On Pirates and Why You Don’t Have to Worry About Us

Piracy is not dead.  Ships are targeted regularly by folks who want the ship, want the ship’s cargo, or want the crew for ransom.  There’s a breaking story on a badly ended pirate attack:

Navy’s version of the story (they moved or removed this article)

So.  Why is our situation so different that I don’t worry about pirates?

Well, I do.  A little.  But for the most part, there are large differences between the targets of piracy and the S.V. S/N Nomad, soon to be renamed the Itinerant.

Piracy is not a product of boredom or malice.  These people are looking for the same thing that a mugger wants – money.  Or items easily converted into money.  Or products they can use without spending any money.  And so on.

Most ships targeted by pirates are cargo ships, freighters, just as in the heyday of the taking of Spanish galleons.  Those pirates weren’t interested in a bunch of people just out for fun – they wanted the gold.  These pirates aren’t likely to find gold, unless it’s the black kind.  Yup.  Oil tanker are attacked.  If the cargo is not useful to them directly, they hold it and the crew for ransom.  When there is no cargo, there is usually some other indication that money can be made on the deal.

And so we get to the S/V Quest.  This pilothouse sloop is large and very fancy.  For details, here’s a link to their website: S/V Quest. (bad link)

There are so many arguments in favor of going small.  The Pardey’s famous saying is “Go Simple, Go Now!” and I agree wholeheartedly.  I also suggest that Go Small is a good thing to add.  The boat is easier to handle; there is greater flexibility in moorage situations; all gear can be smaller and therefore less expensive.

Against the practical considerations and financial considerations in favor of small boats, people bring up comfort and safety.  They can bring more clothing, have more spares (which they wouldn’t need on a smaller, simpler boat, but…), stretch out better, and feel less claustrophobic.  I can’t really argue the comfort aspect.  Each person has their own version of comfort and decadence.

Safety, though.  It’s a fallacy that a 60 foot boat is generally safer than a 30 foot boat when facing ocean conditions.  There is a very narrow band of conditions where that’s true.  But when the shit really hits the fan, the ocean can create conditions that dwarf both the 30 and 60 foot boats.  So go bigger?  Who hasn’t see The Perfect Storm?  The ocean is simply more powerful than we are, and if you’re caught out in something bad, heaving to is SOP for either boat.  The stronger rigging and beefier build are put under more strain on that larger boat, so all in all, it’s a wash.  Plus, you’re less likely to create a wimpy rig for a smaller boat, because the costs are so much less for every single piece of equipment.

Back to the topic at hand.  Piracy is another safety consideration at sea.  And I know, for a fact, that our boat looks like what it is – property of struggling idealists who work hard to eke out their space on the water.  We don’t look like we have powerful or rich connections.  We have nothing very valuable on board.  We have no real funds and wouldn’t carry them if we did.  The boat itself is worth less than the chase boats run by many pirates.  Really – their ENGINE is probably worth more than our whole boat.

In direct contrast, the S/V Quest was very well stocked with electronics, the boat itself is very valuable, and all those things point to an owner/crew with some money.  Or at least access to someone’s money.  And perhaps access to power as well.

I’m not saying they deserved it (the short-skirt wearing sluts!) or that they invited it.  I’m not trying to make a statement on their decision making in going to that area or their passage planning in general.

There are differences in our situations, though, and I believe that we are safer because of the differences.  If we end up on a different boat, I will still want it to be small, simple, and funky – the better to advertise to the world that we are not a worthwhile target.



  1. By the way – the Navy story tells some interesting bare-bones facts. Two of the pirates were already dead with the Navy arrived. Doesn’t say how they died. If, and this is speculation…if they were shot by crew, I would point to this as yet another argument against carrying guns at sea. Because two of 19 pirates died, but all four cruisers died. That’s not successful protection.

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