Regarding the two incidents reported on Noonsite:
At the time of the Gypsy Moth incident I was in Sana'a. I have no personal knowledge of what hapened but will meet with the Coast Guard Headquarters staff on Monday or Tuesday and will take up the matter with them. Unfortunately the article fails to mention the position of Gypsy Moth at the time but simply states that she was in the Gulf of Aden. She could have been in the territorial waters or EEZ of either Yemen, Smalia or Djibuti. I will let you know what I can find out from the Coast Guard.
At the reported time of the second incident I was flying over the Red Sea between the border to Saudi Arabia and Bab el Mandeb. We were at an altitude of between 5 and 6,000 feet and so sould easily have picked up VHF traffic but heard nothing. My records show that there was little commercial fishing activity in that area on that day although many small artisanal boats were out. There was a lot of commercial traffic in the area. We observed no warships. I wonder if the date of the report is correct?
This second incident is clearly in Yemen waters and on that particular day there was a Yemeni Coast Guard vessel anchored in the lee of the islands just to the north west of the given position. I will ask for more details at the meeting.
Otherwise, our surveilance showed that there was far less military traffic than expected. We observed only French warships in the area as well as local Yemeni vessels. The numbers of commercial vessels observed was astounding. Aside from local vessels, there was a promenance of Italian, Chinese, Norwegian and Danish owned vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. We observed 10 yachts under way in the area. Three were headed southwards and the remainder were haeding towards Suez. Of these, only the two heading towards the Indian Ocena were in company. Others were sailing alone.
In almost all cases, the yachts were outside the main shipping lanes. Normally I would say that keeping as far from main shippng lanes as possible is a good practice but in this area I think we should keep as close as possible to the routes of the larger merchant ships which could offer support in an emergency situation. I would also advise yachts to sail in convoy for the same reason.
When I left Aden for Sana'a three days ago there were seven yachts anchored off Steamer Point. There are more yachts in the area than I would have expected given the bad reputation of the place. I also feel that some of the reports of "suspected" incidents are cases of mistaken identity". Fishermen in this area are very curious as well as poor. They will certainly take the opportunity to trade fish for cigarettes or cash. The boats they use are long, open, narrow, GRP vessels which are quite fast. It is easy to see why one or two of these boats approaching a yacht could give the wrong impression.
My advice to anyone transitting this area would be to sail in convoy, keep to the main shipping lanes and under all circumstances avoid the African coast.
I will keep you informed as to what the Coast Guard say next week and wil soon provide a longer report covering my mission here.