You've probably read or heard the story. Seabourn Spirit, a German-built, Bahamas-registered, Miami-based, Norwegian-crewed cruise ship of 10,000 tons and six decks, carrying 208 passengers and 160 crew, was attacked by pirates 100 miles off the Somali coast Saturday morning. The pirates approached the ship in two open boats, fired rocket-propelled grenades, and repeatedly strafed her decks with machine-gun fire.
The ship's captain, Sven-Erik Pedersen, attempted to ram one of the fiberglass boats before turning the ship and heading out to sea at maximum speed. The pirates gave chase for 30 minutes.
The International Maritime Organization, based in London, keeps track of "world piracy and armed robbery against ships," a fact, until three hours ago, that was unknown to me. Their latest report covers September 2005. Follows are three of the 29 pirate attacks listed for that month.
Container ship, London Tower, Atlantic Ocean, "Four pirates armed with long knives in a wooden boat boarded the ship at forecastle, drifting 19NM off Logos."
The bulk carrier, Intrepid, Indonesian port, "Four robbers armed with long knives and hooks boarded the ship...escaped with their loot in a motorboat."
General cargo ship, Prima Indah, on the South China Sea, "Robbers armed with guns boarded this ship...while underway. They hijacked the ship and transferred master and crew to a fishing boat."
Wire services report that the Seabourn Spirit "escaped by increasing speed and changing course." According to departure.com, Seabourn Spirit's cruising speed is 18 knots. Let's say, to be overly generous, that Captain Pedersen can crank her up to 30 knots when escaping pirates.
One would think that 30 knots (34.6 mph) is not that fast in the rootin'-tootin' world of 21st-century piracy. And yet, a cruise ship, whose sole purpose is to haul white-belly old people, their swimming pool, their shuffleboard equipment, their liquor and food, outran two open boats commanded by professional pirates.
Fellas, it's time to think about an upgrade. * * *
"Interested in learning about your Hustler boats. "
"Okay," says Henri Apbadie, owner of Performance Marine Specialists, West Coast dealer for Velocity and Hustler powerboats.
"I'm on the Hustler powerboat website," I say, "looking at the 2005 Sling Shot and its Twin V-10 Viper engines. The boat is rated at 90-plus miles per hour. How much plus?"
Henri says, "I think it ran in the 95-mph range. That particular boat has the Arneson Surface Drives."
I couldn't be more pleased. "I count ten models. Which one is the go-fast boat?"
"Whatever one you put the biggest engine in." Silence. More silence. "Probably, the fastest one is the 377 Talon. We have some that run in excess of 140 mph."
Bingo! Jibe the lugsail and clear the orlop, we're shoving off. Next stop, treasure and romance! But first, I'd better get a few specs. "And a civilian can buy your 140 mph boat?"
"Oh, yeah. Regular people own them. When I say regular people, you'd be surprised. Used-car salesmen," Henri laughs, "just regular people."
Do I have competitors? Besides used-car salesmen, who else wants to muscle in on this? Time for Gitmo-style interrogation. "Are there places where civilians race boats that go 140 mph?"
Henri says, "People don't race them; they use them as pleasure boats and then four or five times a year there's a poker run, where you come and you pay an entry fee, and they usually have a cocktail party the night before, and then the next morning they tell you how it's not a race, that it's just a social event, and then they drop a flag," Henri laughs hard, "and they go as fast as they can to the next checkpoint."
I say, perhaps a little too eagerly, "WHERE? WHERE? Where do they hold these poker runs?" My crew will require training.
"One of the biggest ones begins in Long Beach. Long Beach to Catalina to Newport and then back to Long Beach."
It's a bloodbath out there. On second thought, perhaps I should take Henri into my confidence. I repeat the pirate story and say, "I saw pictures of the pirate boat. Four guys in black masks holding AK-47s. They're sitting in a Lake Murray cheap-ass weekend fishing boat. That won't do. How should I outfit a proper pirate boat?"
"Velocity built boats for the D.E.A. They were light gray and had big machine guns mounted on them," Henri laughs, "that would be a pretty good pirate boat."
"A little flashy, maybe."
"Well, then you'd probably need something like a 50V Hustler. It's got a cockpit that will accommodate six to eight adults. We just finished one with triple 500 horsepower diesel engines. The boat ran 85 mph and had a range of 539 miles. You only get that kind of range with diesels; they don't break, they run forever, and they're very economical."
"But, not very fast?"
"Let's see, 85 mph for a 50-foot boat," Henri chortles.