Part II : Foreboding of Danger on Valiant Carrier

 November 26, 2008

  • Part I: Pirates Traumatised Mangala Captain
  • Part III : Donny and Family Taken Hostages by Pirates
  • Part IV: Sea Piracy Post-Valiant Carrier

    “No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chances of being drowned… A man in jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company…When men come to like sea life, they are no longer fit to live on land.”– Samuel Johnson, English author (1709 – 1784) quoted by his biographer, James Boswell.

    “ The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator”. – Edward Gibson, English historian (1737 – 1794).

    It is time to pause awhile and see why Gibson prevailed against the foreboding of Johnson when Donny opted for a career at sea at the age of 21 years. There were some strong pulls. Seafaring had deep roots in Donny’s family. His maternal grandfather worked for the British Royal Navy. There were eight others in the family already working as merchant mariners. Besides, unlike today, there were hardly any worthwhile career options for a science graduate in Mangalore. Life at sea meant adventure. One often discounts risks when lucrative opportunities are tempting. Finally, one trusts in Providence to guard and save him from danger. As Charles Diben, English actor (1745 –1814), said apropos sailors:

    There’s a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft,

    To keep watch for the life of poor Jack.

    If Jack was watched by a cherub, will Donny be ignored? No wonder then that Vim sailed with Donny from the time he became Chief Officer in 1983 and continued to accompany him on his periodic contract forays until 1989 – when Deepak’s schooling kept her back on shore.

    I could have had the story of the dreadful night of April 24, 1992 from the horse’s mouth. Vinisha was too small at that time to know anything except that she still carries a white scar on her forehead which mercifully merges with her fair skin. But I had no heart to request the dramatis personae to recall their traumatic night which gives nightmares and goose pimples to them many times even to this day. So, I     rely on the book autographed by the author for Donny to take the reader to the fateful night of violent encounters on Valiant Carrier.

    Donny welcomed his family aboard Valiant Carrier and ushered them to his Captain’s quarters. After settling them down Donny was to go about his work on the bridge. Vim instinctively sensed something amiss and had foreboding of coming danger. Donny reassured her and went about his work of assigning duties to his officers on the deck. Motoring out into the busy Phillip Channel at the bottom of Malacca Straits was one of the most demanding tasks of the entire voyage. Donny had to manoeuvre 30,000 tons of explosive fuel through heavy crossing traffic. Homi Tarapore, the Third Mate, was a tall Parsi who had earned his black belt in karate. Donny instructed Homi to be alert for pirates and maintain full anti-piracy drill, including keeping all deck lights on. “Keep sharp, Homi, and call me – for any reason”, the Captain said while going below to his quarters.

    A restless Vim expressed the fears about the ship: “Something is wrong Donny, I’m scared”. On the bridge Homi was finding it nearly impossible to see the fishing boats (among scores of them pirate boats mingled) ahead because of the fully lit deck. Disobeying the Captain’s orders, he switched off the deck lights.

    The next thing Donny knew was that the pirates had boarded his ship. Vim went into the bedroom taking her son and infant and locked it. Responding to the commotion and balls of flame directed at the ship, the Third Officer reached the door of the wheelhouse only to be confronted by five men, in ski masks, swinging knives.  The pirates were dragging Homi, barely conscious and tied up, by the feet, leaving behind a wide smear of blood. The Chief Officer cried out. The pirates screamed high-pitched indecipherable orders in broken English: “No fight! You fight, you die”. One of the gang smashed the Chief Officer in the face with the butt of his machete and he slumped to the deck. Another pirate yanked the officer to his feet, pulled out a piece of plastic rope hanging from his belt and hog-tied the Third Officer’s and Chief Officer’s hands behind their back.

  • Part I: Pirates Traumatised Mangala Captain
  • Part III : Donny and Family Taken Hostages by Pirates
  • Part IV: Sea Piracy Post-Valiant Carrier
  • By John B. Monteiro
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