A TEIGNMOUTH couple sailing around the world, approached the 'pirate' hot spot in the Indian Ocean with some trepidation.
Patrick and Margaret O'Neill knew that hundreds of ships, both commercial and leisure, of all sizes had been seized and held for ransom, along with their crews.
Some had been killed, and others – like the Chandlers, who were recently freed – detained for months in appalling conditions.
'We decided to take a big detour around the main trouble spot where we heard a pirate mother ship was moored, but it is a huge ocean, and we were worried that we might be seized,' said Patrick.
'But luckily we came through unscathed, although others have not been so lucky.'
The pair, both 69, of St Mary's Road, achieved a lifelong ambition to circumnavigate the globe, but it took them six years in their ocean-going yacht Aqua Magic, a Warrior 40 class.
They set off from Turkey, where it is moored, and set off to see the world from sea and land, at a leisurely pace.
The countries they visited and the oceans they crossed were numerous, including the Canaries, the Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Venezuela, the Pacific, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Maldives, the Red Sea and Arab states.
It was the culmination of years of messing around in boats, starting with dinghies in their 30s.
'Our first long voyage was across the channel with the two kids, and people then thought we were mad to do it.
'But it went well, and we never looked back,' recalled Patrick, a former accountant.
'It had been a dream to sail around the world, and when we retired, we had the chance to do it. Our boat handled really well, and we were well prepared and qualified to do it.
'There was no rush, and we were able to spend a lot of time exploring the countries we visited.
'We did have some bad weather, but nothing the boat or ourselves could not handle.
'We have hundreds of photographs and videos of all the places we went, and will be able to look at them in our dotage.
'But we would like to go off again for a similar voyage if we can – there are still lots of places to see,' Patrick added.