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Old 07-06-2014, 06:47   #1
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Predatory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Previously I had written that while most cruisers consider the Venezuelan mainland a no-go-zone I felt that the Islands of Los Roches and the Aves were relatively safe.

Last night we had dinner with a young French single-hander who related the following story of a recent encounter.

He was sailing from the Eastern Caribbean towards the ABC's when, at night, he detected a solid radar target running without lights and following at a distance of 3-5 miles that did not respond to a VHF hail. Feeling nervous he contacted the Dutch CG in Curacao, probably the Bonaire station, and arranged an hourly radio check-in.

After 3 hours the following vessel finally admitted that they were Venezuelan CG hoping that he would anchor at one of the Venezuelan Islands so that they could arrest and confiscate the boat.

We had previously heard reports of the Venezuelan CG demanding bribes up to $900.

Once the local CG become predatory then the entire country and their territorial waters become a no-go-zone.

In January we sailed from Aruba to Panama and gave Venezuelan waters a wide berth fearing pirates but perhaps we had more to fear from their CG!
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Old 07-06-2014, 06:57   #2
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

I won't argue the possibility of the Venezuelan CG being corrupt or a nuisance. However, the story about them identifying themselves and telling the boat they were "hoping he would anchor at an island so they could arrest him and confiscate his boat"? That to me sounds like a bit of an "addition" to the bare facts of the story…

I mean, why would they tell him that if it was their intent?

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Old 07-06-2014, 08:04   #3
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

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I won't argue the possibility of the Venezuelan CG being corrupt or a nuisance. However, the story about them identifying themselves and telling the boat they were "hoping he would anchor at an island so they could arrest him and confiscate his boat"? That to me sounds like a bit of an "addition" to the bare facts of the story

I mean, why would they tell him that if it was their intent?

Mark
Really, why would they say that and how would he otherwise know?

I don't doubt that the Venezualan CG could in fact be predatory, but that announcement would be as ludicrous as pirates asking "permission to board".

I've been tailed by official vessles in various places, its not unusual behavior or necessarily an indication of mal intent.
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Old 07-06-2014, 08:34   #4
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

It is more likely that they told him that IF he stopped and anchored on Venezuela territory without proper clearance papers and checkin, he could be arrested and his boat confiscated. This would be legally true in most countries. Perhaps adrenalin or language barrier allowed for a misinterpretation.

Again, I'm not defending the VCG, just saying that that would be a very silly statement for a predator. Kind of like a mugger shouting up to an apartment window that they were hoping someone would come outside and around to the dark alley so they could rob them.

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Old 07-06-2014, 10:33   #5
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Could be a misunderstanding maybe? Let's see: Venezuelan Coast Guard=native Spanish speakers, French Single Hander=native French speaker, Phil on Moondancer=native English speaker. Yeah, it's possible that something has been mistranslated. Just my opinion though.
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Old 07-06-2014, 12:42   #6
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Across three native languages, almost certain.

Hell, on the Rio Dulce the gringo rumor mill can't keep a story straight across all native English speakers, but it sure can make it more interesting! ;-)
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Old 07-06-2014, 15:35   #7
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Strange story but my navionics map has this note next to the Aves islands:

-
Mariners are advised that prior to visiting these islands, they should visit Margarita to obtain clearance. The venezuelen goverment have stated that they will start seizing yachts failing to do so.
-

We sailed from Grenada to Bonaire about 2 weeks ago and the above note convinced us not to stop at any of the Venezuelan islands. With the situation getting worse since last February we stayed far away from the coast and from the islands. Sailing up to almost 13N before heading for Bonaire.

During the second night of this passage, 25/26 May, 45NM north of La Blanquilla at 00:00 we where approached by a vessel on our bow that had no navigation lights, no AIS and we could not see it on radar. We saw what looked like a white flashlight that was turned on for several minutes from time to time. When it looked like the distance between us and this vessel became less we decided to change course 90 and sail north. The unidentified vessel also altered course and after about 30 minutes it was again on our port-side going up north with us.
At this moment and with all the piracy stories about this coast we decided to turn off our tri-color toplight, turn off our AIS transponder and all interior lights. We turned on the engine and combined with the sails this brought us to hull speed and we ran away in stealth mode. We could still see the other vessel for the next few hours as we tried to get away north.
At about 5am when we saw 2 cargo vessels on AIS north of us and a bit later their nav-lights the unidentified vessel disappeared.
With the first day-light a bit later and these big vessels around we decided to turn our nav-lights and AIS transponder on again and continue our course towards Bonaire.

We still don't know what it was and if it was any danger to us but it was a nerve wracking night for us. Maybe it was just a small fishing vessel and all the stories about this coast made us paranoid, we will never know. It definitely was no sailing vessel as it's speed changed from high speeds to almost nothing from time to time.
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Old 07-06-2014, 16:09   #8
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Maybe it was the USCG...don't laugh...
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:17   #9
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Two years ago we "paid off" the Guardacosta's on Grand Roque for a two week "cruising permit".
We did not want to go to the mainland to officially clear in.
The cost was $300 US which included an official looking document with stamps on it
Anyway it worked and well worth the cost to see these beautiful islands which included Las Aves.
Initially I just figured we were getting taken so I took a picture of the transaction with a small camera in the palm of my hand which was not noticed by the Guardacosta taking the money.
Not sure if that would have held any ground in their court system but as they say "a picture is worth a 1000 words".
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:27   #10
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

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o I took a picture of the transaction with a small camera in the palm of my hand which was not noticed by the Guardacosta taking the money.
Not sure if that would have held any ground in their court system but as they say "a picture is worth a 1000 words".
as long as those thousand words aren't "Please, No More, I confess!" repeated 250 times....

A lot of gringos feel more threatened than they need to feel when dealing with our latin american neighbors. They have different ways of doing things and government officials have a lot of leeway. Politeness and a sense of humor can go a long way.
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:55   #11
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Re: Predetory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Here's a blog post from some friends who went through the Venezuelan offshore islands a couple of weeks ago on their way to Bonaire. They had a goo dtime with no issues. You'll probably need Google Translate as the post is in Dutch. We left Grenada a week after they did and stayed well clear of Venezuela on our passage to Bonaire.
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Old 09-06-2014, 11:55   #12
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Re: Predatory Venezuelan Coast Guard

Yes Canibul I agree and all the horrific stories I have heard about Venezuela did not keep me from going. Also have been to a few other Spanish countries and never felt threatened and enjoyed myself immensely.
I would definitely go back simply for the beauty and the friendly people I have met along the way.
IMO the $300 was better spent in Los Roques then the $300 the Bahamas charged me to sail in their waters.
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