Attacked by Pirates
shows the evidence of ramming a pirate skiff in the Gulf of
The heat of the day slackened somewhat toward sunset, and the warm winds at the tail end of the northeast monsoon kicked up chop in the Gulf of Aden, a relatively narrow body of water sandwiched between Somalia and Yemen. It was Tuesday, March 8, 2005, at about 1600. The sun sinking low over the western horizon created a glare on the surface of the sea off the bows of Mahdi, a 45-foot steel Waterline cutter, and Gandalf, a 47-foot Dutch-built steel cutter, as both boats sailed at all possible speed toward the Yemeni port of Aden. From there, they'd head to Bab al Mandab, the strait at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.
Throughout the morning and afternoon, the procession of merchant ships remained almost constant, requiring Jay Barry and Carol Martini of Gandalf and Rod and Becky Nowlin and their niece, Jamee, aboard Mahdi to keep a careful watch. Sailing in a busy shipping lane wasn't something these veteran world cruisers often did deliberately, but they deemed it prudent in this case. The presence of nearby ships would, they hoped, make potential pirates think twice before attacking. Their concerns weren't groundless. The Gulf of Aden was aptly nicknamed "Pirate Alley" because of reported incidents involving cruising boats in previous years, particularly off the coast of Somalia.
Now, though, no ships steamed within view. But the approaching moonless night promised cover, especially if Gandalf and Mahdi ran with no lights. The sailors would maintain watch with radar and night-vision scopes.
Then two specks suddenly appeared to the west, obscured in the shimmering light. It soon became obvious that they were high-speed open boats with four men in each. The sailors watched, their anxiety increasing, as black exhaust plumed and was carried off in the wind. The boats sped toward them, separating 200 yards out. Moments later, the cruisers' apprehension turned to fear when they heard the crack of automatic gunfire followed by the terrifying sound of bullets ricocheting off steel.