Bruno Pelizzari feels that bringing his yacht, The Arran, home to Durban from Dar es Salaam has brought closure to the saga that saw him and his former partner, Debbie Calitz, held hostage by Somali pirates for 20 months. Photo: Jacques Naude

Durban - Durban “yachtie” Bruno Pelizzari, who with former partner Debbie Calitz was held hostage in Somalia, feels the past is finally behind him.

He told The Independent on Saturday this soon after returning to Durban’s Bluff Yacht Club on board his own yacht, the 36.5-foot Arran.

It had sat moored at a Dar es Salaam yacht club for two years, including his 20 months in captivity, then for another one and a half years while he repaired it.

“This is now the closure of a saga,” he said.

“This is my pension. It’s all I have other than cash to last me about another six months,” he said on board the vessel.

He continues to live on board the Arran, frugally as many “yachties” do, having the occasional value-for-money meal at the club and sharing his experiences with the sailing fraternity as he did this week, presenting a talk on technical navigation.

Pelizzari’s recent month-long journey home from the Tanzanian port, accompanied by his brother-in-law Colin Abood, saw the Arran hit three storms off Mozambique, one of which caused damage to his mast.

“I had thoughts of it (the Arran) getting wrecked,” he recalled. “If it goes down, I lose everything. Then I’ll have nothing, but I suppose that’s better than owing someone.”

At 55, he says his body feels strong. “Apart from my teeth,” he said, explaining that they had not recovered from the malnutrition he and Calitz suffered during their hostage hell.

“It was damn harsh. You didn’t even have a comb, pens, paper. It was just you and your mind in a room, handcuffed.”

Philosophically, he compares that hell to others around him – domestic abuse victims suffer in their homes, living with such torture day after day, forever.

“Mine is over now. It was quite something to live through but now that I am back, it feels like I haven’t been away.

“You’re over it the very day you’re set free,” he said.

During Pelizarri’s year and a half in Dar es Salaam, he found work as a lift mechanic in the city where, he says, there is “lots of growth”, driven by Chinese investment.

This helped him buy and source parts to repair the Arran.

“The motor had seized, the batteries were down, the inverter didn’t work… with no maintenance it had become a shell.”

He is uncertain of how he will make ends meet in the future, but is certain that one day he would want to once again hit the high seas.

That said, he believes 20 years ago was a better time to be a “yachtie” than now.

“Travellers were welcome in places. People wanted to hear your stories. Now, all they want is money. At Bazaruto (in Mozambique), for instance you need to pay R2 000 to the tourism board and more money to sail into the port. That freedom is gone, although there are still some hidey holes.”

However, he still has his and Calitz’s old destination, India, in his sights.

The two studied religions and sought to explore that interest on that sub-continent. Pelizzari remains particularly interested in the influence of astrology.

Calitz is no longer in his life but he speaks well of her, saying she had the mettle to handle the traumatic experience they shared that not anybody would have had.

Pelizzari and Calitz were on board another yacht, the Choizil, working as crew members, when they were captured, having left the Arran in Dar es Salaam.

Independenrt on Saturday