Kidnapped German sailors reach Malaysia in reclaimed yacht

7:20 PM Mon 19 Oct 2009 GMT
'Jurgen and Sabine, now in Malaysia' .
Just sixteen months after they were kidnapped by Somali pirates and held to ransom for 52 days, Juergen Kantner and his wife Sabine Merz have reached Malaysia in their yacht, SY Rockall. After being repatriated to Germany, with incredible determination they returned to Berbera in Somaliland to claim and repair their yacht and continue their voyage.

The sailors were abducted with their yacht on 28th June 2008 while on their way through the Gulf of Aden and later were carried off into remote hideouts within the Cal Madow mountains in Northern Somalia. They were freed only on 9th August 2008 after a lengthy ordeal, during which they had to experience mock executions and other torture, and after a substantial ransom payment.

Less fortunate - Kidnapped French yacht SY Tanit, on which the skipper was killed by French commandos during the rescue of the kidnapped crew - .. .
Meanwhile their yacht had been taken by local militia by force from Laskooray, the coastal town of Warsangeli-Land, which is located between the larger blocks of Puntland and Somaliland, to the harbour town of Berbera in Somaliland. After having gone through another nightmare back home in Germany, the penniless couple set out again with the help of some friends to get their boat, which is their real home.

European tourists are few and far between in the troubled region. The couple, after finding their boat, began to live on it in the harbour, and were perceived as odd birds by the local population.

'They think that I'm insane, they call me the crazy white guy or the mad German sailor but they don't know how important my boat is to me,' he said at the time.

However in Berbera they found people who understood and helped them in the true tradition of hospitable Somalis assisting a stranded stranger.

'My boat is my life and I don't want to lose her, nothing more. I don't care about pirates and governments,' Kantner said while taking a break from his repair work in Berbera, the main port in Somaliland.

They managed to install a donated used engine, because the original one had been ruined by the militia-pilots running it without cooling, repaired the sail and all the 1000 other damages that the Rockall had suffered during her time in pirate hands.

But bad luck struck again, when just a day before they were set to sail a mobile telephone mast operated by TeleSom came crushing down in the strong wind that day. Unfortunately it hit the yacht and caused major damage, but luckily the couple were not injured.

So the two 'we-will-not-give-up'-sailors had to endure another stretch in Berbera doing the minimum repairs to get their yacht to Aden, with very little supplies and using ancient methods and tools.

They succeeded again and set out through the dangerous waters of the Gulf - without a gun or naval escort - to Aden, where they safely arrived despite the rough weather and a still not fully repaired vessel. A strong south/south-westerly wind in this part of the Western Gulf of Aden helped.

Determination won: I don't care about governments and pirates, I just love my boat - .. .
'Aden looks like Paradise', said Mr. Kantner on arrival in Aden, fresh from his experiences in Somaliland. 'Aden has completely changed for the better (since his last visit) and we hope we can repair our yacht here', he said.

The couple had only a short time to effect repairs, because they had to use the season of westerly winds in the Gulf for their passage, and therefore needed the help of many to get the yacht back into shape for the further voyage to the East.

Repairs finished, the couple have now made an uneventful journey and are taking a long-promised rest in Malaysia.

by Sail-World Cruising

Click on thumbnails to enlarge and find more photos:

Newsfeed supplied by