Where are the most dangerous places in the world to go sailing?
- The Gulf of AdenThe warning on NATO’s website is unequivocal: “The NATO Shipping Centre strongly advises yachts not to sail through the Gulf of Aden.” That warning is primarily a result of rampant piracy, which targets both the delivery of shipments (costing global trade an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in 2011 alone) as well as the intrepid sailboats which risk sailing through “Pirate Alley”. Why do people take the risk? There is a financial reason – round-the-world sailors have been known to pay the astonishing fee of $50k for a land transit – but also a pragmatic one, as ‘going the long way round’ means tackling the Cape of Good Hope.
- Cape of Good HopeAlso knows as the ‘Cape of Storms’. Notorious for its violently stormy conditions, huge waves of over five metres as well as wind speeds in excess of 30 knots make sailing around the rocky headland which sits between the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans a perilous task. Freak waves make sailing difficult, unpredictable cross currents even more so.
- Point ConceptionA headland along America’s Pacific coast, and the point where the Santa Barbara channel meets the Pacific Ocean. Widely regarded as one of the three most dangerous places to sail in the world owing to the rapidly changing weather conditions, which can catch out even the most experienced of sailors. Fast winds travel all the way across from the Aleutian Islands – across the north-eastern pacific – before buffering the region.
- Straits of MalaccaSomething of a haven for pirates, given its length (550 miles), narrow width, and plethora of islets, which serve as a convenient escape route for would-be attackers. The strait has become far safer in recent years, largely due to the increased multi-national collaboration attempts to improve safety in the area, whilst the pirates tend to focus on commercial vessels rather than sailboats. But heavy traffic, floating debris, difficult geography and frightening weather conditions (the strait is nicknamed ‘lightening alley’) mean it is still an area to be avoided for the less confident and competent.
- Cape HornMany of the world’s most prestigious and challenging ocean yacht races – such as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Vendee Globe – sail around the world via the Cape Horn, owing to the challenge it poses and its revered place in the sport of yachting. It’s the infamous williwaw winds which make rounding the Horn so difficult; common and treacherous gusts which strike with little warning, with the geography of Cape Horn requiring a route straight through the fiercest of them. And of course, bigger winds, mean bigger waves.
- Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is fast replacing the waters off the Somalian coast as the most dangerous in the world. Again, it is the tankers the pirates are most interested in, but cruisers must also exert caution when in any waters remotely near the area. Kidnappings for ransom are also becoming increasingly common, meaning seeking professional security advice is a must for those passing through the region.
- Margarita Island
Isla de Margarita, the largest island in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta, looks idyllic, and the fact that it sits just below the hurricane belt means that it offers superb sailing conditions. But a growing problem with piracy means sailors are now warned to avoid the area. Only three years ago pirates killed a Dutch sailor who attempted to resist being robbed on board his own vessel, whilst visiting sailors are often targeted upon arriving on shore.
- But not the Bermuda Triangle…
Despite the myths and legends, three years ago the World Wide Fund for Nature published a list of the ten most dangerous waters for shipping in the world, and left out the Bermuda Triangle. Whilst the United States Board on Geographic Names does not even recognize the name ‘Bermuda Triangle’. It is now widely accepted that the region is no more or no less dangerous than any other region of water in the North Atlantic Ocean.