April 5, 2008
By Ken Krayeske • 9:00 AM EST
Update 4/7/8: France has established contact with the pirates, the crew is safe, yet still on board, but more news soon.
H oly cow! Pirates on Friday seized a huge luxury yacht off the Somali coast. Le Ponant, a three masted schooner, can hold 64 passengers and is designed for cruising in some style.
According to the BBC, the French government has not had any contact with the captured vessel or its 30 crew members being held hostage. Le Ponant was apparently headed from the Seychelles to the Red Sea, most likely to a formerly French port in Djibouti.
The crazy part for me is that in Kuramathi in the Maldives, Maverick II, the yacht I was on, was anchored next to Le Ponant. I waved to crew members as they ferried guests to and from shopping on the island. I hope everything turns out well for them.
The BBC said that there have been 27 pirate attacks off the Somali coast in the last year. I'm thanking my lucky stars because Maverick II passed through Bab El Mandeb, the straights separating the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden, where Le Ponant was hijacked.
We stayed to the eastern, Yemeni side of the straight, because of the regular piracy on the Somali coastline. It seems like le Ponant's course took them up the western side of the Gulf. And it was a bit scary for us when tiny fishing boats would pass close to us, because we weren't sure if they were pirates.
Apparently, Maverick II wasn't big enough prey, because the Beeb said that pirates recently tried to board a 600-passenger vessel.
While we had plans to fend off a pirate attack - shotguns, rocket-powered line launchers, flares - it seems clear we wouldn't have been able to defend ourselves, if the pirates could board le Ponant, which was huge compared to Maverick II.