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I didnít intend to sail through the Malacca Straits.  Honest.  It just happened.piratesnake


Like everyone else, I knew the Malacca Straits were dangerous because of the pirates.  Pirates and terrorists are at the top of my list of things that I want to avoid.  When I talk to non-sailors around the world, they usually ask me two questions.  What about storms and pirates?  Hollywood and the media have convinced everyone that storms and pirates rule the lives of everyone who sails on the seven seas.


Alas, Hollywood and the media have it wrong once again.  The average cruiser has never seen a pirate or a storm with winds over fifty knots.  That isnít to say we donít have bad weather from time to time, but, usually itís only an inconvenience rather than a true threat.  And itís not to say that pirates donít exist.  Rather, itís that most pirates are living in metropolis preying upon their victims through internet, muggings, subway assaults, and armed robberies Ė all the typical things you see in large cities around the world.  Pirates are on the doorstep of everyone who lives in big cities.  But pirates on the seven seas Ė itís way too much work and too uncomfortable, and too dangerous to do old fashioned acts of piracy.  I worry about pirates when I am in Los Angeles, Cairo, London, and Paris.  When I am on my sailboat, there is plenty of distance between me and those modern metropolitan pirates.  I reckon itís safer out here on the seven seas than it is to walk into a Seven-Eleven convenience store at high noon anywhere in the world.


When I was in Mooloolaba, Australia, I planned a voyage that went into the Indian Ocean via Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling Island, and then I planned to sail west of Sumatra to end up in Thailand.  That way I would miss the deadly pirates of the Malacca Straits.  It was a good plan, except that is not what happened.


In the real world of sailing, we were seriously behind schedule.  Our fourth crew member did not arrive in Brisbane until late July, and that made us two months behind the sailing season.  We were short on time as we had to be out of the Indian Ocean by the end of October to avoid tropical cyclones.  We sailed at an accelerated pace up the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast, hitting the high points along the way.  But we kept moving all the time.  We had to be north of the equator before cyclone season began in November.


By the time we reached Darwin, Australia, the handwriting was on the wall.  We still had more than two-thousand five hundred miles to sail to Thailand if we sailed out into the Indian Ocean.  Our other option was the inside route through Indonesia and the Malacca Straits.  That would cut one-thousand miles off the journey.  We had been motorsailing about seventy-five percent of the time because there had been very little wind.  So cutting one-thousand miles off the trip looked good Ė except for the scourge of the pirates of the Malacca Straits.


So we changed our plans.  We were in cruising mode trying to sail in the tradewinds, but the tradewinds never bothered to show up.  The shorter route through Indonesia would probably be quicker and shorter and hopefully with less risk of meeting up with an out of season cyclone.


We motorsailed up to Bali, continued on to Borneo, and finally arrived in Singapore at the mouth of the Malacca Straits.  I had heard many fearful things about these straits over the years, and nothing that I heard was good.  Fortunately, what I heard was also wrong.  Most of what we hear about places like Malacca are fodder from Hollywood fear mongers who make movies and the evening news.  I should have known that the fear mongers had gotten it wrong once again.  But each time I face a new challenge, it seems that the fear mongers are the first to beat a path to my hopeful, but apprehensive ears.


When you face a challenge, you have a choice.  You can either get the facts, or you can listen to the voice of fear.  Itís hard to get the facts.  It takes effort, sometimes a great deal of digging, probing, testing, checking, and cross-checking.  But the good thing about facts is that they are true and you can build your life on them.  You can grab them and go with them knowing they wonít let you down.


Itís much easier to find a fear monger than it is to find the facts.  There is an endless supply of them that are more than willing to tell you everything that you donít want to hear.  And, they donít need the facts.  All they need is fearful fantasies that they can start pumping into your mind.  They remind you that pirates have been plying the waters of the Malacca Straits for more than two hundred years.  I remember thirty years ago hearing the dangers of the Malacca Straits, and I have been listening to the fear mongers ever since.  Fear mongers are always short on facts but strong on fear.  They flash the word PIRATES in capital letters on the motion picture screen of my mind again and again.


We were in Singapore getting ready to head up the Malacca Straits, and we began asking around Ė talking to people who had spent years living and cruising in their yachts in this area.  I talked to one man who had sailed his yacht forty times through the Malacca Straits without any piratical problems.  Everyone I talked to told me the same thing.   They could not remember the last time a yacht was attacked by pirates.  Strange.  How could the fear mongers have gotten this one so wrong?


We went to a cruising seminar in Raffleís Marina, and Phil Blake, the marina manager told us the facts about piracy in the Malacca Straits.  Everything he said was bad news for the fear mongers, because by the time the seminar was over, everyone understood that piracy was not a problem unless you were the Captain of a ship or tugboat.  The reason was simple.  Bank robbers rob banks because thatís where the money is.  They donít rob piggy banks because itís not worth the effort.  Pirates rob freighters and tugboats because that is where the money is.  Yachts are mere piggy banks and offer nothing more than petty cash.  Robbing a yacht wouldnít even pay for their gas. 


Thatís the long and short of it.  Since our twelve meter catamaran is neither a freighter nor a tugboat, we sailed confidently up the Malacca Straits not worried about pirates.  We did take precautions.  Specifically, we sailed on the Malaysian side of the Straits because the seaborne marauders come from the Indonesian side of the Malacca Straits.  It was massively unlikely that someone would come all they way from Indonesia to rob our tiny piggy bank.


The real irony of this story is that the pirates in the Malacca straits are minor league compared with the pirates found in Indonesian waters.  We had just blissfully sailed through Indonesia not knowing that there had been four times as many acts of piracy against merchant vessels in Indonesian waters than in the Singapore Straits and the Malacca Straits combined.  But the time we arrived in Singapore, we had gone through the greatest danger zone for piracy without incident.  If you contact the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lampur, you discover that in the past year, merchants ships were attacked 121 times in Indonesia, 2 times in the Singapore Straits, and 28 times mainly on the Indonesian side of the Malacca Straits.  There were no attacks directed against yachts.  Chalk up a victory for the crew of Exit Only.


What are the real dangers of the Malacca Straits?  It turns out that the real risks come from lightning strikes and shipping traffic.  While we were in Singapore at the entrance to the Malacca Straits, five yachts were struck by lightning in a single week.  When lightning hits your yacht, the electronics on the boat are history.  Say good-by to your radar, VHF radio, high frequency radio, GPS, autopilot, depth sounder, wind instruments and possibly your lap top computer.  If a pirate robs your piggy bank, you lose a few hundred dollars.  When lightning strikes, it vaporizes your bank accounts.  It takes ten to fifteen thousand dollars to replace destroyed electronic equipment.  Pirates are much less expensive than lightning.


The other major danger is the shipping.  There are thousands of ships, trawlers, tugs, and fishing boats plying the waters of the Malacca Straits.  Day and night, there are always at least ten or more vessels in close quarters, sometimes too close for comfort.  If a ship runs you down, you are history.  Your yacht will be pulverized and you will be lucky to survive.  Every minute day and night, you keep a sharp lookout with your eyes and your radar to stay out of harmís way.  Shipping is scary.


If you want to know the meaning of fear, try sailing in the middle of the night on the edge of the shipping lanes with torrential rains pouring down and zero visibility, with twenty-five to thirty knots of wind blowing and lightning coming down all around you.  I had to go forward on deck in such conditions to take down a sail.  Now that kind of thing puts fear in your heart.  But then, that happened only once in four-thousand miles of sailing.


So there you have it.  Nary a pirate and our piggy bank survived intact.  But the lightning, thunder, and shipping, those guys put fear into the heart of the most stalwart sailor.  Now that we are in Thailand, weíre glad that we escaped unscathed from the clutches of the Malacca Straits.


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Once upon a time there was a tree that wanted to eat my boat.  At least thatís the way it seemed to me.  You have a right to be skeptical about trees eating boats, but after you read my story, you will come to believe in this dastardly denizen of the deep called DEBRIOSAURUS REX.


deb1.jpgDEBRIOSAURUS REX evolved in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The tsunami that wiped out Sumatra, Thailand, and Sri Lanka created a massive debris field that spread across the Indian Ocean. Those gigantic waves swept inland two kilometers in some areas, and when the water flushed back out to sea, it carried with it an astonishing amount of debris. Whole trees were pulled up by their roots and tossed like matchsticks into the ocean. There were vehicles, propane cylinders, houses, boats, and trees everywhere.
When we left Phuket, Thailand to sail across the Indian Ocean, we knew there would be debris in the water, but we didnít know how much, where, or how dangerous it would be. Some debris was clearly designed to kill Ė floating explosive mines from the harbors of Sri Lanka were a worst case scenario. We heard reports that mines had broken free from their moorings and were floating on the high seas. That definitely was not good news. Hopefully the Sri Lankan Navy would round up those mines and account for them before they caused loss of life. The thought of floating mines created a great deal of motivation in the minds of cruisers and stimulated them to pay close attention when they stood watch.


We pulled up anchor in Phuket at O700, raised our sails, and set forth at substantially less than the speed of light into an asteroid field of debris.  One month had passed since the Tsunami and it was anybodyís guess where the debris would be located.  We expected to experience three major debris fields.  The first was generated by Thailand where more than four-thousand people had died.  The northeast monsoon would have blown that debris well offshore in the month that had elapsed since the tsunami.

The second debris field was from the Nicobar and Andaman Islands which are about four-hundred miles west of Thailand.  Seven-thousand people died in the Nicobars.  These tiny low lying islands took a direct hit from the tsunami and massive amounts of debris washed into the ocean.

The final debris field was south of Sri Lanka.  Tens of thousands of people perished in the Sri Lankan tsunami and the waters went several kilometers inland flushing a frightening amount of debris into the sea.  So there you have it.  To make it across the Indian Ocean, you had no choice but to sail through three massive debris fields.

The Thailand debris was surprisingly light for the first fifty miles offshore.  As we sailed west, we encountered significant amounts of small debris in a zone that was fifty to one-hundred miles west of Thailand.  Beach chairs, sunning mats, cushions, styrofoam coolers, small pieces of wood and timber, and a few small logs.  Nothing that we saw or bumped into posed a significant threat to our boat.  After sailing one-hundred miles offshore, the Thailand debris tapered off and we had three-hundred relaxing miles to sail before we arrived in the Nicobar Islands.

deb2.jpgOur Nicobar Island waypoint was in the center of the Sombrero Channel in the southern Nicobars.  As we approached the channel, debris started to appear.  The Indian Navy talked to us on VHF radio and told us to be on the lookout for floating propane gas cylinders, trees, and logs.  The debris progressively increased for one hundred miles west of the Nicobars.  This debris field was different than that from Thailand.  Thai debris came from beach resorts and there was hardly any debris from villages.  Nicobar debris resulted from whole villages being wiped out.  That meant that thatched houses, palm trees, logs, pandanus trees, and many pieces of timber were in the water.  This debris posed a larger threat to Exit Only because there were many logs ten feet of more long and twelve to sixteen inches in diameter.  Hitting one of those at cruising speed would damage rudder, propellers, and if struck square on the bow could penetrate the hull.  The Nicobar debris was a real concern.  It was like playing Russian roulette sailing at night through the debris.  If you heard a large thump against the hull and the speed of the yacht slowed significantly, you knew that you had run into something big in the darkness.  Fortunately, the Nicobar debris was moderate in size and there were few logs that could sink your boat.


On a scale of one to ten, Thailand debris was a one and Nicobar debris was a four.  Only if you were very unlucky would you get into trouble from hitting a log at night.  Sri Lankan Debris was different.  It was level ten debris that could damage or sink a yacht.


It was south of Sri Lanka that we met DEBRIOSAURUS REX Ė the tree that tried to eat our boat.  Although there were many logs and large trees in the water, one particular tree posed a menacing threat that could end our voyage.  That tree was DEBRIOSAURUS REX.  It had been stalking the waters south of Sri Lanka attacking ships and yachts for the past month.  It was more than one-hundred feet long with a root ball that was at least ten feet in diameter.  DEBRIOSAURUS REX was a cunning foe, lying in wait day and night, placing itself in front of giant supertankers trying to destroy their propellers and rudders in a vicious attack.  When not attacking freighters, it would stalk yachts.  Its jaws of fear came ten feet out of the water and could seize rigging, sails, and mast in one fell swoop, instantly dismasting a yacht.  Its other dastardly strategy was to place itself directly in front of your yacht and when you crashed into the middle of this mammoth monster, it would punch a hole in your boat, and if you were unlucky, it would sink you.  A twelve inch hole below the waterline in a ballasted monohull sailboat would sink the boat in less than five minutes.  We were fortunate to have detected DEBRIOSAURUS REX during daylight hours, and were able to escape from his jaws of destruction.  Itís easy to outrun him because he drifts with the ocean currents, and you can easily out maneuver him or outrun him if you know he is there.  But let your guard down and it wonít be long before you become another one of his victims.



It required two days and one night to sail through the Sri Lankan debris field.  Although DEBRIOSAURUS REX was not successful in attacking our yacht, we did not escape unscathed.  Smaller logs and floating timber crashed into our starboard bow, cracking the gel coat at the waterline, but the fiberglass hull itself survived intact.  Our damage was cosmetic and could be repaired when we arrived in the Maldives.  As a defensive measure, we attached oars in front of the bows to protect them from collisions with additional logs and trees.


The debris was so extensive south of Sri Lanka that it was unsafe to sail at night.  As the twilight faded into darkness, we took down our sails and drifted in order to travel with the debris rather than run into it during the night.  Our conservative approach paid big dividends.  We got a good nights sleep, and we didnít collide with any large debris during the night since we were drifting at the same speed as the logs and trees. 


Some yachts that sailed blindly into the darkness stuck trees that night, but most of them incurred only mild damage, mostly scratches and scrapes.  One yacht struck and sailed over a log.  Another steel yacht sailed over two trees in the darkness.  A third yacht sailed over a log and destroyed his self-steering wind vane when the tree struck the self-steering rudder.  That mistake cost several thousand dollars to rectify.  Steel yachts didnít need to worry about sinking if they struck a log, but logs could easily destroy their propeller or bend their rudder.


The next morning when there was enough light to identify debris in the water, we raised our sails, and set a course in the direction of the Maldive Islands that were four-hundred and fifty miles away.  We spent the rest of that day getting out of the debris field and by sunset we were free at last.  No more debris and the Maildives were just a few days away.


Now that you have seen a close up picture of DEBRIOSAURUS REX with his jaws of fear, you will agree that he really did want to eat my boat.  Nevertheless, good seamanship and common sense prevailed and we escaped from his clutches. 


Three days later, we arrived in the Maldive Islands.  We put down our anchor in sixty feet of water in Uligamu Island and we went to sleep.  It was a rich reward for sailing on the savage seas infested with DEBRIOSAURUS REX.

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Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew of Exit Only shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea.  The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal.  It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers.  Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.  The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.  Order your copy of the Red Sea Chronicles and experience the adventures of Exit Only as they sail around the world and up the Red Sea.

Meet The Crew

Dave Abbott - Captain

Captain Dave always dreamed of sailing around the world on his own sailboat, and his eleven year circumnavigation with his family made his dream come true.

Donna Abbott - First Mate

Donna earned her stripes the REALLY old fashioned enduring the rigors of passage making for the thrill of exploring exotic ports across the globe.


Sarah Abbott - Deck Swab

Sarah is the newest member of the family and crew. Despite her limited sailing experience, she jumped right in to life on the high seas. Her fresh and enthusiastic perspective on cruising help make the Red Sea Chronicles so special.


David Abbott - Cameraman/Director/Editor/Narrator/Composer

David shot over 170 hours of footage on the voyage from Australia to Florida. He then spent a year and a half on dry land editing and producing the Red Sea Chronicles DVD. In addition to the narrating the film, David also scored, performed, and recorded the entire soundtrack for the project.


Wendy Abbott - Voice of Ninja Crab

Wendy is the daughter of Capt Dave and Donna. She sailed on Exit Only from Florida to New Zealand. Wendy guest stars as the voice of a Ninja Hermit Crab in the Red Sea



10. The Red Sea Chronicles is an affordable CHRISTMAS gift for the sailor in my life.  Where else can I get a totally awesome gift for only twenty bucks?  
 9. I work hard for a living, and I deserve to reward myself with the Red Sea Chronicles.  
 8. My Dream Machine could use a shot in the arm, and the Red Sea Chronicles will give it the boost that it needs.  
 7. Every minute spent watching The Red Sea Chronicles extends my life by a full year.  
 6. I want to see what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before I spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one.  
 5. I want to see how a catamaran handles in heavy weather.  
 4. I want to see the Storm Management video so I understand what I need to do when I get in a storm at sea.  
 3. If I buy The Red Sea Chronicles, then Maxing Out Media will start production on two new DVD's - Australia to the Red Sea, and Med Sea to the Caribbean.  
 2. I like the Maxing Out web site, and I would like to support the website by purchasing their DVD.  
 1. After watching the Red Sea Chronicles, I can finally see myself sailing on the ocean of my dreams.


"Story, quality, music, people, boat... Just excellent."

e got the DVD yesterday and watched it last night (we had no problem with the different format at all), what a great adventure and well put together DVD it was entertaining as well as informative and funny at times, a great combination. Well done you guys are natural movie stars, Laura and I watched the DVD twice and I am sure we will watch it many more times in the future."

I hope you guys are going to make more DVDís of your previous sailing trips for us to enjoy."

"Amazing...Just watched your dvd The Red Sea Chronicles for the third time today...I called my boss at home and turned in my notice...I'm going sailing!"

"The best cruising video to date from any source and should be on the shelf of every one who shares the cruising spirit even if only in dreams."

"...a great video that transported me from a damp, cold day in Wales to cruising aboard Maxing Out in the Red Sea - pure nectar."

"The only "problem" is that this has left me wanting more of the same stuff, just from some of the other places Maxing Out has visited!"

"Thumbs up. I also wish the entire circumnavigation was documented, but this small portion in the Red Sea is excellent. Well done."

I just watched the Red Sea Chronicles and second what all the others have said. I'd love to see a whole series of Maxing Out DVDs...Good job!"

Red Sea Chronicles DVD Previews


The Red Sea Chronicles is now available!

    We are attacked by flying fish as we cross the Indian Ocean on our way to Salalah, Oman. When we make landfall, the local suq (market) helps us regain our land legs.


  The riskier side of world cruising. In this episode we prepare to sail through "Pirate Alley" in the Gulf of Aden


We arrive in Aden with a damaged alternator and are delighted to find a superb local machine shop. As we prepare to leave, fellow cruisers are attacked by pirates.

  We must sail through the notorious Bab el Mandeb (Gate of Sorrows) to enter the Red Sea. 50 knot winds and relentless sandstorms are ready and waiting on the other side




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Storm Management Offshore
Parachute Sea Anchor Chainplates
When To Deploy Chutes and Drogues

The Almost Never Fail Catamaran Anchoring System
How Big Should Your Anchor Be?
Far Horizons
Tsunami Damage - The Starboard Bow Takes A Licking
Everywhere, Everything
Go West Young Man - Seasteading
Beam Me Up Scotty

Ten Reasons Why Night Sailing Rocks
When Are You Coming Home?

Sailing to Borneo to See Wild Orangutans
Double Headsail Downwind Sailing
Grand Schemes And Other Important Things
Rigging Emergency Prevented - Listening To Your Boat

Dreams Do Come True
I Have A Dream

I Am Wandering, But Not Lost
Missing Out
The Facts of Life

Red Sea Rigors and Rumors
Never Surrender Your Dreams
Red Sea Sunsets

Exit Only Survives the Global Tsunami
The Sea Is So Big and My Ship Is So Small

34 Things I Learned in 33,000 Miles
Space Travel

Ten Disasters I Was Afraid Of That Never Happened
Kissing Cobras

Pirates of The Malacca Straits
The Tree That Wanted To Eat My Boat

Offshore Dream Machine for Circumnavigation
The Facts of Life Rafts

Surviving the Savage Seas
Abbott Drogue - Adjustable Medium Pull Drogue
You Must Know The Sea

Listen to the Sound of Your Dreams
Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend

Exit Only
Life Is Good
Getting Connected

First You Think It, And Then You Do It
My Addiction
Cook's Look at Lizard Island

I've Got Trade Wind Dreams
Storms Come and Go
Go Ahead.  Live Your Dreams.
The Next Step

Take Care of Your Autopilot So It Takes Care of You
Danger Zones On Board Exit Only

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