NAIROBI, Kenya — The retired British couple were sailing the world on a 38-foot-yacht that represented most of their life savings when Somali pirates captured them last year, demanding the sort of huge ransom a multimillionaire or a multinational company might cough up.
The fact that Paul and Rachel Chandler couldn't pay a big ransom helped stretch out their ordeal 388 agonizing days — until Sunday, when they were released thin and exhausted, but smiling. It was one of the longest and most dramatic hostage situations since the Somali piracy boom began several years ago.
The Chandlers were welcomed by the Somali community close to where they had been held, and later met with the Somali prime minister in Mogadishu. A private jet then flew them to Nairobi's military airport, where they were whisked away in a British Embassy vehicle.
"We are happy to be alive, happy to be here, desperate to see our family, and so happy to be amongst decent, everyday people, Somalis, people from anywhere in the world who are not criminals, because we've been a year with criminals and that's not a very nice thing to be doing," Rachel Chandler said at a news conference in Mogadishu.
Pirates boarded the Chandlers' yacht the night of Oct. 23, 2009, while the couple were sailing from the island nation of Seychelles. The couple, married for almost three decades, took early retirement about four years ago and were spending six-month spells at sea. They had sailed to the Greek islands, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Oman, Yemen, India and the Maldives.