After five days in a sweltering lifeboat with Somali pirates, Captain Richard Phillips refused to give up hope even when the crazy one with "Charlie Manson eyes" aimed his pistol at Phillips' head and dry-fired it.

After five days in a sweltering lifeboat with Somali pirates, Captain Richard Phillips refused to give up hope even when the crazy one with "Charlie Manson eyes" aimed his pistol at Phillips' head and dry-fired it.


Phillips had been trying to outwit four armed pirates since April 8, 2009, when they seized the cargo ship he commanded, Maersk Alabama, 280 miles off the coast of Somalia. He'd been forced at gunpoint into the 25-foot lifeboat after the pirates broke a promise to free him in return for their own leader who'd been captured by Alabama crewmen.


To break his spirit, the pirates wouldn't let Phillips relieve himself over the boat's side, so he sat in sodden trousers, trussed "like a farm animal."


He fought despair by thinking of his wife in Underhill, Vt., and their son and daughter.


"At no time did I think about giving up. I wouldn't bend to the pirates' will. My whole goal was to be adversarial with them," said the Winchester, Mass., native in a recent telephone interview. "If I had a chance, I'd have loved to kick their butts. I'd take on all four. I figure that would be fair."


Phillips has recounted his five-day ordeal as captain of the first ship registered under the American flag seized in 200 years by pirates in a gripping book, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea."


Completed within a year of his rescue by a U.S. Navy vessel and Navy SEALs, Phillip's 286-page book presents the captain's dramatic account of the hijacking that brought international attention to the growing menace of pirates who had extorted millions of dollars for the return of crews and vessels captured at sea.


Phillips is best when describing the pirates' personalities, including the doublecrossing and volatile Leader, Musso, Tall Guy, and the vicious Young Guy who repeatedly rehearsed his murder.


As the pirates tried to reach shore with a hostage they thought worth a $2 million ransom, Phillips rachets up his tale's drama until its swift climax on April 12, 2009.


Fearing Phillips was in imminent danger, Navy SEAL snipers killed three pirates with a three-round volley fired from the fantail of the destroyer USS Bainbridge.


Speaking with salty frankness, Phillips called pirates "hyenas" who try to justify their crimes by claiming their offshore waters are "fished out" and too polluted to provide a livelihood. "That's no excuse to murder and steal. They're no Robin Hoods. They'll steal from anybody," he said.


Phillips expects to testify at the trial of the surviving pirate leader, Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, who faces multiple charges in a New York court.


Addressing a Congressional committee studying piracy, Phillips proposed placing two-man armed "security teams" on merchant vessels to give them "lethal and non-lethal" means to repel attacks.


Ghost written by Stephan Talty, "A Captain's Duty" details the Alabama's inability to outrun the pirates' faster, smaller boats and the unexpected ease with which the pirates boarded the ship, shot their way through "pirate" locks supposed to slow their progress and seized the bridge to capture Phillips and several of its 20 crew members.


Once the seizure became international news, Phillips detailed how his wife, Andrea, and their children dealt with his uncertain situation and the often intrusive media frenzy.


Phillips said Columbia Pictures has "purchased an option" on his story for a movie to be produced by Kevin Spacey. Phillips expects to work on it as "a part-time consultant" and said he has no idea who will portray him.


Hailed as a hero upon his return, Phillips repeatedly said the "true heroes" were his SEAL rescuers and the crews of the USS Bainbridge and his own vessel.


"I don't see myself as a hero. I have a hard time accepting the mantle of 'hero.' I shun it," he said. "I'm just a regular guy trying to be the best merchant mariner I can be. I was just doing my job to protect my crew, the ship and its cargo."


A year after the hijacking, Phillips said he wouldn't let "one act of piracy" end a 30-year career he loved.


Now 54, he plans to take command of a ship owned by the same company in June and might end up once again sailing pirate-infested waters off East Africa.


But first Phillips and Andrea are headed for a Caribbean getaway and maybe a little sailing before he leaves for his next assignment.


"I've got my sea bag packed and I'm heading out on June 1," he said. "It won't be the same ship but it could be in the same seas off the Gulf of Aden. As a seaman I don't make any requirements. Aside from pirates, that had been my best trip."