Just before midnight on March 27, 2009, South African flyfishing outfitter Gerhard Laubscher and his FlyCastaway guide crew were several hours deep into an end-of-the-season bender on the island of Mahe, the principal destination for tourists in the Seychelles.
It was a Friday night in the capital city of Victoria, and the guides, having just finished their last day of a season that began in October, would party most of the night and board a plane in the morning, headed for home in Johannesburg. Meanwhile, more than 700 miles to the southwest, near a tiny speck of coral called Assumption Island, the 116-foot Indian Ocean Explorer—which Laubscher, his guides, and 11 flyfishing clients had disembarked earlier that afternoon—was being hijacked by Somali pirates. The captain, a 43-year-old Seychellois named Francis Roucou, had a gun in his face and angry men pouring in around him. He didn’t know whether he or his crew would survive the night, or ever be allowed to see their families again. Three months and many nautical miles later, he got his answer.