The day before we left Aden we were invited to another leaving do put on by Colonel Mohammed the Coast guard-cum-port police-cum-general bigwig. We also got to chat to a Yemeni woman, covered head to foot in black with just her eyes visible. Her English is excellent and makes for a great little interview.
Finally we leave Salalah! Long haul ahead of us so time to grab a book and get reading.
My brother, Tim, bought me ‘Unknown Seas, How Vasco Da Gama Opened The East’, by Ronald Watkins. I couldn’t think of a more suitable book to be reading on this journey, since we were taking part in the Vasco Da Gama Rally. Right now we are in the middle of the Arabian Sea, very much aware of the recent pirate activity.
It seems, however, that we were not alone in keeping a keen eye open for the odd marauder in these waters. According to the book, which opens with the early spice trade scenario, Watkins notes thus:
Meet Big Brother, watching our every move since Egypt!
Collisions, fishing nets, narrow escapes, exhaustion, arguments and tantrums. And that was just the first day! Sailing in convoy with fourteen other boats through the most dangerous waters in the world is enough to turn any sane man into a quivering wreck, excuse the pun. For some of us more conscientious sailors the Pirate Alley convoy was a living hell!
Pirate Alley. Two words that strike fear into the armchair sailor, apprehension into those who actually sail it, and have the effect of filling my pants out of shear fear when that phrase is uttered. In this preamble I attempt to put some of these thoughts into context.
We now enter Pirate Alley. What does it hold in store for us?