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Old 30-01-2023, 09:41   #1
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Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

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[Moderator note] this thread has been edited to remove names and personally identifying info. It's stands however as a cautionary tale for those who seek crew positions to exercise caution. Not everyone is nice, reasonable or honest.
In December 2022 I wanted to have a quick sailing adventure, crewing on a private sailboat to see the Exuma island chain in the Bahamas. I got on Crewbay.com and found [redacted] a Beneteau 473 near Nassau and heading South. I have been crew before and had wonderful times with wonderful boat owners.

Not this time, sadly.

As it turned out, this trip ended on January 13th when I was forced [redacted] at gunpoint, to jump off his sailboat and swim for my life to a small Cay around 50 miles NorthWest of Georgetown as he motored away with all my belongings. My iPhone and iPad were already tossed overboard, and I had only my passport and wallet in a fanny pack, a lucky stroke to even have that.

From the start, in Nassau, I knew it was not going to be a great trip. His windlass didn’t work, his headsail was broken and did not work, his wind gauge was erroneous, just bad signs everywhere. But, I had prepaid my airfare and could not really afford to blow $500 more to get home, so I hoped for the best. Nick was (in my opinion) a nasty, negative, lonely old man, denigrating anyone and everyone…people with dogs on their boat, people with kids on their boat, with loads of profanity laced diatribes about just about everything. He was also non communicative… no crew briefings, no plan, no ability to even read Navionics to find fun spots to stop. Not so germane to what happened, but those early signs were an immediate damper on the goal of a fun-filled saunter through the Exumas.

The terrifying events started as we left Farmer’s Cay, when I did not see that one hatch at the bow was closed but not dogged. As a result some water got in as we chopped through the cut. He immediately started laying into me, berating and ragging on me for over an hour, as I sat there like a stone, praying it would not escalate. I figured if I gave him no direct confrontation, it would pass. But I got scared and started texting another boat owner we had met (to remain unnamed as he has a wife and kids aboard) to please contact the coast guard, that I felt very threatened. I did not obviously know [redacted] had a handgun on board at that point, but I was really scared. To his credit, the other boat owner contacted the authorities, but when [redacted] found out, my $1200 iPhone went overboard. I kept at it on my cellular iPad, and guess what, that went in the ocean soon afterwards.

We were a half mile offshore in the ocean and Nick told me I had two choices: jump overboard there and then, or he would dump me at whatever small Cay was closest. I said we should wait for the cops to show up and we could work through it. That lasted five minutes, and he ordered me to pack my bags as he gunned the engine for the cut at Little Darby Cay. I started filming everything on my GoPro and that sadly enraged him, and after a scuffle to get past me (I thought was going for the knife drawer), he pulled the gun and all ‘discussion’ was over. I was at that point begging for my life.

He blew into the cut, grounded the boat trying to get to shore, then at gunpoint made me throw my GoPro and my VHF radio overboard, then he pointed the gun at my head (laser sight not a good thing when it is on you) and told me to jump, now. It was yes sir, I’m going, as you can imagine. About 50 yards off a tiny beach I jumped, and swam for my life.

I made it ashore with nothing but that, shorts and a t shirt, then it took me two hours to find a house on the Cay that had a VHF there, and I radioed the sailor who had I had texted and he said a fast boat from Georgetown was heading my way. I did find a person eventually, and got sheltered at another house where a research outpost couple minds the store. At 7:30PM the fast boat arrived. They transported me back to Georgetown, and I spent 3 hours giving a detailed report to the police.

I spent the night on the couch of the Peace and Plenty hotel next to the Government building, and the next morning the kind ladies at the Tourism board arranged for American to get me out on the next flight home, with everyone saying they take this VERY seriously. Hah, right.

It took me a week, following [redacted] inReach and MarineTraffic track (he never turned it off amazingly), to get the Bahamian authorities to arrest him, but by the next evening he was out and free, and the authorities have not even bothered to call me to go over what can be done or why they let him go.

In hindsight, if he had just said up front he didn’t want me as crew and would get me home, I would have gone, I just couldn’t afford the ticket. Now of course that would have saved me about $5000 in stolen luggage and electronics (and the psychological trauma involved), but as I cannot see the future, there was no way for me to predict the rage and gun and assault.

I tell this story publicly (and I have loads of supporting evidence to back it up, I would not name him and his boat otherwise) partly to warn the sailing community about this dangerous man, but also to encourage both boat owners (who are taking on crew for companionship, watches, anchoring help etc) and crew looking to get on private boats (for fun, adventure or to gain miles) to be sure to do due diligence, both ways. For crew, remember that there is a huge power dynamic, the owner holds all the cards and if they want you off the boat, you will be getting off. Will they pay to repatriate you? I believe they are supposed to by some law or another, but if they don’t, I doubt any government will hold them accountable. The Bahamas clearly did not in this case.

Ben Cahan
Los Angeles, CA
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Old 30-01-2023, 10:52   #2
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

You asked a neighboring vessel to contact the authorities because he was angry that you left the hatch undogged?? This seems a little over-reactionary (admittedly, I wasn't there). Was the hatch in question in your berth?? That is a standard thing to check in our predeparture check. I'm surprised the captain/owner didn't ask verbally "Are all hatches closed and dogged?"

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it took me two hours to find a house on the Cay that had a VHF there, and I radioed the sailor who had I had texted and he said a fast boat from Georgetown was heading my way. I did find a person eventually, and got sheltered at another house
Did you trespass into an unoccupied house to find the VHF??
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Old 30-01-2023, 11:04   #3
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

Yes, the hatch was the rationale for the berating and when I did not respond, trying not to inflame a bad situation, he demanded I pack my bags and that he was dumping me at the nearest land (or I could swim from there a half mile out in the ocean). Once he made his threats, I felt very scared (he is former Soviet military) and texted the other captain to call for help.

As for the house, I got there just at sundown, having beat my way for an hour through thick brush, and I called out everywhere and got no response. It was open and I saw a VHF radio on a charger, and I did go in and get it to call for help. I had nothing, no phone or device of any sort, I had no idea at that time where I was, was just thankful to still be alive. Didn't even know if there were people on the island at that point, and that VHF was my lifeline.

Should anyone (site admins perhaps) want to see everything that supports my tale, happy to provide. This was the most terrifying experience of my life, I thought for sure I was dead, to be dumped in the sea never to be found, that house and the other captain likely saved my life to some extent.
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Old 30-01-2023, 11:38   #4
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

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You asked a neighboring vessel to contact the authorities because he was angry that you left the hatch undogged?? This seems a little over-reactionary (admittedly, I wasn't there). Was the hatch in question in your berth?? That is a standard thing to check in our predeparture check. I'm surprised the captain/owner didn't ask verbally "Are all hatches closed and dogged?"



Did you trespass into an unoccupied house to find the VHF??
Interesting points to focus on given the larger thread of the story.

Seems to me all that really matters is whether or not the forced-off-the-boat-at-gunpoint is true. If so, thereís only one person to blame for what transpired, and itís not the OP.
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Old 30-01-2023, 12:28   #5
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

Whoa! What a crazy story, I'm sorry this happened to you...

Thank you for publicly warning others with your precautionary tale.
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Old 30-01-2023, 13:10   #6
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

Wow- and I thought I had a negative experience recently when I pulled myself and all my gear off a boat at the next marina, paid for an uber and an overpriced rental car, and had a long drive home!

I considered myself fortunate to be out of an unpleasant and possibly unsafe situation. In your case, with someone threatening deadly force inexcusably, you are fortunate to get out with your life. Good job warning others- no one should get on that boat or even near it except the authorities.
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Old 30-01-2023, 13:14   #7
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

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Interesting points to focus on given the larger thread of the story.

Seems to me all that really matters is whether or not the forced-off-the-boat-at-gunpoint is true. If so, thereís only one person to blame for what transpired, and itís not the OP.
There are three sides to every story. We're hearing 1/3 of it.
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Old 30-01-2023, 13:29   #8
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

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You asked a neighboring vessel to contact the authorities because he was angry that you left the hatch undogged?? This seems a little over-reactionary (admittedly, I wasn't there).
He contacted a neighboring vessel because he was witnessing a disproportionate, angry response that led him to question whether he was safe.

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Was the hatch in question in your berth??

Why does it matter? Does it excuse the captain/owner's behavior if it was there rather than in the galley?

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Did you trespass into an unoccupied house to find the VHF??

Wow.
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Old 30-01-2023, 13:44   #9
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

Look folks, there will be those who will not believe my story, I cannot help that. I do have alot of supporting evidence that backs up what I have told (chat log, gps track, etc.), but even then there will be plenty of folks who will just say "you must have done something to deserve it". It is just so much easier to blame victims for their plight than to believe this sort of thing does happen. Really nothing I can do about that either, I can only share what hapened to me in the hope that Nick never gets the chance to to anyone else what he did to me. Or worse to the next victim, at least I got home alive.
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Old 30-01-2023, 14:12   #10
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

while I have the odd feeling there is more to the story, no matter how you spin this the boat "captain" in this case is waaaay beyond reasonable actions
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Old 30-01-2023, 15:24   #11
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

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There are three sides to every story. We're hearing 1/3 of it.
Sure, so why are you trying to fish the other 2 sides out of the OP? The point of the saying is that he can only give you his side.

Besides, my point was they were odd details to focus on, not that there are no other sides to the the story.
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Old 30-01-2023, 18:24   #12
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale. Getting onboard with other humans in a small environment of isolation can be inherently dangerous.



If you get a bad vibe about a boat or a captain, don't get onboard. Money has little value when safety is at stake, just don't do it.



If you get a bad vibe from crew, don't let them aboard your vessel. Politely decline to take them.



Period.
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Old 30-01-2023, 19:03   #13
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

It doesn't really matter if/what the other side of the story is. The only thing that really matters is if OP lied or told the truth about the captain pulling a gun on him. Civilized, reasonable people to not aim guns at crew.
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Old 30-01-2023, 19:31   #14
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

With all the other things wrong on the boat, an undogged hatch would be the least of my worries.

NOTE: To OP, and everyone else.

If you are chartering, or crewing on a boat, and obvious maintenance items are unaddressed, THAT is a first Red Flag.

A Captain that doesn't walk you through procedures, and safety equipment the moment you get on board is a second Red Flag.

As a Captain MY assumption is that anything I haven't specifically assigned a crew member is MY responsibility.

AND if I DID assign it to a crew member, it is STILL my responsibility to follow up, and insure that the crew member I assigned it to, understood the order, and performed it as needed to my satisfaction.

And any mistake that didn't sink the boat is fixable. Don't panic or overreact.

AND I personally wouldn't travel with a foreign ex military until I was sure he had all his screws intact.

AND ALWAYS have a plan B. Round trip tickets, aways. You can get refundable tickets.
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Old 30-01-2023, 19:34   #15
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Re: Forced at gunpoint to jump off a sailboat in the Exumas

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AND I personally wouldn't travel with a foreign ex military until I was sure he had all his screws intact.
And Russians are built a little different. Big big cultural gap between Russians and Californians. Big gap. Thereís even a big gap between Californians and New Yorkers.
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