The Gauntlet

Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
1
4
31
Trip End May 15, 2011


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Where I stayed
Tahitian Princess

Flag of Yemen  ,
Thursday, April 9, 2009

The gauntlet is the nickname for the Gulf of Admen that is
located between Oman and Somalia on the land side, and the Arabian Sea and the
Red Sea on the water side. This is an area of the world that is at high risk
for piracy. Last December the Nautilus was attacked by pirates. The Nautilus which
is a sister ship to the Tahitian Princess but not a Princess ship, outran the
pirates. This area is being patrolled by warships from many countries including
the United States, France, India, Russia, and Australia. It is a crucial area
in that ships must pass thru the Gulf of Admen to enter the Red Sea which is
the entrance to the Suez Canal. This is the passage that allows ships to
quickly get to the Mediterranean and Europe without having to sail all around
Africa. It is also an area where many crude oil cargo ships move oil from
the oil rich Middle East out to the rest of the world. 

The day after we left Dubai and two days before we arrive at Salalah, we held
our first practice drill for piracy avoidance. The code that will be given to
alert both the crew and passengers of an imminent pirate attack is "Code
Sierra Papa". When the code is given over the ship's intercom everyone
goes into action. All passengers will return to their cabins via inside passage
ways. The crew members will go to specific posts that have been assigned to
them. Some will start checking the cabins for passengers, that all curtains in
cabins have been closed and that no passengers are standing in front of open windows.
Other crew members will man fire hoses on the top and fifth deck. The fire
hoses will be used to create confusion and limited visibility among any would
be boarders. The bridge crew will extend the stabilizers and increase the ships
speed to over 19 knots. The captain will then institute a series of evasive
maneuvers that the passengers have been fore warned to hold on tight to keep from
being thrown around the cabin. 

The captain has stationed special lookouts around the ship to help alert the
ship if anything is spotted. To further enhance our safety we will be cruising
further out to sea than normal; beyond the range of small fishing boats. We
will be cruising at a much faster speed than normal. We have been assured that
help will come quickly in case of an attack.

There are several methods that we might be utilized by pirates; but the methods
used by the pirates are evolving and changing:

1)     They might give a phony distress call
2)     They can stretch a long cable between two boats and
when a ship passes between the two boats it will hit the cable and draw the two boats into the passing ship.
3)     They can just try a direct attack on the ship with
guns and grenade launchers.

So now we have the facts and have practiced the procedure so we are ready for
the gauntlet.

04/08/09 - Today we visited the port of Salalah and we were to leave port at
7:00PM. We have just learned from CNN that an attack was made near us on a
container ship. The information is a bit sketchy so far, but we do know that our
departure was delayed 4 hours until 11:00PM. The Passenger Service Desk said
that the departure was due to Harbor Traffic, but it is a small port. We were
on deck to watch the departure and the only ship we saw moving in the port was
a grey colored military ship heading out to sea about the time of our
departure.

On awaking in the morning, I checked the online news service about the pirate
attack that occurred while we were in the port of Salalah. The location of the
attack was to the south of our location off the coast of Somalia outside of the
Gulf of Aden.

While I was reading, the bridge came on the intercom to advise us that on our
port side was an American Warship that was not identified because of security
purposes. They told us to expect to see several more warships while we were
passing thru the Gulf of Admen.

By 08:30 AM, the bridge broadcast over the ship's intercom with news that there
were now two American Warships with us. They were on both sides of the ship.
They were there to mark the shipping lane that we will use as we enter the high
security zone of the Gulf of Aden. Although they would not follow us through the
shipping lane, they offered a feeling of security. We should always be somewhat
close to warships; hopefully never more than one hour away. That will mean the
evasive maneuvers would only be needed until help could arrive. Since we passed
the American warships we have only seen cargo ships that are transiting thru
the protected shipping lane.

04/10/09 - Today was an ordinary day at sea. We saw a few ships in our shipping
lane but nothing came close to the ship. Ever since we have entered the
Gauntlet, the ship has maintained an Eighteen plus Knots speed.  We have
not lingered anywhere in the Gulf. Several warships passed quickly and in the
distance. There was no special activity going on in the Gulf of Admen today. We
reached Bab al Mandeb which is the straight that is the entrance to the Red
Sea. Bab al Mandeb is Arabic for "Door of Mandeb" and Mandeb is a
mountain that sits on the passageway into the Red Sea. As we passed thru Bab al
Mandeb, we saw 2 Warships and a submarine that was off to starboard side of the
ship.  About a half hour later, we saw about 10 small boats running around
in the straight and a cargo ship off on the horizon. This created a little
excitement but no "Papa Sierra" code was sounded so it was an
apparent false alarm. We made it thru the Gauntlet without any problems or few
concerns.

As we cruised thru the Gulf of Aden, the ship maintained its
normal activities, with show and diner times unchanged. We even had a talk from
Tab Hunter. Everything was normal on the surface but we all knew where we were
and the dangers that could be involved. But we felt secure in the knowledge
that the ship's company had taken all possible precautions and we were all
informed and ready for the transit of the Gulf of Aden. Some passengers used
humor during this time to entertain us by dressing up as fantasy pirates and
roaming the pool area of the ship on the second afternoon of the gauntlet run.

The day after tomorrow we will be arriving in Safaga, Egypt; the port for the
Valley of the Kings. We will be in Egypt, the land of the pharaohs. 

There is not hunt for Harriet as we didn't get off of the ship while in the
Gulf of Aden. That was good luck for us.



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