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From Crayfish to Iron
5. The Escape - Four Good Tools and a Dollop of LuckBut we had two enormous advantages that the Ethiopians lacked - inter boat radio communication and radar in the blackness that enveloped the bay. Rob could see the enemy as they tried to close their net, but they could not see us.
For the next two hours Rob, hidden close in to one of the rocky island where the Ethiopians would be loath to go, directed my escape. I dodged back and forth around the bay, missing one of their boats by less than a hundred feet in the dark night.
They were blind. We were not. Had they thought to cut their engines and listen for us we should have been caught in a minute. But so sure were they that we were trapped and unknowing of where they were, they simply proceeded to tighten their net toward land. At a crucial moment, Rob spotted a hole in the closing net and at his shout I took off at full speed and was able to slip out and head to sea.
Rob quickly followed and watched on radar as the little flotilla closed in on nothing. When they discovered our absence they wasted a half hour zig-zagging the bay looking for us. Had they come after us immediately, they might well have caught us but by the time they realized we had given them the slip, we had an hour's head start. Although they tried to follow they were too unsure of the direction we took to make the chase meaningful. The deep breath I took was, I believe, my first in two hours. We were clear and, as soon as we could lose ourselves among the Hanish Islands, 40 miles farther south, we would be free of the Ethiopians.
We did just that and from the islands we were able to skirt eastward into the international waters of the big ship channel heading down toward the port city of Bab al Mandab in Yemen. Never was I, a small boat sailor, happier to see the big iron monsters looming about us, shielding us from all possible pursuit.
Like so much else in this tale, the rest and anti-climatic. Under our nifty jury rig we sailed on down to the Gulf of Aden, said farewell to the bravest sailor I have ever known and scooted for Djibouti, where Unlikely was to receive her new mast.
For anyone planning to sail these troubled waters I recommend four good tools: an hydraulic cable cutter, a Kalashnikov, a good VHF and radar. Make that five, because our large dollop of luck did not hurt. Without it, this story might well have had a different ending.
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