Captain's Book Details How He Foiled and Infuriated Somali Pirates

The ladder had hooks on top and Phillips said it looked like "this damn thing was custom-designed to take our ship."

Within minutes, pirates had control of the bridge, but the Alabama's crew locked themselves away in secret rooms and shut down the ship's engines and power supply.

In the next few hours, Phillips cut off the pirates' communication with their mother ship by changing the readings on the radar so that it would not show any ships in the area, which baffled the pirates. And he surreptitiously changed the frequency on the radio so they couldn't reach their colleagues over the air waves.

The captain also called their bluff when they threatened to kill a crew member if the rest of the crew didn't come out of hiding.

Stymied, the pirates became furious, but Phillips kept the tensions manageable by providing them with cigarettes, food and laughs. At one point, the pirates had loaded up with food from the galley and struggled to make it up the ladders with their load.

"You need some help?" Phillips asked, holding out his hands. "'Here, let me carry the gun.' He laughed," Phillips wrote, referring to the struggling pirate.

Increasingly frustrated at their inability to find the crew or gain control of the ship, the pirate leader went on his fourth search of the ship and on this trip he was captured by the Alabama's crew. The crew then tried to negotiate a deal, their hostage for their captain.

The negotiations were speeded along when the pirates heard Chief Mate Shane Murphy on the radio apparently telling a U.S. Navy ship there were four pirates on board.

"Roger that, this is the guided missile cruiser USS Virginia. Helicopters are launching," came the response.

There was no USS Virginia in the area. Both voices were Murphy's as he faked the conversation with the U.S. Navy.

The possibility of a U.S. warship heading their way made the pirates eager to strike a deal, but when the captured pirate was put into the lifeboat for the exchange, they pulled away from the Alabama without letting Phillips reboard his ship.

No Honor Among Pirates

If Phillips needed any more evidence that there is no honor among pirates, he watched as the leader divvied up $30,000 they took from the ship's safe. In dealing out the money, the leader created four piles, but in his pile put mostly $100 bills while dealing out $20s and $10s and $5s to his comrades.

Exasperated by Phillips constant challenges and wise guy remarks, the pirates wanted to know what tribe Phillips belonged to. They knew he was American, but insisted on knowing his tribe. So finally, Phllips told them "Irish."

"You trouble, Irish," one responded. "Yeah. You a problem."

After five days at sea, Phillips was beginning to wonder whether the U.S. Navy, which now had three ships shadowing the lifeboat and sending supplies to the pirates, was just going to watch him disappear on the Somali shore.

Exhausted from lack of sleep and the oven-like heat, and without the glasses he lost in his escape attempt, Phillips missed the encouraging sign that the Navy sent him. Included in a package of pop tarts and fish was a bottle of A-1 steak sauce. He thought it was a strange combo for fish, but then it was the Navy.

"I didn't find out until later, but a Navy crewman had written a message on the label: 'Stay strong, we're coming to get you.'"

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