Here's a brief interview I did concerning the writing of Somali Pirates and Cruising Sailors.
Editor: How did this latest book come about?
FATTY GOODLANDER: Minutes after the news hit that the yacht Quest was seized by Somali Pirates, I was asked by an editor to write a magazine article about it. There were three obvious reasons: Carolyn and I personally knew Jean and Scott Adam, we’d transversed the Gulf of Aden the previous year, and we’d just published a book about it called Red Sea Run—Two Sailors in a Sea of Trouble. The editor and I assumed, of course, that this unfortunate situation would develop along classic lines, and that the four Americans would be held hostage in Somalia for many months until a ransom was paid. A few days later—when we heard the crew of Quest had all been killed in cold blood—everything changed for me. I was completely outraged and sad and angry and upset… so I pounded out my frustrations on the keyboard. About 70,000 words into it, my wife Carolyn gently reminded me that it was a tad long for a modern magazine article.
Editor: Where and when did you meet Jean and Scott of Quest?
FATTY GOODLANDER: In Opua, New Zealand, either in 2005 or 2006. They’d circumnavigated South island, and we were quite interested in their experiences in the Roaring 40s. And, of course, they were just setting out on their global circumnavigation—and had a few questions for us, as well.
Editor: What were they like?
FATTY GOODLANDER: They were very lit-up, turned-on sailors. Scott really loved his new boat, and was proud of its design and construction. Jean was a lovely person—brimming over with enthusiasm and love. To think that they are no longer with us because of such… high seas criminal savagery is… totally unacceptable. It took me a month or two to completely process it, to have it really sink in that… they’re gone, really gone, and gone forever.
Editor: Did you also know Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay?
FATTY GOODLANDER: No, we did not. In fact, Phyllis joined the Quest at the last minute in Sri Lanka. She’d been on a different vessel, had had a serious eye problem, and was recuperating ashore in the home of a local ship’s agent in Gaul. She and Bob were already good friends—from where and how I don’t know. Part of the motivation of Jean and Scott to invite her aboard might have been to… well, help a damsel in distress. She was still alive when the US navy boarded the Quest, but expired soon after.
Editor: Were Jean and Scott deeply religious and distributing bibles around the world?
FATTY GOODLANDER: Yes, they were, and, yes, they did. But in our encounters with them—they never mentioned Jesus, religion or bibles to us. It certainly played no part in their being initially pirated. And whether it played any minor role at the end—well, we’ll probably never know, not for sure.
Editor: How bad is piracy in the Indian Ocean?
FATTY GOODLANDER: It is bad, real bad. The true figures, in terms of loss of life, are just now beginning to emerge. Sure, only seven Westerners have been recorded in the international media as murdered—but no one is counting the hundreds of Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Thai, Burmese, Malaysian, Maldivian, Sri Lankan, and Pakistani sailors who are being enslaved, tortured, and murdered on a daily basis. Many of the pirate mother ships are now manned almost entirely with captured crews—held in brutal bondage by a few heavily-armed, extremely cruel Somalis. Thus, we can’t just 'blow the mother ships out of the water’ and pat ourselves on the back—because most of the people we’d kill would be dark-skinned hostages, not pirates. The leaders of some pirate mother ships just select a captured crew member when approached by a Western naval vessel—and severely beat that innocent, terrified person in plain view until the naval vessel sickens and turns away. The situation is, literally, an international outrage. There are now around 2,000 pirates in the area. They grossed 238 million dollars last year alone. It costs the general public 12 billion dollars—that is billion with a capital B! Five years ago, the average ship ransom was $150,000 or so, Now, they average over $2 million. And the highest ransom ever paid was just a few months ago, in April 2011, when the Greek owners of the Irene SL paid $13.5 million to get their VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) and its crew back after 58 days. Basically, a bunch of barefoot teenagers who high on khat have stolen the Indian Ocean.
Editor: Aren’t yachtsmen sailing in that area almost asking for it?
FATTY GOODLANDER: No, emphatically no. No woman asks to be raped. No taxi driver asks to be stabbed. And no innocent working man asks to be shot or car-jacked on his way home. It is HORRIBLE to blame the victim. Jean and Scott weren’t attempting to do anything that I and 120+ vessels didn’t do the year previous—exercise the Freedom of the Seas as they transited towards home waters via the Red and Mediterranean Seas. I mean, should we evacuate Chicago AND New York City because some punk in Philly blew away a guy in car? Of course not. Don’t blame the victim, blame the perpetrators!
Editor: Why hasn’t this been solved long ago? Why not just blow the pirates out of the water—like in the Good Old Days?
FATTY GOODLANDER: It isn’t that easy. If it was, we’d have solved it back in 2008 when the media first focused on the Ukrainian ship MV Faina being captured with a full cargo of tanks, anti-aircraft guns, and RPGs. First off, the Indian Ocean is a big area. It is ten times bigger than the USA, and it is patrolled by 20 relatively slow-moving ships. Just imagine if, in the continental United States, two cops on bicycles were told to patrol the entire area—and stop crime. Could they do it? No, they could not. Too few cops, too large a neighborhood. The second factor is that Somalia is a failed state. The reasons for this (which I delve into in the book) are complex and many—but the bottom line is that many young Somali men are unable to feed their families on $2 a day, and are desperate. I’m not making excuses for them, just stating an obvious economic truth. Compare this to the pirate shore teams whose members are averaging $17,000 per year per person—and the average successful on-the-water pirate earning $72,000 per. There’s even a $5,000 bonus paid to the first pirate ‘jumper’ who gains the deck. Why, there’s even an informal ‘pirate stock market’ of sorts in Harardheere—through which the average Somali business man can invest. And there’s no penalty for piracy, for all intends and purposes. Very few pirates get caught, and 90% of them are released. Many pirates have been ‘captured’ or detained numerous times by various Western navies—and then returned to Somalia at taxpayers expense. Many of these dreaded pirates are, in reality, just scared kids away from home for the first time. One of the pirates on the Quest was 15 years old, and returned to his parents by the US without any punishment whatsoever. There is, of course, no justification for what the pirates are doing or the violence they engage in. But the pirates are—or think they are—acting in their own self-interests. We have to understand that. And we also have to understand and acknowledge that our current anti-piracy policies are failing dismally to combat the problem.
Editor: Why did you feel compelled to write this book?
FATTY GOODLANDER: I am, and have been my entire life, a strong advocate of freedom of the seas. I’ve lived aboard various small sailing vessels for 51 of my 59 years. I’ve sailed around the world—and then some. I believe—no, I know—that no lifestyle provides as much pleasure, stimulation, and personal freedom as that of an international sea gypsy. I do not want to be among the ‘last American circumnavigators.’ I want to keep doing what I’ve been doing my entire life—sailing offshore. And I want to leave the world a safer, more peaceful place for my granddaughter, not a more violent one. (end)
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