|I got to the Sheikâ€™s office early, he was praying, I waited, then he called me in and I was given tea so I
knew there was a problem.
Saudi Arabia is a Kingdom of losely united Sheikdoms and there are a lot of Sheikdoms, some of these
Sheikdoms are not so united, in fact some have ongoing feuds for hundreds of years.
The feud between the Sheiks of Yanbo and the Baroom Sheiks is ongong for 400 years.
At the time I didnâ€™t know this.
Sheik Baroom told me heâ€™d bought a couple Dutch coasters of about 1500 tons.
There were complications, the ships were in Yanbo.
It seemed the Sheik of Yanbo also claimed the ships through a complicated Saudi logic.
I agreed to capture the ships and bring them to him in Jeddah Port.
Two nights later with my Engineer Colin Wilson and a couple of the Sheiks men we started the drive north
on the Medina road.
The first check point before after Medina is a Saudi Military one and a small lump of â€˜backsheeshâ€™ and
its easily passed. The second check point is only a few kilometers from Yanbo and manned by the Yanbo
Sheiks men, so at a point some 6km before the check point we went off road into the desert in the
driection of the south of Yanbo Port and about a kilometer south of the Port we stopped and walked the
rest of the way.
From a vantage point I studied the port and the position of the two Dutchmen who were anchored in the
south bay of the Harbour. We were still early, we were waiting for prayers and I took the time to study how
I would need to manouvre the ships towards the exit and then the roads.
I knew that to do this I would first need to moor the ships together and to do this we would have no time
to lift the anchors so we would have to let them go.
I had been into Yanbo before and had my own chart but I have to say it was perhaps one of the most
difficult Ports to enter or exit. The approach was then like an â€˜Sâ€™ which winds it's way through sharp
unmarked coral reefs. No ships exit or enter at night because it wass too dangerous, therfore to do it at
night and with a double beam, (two ship widths), was not going to be easy.
Informants told us there were three guards.
Prayers were being called as we moved down to the shoreline and climbed into a small rowing boat.
In less than three silent dark minutes we were alongside the first ship and a minute later the first guard was
disarmed and a minute after that the other two. (Saudi guards are little more than Hobbits.) The three
were thrown overboard near the rowing boat but for some strange reason they decided to swim for the
shore which would take them five minutes at least.
I ran forward to lose the anchor as Colin ran to the engineroom to give me power.
The anchor chain shackles were solid, so I started to raise the anchor then ran to the bridge, as I rounded
the bridge stairs I came face to face with another guard, there were four not three guards, all I had was a
rolled up chart in my hand and my nav bag. I politely asked the guard to jump overboard which he quickly
did and swam after his companions all of whom were screaming stuff in Arabic.
I made it to the bridge as the engine started, I had power. The two Sheiks men then seeing I was in charge
of the situation slid down the ladder and into the boat and quietlyrowed away. into the darkness
Colin came out of the engine room then to the bow and the anchor which was now almost up and when it
was I gave a push starboard to close to the second ship and when alongside with colin we ran down the
decks lashing the ships together the best we could for the moment.
Then Colin ran to the bow of the starboard side ship and I took the bridge of the port ship and put us half
speed ahead and turned to the first part of the â€˜Sâ€™ of the exit.
At that moment the alarm went up in the town and every single light in all directions went out and there
was blackness all around I dont think I had ever experienced such darkness.
I had no radar only memory and a chart in my mind and my hand.
Then they started firing at us. At first small stuff that was too far away but then cannon shells started
whirling over our heads and explosions on the water 80 meters away, more or less where were had started
I opend the radio to listen in, I was now moving forward faster than I thought I could so I slowed to dead
slow and regained steerage, I had made the first bend in the â€˜Sâ€™ and most of the shells that were
being fired were falling to a position far begind us although one or two still flew over our heads. As I hang
on a hard a port in the bend I had a helping hand from a Brethren in a ship at anchor outside the port in the
roads, he had me on radar and by radio steadied me as I went.
After six more long minutes I was in the roads and heading out to sea.
An hour later we had both ships heavily fendered and locked together and we got the second ships engine
started and helmed it to midships.
This mission took us 22 hours. (I was told later that at Yanbo they were firing the cannon in the darkness
for the best part of an hour after we had gone.)
On arrival at Jeddah Port I stayed in the roads until the Sheik sent his man out to us with a briefcase
containing my payment afterwhich we gave him the ships.
This action gave me a name within my Peers, I suppose because I had captured two ships at the same time.