National Geographic : 1982 Jul
Weapons drill for the pirate-infested waters of the South China Sea finds the men of Sohar at the ready. Musalam (left, center) checks his rifle while Severin inserts a clip of ammunition into an automaticpistol.Behind him, a crew member practices arm's length aim with another automatic. "We had been given grim warnings by the authoritiesin Singapore," said Severin. "It was estimated that there were some 15,000 pirates,mainly fishermen who preyed on Vietnamese refugees-boatpeople." When a small boat filled with men approachedfrom astern, Severin ordered Dobbs and Readman to speed out in the dinghy to reconnoiter.They encountered 18 Vietnamese-the women and children were hiding-crammedinto a boat 25 feet long. Assistance was immediate. Doctor Nick Hollis (below left, in white hat) treatedseveral cases of sunburn. Other crewmen replaced the craft's tainted drinkingwater and brought Omani dates and otherfood. An infant enjoys a cracker (below right). Severin was able to repairthe vessel's compass and through an interpreterdrew a rough chartto Taiwanfor the skipper. As the Sohar party departedfor the ship, a chorus of thanks was their reward.