We're on an island in the Maldives.
On the dinghy pier, because of incompatible stairs and current directions Hakan must do some acrobatics. I tell him not to worry, I'm going to grab him and help him crawl up the pier unscattered. He doesn't seem to be listening but it doesn't matter. He pulls himself up the pier, I extend my arm and try to get a hold on his backpack and ... I miss, the nail of my index finger bends upwards and blood starts flowing out from under it.
Not so long ago I thought pirates only belonged in fairytales and ancient stories. Pirates with patched eye, wooden legs and a hook. My reality now is very different. On the next passage we will enter pirate zone. For real. For years now I hear and discuss how to handle the problem and what strategy to adopt. Of course, the problem is, there is no such thing as a pirate proof way. All the while we've been speculating. Now time has come to take a decision. What is our strategy?
By a strange and unexpected turn of events Hakan ends up taking over a room in the tiny but very clean hospital. For a couple of days he turns into a dentist. I look at him owning the place. I look at him work, on people. Injecting anesthesia, pulling out teeth with unadapted medical tools (which impressed him) or with his bare fingers (which impresses me). we end up with the boat filled with papaya and breadfruit chips as payments but still no strategy. We don't even know where we'll land next.
Oman? Yemen? Oman? Yemen?
Oman and then Yemen? Or Oman and then Djibouti? No Oman just Yemen? Along the coast or well off it?
You've got the opportunity pirate and the well organized pro pirate. meeting the first it is mostly, I think, up to you, or in this case up to us to turn the encounter into something else than an attack. Meeting the second becomes a question of staying alive, unraped, on floating Mardek. We hear stories of course, many stories. They sometimes go like this.
You are sailing, minding your own business. A speedboat turns up, on board a few men, their heads all covered up, only dark shiny eyes are apparent. A good thing to know is that even the non pirates have their heads covered up. Against the sun. Which doesn't mean it is not scary. A mummified head is an unsettling sight! So they speed in, but don't forget that you see them coming from far away, and even when they speed in, it takes them quite a while to reach you. So you look at them and you know
already that it is you they are coming for. Your heart rate speeds up, all you can do is wait. Wait and see. Are they pirates or are they fishermen? Or something in between? Suddenly all speeds up, and they are alongside. They ask you for water. You give them some, then they ask you for diesel and you say no, because you can't spare your diesel. So they go away, they look at you one more time, the shiny blackness piercing inside of you, letting you know that it is not over, not yet. One of them lifts
his hand and with his thumb motions the slicing of a throat. Your throat. They circle the boat a couple of times then come in again, kalashnikovs pointing at you. One man jumps on board. Then the story always becomes blurry, they usually empty the boat, all of it, leaving you floating with nothing, not even food. If they kill you, your story doesn't even come out.
I'm making tea. I'm cleaning the cooker as well. I poor the water in the teapot. There are two gas burners on the cooker, I've cleaned one and replaced it. I'm talking with Hakan, I'm not very concentrated on my cleaning, I'm on autopilot. I pick up the second burner... pchttt. I drop it, too late. My middle finger is throbbing, how could I take the burner when I just boiled water on it? Damn fool, I poor essential oils on my finger and put a plaster around it. On my left hand I have an index finger
whose nail is half detached. My middle finger has a plaster under which some burning is going on.
Some say, sail at least 50 miles off the coast of Yemen. Stay in convoys, which means 5 or 6 boats sailing very close to one another and pray. some say, sail in sight of the Yemeni coast, if you are attacked you have more chance to get help if you are close to the coast than if you are in the desert. And pray. Some say, put your boat on a cargo ship and have it delivered in the Mediterranean. Some say round the Cape of Good Hope. Some say throw a molotov cocktail in their boat, some say shoot the
fuckers. Some say, sail at night with no navigational lights on, some say, sail only during daylight. What do you say? What do I say?
I say we've finally decided to go to Yemen. To Al Mukalla, it is the outer edge of the danger zone. We go there and speak with the coast guard. Is it true they provide protection if you sail along their coast, is it true you can stay in radio contact the whole way? Will they support us even if we are just one boat? With this information received first hand we will then and there decide on our next move. Join a convoy or sail the coast.
It is night now, Hakan is asleep, well not yet, he just went to bed. I'm in the cockpit. The porthole is open, it obstructs my view for my watch. I bend over and slowly close the window, I hold it so it won't crash down. my feet are on the stairs, I know I am just too small to close the window comfortably, I know I must let go before it is closed all the way but I hold on as long as I can so Hakan won't hear a loud thud. something goes wrong and I don't let go, the pressure of the window pulls me
forwards, my little finger and my ring finger are stuck in the closed porthole while my whole bodyweight pulls me the other way. My feet are not really on the stairs any more so I can't push on them to free my fingers, my whole weight pulls on my stuck fingers, the window mechanism pulls as hard in the other direction. I scream. The pain is excruciating, I jerk my body and manage on the third go to free my fingers, the pain blinds me, my hand seems to be falling off, seems to implode. I can barely
breath, my fingers are free but the pain is getting worse, I keep on screaming to be able to keep consciousness. Hakan is by my side, but there is nothing to be done, after a while the pain seeps into heavy throbbing, only the hand is screaming, the rest of my body comes back to life as I know it, I finally dare to peak at my crying fingers, they are red and blue. I take out my ring in case they blow up, poor essential oils on them and cover them. The next day they're not black, but then again, I
broke my nose and it didn't turn black, I broke my toe and it didn't turn blue. The sensation in my middle finger is strange, maybe my nail will fall off, Hakan says it is a little early to know.
4 hurt fingers on one hand, that's no good, it scares me, I'm not taking good care of myself, and this is not the time to mess about, I have a little more than a week before entering pirate land, by then I hope I will be centered again, in control of me. At night I stare at the stars, I make wishes when I see them fall, if you see stars fall, if you pray, if you play with energy and you can spare a little, please send some over here, we need a little protection, a little extra strength. For now we sail. For now we hope. To find no pirates.