A GROUP of young Cork lads resorted to making “Molotov cocktails” after finding themselves stranded in pirate-infested seas.
The friends initially came to media prominence in The Echo last June after clubbing together to live on a yacht. However, they recently found themselves in deep water after the yacht’s engine failed in the Sulu sea off the coast of Borneo — an area notorious for being overrun with pirates.
Evan Lotty (Glounthaune) spoke of his relief following their dramatic narrow escape. He forms part of the crew along with Mark Kenny (Montenotte), David Leahy (Glounthaune), Damien Collins (Durrus) and Conor Blackton (Glounthaune). They are also joined by Eoin Dennehy (Carrigrohane), Gerald O’Sullivan (Bantry) and Tipperary native, Paul Ryan. Duncan Tsu from Glounthaune and Douglas man Brian McCauliffe.
Locals in the area stepped in to help the gang protect themselves from pirates during their frightening ordeal.
“We went around to all the nearby shops and restaurants and asked for empty bottles and they were more than happy to help,” Evan said.
“We were told that we needed something to protect ourselves so we had to make molotov cocktails. Filling the bottle with rags felt very surreal. There were other precautions too. We were cooking in the dark and sticking to curfews just to avoid being seen.”
Evan and his friends urgently appealed to the navy for help.
“The only way we could contact the navy was through WhatsApp. We asked if they would be able to tow us. There must have been a breakdown in communication because all that turned up was a man in a dingy. He gave us the number for a towing company. However, we were told that we needed $25,000 to be towed and it would take them 24 hours to make it to us.”
“The problem was we didn’t have $25,000 and we were only 20 minutes away from crashing into some rocks. There were some disagreements about what our plan of action should be. The atmosphere was very tense as we feared that every boat that passed by could have been a pirate. There were also a lot of informants so we had to be careful of who we spoke to.”
Despite the difficult situation, Evan pointed out there were some funny moments too.
“On one occasion we all got on deck armed with spear guns and hurleys. It turned out to just be some friendly fishermen. All they did was wave at us. In a couple of seconds, we went from being these hard men to smiling and asking “how are ye getting on?”
One of the fishing boat crews struck up a friendship with the gang.
“They were up for towing us but their boss wouldn’t let them. What they did do was supply us with 40 crabs to fry and eat. They would have cost a bomb at home. The lads were digging in like it was their only meal in a week. They saw how much we enjoyed them so they gave us a metre long catfish and later another bucket of crabs.”
The crew eventually managed to steer themselves to safety before regaling local police with their story.
“They said it was great that we had something to defend ourselves with.”
What the cop said next left the group taken aback.
“He said that if we had thrown a molotov cocktail the pirates would have just shot us all, but it was better to ‘fight and die’. It turned out that all the advice we were given went against everything we should have done. We learned that us all standing on deck would have only enticed the pirates more. They would have just looked at us as more hostages and more dollars.”
Evan insists he has no regrets adding: “It was the most frightening experience but also the most rewarding.”
This wasn’t the first bump in the road for Evan. He recalled how a serious infection forced him to undergo surgery in Kuching.
“I got a staph infection in my leg and ended up having to get surgery in Cu Ching. All the x-rays and ultrasounds were done in a matter of hours. The operating theatre wasn’t what you call hygienic and had flapping doors that led out straight into the hallway. The stitching was old school but luckily I’m all sorted now. Luckily I had insurance.”
It is not yet clear whether the crew will fulfil their dream of sailing back to Cork. “Things haven’t gone according to plan so we’re not sure if we’ll make it home yet. A few of the lads have already made plans to cycle home.”
The crew had learned how to sail from a book before embarking on the trip of a lifetime.
In a previous article with the Echo Evan revealed how their adventure began.
“Nine of us got jobs working in the tunnels in Sydney,” he said. “It was hard work and an average of 68 hours a week. We stopped drinking weekends and spent a lot of our time researching which really paid off. We ended up buying the yacht without ever seeing it.
“Initially, we planned to send someone over to view it. However, the seller told us that it would be sold by the time they made it over. A friend we had made on an Australian road trip knew someone in Malaysia who took the time to go see it for us.”
Any free time was spent researching for An Seanchaí’s maiden voyage. Fellow crew member, Mark Kenny from Montenotte added:
“We bought the books “sailing for dummies” and spent weeks rattling off all the lines and buzz words. We put our heads together and each read different chapters of the book.”