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Mariner's Library

Hostage

By Paul and Rachel Chandler

British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler were kidnapped by Somali pirates in October 2009 and lifted off their 38ft Rival sloop on passage from the Seychelles to Tanzania. The Royal Navy picked up their yacht, Lynn Rival, six days later abandoned off the Somali coast.

After the attack, the couple from Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the UK, were taken aboard a hijacked merchant ship and then to Somalia, where they were held for over a year, enduring threats and intimidation as their captors demanded millions of dollars from their family. The Chandlers recount their terrifying ordeal, revealing that it was their belief in each other and their determination to survive which carried them through. They reveal they would have preferred death to being separated.

I recall covering this nightmare at the time for Yachting Monthly magazine. The couple were criticised by various interested bodies (see this month’s Sailors’ Stories) for ignoring the warnings from many quarters not to sail in the area which had become notorious for marauding pirates. 

A ransom was paid for their release and the unfortunate couple then faced further denunciation for increasing the likelihood of other innocent yachtsmen and women being taken for cash.

No one can condone such terrible actions, but perhaps it should be considered that what forced the Somali fishermen into desperate acts of piracy in the first place, was the starvation caused by giant international factory fishing ships who’s fleets hoovered up all the fish stocks off the Puntland coast, leaving only poverty in
their wakes.

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