The latest life-threatening danger to add to the list on this trip: pirates. I'm talking about desperate indigents or organized criminals looking to make a quick buck by robbing unsuspecting ocean-going vessels. I must admit I was totally oblivious to the possibility (or probability) that we would encounter pirates on our trip. After doing some research I found that my brother and I will be sailing right through some high-risk piracy areas, and there really is no way to avoid it. While they generally target commercial shipping vessels, there have been a significant amount of attacks upon ordinary sailboats.
After reading some stories of people getting killed or beaten by pirates I decided this might be something I should bring to my brother's attention in case he wanted to back out now. This is how that conversation started out:
Me: Bro, I just read about something that I think we need
to consider on this trip. We're going to be sailing through
some high-piracy areas. We'll have to watch our for pirates.
Michael: What? That sounds like BS.
Me: No, I'm serious. And I'm not talking about Jack Sparrow. I'm
talking about people riding in speedboats rolling up on us
in the middle of the night ready to steal our things and beat
us up, if not kill us.
Michael: Well then I'll just bring my two boys: Glock and
Magnum *shows me his two pistols*. I'll let you have
one. Let pirates try to board us when we're strapped.
Me: They may have assault rifles. And rocket-propelled grenades.
And probably more than 2 people.
Michael: Well..... s**t...... What do we do?
That was a good question. Conventional internet wisdom says there are two options: bring weapons and prepare to fight or avoid being boarded by pirates in the first place. My brother, having recently been introduced into the art of pistol shooting, was all for the first option no matter what the chances were of being outmanned and outgunned. However, after doing some research, it seems that the law will make carrying a weapon legally more trouble than it's worth.
We sampled a few countries' maritime gun laws and found that if we bring a gun, we must declare it when boarded by customs. In all likelihood we will have to give it to the government agents who will store the gun onshore, making the carrying of a gun rather pointless. Furthermore, they will not forward or send it anywhere when we are ready to move on to the next country, so if we wanted it back we would have to return to the port of entry where it was being stored. That effectively would make our trip impossible. Violating any of these rules, or hiding guns, can result in serious prison time in a foreign country.
So the only real option, unfortunately, is to travel unarmed. A scary thought no doubt, but it shifts our focus to safety. We will now have to purchase motion-triggered alarm systems, heavy locks, extra flares, etc. Furthermore, when traveling through these high-risk areas, we'll have to take watch in shifts, travel with no lights, have coast guard radio frequencies memorized, and generally avoid being boarded at all costs.
Naturally we came up with our own ideas, like carrying Airsoft assault rifles or wooden replicas that we display prominently on deck to deter would-be pirates scoping us out from a distance. We are unsure how receptive customs and border enforcement in other countries will be to fake guns... probably not so well... but we may be willing to take our chances explaining it to them. My brother even suggested we paint our future boat black to camouflage with the ocean at night, but it turns out that may be rather expensive.
Of course, more research and planning needs to be done on this point. The only thing we are certain of is that our resolve to make this trip happen has not diminished in the slightest. There is so much that can go wrong on this trip, but the potential for personal growth is huge. The piracy revelation has made the trip more real for us, but in a weird way it has also added to the sense of adventure. We will press forward. In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas on how to pirate-proof our future boat, we are open to suggestions :)