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Hud3 25-01-2008 03:44

St Vincent - Dangerous for Cruisers
 
The west coast of St Vincent, in particular Chateaubelair, remains a very dangerous area for cruisers.

Swagman posted an account of a boarding and attack there a while back on this forum. I have since learned of a rash of such events, perhaps carried out by the same criminals. Sally Erdle, editor of The Caribbean Compass, has told me that she has been informed that "the police and coast guard have promised more protection in this area... we'll see!"

Here's a letter written by a recent victim:

Reprinted from Caribbean Net News
caribbeannetnews.com
Letter: The real Pirates of the Caribbean Published on Monday, January 21, 2008

Dear Sir:

I am writing to share a shocking incident that isn’t as unusual as you’d expect – armed robbers boarding an anchored boat in a bay. I hope that this message can be shared with local authorities who can take action to prevent future incidents like this and caution other boaters against future attacks.

On Friday, December 21, 2007, I was on a private sailing yacht with eight total passengers. Our boat, anchored in Chateaubelair, St Vincent in the Windward Islands, was boarded at approximately 1:30am by three armed men – one man without a face mask carrying a machete, one tall man with a red wrapped face mask carrying a knife and a third man with a black woven mask carrying a gun and a hand-generator flashlight. We estimate that the robbers were on board for about 15 minutes.

The men were calm at first but became more agitated the longer they were on board, asking for more money. They initially wanted US cash only, then they “settled” for other valuables – including a small digital camera, iPod, woman’s Raymond Weil watch, men’s Suunto sports watch, North Face black fleece jacket, rain coat in red with black trim made by EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports), two cell phones, and cash (including three $500 euro bills, as well as Swedish Kroners, Chilean Pesos, Argentine Pesos). They asked for one man’s gold necklace. When he began to comply with their demand, he asked to retain the cross on the necklace because it belonged to his father; the robber (surprisingly!) said ‘no, keep it’. We immediately prayed for our safety and for our families back home in our respective countries.

After emptying our wallets, they continually threatened to kill us if we did not give them more money – even though we had nothing more to give (“give us your money or we will kill you”). They demanded that we leave the harbour immediately with no lights or they would return with grenades and RPGs (rocket propelled grenades). They left on a small vessel under paddle power (no motor).

We contacted local police immediately after the attack – local police hung up the phone on us. We contacted local coast guard who eventually met us at sea and were concerned about the incident. After leaving the islands, we have been escalating our concerns. As of four weeks after the incident, local authorities report that they have arrested some suspects.

We thought this type of thing never happened on these islands. As they say, “hindsight is 20/20”. We have since learned that similar attacks have occurred in the same bay on numerous occasions - including one attack the very next day and a couple times earlier this year – at least 10 times in the last two years according to a tracking report on this website

We arrived in Chateaubelair in the evening and we were the only boat anchored in the harbor (this is probably something that other boats should avoid). Our cabin was not locked (however some other victims did have locked cabins and were still attacked). We were fortunate that we were not physically harmed – some other victims were.

I hope that my story raises awareness for sailors looking to escape to vacation in the lovely Caribbean – that they choose their anchorages carefully.

I hope that my story forces action in St. Vincent.

I hope that my story reminds potential robbers that every sailor has a story; every sailor has a family and life is precious.

Allison Botros


It would seem the solution for now is to give St Vincent a pass
.

pogo 25-01-2008 20:00

Another one? It shouldn't be terribly difficult to send in a "bait boat", with frequency of attack being what it is at the same harbors.


Load a boat full of police (or US Marines) and go anchor around the area, pretending to be tourists. I'll bet that would end armed robbery of sailing tourists, quickly.


My wife :mad: and I crossed off St Vincent from our places to tour this year, already.

Too many other nice places to visit, Nevis for instance.
:smiling:

MarkJ 25-01-2008 21:51

Drawing pins.

A nice little welcome mat with drawing pins. Hurts like hell and wakes up the inhabitants ;)

Ram 26-01-2008 05:07

Great Idea, Pogo
why hasent anyone thought of that before?

David M 26-01-2008 08:40

Did these guys learn nothing from Willie Sutton? You're supposed to rob banks "because that's where the money is!" ...not cruisers!

Mike Banks 26-01-2008 15:55

It seems if the police do not want to be involved it is because they are involved.

David M 26-01-2008 21:27

Maybe it was the police? Did their breath smell like donuts?

MarkJ 26-01-2008 22:10

Quote:

Originally Posted by David M (Post 129236)
Maybe it was the police? Did their breath smell like donuts?

ROTFLMAO! Thats funny! :)

waterworldly 27-01-2008 05:22

These accounts of problems in that particular bay have been published for more than a year, including well documented events on Noonsite. I think that a lot of people let their guard down, seduced by the beaches and palm trees. I live in Miami, it is a city, just like any city, full of good and bad. Yet people constantly are wondering off into the bad neighborhoods and then getting robbed. They walk around late at night on the deserted streets and on the beaches after flashing cash and wearing Rolexs'. They wouldn't do that in New York, or San Fran, or other large cities, but they do it here. It also happens often in Nassau and St Thomas. My question is: do these people do ANY research before going to a new country? Kinda like thinking your should stop and provision in Somalia . . .

Southern Star 27-01-2008 06:24

Waterworldly is correct - I've only been on this site for a few months and we've been down this road at least once already. S.V.&G. is still an incredible cruising grounds - however there are areas in St. Vincent (Chateaubelair in particular) that have been the subject of numerous similar reports over the last couple of years and are therefore, best avoided. That does not (should not) mean that you avoid an entire country; it does mean that you should do your homework and avoid problem anchorages/towns/neighbourhoods. Just as you would (should) do at home.

The Grenadines per se are still remarkably safe when one considers the amount of traffic from cruising boats. Yes, there have been a few relatively minor incidents reported on Bequia, but virtually none that can be considered 'life threatening'. And the remaining Grenadines have remained essentially robbery/theft-free.

This past summer I had the outboard for my inflatable stolen from my boat in Bath, Ontario - a small, safe, picturesque town. Does that mean that we should avoid Canada, the thousand Islands, (or for that matter Bath) as potential destinations/stopovers? Research, common sense and a passive system for theft avoidance can go a long way in avoiding these problems. I, for example, clearly needed a better locking system for my outboard. Perhaps I should have taken the step of painting the cover so as to make it look less attractive to thieves.

How many of us have good intrusion alarm systems on our boats? Ones that are connected to deck flood lights and a loud alarm? For that matter, I have heard recently that cattle fencing technology can be applied to the lifelines (if not PVC covered) of a boat. A small, dedicated battery will provide quite a shock to the unwary intruder.

There are many other techniques, of course. Ensuring that your tender is NOT identified as belonging to/connected with your boat will mean that thieves on shore cannot determine that your boat is unoccupied when they see it tied up to a dinghy dock. Always hoist your inflatable and lock it at night. Try to avoid isloated anchorages, particularly in areas that have had reported problems in the past. Set up a temporary 'neighbourhood watch' in your anchorage, or at least ask neighbouring boaters to watch out for your vessel if you are planning on being away for any significant period.

Most of us in the developed world now live with alarm systems on our cars. Those who do not have them on homes have generally at least considered them and, even in the best neighbourhoods there are often 'neighbourhood watch' programs in place. These are, sadly, facts of life in the 21st Century. Addressing these risks is just as important an issue for the competent skipper as planning safe passages and ensuring his/her vessel has appropriate safety equipment. If you are not alert to the 'weather' conditions both offshore and inshore you might be best advised to say at home.

Brad

Therapy 27-01-2008 12:15

Quote:

Originally Posted by Southern Star (Post 129289)
Waterworldly is correct - I've only been on this site for a few months and we've been down this road at least once already. S.V.&G. is still an incredible cruising grounds - however there are areas in St. Vincent (Chateaubelair in particular) that have been the subject of numerous similar reports over the last couple of years and are therefore, best avoided. That does not (should not) mean that you avoid an entire country; it does mean that you should do your homework and avoid problem anchorages/towns/neighbourhoods. Just as you would (should) do at home.

The Grenadines per se are still remarkably safe when one considers the amount of traffic from cruising boats. Yes, there have been a few relatively minor incidents reported on Bequia, but virtually none that can be considered 'life threatening'. And the remaining Grenadines have remained essentially robbery/theft-free.

This past summer I had the outboard for my inflatable stolen from my boat in Bath, Ontario - a small, safe, picturesque town. Does that mean that we should avoid Canada, the thousand Islands, (or for that matter Bath) as potential destinations/stopovers? Research, common sense and a passive system for theft avoidance can go a long way in avoiding these problems. I, for example, clearly needed a better locking system for my outboard. Perhaps I should have taken the step of painting the cover so as to make it look less attractive to thieves.

How many of us have good intrusion alarm systems on our boats? Ones that are connected to deck flood lights and a loud alarm? For that matter, I have heard recently that cattle fencing technology can be applied to the lifelines (if not PVC covered) of a boat. A small, dedicated battery will provide quite a shock to the unwary intruder.

There are many other techniques, of course. Ensuring that your tender is NOT identified as belonging to/connected with your boat will mean that thieves on shore cannot determine that your boat is unoccupied when they see it tied up to a dinghy dock. Always hoist your inflatable and lock it at night. Try to avoid isloated anchorages, particularly in areas that have had reported problems in the past. Set up a temporary 'neighbourhood watch' in your anchorage, or at least ask neighbouring boaters to watch out for your vessel if you are planning on being away for any significant period.

Most of us in the developed world now live with alarm systems on our cars. Those who do not have them on homes have generally at least considered them and, even in the best neighbourhoods there are often 'neighbourhood watch' programs in place. These are, sadly, facts of life in the 21st Century. Addressing these risks is just as important an issue for the competent skipper as planning safe passages and ensuring his/her vessel has appropriate safety equipment. If you are not alert to the 'weather' conditions both offshore and inshore you might be best advised to say at home.

Brad


I suppose you have more experience than me but I think the problem would disappear overnight if the whole country was bypassed. There is obviously someone who knows who they are. These are small communities, not megalopolises (sp?) where folks melt into the background. The last one said they ROWED away for heavens sake!!.

Having your motor stolen and a pistol in your face at 0130 are slightly different in my thinking.

After spending a lot of time researching and reading if I ever get a cruising cat you can be sure I will have motion detectors rigged to siren and lights........just in case my careful research on anchorages was flawed.

Isolated anchorages you say........ !!!!!!!!! It is one of the main reasons I want to get on a boat in the first place..........please don't tell me part of my dream (a big part) is now a N0-NO!!!!:mad::eek:

Planning on being away.......?????????? you mean like exploring the islands, people, cultures??????????Wildlife (non-human).


It seem the way to do it is .....................yea, stay home and read...................

Hud3 27-01-2008 12:50

We're Not Miami!
 
Waterworldly and Southern Star,

The reason this sort of news grabs attention is because it is SO uncommon. Because it's uncommon, the word needs to get out somehow. That's why I posted it here, and why I sent the link to Doina Cornell at Noonsite, so she could post it in their "latest news" section.

Charterers looking to sail in SVG don't necessarily do a lot of research on crime stats. Does anybody when they're going on vacation? They've probably had a couple of nice charter experiences in the BVI, and now they're ready to branch out to the Grenadines. Why should they expect it to be any different there?

The eastern Caribbean is actually an incredibly safe place to be on a boat. People here generally don't think they need to use the same precautions needed in Miami or other big cities, and indeed they don't, 99.9% of the time. The yachties that are paranoid about personal security really stick out like a sore thumb. My wife and I cruised the islands for two years, and live here full time now. We've never felt threatened anywhere we've been, we've never had anything stolen, and we've never even had anyone be rude to us. We have chosen to stay clear of St Vincent's western anchorages because of their reputation, but that's the only place we've consciously avoided.

It's nothing like Miami down here, and that's the beauty of it. People deserve to be able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery and beautiful people of the Caribbean, without locks, chains, mace, and alarms. Publicizing and avoiding the very, very few "hot spots" shouldn't make people assume that it can be like that everywhere.

MarkJ 27-01-2008 13:15

Quote:

Originally Posted by Southern Star (Post 129289)
cattle fencing technology can be applied to the lifelines (if not PVC covered) of a boat. A small, dedicated battery will provide quite a shock to the unwary intruder.

I've been a cow before and forgot the fence on a mates property is on when I have grabbed a fence to jump over. All I can tell you is that I cleary remember the event 10 years ago including the colour of the sky before and after the incident and I have a very interesting and healthy respect for that particular bit of wire.

I still like the drawing pins in paper as the cheap version, but I wanna electrify the boat! :D:D:D


Mark

Southern Star 27-01-2008 14:38

Hud is right that most of the Caribbean (and yes, even SV&G) is still incredibly safe - which was precisely my point in suggesting that the experiences in a few anchorages on St. Vincent shouldn't cause anyone to steer clear of the entire country. As to alarms and passive safety, it still strikes me that it is pretty cheap insurance in case you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And Therapy, I was most certainly not suggesting that a boat invasion is equivalent to the theft of an outboard. My point was that crime against boaters can and will happen anywhere, and that I could likely have avoided even that with some preparation and forethought. And Hud, I beg to differ to this extent: crime against boaters is on the increase throughout the Caribbean. There are now risky areas in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), The Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, Dominica, Trinidad, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Columbia and yes, St. Vincent

The unfortunate victims of the most recent attack in Chateaubelair chose to anchor in an area that has become notorious for similar attacks - a little advance research of the conditions there would no doubt have caused them to anchor elsewhere. As I said, the safety of the ship and crew is a responsibility of the skipper both at sea and under anchor.

And yes Therapy, if you are going to be away from your boat for 'a significant period', it is a good idea to have someone watch out for your boat regardless of the purpose of your absence. Alternatively, you can choose to take your chances and then complain if you are the hit by burglars and thieves in your absence.

You are right, however, in suggesting that isolated anchorages are precisely one of the goals of all cruisers. Still, if you value security over solitude, it is best to avoid isolated anchorages, 'particularly in areas that have had reported problems in the past ' (i.e., Chateauleclair). I fail to see how that is a controvesrsial suggestion.

In fact, I am not entirely certain what in my posting has caused you to take offence, except perhaps the suggestion that the skipper bears some responsiblity for where he chose to anchor and how his boat was prepared for the possibility, however slight, of intruders. I continue to believe that the use of common sense and preparation can avoid, or at least minimize the risks that you are likely to encounter anywhere in the Caribbean.

Brad

Therapy 27-01-2008 14:46

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hud3 (Post 129377)

Charterers looking to sail in SVG don't necessarily do a lot of research on crime stats.

And even if they ask at the charter base, what does one suppose the answer might be?


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