This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Two days after modern-day pirates armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked her cruise ship off the coast of Africa, Tanya Mahood still was rattled from the attempted hijacking.
"I'm starting to be able to breathe" the Salt Lake City woman said Monday. "I'm barely to the point where I'm not shaking anymore."
Speaking by phone from aboard the Seabourn Spirit, docked safely at the Seychelles islands north of Madagascar, Mahood said she thought she and her husband, James Mahood, might die during the Saturday morning attack, "especially when I saw the grenade launcher."
The couple was two weeks into a monthlong cruise from Egypt to India, when they were awakened at 6 a.m. by the ship's captain announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, stay in your cabins and lock your doors, we are under attack."
Mahood said she jumped from bed and looked out the large picture window of her suite to see the brigands shooting at the ship from two small boats, each holding about five men.
"I'm looking dead at these people," she said. "They were right outside our window on the starboard side of ship."
Two of the would-be hijackers "were actually laughing as they were shooting at the ship, like it was fun for them," she said.
She added that the pirates were "not quite African-looking. And I can't say they were Arabs. They were not what you think would be coming out of Somalia."
Despite the "pop, pop, pop" of gunfire and the pinging sound of bullets hitting the ship, Mahood said she stood "like Bambi in the headlights, just kind of in shock, looking out at them."
Then her husband said, "Uh, you might want to get away from the window."
But before she did, one of the pirates put a grenade launcher to his shoulder, and Mahood said she heard "a big boom."
One grenade entered a starboard cabin occupied by a man and woman, but it missed them and did not explode, she said.
At about that time, the 161 passengers were ordered to evacuate to the safety of an interior dining room. The captain - who at one point tried to ram the boats - continued evasive action and then simply outran the pirates.
"It was terrifying," Mahood said. "My husband and I thought that might have been it." But she said the passengers were amazingly calm during the ordeal.
"There was one lady who was crying," Mahood said. "But a bullet did come through her window."
One member of the crew was injured by shrapnel.
Mahood said she learned at dinner the next night that the captain was not fooled by a ruse that could have spelled even greater trouble.
"He got a Mayday from a fishing boat" claiming they were under attack from pirates, Mahood said. But identification information from the "ship in distress" did not match information available to the captain and he declined to respond.
"It was going to be a trick, is what it was going to be," Mahood said. "It was going to be a bigger ship we had to deal with. But when he didn't go back to help them, these two boats showed up . . . launched from the boat that was calling."
Authorities said the attack on the leisure liner shows that pirates from wartorn Somalia are becoming bolder and more ambitious, according to an Associated Press report.
The International Maritime Bureau has for several months warned ships to stay at least 150 miles away from Somalia's coast, citing 25 pirate attacks in those waters since March 15, the AP reported.
In June, a United Nations-chartered ship carrying food to Somalia was hijacked and held hostage for three months while the pirates tried to get the organization to pay ransom, which it refused to do.
Mahood said she and her husband were aware of previous pirate activity in the area. "But the [ship's] officers made it clear they were going to be [100 miles] off the coast," she said. "We felt pretty safe because we were so far out in the ocean."
Due to the attack, the captain abandoned plans to land at Mombasa, Kenya, and steamed straight south to the Seychelles, where a U.S. Navy vessel escorted them to dock and military personnel boarded, disarmed the grenade and began an investigation.
Although she is disappointed at missing her chance at an African safari, Mahood - who owns Antoinette's jewelry store in Salt Lake City - said she looks forward to shopping for antique jewelry in India at the end of the sea voyage. From there, they will fly back to the United States.
The Mahoods are seasoned seafarers, but Tanya Mahood is now unsure about taking future cruises. At the least, she said, they will choose journeys that ply safer waters.
Meanwhile, her sense of humor is returning, and she recognizes her high sea adventure will make for a great story in the retelling.
On Monday, she was writing postcards to friends that said: "I enjoyed the pyramids; the pirates not so much."