested waters.

Our position is 13 03 N, 048 34 E.  The Yemeni coast is 56 miles off our starboard side, and Somalia is 103 miles off our port side.  We are transiting the Gulf of Aden through the Maritime Security Patrol Area.  The west bound and east bound shipping lanes are each five miles wide, and between them is a two mile wide separation zone.  Cdmr. Bancroft of the British Navy, who is coordinating the multi-national coalition forces here, has asked us to stay in the middle of the separation zone, so we will be easier for them to watch, won’t get run over by faster ships passing us and supposedly safer from a pirate attack.  We have ships of all sizes, from smaller cargo ships to super tankers, and lots of them, on both sides of us, passing us at full speed just two to three miles away.  It makes for some choppy seas with all their wakes.

Many of the ships have an armed security team on board for this leg, usually retired military, to deal with the pirates if they are attacked.  Also, many of the ships have their fire hoses on full blast all the time, day and night, on both sides of the ship and off the stern, to repel pirates from boarding. Most of the ships travel in a convoy, close together, in a line.  At night especially, with all their deck lights on and fire hoses running, it is quite a sight–sort of a cross between a Somali pirate boat parade and a midnight walk through a graveyard on Halloween.  Much like the wildebeast migration of the Serengeti and the hungry crocodiles waiting for them in the Mara River, the pirates are out there, under the cover of darkness, in their high speed dinghies with their AK-47s and RPGs looking to pick off a ship.

There are several warships patrolling the area, including from the US, Britain, Greece, France and India. They give “securite” announcements on VHF 16 every few hours for all ships to be vigilant in watching for pirates and to report any suspicious boats or activity. Just now I had one call me on Channel 16 and ask if I have seen anything unusual.

For anti-pirate defense, we have a flare gun and parachute flares in the cockpit and we have a “May Day” script ready to go and taped to the nav desk next to the radio with all our info (because, we’re told, in the excitement of a pirate attack you might forget what to say or not give out all the needed information for help).  Barbara and I have trained both Brian and Brandon to use the VHF and Single Side Band radios and the satellite telephone, light a flare, activate the EPIRB, and to take other emergency measures, just in case.  We also are trailing lines in the water behind Traveler about 75 ft long off both our port and starboard stern cleats, that hopefully would foul the prop and disable a pirate’s boat, keeping them from boarding us.

Other than all that, it is just another quite, typical night aboard “Traveler”.

We expect to arrive in Aden tomorrow (Tuesday) at about 4pm local time, if everything goes well.

Michael and Barbara
Brian and Brandon, too


  1. what? No “living the dream?”

    Good Luck and continued safety!!!

    Comment by dan bornholdt — March 23, 2009 @ 8:58 am

  2. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers! Thanks for all the daily updates.

    Comment by Kathy Smith — March 26, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

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