Somali pirate tales are reminiscent of our own coast

The story read like one of Wilbur Smith’s African adventure novel which always seem to end in death and destruction

I was hardly alone in my thoughts when I read about the four American pleasure boaters killed by pirates off the coast of Somalia last week.“What were they thinking?” I asked myself.The story read like one of Wilbur Smith’s African adventure novel which always seem to end in death and destruction. Mind you, Smith’s stories are set between the 17th and 19th centuries.But here were four knowledgeable Americans, all well-adept at sailing oceans, and yet they chose to ignore every warning and cruised through one of the world’s most dangerous areas. And it cost them their lives.Just days after their demise, seven Danish sailors, including three children, were captured by Somali pirates and now we await to hear of their fate. There are apparently as many as 800 people being held hostage by the pirates who demand ransoms ranging upwards from $1 million.Are people that stupid, naive or do they just choose to wear mental blinders? I don’t know and don’t intend to find out by cruising the African coast in a tin boat snapping photos and requesting interviews with the pirate overlords.However, it did get me thinking about our own coast.I’ve been told by many mariners that the local waters surrounding the Discovery Islands and Desolation Sound are among the most beautiful cruising areas anywhere on this planet. And I would have to agree after going on several boating and kayaking adventures over the years.But what really got me thinking was our own past. Or, more precisely, the past of the aboriginal people who’ve made this coast their home for thousands of years.I once had the pleasure of visiting Village Island, perched at the entrance of Knight Inlet. The First Nations people call it Mamalilaculla. It’s been abandoned for years, but it was once a thriving winter village used by the native people.As the stories go, they were also quite adept at raiding the northern villages near Bella Bella and Bella Coola. Raiding parties from Mamalilaculla would slaughter the warriors and then bring home slaves to do the heavy labour. These slaves, I was told, had the soles of their feet slashed to prevent them from running away.And, just to be sure, once the wounds mostly healed, they were slashed again to further hobble the escape-minded slave.The Haida warriors were particularly feared and routinely raided villages right down to the Strait of Georgia, as it is now known.As for the people of Mamalilaculla, they too were eventually slaughtered by warriors of the northern villages. The point is, as long as we’ve had boats, we’ve also had pirates or warring tribes. And the message to visiting sailors should always be: Steer clear of the danger.