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Safety tips for cruising boats

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Keeping yachting crimes in perspective, many yachtsmen have enjoyed long careers sailing in the islands without being victimized by crime or run up against minor problems only.

“I’ve have been chartering in the Caribbean – from extreme North to extreme South – for 16 years now and have never had any problems, with a few exceptions,” says Capt. Gordon Monsen, of s/v Liberte, who sited thefts of a motor and some fishing rods. Capt. Brian Johnson, of the s/v Sublime, adds, “In the BVI and USVI, I don’t really worry about boat or personal safety much, although I realize there have been isolated problems, I have never experienced any.”

Here are tips for cruising boats:

  1. Dinghies and outboards are the usual victims, says Narendra Sethia, at Barefoot Yacht Charters & Marine Centre, in St. Vincent, “so we provide security wires and locks and advise clients to lift the outboard at night-time and lock it onto the transom mounting pad. Dinghies should also be locked when at a dinghy dock ashore – not so much for theft, but because all too often someone staggers out of a bar and takes the wrong dinghy.”
  2. Do NOT put the name of your yacht on the dinghy or outboard, Sethia says. “If you do so, it is telling any potential thief that you are ashore when they see the dinghy on a dinghy dock, thus an open invitation to head out to the yacht and help themselves.”
  3. “We NEVER carry arms of any kind on board,” says Capt. Gordon Monsen, of s/v Liberte. “A firefight is the way to disaster. Rather just give the stuff away when asked.”
    John Duffy, president of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Trades Association agrees and adds, “In the unlikely event you are confronted do not resist. Give the criminal whatever he wants, wallet, keys, jewelry, credit cards, mobile phone, etc. Your possessions are replaceable. Also, if confronted don’t make any sudden, unexpected moves. A nervous criminal may think you are reaching for a concealed weapon. If the robber claims he has a gun or knife in his pocket, you may not believe him but never call his bluff. Never try to be a hero and apprehend the criminal; just notify police as soon as possible.”
  4. The most important thing is information, says Capt. Brian Johnson, on s/v Sublime. “There tends to be hot spots of criminal activity, and if you know when and where they are happening, you can prevent it which is the best alternative. I do extra watches at night on anchor if I ever find myself in an area like this.”
    The Caribbean Safety and Security Net is a great source of this type of information, www.safetyandsecuritynet.com/index.html
  5. Take the same ‘normal precautions’ you would anywhere in the world. “At night, walk on well lit streets,” says Duffy. Avoid dark corners and alleys. Always walk on the side of the street facing oncoming traffic unless the other side of the street is better lit. Remember, there is safety in numbers. If possible, walk with a companion, ideally more than one. Preferably, females should walk with male companions. A robber is less likely to confront two or more. Avoid walking through deserted areas or take a taxi.”
  6. If you do go out at night, Duffy adds, “don’t carry more than you can afford to lose. Consider carrying a second wallet containing a few $1 bills and old credit cards, which are normally destroyed or discarded. If confronted give the suspect the second wallet and concentrate on a good physical description to give to the police. Wear a minimum of jewelry, especially women, and don’t flash your money around in bars.”

Recovering a Stolen Yacht in the Amazon

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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