When pirates attacked Capt. Richard Phillips' ship last April, he tried to fend them off by firing warning flares at them, popping up between bursts of fire from AK-47s to zing a fiery flare at them.
Phillips was hoping for a lucky shot that would ignite something in their skiff, but he kept aiming flares at the four pirates even after they were aboard the Maersk Alabama and were spraying the captain's bridge with gunfire.
He says that was his first mistake -- taking too long to retreat to a safe room where he could lock himself in and the pirates would be unable to maneuver the ship and would have no bargaining chips.
In his new book "A Captain's Duty" Phillips recounts the harrowing ordeal at the hands four Somali pirates last April, and details for the first time what happened aboard the cargo ship and how he and his crew frustrated and fooled the pirates.
Phillips' account comes as pirate activity in the Indian Ocean appears to be escalating along with more attempts to fight off the pirates. Just this week, a South Korean warship is pursuing a supertanker grabbed by pirates that is loaded with $160 million worth of crude oil.
And Danish marines in a helicopter strafed a hijacked cargo ship Monday and then rappelled down lines to capture 10 pirates and reclaim the ship.
The hijacking of the Maersk Alabama on April 8, 2009, however, focused attention on the growing war with pirates for the way the largely American crew foiled their attempts to take control of the ship, and the pirates' failure to honor a prisoner swap by taking Phillips hostage in the ship's lifeboat.
The standoff ended four days later when Navy marksmen killed three of the pirates. That ending came as tensions in the little boat were heightening and the pirates taunted Phillips by telling him he was going to die and repeatedly aiming their unloaded weapons at him and pulling the trigger.
Phillips says he never knew when that "click" would turn to "boom."
The worst moment came after his failed bid to escape the lifeboat, jumping into the ocean at night and trying to swim to the USS Bainbridge a half a mile away. The pirates quickly came after him in the boat, but couldn't find him because he was now hanging on to the undersides of the boat and would duck under the water whenever he heard footsteps coming his way.
At one point, he grabbed the head of a pirate who was peering over the side and tried to pull him into the water and drown him, but the pirate's yells alerted the others.
Eventually pulled aboard, the pirates were "absolutely bats**t furious that their million-dollar American hostage had almost gotten away," Phillips wrote.
They trussed him up and took turns beating him until they were exhausted. But even then, Phillips' reputation for being a funny guy won out. Describing the Somalis as slightly built and weighing possibly 135 pounds, he said the beating hurt, but was bearable.
"Honestly, my sister Patty hits harder," he wrote.
At the beginning of the pirate attack, the pirates surprised Phillips by the swiftness of their attack. As Phillips was popping peeks over the side of the ship to fire flares at them, he was startled and dismayed.
"I looked down at the water and couldn't believe what I saw. The pirates were lifting this beautiful long white ladder into the air. I thought, where in the hell did they that thing? It looked like something you'd get at Home Depot."