So our new plan headed us much farther south, from Darwin to the Cocos, the Mascarene Islands and South Africa. Both my husband (then boyfriend), Seth, and I were disappointed to be missing the uninhabited Chagos, for which we’d gone through the expensive process of obtaining a permit. But we both preferred to be cautious rather than end up in the Somali bush. We were kids — I was 23, he 26 — on a half-century-old boat we’d restored ourselves. Ransom wasn’t in the budget.
We both wanted to stay well clear of pirates, even if it meant not only missing Chagos, but making longer passages and weathering the reputed high winds and confused seas of the southern Indian Ocean. The 2,000 nautical miles from the Cocos to the Mascarenes is notorious for big cross seas coming up from storms in the Southern Ocean. They meet the trade-wind swell and give a small boat a nauseating corkscrew motion. On top of that, at the time of our crossing, the Indian Ocean Dipole (a weather phenomenon akin to El Niño) would be pushing very strong easterly winds along our route. All of that, though, still seemed better than years spent captive in Somalia.