It was a dangerous time for the young yachtsman to set off on his solo, round the world trip of a lifetime. He’d been sailing since he was 5 years old and took after his father’s love of the sea. They had always talked about a round the world trip but, with his father’s unexpected death, a year earlier, the two eager sailors never realised their dream together. Now, and with his 18th birthday rapidly approaching, Francis (named after his father’s hero Sir Francis Chichester) had decided that he was confident enough to pursue the ambition that he and his father had talked about so much. His mother and young sister had never really taken to the yachting lifestyle but Francis and his father had spent almost every available bit of spare time out at sea. The eager youngster loved every aspect of sea going; from the discipline of keeping the boat clean, to the art of trimming sails to work with the prevailing weather. His father had taught him how to use a sextant to help plot his course and not to rely on any electronic gizmo, how to read the weather and predict future conditions and to interpret the wind to find where and how the boat would sail best. His father had been a successful architect but his youth was spent living on the coast in New Zealand, which had given him a love of the sea. He was incredibly pleased to be able to pass on his enthusiasm and knowledge to his young son. From such an early age Francis drank in his father’s seafaring passion and held dear the time they spent together.
All those years out in the fresh sea air, the constant pulling on sails to re-rig the boat had honed his young body to the peak of fitness and instilled in him the thought of continuing that life-affirming trip alone. Christening his new Catalina 30 MK III yacht ‘New Discovery’, he waved good-bye to his family and cast off into the gently swelling waters. The voyage wasn’t to be a quick, against-the-clock, zoom around the world. He stopped off and visited many countries, discovering for himself the history and culture of each place as he tried to immerse himself in being more than just a tourist. The life experience was making a man out of him but just three days after his 18th birthday, and with the prospect of spending Christmas on dry land, tragedy struck. Whilst becalmed in the waters off East Africa, a group of modern day pirates in a high-powered motor cruiser looking for anything they could rob or ransom boarded his yacht. With several guns pointing at his head the young sailor looked nervously on as two men went below and ransacked the cabin. In truth he carried nothing of worth just food, clothes (and few of them), waterproofs and the other paraphernalia of sailing. Needless to say, they returned with the news that there was hardly anything of value worth stealing. The pirate captain thought for a moment and decided that the boat itself could be re-sold and that the lad… well, he would make a pleasant distraction as they sailed back to their secret base. In his mind, Francis already knew that things were going to be bad and that if he fought back the pirates would probably kill him. Shaking in fear and trepidation the young sailor tried as he might to put a brave face on his situation but he hadn’t even contemplated what came next. With the boat in tow, the young sailor was given over to the pirate gang who enthusiastically ripped off his shorts and tied him over a stack of lifebelts. After all his father had taught him about seafaring, he hadn’t prepared him for this. The captain, who was an ugly sinewy brute of a man, like many adventurers and sailors over the years, navigated an uncharted passage of discovery with relish, vigour and determination as he took the boy’s virginity. For the rest of the voyage every crew member visited and pleasured themselves with their latest acquisition – time after time after time. After that first scary introduction to the life of a captive, Francis surprisingly discovered that he suddenly found a fervour for something other than sailing.