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Sailor Zac Sunderland endures first pirate scare

October 8, 2008 | 10:32 am

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