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Old 06-09-2008, 08:25   #1
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Gulf of Panama - Possible Pirates ?

Gulf of Panama – Possible pirates?
We are currently under way from the Galapagos Islands to Panama. Last night , as we were entering the Gulf of Panama, we spotted the lights of another vessel roughly 8 miles away and slightly to our port side – we had been tracking the same vessel for some time on the radar and it was basically on a reciprocal course to ours but a couple of miles away. At the same time that we could see their lights (and we assume they saw ours) they made a change of course and started heading straight for us. When our OOW saw this, he immediately veered away 10 degrees to starboard and right after the other vessel changed course again to be heading straight for us. This continued on for a few more times until we were roughly 90 degrees off our original course – still the other vessel headed straight for us. By this time though, we had determined that they were only capable of doing 6 knots as opposed to our 12 knots so we eventually outran them.
We have no idea of who or what the other vessel was as we always kept a distance of at least 2 miles and thus could not clearly identify them. Also, they did not respond to any radio transmissions and we did not pick up anything on our AIS to identify them. What is interesting is that they showed running lights – not something you would expect from a vessel with possible malicious intent.
So, even though nothing serious happened to us, just be extra careful next time you should cruise this area.
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Old 07-09-2008, 17:10   #2
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Gulf of Panama – Possible pirates?
Going the other way - Panama to Galapagos - we had a very similar thing where a boat ahead of us moved to block our path and moved again when we changed course. Nor did he respond to the radio. We were close hauled with shortened sail so I finally dumped the furler, hammered the engine and departed the scene at 120 deg wind angle for 5 miles at a very happy speed. An expensive 5 miles it was!

I am quite sure, now, that he was a fishing boat / mothership protecting his nets. He was 250 miles off the coast and I just dont see how or why a pirate would be out that far.

Your feelings and ours are probably that it was just some fisherman, but your move was probably prudent, as was ours. But I still think we should have stayed on course and had our fears alleviated. We are just too bloody scared because we listen to all the horror stories.


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Old 18-09-2008, 13:32   #3
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One Navy ship I was on did a LOT of boardings for drug smuggling down in that area back in the 90's. I'm sure it's still a hot spot. We did go after one boat that was reported for piracy too. Never did catch them on our frigate but the Panamanian air force sure did! That's how far we chased them.

I'm a civilian now and making plans to buy a boat of my own and head that direction real soon. I'm still looking into laws around the world concerning firearms but regardless after what I've seen I'm going armed! If some country doesn't like it I'll just bypass them on my trip.

MarkJ:
I love your home City! That is one of my first destinations with my wife when we are able to leave. I can't wait. I've been telling her stories of all my trips to sydney and Perth over the years and she is excited too. Maybe we will get a chance to meet someday.
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Old 18-09-2008, 14:17   #4
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... I'm still looking into laws around the world concerning firearms but regardless after what I've seen I'm going armed! If some country doesn't like it I'll just bypass them on my trip...
Here's a start on the subject: "Firearms Regulations by Country"
Firearms Regulations by Country

cruisersforum.com/forums/f57/firearms-regulations-by-country-1641.html
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Old 18-09-2008, 14:31   #5
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When I click that link it tells me page not found.


I have always been under the impression that if you are on a US flagged boat and not actually tied to a pier in someone else's country then a firearm is ok. I could be wrong but I sure need to know before I get busted! I do know that even if you are outside a countries territorial waters that their Navy has the right, or thinks they do, to board your boat whenever they feel like it. We sure do it all the time. Panama, Korea, and even Iran do it a lot too. Drug smuggling is usually their excuse for it.
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Old 18-09-2008, 23:28   #6
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Very wrong. Having banned or controlled items aboard when you are within the waters of any sovereign nation means you are guilty of a crime by their laws, even if you are a US flagged vessel. You will have one opportunity to declare any such items to avoid being a criminal, and that is when you "clear in", at which time the government will tell how they're going to deal with it.

For example, in Australia having tinned meats aboard which you declare will likely just have them impounded and destroyed. Same with your cat. (Kidding!) Firearms will likely be impounded, probably at the local police station, and you might be required to depart the country from this exact port immediately after retrieving them, which might not work out with your cruising plans if you're clearing in at Sidney and planned to depart from Darwin.

All of which comes back to "know what the rules are where you're headed", as GordMay said.
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Old 19-09-2008, 03:52   #7
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At 6 knots I’m 95% sure they were just some fisherman wanting to trade fish for beer and cigarettes, or even just out of plain boredom wanting to meet some foreigners. Or as Mark said, running drift nets …. Picket boats often chase after you to make sure you don’t turn into their nets.

Better tactic is to make a dramatic course change away from them at the beginning (50-60 degrees) to show you’re not interested. VHF radio outside developed areas doesn’t usually work due to language problems.

Your early 10 degree changes were small enough to mean nothing to them and they just kept adjusting until they realized you were not interested.

In Asia we get that all the time and in good visibility I usually just make a jog to create a safe distance then return to course.

It is sad that it has become difficult to trust the local fishermen when meeting in open sea.

They used to be a great source of fresh fish and a friendly encounter with a fellow mariner and still are if you can protect yourself.
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Old 19-09-2008, 04:07   #8
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Fixed link:
www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f57/firearms-regulations-by-country-1641.html
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