What would you do if pirates approached your boat?
Pirates are often associated with the romanticized image that many books, songs and movies create. Seldom do you think about the real piracy that happens in some parts of the world today. The people who approach your boat to rob, assault, or kidnap you, take your boat or possibly even your life will certainly not share Captain Jack Sparrow’s charismatic humor. It is by far the worst nightmare of any sailor and there is not much one can do about it.
For our next passage to Honduras we will sail past the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and Honduras where desperate local fishermen and drug cartels are known to attack and board passing boats in hope of capturing valuables or cash. A few incidents have been reported in this area within recent years.
To prepare for the worst, we came up with a few precautions:
First, we chose our route carefully. Staying over 150 miles off the coast and many miles from the shallow sandbanks where these fishermen anchor their small motorized launchers will reduce the risk of unwelcome encounters.
Secondly, we will ‘go dark’ in the most dangerous areas, which means we will turn off our lights, radar reflectors and switch the AIS to silent mode. This will allow us to see other ships while we will not be visible to them. As we always have one person on watch, we will constantly keep an eye out on the horizon to avoid collisions.
Additionally we plan to stay close to the shipping lane used by cargo ships to always be in radio reach in case we do need assistance. Our satellite phone will be activated and will share our location and progress on the following website:
In the unlikely event that we will still be approached by a suspicious vessel, we plan to react depending on the number of people and whether they are armed or not. Yelling at them, speaking on the radio, taking pictures and holding items that could be identified as weapons helped to scare the attackers away in some previous incidents. However, when approached by several armed men with the clear intention to threaten us, we doubt we would try to do anything that might escalate the situation.
The chances of being confronted with piracy with all the precautions we will take are very, very small. But it’s better to be careful and safe than to end up in a horror scenario that could end badly.