On the one-year anniversary of his kidnapping by Somali pirates and a subsequent headline-grabbing rescue, Captain Richard Phillips revisits his harrowing high-seas adventure in a riveting book, A Captain’s Duty.
In early 2009, as he prepared to depart for the African coast helming the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, Captain Phillips—a native of Vermont and lifelong merchant marine—bade an emotional farewell to his wife, Andrea, reassuring her with a promise to return home safely from his time at sea. It was a promise he had made many times before, and had always somehow managed to keep. This time, however, Phillips was quietly, yet all too keenly, aware of the danger awaiting him and his crew in the increasingly pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast.
As the Maersk began its journey, Phillips worked tirelessly to prepare his men for the worst—and when the worst indeed happened, his diligence paid off almost immediately. Within hours of the heavily armed pirates’ boarding and commandeering of the Maersk, Phillips successfully managed to separate the ship, crew and cargo under his command from their would-be captors, thereby fulfilling his captain’s duty. Unfortunately for Phillips, he accomplished this objective only at the expense of his own freedom. For five long days, he remained at sea as the pirates’ prized American hostage, floating with them on a ramshackle lifeboat in the unrelenting heat of the open ocean.
A Captain’s Duty begins with Phillips’ seemingly routine departure on board the Maersk Alabama and ends weeks later with his dramatic rescue and emotional homecoming. But Phillips does more than simply recount the details of his tense, and often terrifying, week of captivity. Through the numerous flashbacks and historical anecdotes that pepper his narrative, he paints vivid and touching portraits of both the merchant mariner’s life at sea and the family life he leaves behind—a life to which he was ultimately fortunate enough to return, with a renewed appreciation and sense of purpose.
Brian P. Corrigan lives and writes in Florence, Alabama.