One of my family's treasured memories and one of my proudest achievements is sailing Voyager around the world. That's why I bought the old ketch in 1995; to fulfill that ultimate dream of anyone who has ever sailed beyond the breakwater into the open sea.
We departed Marion, the charming Massachusetts seafaring town on Buzzard's Bay in the summer of 1997; crossing the Atlantic, and through the Straits of Gibraltar. By the time we crossed the long Mediterranean and passed through the legendary Suez Canal, it was 1998. The first high drama came a week after the canal in the Gulf of Aqaba when we were run down by an Egyptian gunboat after making an unauthorized stop at one of their islands off the Sinai Peninsula near the Egyptian/Israeli border.
Commuting back and forth to work in New York, I left the boat in Eilat Israel after talking our way out of that jam with Egyptians; leaving the crew to make the hair-raising run down the Red Sea, around the treacherous Horn of Africa and Somalia without me; but with an armed and dangerous Israeli commando on board.
The plan was for me to meet them with the family in the Seychelles Islands 600 miles east of Kenya.
But off Somalia the crew radioed me urgently in New York to report they were being followed by suspected pirates. I immediately called the duty officer at the Pentagon, who referred me to our naval attaché in far off South Africa, who informed me we had no capable force in the Somalia region to help Voyager out.
I later discovered our forces were previously committed: they were bombing Baghdad at the time in retaliation for a Saddam Hussein plot to kill ex- President George H. W. Bush.
To make a 30,000 mile story short, after some more heart-stopping adventures, the pirates went off after another target, Voyager made it unscathed to the Seychelles; I rejoined them there; we crossed the Indian Ocean, the limitless Pacific, (after celebrating the Millennium on the International Dateline in Tonga); passed through the Panama Canal, up the East Coast, arriving in New York harbor in the summer of 2000.
Making that same circumnavigation these days, passing through Suez and the Red Sea would be wildly foolhardy. Absent a heavily armed convoy it would be an impossible peril, given the grave risk presented by the current epidemic of pirates in the region around the Horn of Africa. There are far more of the brigands than there were in 1998; they are more violent, resourceful and desperate.
The sailboat seizure and subsequent massacre of the four American evangelists last week, and this week's seizure of the Danish sailboat and crew, including three children, are stark examples of the proliferation and enormous range of these modern-day cut-throats infecting the vital sea routes within 1000 miles of their bases in chaotic Somalia.
Among the unforgivable crimes of these kidnappers and murderers is that they have punctured the age-old dream of countless sailors. They have broken the sea bridge of the world.