By Ken Krayeske • 12:30 PM EST
The 1,800 mile coastline of Somalia, where pirates currently lurk, is not where I saw international brigands.
When I spin my sea yarns - like heading south in the Red Sea towards Somalia - people ask me if I ever saw any pirates. We weren't attacked like that boat in the Med recently, or Le Ponant in the Gulf of Aden this spring. Or like this attack in the Gulf of Aden this week, where Somali pirates captured a ship full of military hardware.
But we did see one pirate ship. Yet it wasn't on the African coast. We didn't need any of the armaments we had prepared for unfriendly visitors in the Red Sea. We smuggled across the Atlantic a pair of shotguns and a rifle from a south Florida Bass Pro Shops.
We carried a rocket-powered line launcher - normally a man overboard tool, but if some man boarded our ship, it would work as a repellent. We had plans for anyone who dared mess with us in the Arabian Sea.
On watch, we'd imagine what we'd do if the pirates boarded: engineer, mate and captain grab the guns. Deckie fouls the attackers' props with lines. Bowsun navigates, watching speed and direction and performing evasive manuevers.
We ran without running lights under the bright moonlight in the Gulf of Aden, hoping to avoid the fate that befalls other ships, like Le Ponant.
On the radio, passing tankers or frieghters caught us on the radar, and once in a while, a strong foreign accent in English would mutter across Channel 16 - "What you do, it is not safe. Why no lights? Turn on your lights."
Uh, pirates, dude, you wanted to say. We're a white ship. Bad guys might mistake us for a ghost ship or something. We maintained radio silence.
And then there were those 10 p.m. all-hands-muster-in-the-bridge moments when something strange settled on the radar a mile away from Maverick II, and we thought, these are the fuckers who want to capute our booty. The blips turned out to be 27" sailboats or third-world fishing boats.
Who can deny nerves, scary and raw? Trust no ship passing in the night off the coast of Africa.
Yet the pirates we saw weren't in Africans haunting Arabia. They were Westerners hiding out in Bermuda. We saw the Farley Mowat on the refueling dock in Bermuda.
Focus on midships in the picture at the top of the page. You'll see ten flags. A few Norwegian, a pair of Spanish and something else, Finnish, maybe.
Those ten flags represent ten whaling ships that once hunted illegally, but the Farley Mowat defeated in battle. The lettering above the flags on the Farley Mowat reads "Ships Sunk," and I don't think it's hyperbole.
Do those whaling boats actually rest in Davey Jones' locker? Exaggerations make the best salty tales. You tell me if you think imagine the Sea Shepherd people are lying.
The Mowat leads the armada of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a 501c3 not-for-profit dedicated to going to war for the whales.
Named after the Canadian naturalist writer, the Mowat is a former ice breaker painted black. The Mowat's avowed mission is to protect the seas from unlawful whaling, and the legends surrounding Sea Shepherd rank up there with cannonballs bouncing off Old Ironsides and Admiral Farragut crying "Damn the torpedoes!"
Greenpeace wasn't radical enough in protecting marine mammals for Captain Paul Watson. In 1977, Watson started the Earth Force Society in Vancouver. That led to the incorporation of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Oregon in 1981.
From About us on the Sea Shepherd website:
With financial support from Cleveland Amory of the Fund for Animals, the society's first ship a North Atlantic sea trawler "the Westella" was purchased in Hull, England (UK) and renamed the Sea Shepherd. It's first mission was to the ice floes of eastern Canada to interfere with the annual killing of baby harp seals known as whitecoats.
In the same year, 1979, the Sea Shepherd hunted down and rammed the notorious pirate whaler the Sierra in a Portugal harbor ending its infamous career as the scourge of the seas.
The success of the seal campaign and the ramming of the Sierra was the start of Sea Shepherd's historical 160 voyages over the next 2 decades, enforcing international laws where no law enforcement existed - on the high seas.
Sea Shepherd continues to accomplish its mission by upholding and enforcing international treaties, laws and conventions of world governments.
When we saw the Farley Mowat, she was preppring to head to Canada to bear witness to the seal hunt. I didn't know that at the time. Nor did we see any of the sailors on board, but the local Bermudans who helped us pump 10,000 gallons of diesel for our trans-Atlantic crossing told us they looked scraggly and hard.
They told us if we could board the sinister looking black ship, we could own her because the governments of Belize and Britain had revoked her papers. I didn't know the good history of the Farley Mowat at that point. I imagined battling the scraggly pirates on board to capture their ship and go sailing about the seven seas on my own.
Only when I started to write this did I learn about the Mowat's mission, and about how while volunteer sailors and crew witnessed the baby seal hunt in Canada this year, the Canadian Navy illegally boarded the Mowat and took her hostage.
Canadian government has held the Farley Mowat hostage since April 12. Sea Shepherd is charging the Canadian government $1,000 a day for holding the ship against its will.
While the Mowat is silent, Sea Shepherd has other boats it continues to send out on missions. Now, landlocked and studying for school, I dream about volunteering for Sea Shepherd as crew on one of their missions.