Please excuse me if this gets a little long. There's a lot here.
First, I have been boarded at sea by the USCG somewhere around 30 times. All but one were in a commercial
setting. I've never had a problem with them, but they do take their missions seriously. It seems like showing up on a fishing
boat in Alaska
armed is a bit unnecessary, but that's how they roll. We're a known quantity when they come on board, and they're still presenting a bit more force posture than is really needed in our context. But it's up to them.
To a man, they would all rather be doing SAR. Sending out a 378' cutter
to the Bering Sea to check liferafts and epirbs is damn silly, and they all know it. We get that stuff inspected by USCG regularly, and the fisheries side of it is so heavily monitored anyway, that violations are nearly 100% of the time of a simple clerical nature. (In US waters).
The point is that their missions are many, and they just do their jobs.
Now, down in the druggy zones, their MO is different. I was boarded once in the Florida
straits, and the interaction was pleasant enough, but we also had 5 guys on the boat for at least a couple of hours. They dug all over the place. From our questions, it seemed like this was pretty much standard procedure for them. (We were father and son-no criminal records here). The Colombian stamp in our passports was of particular interest to them. I think that the OP's visit to Cartagena
was probably enough to get the extra attention. It got us some. To suggest that there was some probable cause for the extra scrutiny is pretty unreasonable.
Regarding having the weapon in the cockpit- I find that to be perfectly reasonable considering they were being followed by an unlit boat. Of course, you don't shoot first and identify who you're shooting at later, but there are quite a lot of very bad dudes in that part of the world, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having the ability at hand to protect yourself.
Once in about 1990, we were sailing in this same area, and were followed closely for a couple of hours by a small rusty fishing
boat, darkness was coming on. The only problem was that they weren't fishing, and had no gear
on board. There were 6-7 guys on board, looking at us through binoculars. Fortunately we did have a couple of shotguns on board, which we produced and began casually cleaning
in the cockpit
. As soon as they saw this, they called us on the radio
, asking where we were going, how many men
on board, and 'why you got guns
, mon?'. We told them we had 6 guys on the boat, and we just cleaned them weekly. We kept going down below, changing shirts, putting hats on, etc, so they might not know how many of us were actually there (we were 2).
Anyway, I am absolutely convinced that had we not demonstrated the ability to project
lethal force, my odds of being here to tell the story today were somewhat poor. No, I don't know for sure they were up to no good, but when every fiber of your being says something's very wrong, it pays to listen.
And that, friends, is entirely different than waving a gun around. I believe from the OP's contribution that he did pretty much just what we did, and it's hard to find fault with it.
By the way, since we started transmitting AIS
on the sailboat, they're not interested in us at all so far, and we just transited Panama-Yucatan channel last year. Not a peep from them.
I wish the 4th amendment applied to us with the USCG, but unfortunately is does not seem to. Americans, write your congressmen. Non-Americans, sorry that these guys can board you anywhere they want. I wish it were otherwise.
Good sailing to all.