Attacked by Pirates
Safely in Port
At close to midnight the next day, Mahdi and Gandalf made the port at Aden, a bustling shipping center and the infamous site where, in October 2000, terrorists damaged the USS Cole during a suicide attack that killed 17 sailors and wounded many others. Now it was blowing 25 knots, and as the crews of both boats kept bows to the wind while the anchor chains rattled out, a small, unmarked, outboard-driven dory with no lights appeared. Four men, none wearing uniforms, shouted at them, saying they were the Yemeni coast guard. Thus began the shoreside ordeal of paperwork and questions from officials.
The following morning, Rod Nowlin and Barry hired a taxi driver named Omar, a man known among cruisers there, to guide them through the process of clearing in. He acted as translator as well, and that facilitated the filing of multiple reports on the attack with an assortment of Yemeni officials. The authorities said they were sorry and concerned about what had happened, but both Nowlin and Barry believed that nothing would come of the incident and that there would be no action taken to apprehend the culprits.
Not long after their arrival in Aden, Evie and Patriot appeared in port, having made an uneventful passage. Patriot put to sea almost at once, and as the days passed, the crews of Mahdi and Gandalf worked hard, hoping to leave shortly. It took three days to repair what damage they could aboard Gandalf, which was hit by at least 30 bullets. Mahdi sustained less damage, though the hull was hit, as was the headsail and the self-steering system.
The work to repair the damage took on added urgency when Omar warned Rod Nowlin and Barry that relatives of the injured or killed pirates might seek revenge.
"It is time for you to go," he said. They agreed. Mahdi and Gandalf cleared out of Aden at 1600 on March 15, intending a dawn arrival at Bab al Mandab. Twenty miles out, Barry heard the sound of an outboard engine driving at high speed. The boat was unlit and coming on fast. He picked it up in his night-vision scope and kept it in view. At no more than 50 feet off Gandalf's stern, it suddenly moved off just as those on Mahdi got on the VHF radio; they eventually managed to raise a French warship. They stayed in radio contact with the French throughout the night, and as the sun gradually spread light across the dark waters, Mahdi and Gandalf sailed on, making the miles to the Red Sea.