Thursday, 20 September 2012

British couple back at sea despite 388 day ordeal in Somalia


Two years after Paul and Rachel Chandler’s terrifying ordeal at the hands of their Somali captors, the yachting couple have courageously made firm plans to finish their round the world trip aboard the same boat, and are back at sea.

The English husband and wife were taken off their yacht- the 38 foot ‘Lynn Rival’- in 2009 from near the Seychelles. Held separately in a makeshift prison on land and subject to near starvation, solitary confinement, severe beatings and worse- 57 year old Rachel survived a rape attempt and pirates threatened to starve the couple to death- they were finally released after 13 months in captivity after family, friends and Somali diaspora living in the UK collected 625,000 GBP in ransom money. Their boat was found drifting in the ocean by the Royal Navy after the pirate attack and brought back to the UK. 

The Chandlers have, since their release in 2010, been living in Dartmouth on the Devon coast, restoring the ‘Lynn Rival’ and preparing to continue their round the world voyage. They sailed out from Noses Marina last week and arrived in Falmouth the next day in obviously high spirits- a local photographer in Dartmouth said they looked ‘ecstatic’. It is believed that the Chandlers will soon be heading for Spain. Rachel revealed that there is still a little problem with the bilge pump of the boat that needs to be fixed- and there is still a bullet hole in the boom, testimony to the terror the two were subjected to three years ago.

"We would have been devastated if we hadn't been able to carry on," said 60 year old Paul, a retired engineer. "It would have been very difficult. You retire early enough, with a dream; you scrimp and save to make it possible … It's like coming home. The Lynn Rival was to be our chosen home for many years. We've been back in her a week." 

"It was wonderful still to remember how to do it. There was always that apprehension that we might not be physically up to it anymore," he added.

Rachel says she feels fantastic. “I wasn't even seasick, and I quite often am for the first two or three days." She’s not unduly troubled by the past. "We've gone through it, and it was a horrendous experience, but we were very unlucky. We can't pretend it didn't happen; it did. But we know that underneath we are still the same people. And you do have to get on with life."

The Chandlers will spend the next few months in Spain and Portugal, then sail to Morocco and then on to Brazil, where they plan to arrive by March next year.Quite obviously, they are going to avoid the East coast of Africa. "Maybe after we've been to South America and the Pacific and the Far East, say nine or 10 years down the road, perhaps it will be perfectly fine there. Who knows?” says Paul.


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