Brian Leffler of Enosburg Falls, VT asks:

Thanks for this forum. I am addicted to following the trip. During your transit of the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Med did you have any contact with any US or other warships? How much ship to ship communications do you have in general?

Jim Leishman responds:

As we approached the coast of Oman, we began to hear ships identifying themselves as Coalition warship with a number identifier. They never referred to U.S. warship however it seemed obvious to us with the accent free English.

Arriving in Oman we noticed numerous British destroyers and then the aircraft carrier "Illustrious" arrived with a large navy supply ship. One evening we were invited aboard the supply ship and spent a couple of hours in the aft lounge with the crew. We found that the crew was all merchant marine and supplied the carrier with ammunition, fuel and general supplies. I spoke with the second officer and they would not say where they had been or where they were going and would not be quoted in print, however he told us that the waters were safe, very safe. Later we were told by lower ranking crew that the waters were thick with Coalition warships - German, French, British, Italian and American. They suggested that there were aircraft in the air 24 hours a day and that if we keyed our VHF on 16 - called a mayday - there would be aircraft overhead within a matter of minutes. We were elated with the news and it spread through out the anchorage in Salalah by morning. All the following day Cruisers were inviting the civilian sailors to their yachts for drinks and snacks.

We had met the crew of a twin engine 62 foot Choey Lee Motorsailor and agreed that we would depart Salalah and run together to Djibouti. As we departed Salalah we heard Coalition Warships - of all the above nations - hailing ships and asking a long series of questions - port of departure, next port, cargo, crew nationalities, etc. Each series of questions lasted up to a half hour or more. We saw ships on the horizon and were buzzed by two recon - land based turboprop aircraft. The presence of the ships and aircraft gave us so much confidence that after two days and by mutual agreement - we pulled away from the Choey Lee as they preferred a slower speed and less fuel consumption.

We did hail warships sighted however they did not respond (which is common for any warship). I suspect they feel unnecessary communication or giving out information about themselves could be a security compromise. We continued to hear these ships and questions - all the way up the Red Sea and into the Mediterranean.

Contrary to our concerns, this was probably the safest time in history to go boating in the Middle East.


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