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Modern Day Pirates

By Little Gidding - Published March 14, 2006 - Viewed 2890 times


From Fletcher:

A friend and myself were talking about going on an extended Caribbean cruise (just a dream for now) and he brought up the topic of modern day pirates. Have you guys experienced any problems with such criminals? What precautions do you make to defend yourselves in the event of an altercation?

Hi Fletcher,

Thanks for the note. In eleven years of full time cruising, the only pirates we've encountered have been behind the counters of boatyards and ship's chandleries.

Seriously, acts of piracy do occur in the Caribbean, but they are rare and focussed in just a few places. Over the past decade, there have been incidents along the north coast of Venezuela east of Cumana (the Paria peninsula); the coast of Colombia; and the small reefs/islands off the coast of northeastern Nicaragua and southeast of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

There's a daily Caribbean safety and security radio net that meets on marine SSB frequency 8104 at 0815 Atlantic time. The net controllers, Melodye & John Pompa on "Second Millennium", keep an online log of reported security incidents that goes back around eight years; see <www.caribcruisers.com>. Most of the reports deal with property theft, such as stolen dinghies. Armed boardings are very rare.

Our advice: either travel in company to the unsafe places or avoid them altogether. Incidentally, most of Venezuela is fine - we know of no incidents occurring in the offshore islands (Los Testigos, Blanquilla, Tortuga, Los Roques, Las Aves) where, in our view, the cruising is best.

In terms of other precautions, we keep air horns and pepper spray canisters near the companionway and in our sleeping berth. We let people know where we are and keep in regular contact with them via radio or e-mail. We don't have firearms on board; if we did, we'd probably be bigger threats to ourselves than to any potential boarders.

We always lock our boat when we're not on board and we lock our dinghy when we're on shore. We know of several cruisers who have had their dinghies stolen or have had things taken from their boats. In many instances, the boats weren't locked. We're not sure where these people came from, but where we used to live (Toronto, a typical big city) we wouldn't think of leaving our apartment or bicycles unlocked. Living onboard a boat is really no different from living on land in terms of security concerns.

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