Attacked by Pirates
While the well-publicized pirate attack off Yemen was dramatic, representing one of the worst nightmares of cruisers who must pass through danger zones, cases like it, statistically speaking, are rare. According to the International Marine Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which compiles data related to acts of piracy against commercial shipping, only 10 reports of attacks on yachts were received in 2004. Most of the incidents occurred off Somalia, off the coast of South America, and in the Caribbean.
Still, the Center's annual report for 2004 cited that year as "more violent than ever," with 30 crewmembers of commercial vessels murdered; 21 were killed the previous year. While the number of attacks dropped from 445 in 2003 to 325 in 2004, the escalation of violence, typified by the attack on Mahdi and Gandalf, where pirates were apparently shooting to kill from the outset, is difficult to ignore.
With these issues in mind, discussions of arms, flotillas, and best routes are likely to rage on in cruising circles. As is often the case at sea, with no sure answers, it's up to each skipper to determine the safest course to steer.
Former Cruising World associate editor David W. Shaw is the author of seven nonfiction books, including "Daring the Sea" and the just-released paperback version of "Sea Wolf of the Confederacy" ($15; Sheridan House, www.sheridanhouse.com), which chronicles the Civil War raids of U.S. Navy Lt. Charles W. Read. He lives with his wife, Elizabeth, aboard Sonata, their 36-foot cutter.