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Sailor Zac Sunderland endures first pirate scare

Zac Sunderland

Zac Sunderland, 16, who is attempting to sail around the world alone, was sure he was falling under attack by pirates.

Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, pointed toward Cocos (Keeling) Islands, nearing lunchtime on Tuesday, he saw a large boat four miles away. Swells were 8 feet, so he was rising and falling aboard his 36-foot vessel.

The large wooden boat didn't show on the radar, which was unsettling. He couldn't reach the crew on the radio, which was scary. The large boat flew no flags and was closing in, so Zac took emergency measures.

The Thousand Oaks sailor started the engine to help him evade whom he was increasingly sure were evil people. He prepared to hit the distress button, which would pinpoint his position in case of a collision. He called his parents from a satellite phone and gave them his position.

"I got my gun and waited," Zac wrote in his blog. "We passed a couple of hundred yards apart and they stopped dead in my wake.

"I was moving along just under eight knots and getting the hell out of there as fast as I could."

Zac has apparently become a hardened adventurer since leaving Marina del Rey in June. Tuesday night he awoke every 25 minutes, in case the vessel was following him.

Presumably, its crew was merely setting or retrieving nets. But Zac will be glad to arrive at Cocos Keeling later this week, so he can rest up for the next leg of his journey.

I'm expecting a call from him before he reaches port, and if we connect I'll get an update on his grand adventure and, of course, his disposition in the wake of his first real scare.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Solo-sailor Zac Sunderland, shown before his June departure from Marina del Rey, is closing in on Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

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Comments (6)

Look prates are real and they are quite dangerous and I doubt Zac had much of anything of real value to them on board and they would likely became highly agitated and violent for wasting there time boarding him so laws or no laws it was smart of him to bring along protection if he needed to dive into a port for an emergency the gun can always be tossed over the side before getting close to said port. Bottom line it's him and the ocean you can't leave yourself at the mercy of pirates or anything because of some law written on a piece of paper by some nit wit bureaucrat. When you look around and see nothing but water the only thing that truly matters is keeping your boat afloat and yourself alive being a good law abiding citizen if quite far down list.

He should have the firearm in a locked safe, and declare it in port, otherwise he WILL go to jail.

As for Mexico ... I can only advise that one should avoid putting into port in kleptocracies if possible ... Mex law enforcement officials are even more dangerous than criminals.

Oh grow up! US laws stop at the US border. If he's chosen to carry a gun then a blog posting about it will do nothing to prevent a foreign nation from taking issue with such if it's laws dictate such action. Surely you're not advocating Zac smuggle the gun into foreign ports? Because that is exactly where your entreaties to remove the blog reference to the gun logically lead if you are also suggesting keeping officials in other SOVEREIGN nations in the dark about its being on the boat, and that's most certainly a course to more dire consequences than reporting it would bring.

Mike you are crazy!! I would have to agree with the first post. DON'T TALK ABOUT GUNS OUTSIDE THE US!!! Look what happened off the waters in Mexico a couple of years ago. That one family from Newport Beach sailed up to get gas or something, told the cops they had a locked-up gun on aboard. The next thing the family's father was in jail and they seized the $400K boat. And they are our friends!!

Please take-out the gun referrence!!!

There is no legal prohibition on carrying firearms on the high seas, and most countries allow the entry of firearms into their territorial waters provided they are declared and properly secured. I would bet that Zac researched the laws of the states where he would likely make port calls.

This is America. Guns are legal (for most of us), but telling the world this kid has a gun on board is enough to get him thrown in prison in almost any other part of the world. You should remove that part of the blog immediately.


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