Neither the pirates nor the crew of the Sunshine had known it, but three Navy ships — the Stennis; the U.S.N.S. Rainier, a supply ship; and the U.S.S. Mobile Bay, a guided-missile cruiser — were steaming in formation a few miles away. The carrier was taking on provisions from the Rainier and had several helicopters in the air when the Sunshine radioed its distress call.

Aboard the carrier, Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, who commands the carrier strike group, looked at the chart and radar images of the Sunshine’s location with something like disbelief. The Sunshine and the Stennis were only a few miles apart. “These might be the dumbest pirates ever,” he said.

He ordered a helicopter and the cruiser toward the Sunshine and other helicopters to investigate the radar images of other ships in the area, to search for the skiff’s possible mother ship.

Seeing the approaching aircraft, the pirates let the Sunshine pull away and tossed their weapons over the side, they said.