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October 23, 2013

Tanit Pirates Sentenced

Last Friday, three of five Somali pirates who seized the French yacht Tanit in 2009 were sentenced in a French court to nine years in prison. The pirates boarded the 47-ft Colin Archer design — which was carrying two couples and a three-year-old boy — on April 4, about 500 miles off the Somali coast. The French Navy steadfastly refused to negotiate with the pirates and, on April 10, French commandos stormed the boat, killing two pirates and Tanit‘s skipper, 28-year-old Florent Lemacon. 

Three surviving pirates from the Tanit attack have been sentenced to nine years in prison for their actions, which led to the death of an innocent man.

© 2013 French Ministry of Defense

Lawyers for the pirates asked the court for leniency, claiming that the men, aged 26 to 31, had been suffering extreme poverty and were coerced into becoming pirates. Prosecutors rejected the claims, saying they’d been motivated by easy money instead.

Florent Lemacon was accidentally killed in front of his young son by French commandos.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A spokesman for Chloe Lemacon, Florent’s widow, says that the family is not looking for vengeance, but believes the pirates should be held responsible for their actions. He also said that "French state leaders decided to teach the piracy masterminds on the continent a lesson. I believe that Florent Lemacon died for reasons of national interest. This operation was meant as a powerful signal to the Somalis, while the hostages were put on a backburner."

Tom Hanks portrays Captain Richard Phillips in the film about the Maersk Alabama pirate attack.

© Columbia Pictures

At the same time as the Tanit attack, pirates captured the U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama. Captain Richard Phillips successfully negotiated his crew’s release by sacrificing his own freedom, and later was rescued by Navy SEALs. His story is told in the newly released film Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks in the titular role. 

Road Trip to La Paz

As many cruisers know, the logistics of getting supplies from California south to say, La Paz, by road can be challenging. It’s a long trip, you’ll need food and lodging, and you should also be aware of Mexico’s current weather and road conditions.

On September 30, two 2012 Baja Ha-Ha vets, eager to start their cruising seasons again, headed south from San Diego to LaPaz. John Cometti, owner of the Durango, CO-based Amazon 44 Swagman, and Rob Novak, owner of the Sausalito-based Oyster 485 Shindig, carpooled down in Cometti’s truck.  

Road warriors Rob and John loaded their truck with supplies and goodies to donate to local homeless shelters.

© 2013 Nancy Novak

According to Novak’s wife Nancy, "John’s truck was laden with supplies needed to make this cruising season even more pleasant. Things like solar panels, anchor chain, Ghirardelli brownie mixes, clothing for the local homeless center and cases of wine. 

"They planned to drive only during the day, and mapped out a route in order to arrive in La Paz three days later. The border crossing went smoothly — Mexican officials checked a few boxes and asked them to pay a small amount of duty. Their first stop was Ensenada for a ceviche lunch and to reactivate their Mexican cell phones."

Although there are many places to stay along the way, you’ll definitely want to make specific plans to arrive at your hotel before nightfall. Driving on the Mexico’s Hwy 1 at night can be very dangerous, as cattle and large trucks create unique obstacles. The road warriors took this to heart and spent their first night in El Rosario and their second in Mulege.

Oops! Probably should have tied those boxes of clothes down a wee bit better.

© 2013 Nancy Novak

Overall, their trip was uneventful, other than the three boxes of clothes destined for homeless shelters falling off the back of the truck just north of Ensenada. They insisted that they simply "donated early." 

When developing your trip plans, it’s also a good idea to get a sense of local road conditions in Mexico. One good place to research this is via a Yahoo Group, such as La Paz Gringos. This is where the travelers discovered that the recent tropical storm Octave had severely damaged the highway just past the Loreto corridor and it had been temporarily closed to traffic.

And before you head down, grab a couple bundles of the current issue of Latitude 38 to distribute to cruisers. We almost guarantee you’ll get a drink or two for your efforts!

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