“Do you worry about pirates?” is probably one of the most frequently asked questions we hear. People are even more conscious of the pirate situation in light of the film Captain Phillips. The Indian Ocean, especially off the coast of Somalia and areas close to the Red Sea, are indeed hotspots for piracy. We were certainly aware of the four Americans aboard the yacht Quest who were murdered by pirates in February 2011. For sure, we take the matter seriously.
For the record, we've never experienced anything close to piracy in the last 14 years. We know of several people who have been boarded and robbed and in some cases, beaten or even killed. The coasts of Venezuela and Colombia in the Carib are known areas to avoid and we did. We know of cruising friends who were boarded while anchored for the night in a usually safe Ecuadorian harbor. Other friends were boarded and held at knife point in a remote anchorage in Papua New Guinea. Piracy is real and it's frightening.
We do our best to avoid areas known for piracy, but some of the incidents I've mentioned were not in areas considered high risk. I guess like any other crime, it can be random and not specific to a certain area. In many places, yachties are considered to be rich and have lots of “stuff” that seems appealing to those who have little. We're prime targets for the have-nots.
So … back to the question at hand. Are we nervous about pirates while crossing the Indian Ocean. The answer: We're always wary, but not worried. Mostly because we'll be considerably south from the areas in which piracy attacks have been recorded. That's not to say we couldn't have problems in other areas, but the chances are less likely. More and more people are choosing to round the Cape of Good Hope rather than risk life and ship to piracy going through the Red Sea. Some folks opt to ship their yachts through the Red Sea on large yacht-carrying transport ships at high cost ($40K+) and meet them in the Med. Other cruisers have formed large flotillas that sail in close company and share the cost of heavily armed guards.
As for us, our plan has always been to head to South Africa … to avoid pirates, yes, and, of course, to complete our circumnavigation when we arrive in Cape Town.