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livingstone 10-04-2007 00:50

Piracy in the Caribbean? Real or No?
Can anyone tell me how real the threat of piracy is in the carribean? I've been trying to do some research, but imagine what I come up with when I type "Pirates" and "Carribean" and on Google... It hadn't occurred to me till a buddy told me he was boarded. Also could anyone who has the knowhow tell me how long it would take to go from Miami to the BVU to Belize and back up to Miami, or just from Miami to the BVU and back? I figured about 5 knots, on average. Would anyone back that up? I haven't been sailing much, and after practicing this summer around the great lakes, plan to take a island hop with my wife in the fall, starting in Miami, and heading southeast until we either choose to come back or hit a formidable obstacle.


delmarrey 10-04-2007 01:11

Hi Jack,
If you go to this link It will take you to more info then you'll want to read in one sitting.

But right off I haven't heard of much Piracy in the Carribean's.

As for the travel, I'll leave that up to the locals. I'm on the West coat of the US.


livingstone 10-04-2007 01:14

Thanks, I didn't think so, but "friend of a friend" claims he was boarded. I have het to hear the details. I'm from Detroit, so I'm not a panicky sort by nature... Can't wait to check out your suggestions. Do you think I'm nuts for doing something like this? I saw the other guy starting out getting a lot of stern warning who was thinking about going from Miami to Key West. And that was supposed to be the BEGINNING of our trip...

GordMay 10-04-2007 01:25

“Piracy” is virtually unknown in the Caribbean Islands, although there are a very few reports in the South/Central American waters.

While many islands in the Caribbean are virtually crime-free, petty crime rates vary greatly from one island to the next. For the most part, hustling, pick pocketing, and petty theft characterize crime on the islands.

See also:

“Combating Crime Against Yachts ~ Caribbean Compass
Combating Crime against Yachts

“Security Reports” ~ Caribbean Safety and Security Net
CCA Security Reports

sv_makai 10-04-2007 04:37

In our 2 ½ years in the southern Caribe we saw and had many friends who were victims of crime, not piracy as generally defined. As stated above there is crime, but from our experience it is not as violent as here in DC and many places in the US. If something is on deck or a boat open while away expect theft of opportunity. We did have some friends who were victims of violent crime (hospitalized) and major theft, but they were few in number compared to the petty crimes and none that we heard were killed. Almost everywhere we have been there is a lot regular petty crime, though overall most people we met were awesome and would give you the shirt off their backs.

Melanie on the Millennium Falcon ran the Safety and Security Net on 8104 USB every morning would take reports and track crimes areas to provide warnings. She had a website that reported the info but it was not always kept up to date, but will provide and idea of the heavy areas.

We documented personally many examples of crime and had many more relayed to us. But having said that following some simple rules will reduce the impact of thefts or prevent most. Though I felt overall much safer cruising than living in the DC area, just follow some common sense rules.

-leave your house (boat) open and unlocked while away.
-leave things loose on deck,
-travel in areas wearing a lot of jewelry or flashing a ton of money
-make yourself a victim

-make your boat less inviting than the boat next to you. Example. Many times we see people that have dinghies tied to their boats, this is asking to have it stolen. Even chained at in the water still makes it easier than a raised and locked one. The thieves will almost always go for the easy take rather than climbing on deck and off loading a dinghy
make contact with cruisers around you to keep a lookout while you are away
-make friends with the locals, many can tell you the most dangerous places to be or areas to stay clear from
-stash your money in very hard to get places in your boat, but leave a small teaser or two just for giveaway.
-be sensible

little boat 10-04-2007 05:33

the safety security net online has been moved to:
fall is the peak of hurricane season in the western caribbean, you might want to wait until a bit later in the year.

GordMay 10-04-2007 05:49

Thanks for the updated url.

The Security Net Island Reports are located at:
CSSN Reports

btrayfors 10-04-2007 06:52

Piracy Not Your Biggest Problem

In the scenario you describe: Miami-BVI-Belize-Miami there are lots of potential difficulties, but piracy is WAY at the very bottom of the list...actually, off the list!

The real problems you'll face have to do with experience, weather, distances, and time.

If you're planning to do this circuit in a Magregor 25, you should know that the 5 knot average is absolutely unrealistic. First, in leaving Miami for the BVI you'll be tackling the so-called "thorny path", against prevailing winds, currents, and seas over the 1,000 mile journey. This can be difficult even for a very big motorsailor; for a 25' sailing vessel, it's doable only if you have lots and lots of time to await favorable conditions, then dash from point to point thru the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, and on the the DR, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, etc. This is not to be taken will require a lot of time and patience.

Next, to go from the BVI to Belize means a very long trip across the mid-Caribbean. There, the tradewinds prevail. Often, they are not gentle winds at all, but can blow for days at 25-35 knots with a large sea buildup. Once committed, there are few if any places to stop.

You need also to be mindful of the hurricane season (June 1 - Nov ) which affects the entire Caribbean, Bahamas, etc. This year is predicted to be an especially active one.

The last part, Belize back to Miami, is the easiest since you'd have the benefit of the Gulf Stream and some interesting waypoints.

Estimated time to complete this circuit in a Magregor 25: I'd give it a couple of years.

Don't mean to pour water on your plans, merely to urge you to educate yourself to the things you'll be facing. Get some large-scale charts, study the wind and current patterns, read the accounts of others who've sailed these routes and, most of all, get as much experience sailing as you can before you set off with your wife.


CSY Man 10-04-2007 08:12

Have not actually experienced piracy in the Caribe, BUT my boat was broken into while on the hard in St. Thomas.
The thiefes took some valuables and disappeard while we were sleeping in the V-berth.

Also had my car broken into in St. Croix.

A friend and neibhor in the boat yard was murdered while walking her dog on the beach: A doped up rasta chopped her to pieces with a machete.
This was also in St. Thomas.
Most of my boat friends down there had been victims of some crime, robbery, rape and assault, but out on the water and in anchorages there was usually not a problem.

My info and experiences are perhaps dated as I lived aboard in the mid to the late 80s: 2 years in St. Croix and 1 year in St. Thomas.

Recent experience from sailing the Bahamas and Florida the last 8 years have been more positive: have not encountered any problems, but friends have had their dinks and outboards stolen in the Nassau area.

I don't carry guns on the boat, but have a few cans of powerful "Bear Spray": It can spray pepper or whatever is in the can for up to 30 feet and that should stop anybody in their tracks.....

Geoff S. 10-04-2007 08:32

I'll throw my couple of centavos in, generally supporting what has been said.

As for crime, dinghies and/or outboards are the number one target. As suggested, hoist it up in davits or on deck every night. Buy ten feet of the biggest-link stainless anchor chain you can lift and a large quality make padlock (I'm told the braided bike-lock variety cables are not hard to cut with a big pair of curved snips) and run the chain through motor and a stout fixture on the tender to dock post on shore, or cleat/samson post on deck. When you leave the boat, dog down all hatches and large portlights, decommission any attractive nuisances in the cockpit (e.g., handheld VHFs, GPSs, binocs, even pricey winch handles) to below, put your companionway hatch boards in and put a nice impressive padlock on it. As Capt. Bill stated, a boat that looks like a pain in the ass to get into from twenty feet away won't get boarded in the first place; instead they'll move on to that lovely charter catamaran with the companionway wide open and a cooler of beer in the cockpit. Other than that, the social/cultural awkwardness of being viewed as a rich Gringo and daily petitioned to hire helpers, couriers, and dinghy-watchers is about as much hassle as you're ever going to have. Avoid walking around solo in island towns at night.

As for your route and vessel choice, I have to agree with Bill of Born Free; it's not impossible, but it will be a challenge and take a lot longer than you think. In the Carib chain, a bearing of between due E and due S will generally mean winds OFN.

Don't let these warnings change your mind about going, though! Do it, by all means! Just prepare properly, and learn how to read weather charts.
Bon Voyage!

livingstone 10-04-2007 09:35

Wow, thanks!
Awesome. I appreciate all the input. Whoo-whee a lot already that I did not know. But, as Buddha said, never are you wiser than when you realize you know nothing. Especially true in my case, I just know I how much I don't. Maybe I'd be better off going to Belize and back to Miami- which I had ruled out because of the trade winds, as my limited understanding was from the Northeast at 11-13mph "at all times." I guess not nearly as consistent as the site I looked at implied.

As far as crime, I'm not really worried about money/etc. it's more that as a newlywed, I'm suddenly aware that it's not just my own scruffy hide that needs looking out for, and I'm aware that even though I feel very comfortable wherever, I might not be comfortable wherever SHE is... Caveman that I am. Oh well.

Thanks a ton for the input and opening my eyes to these things. Any more info on the route/time situation that anyone has would be most welcome, as I can still refer to the Buddha quote above for most things now, except the piracy...

btrayfors 10-04-2007 10:28


You've got exactly the right attitude to make a success of whatever you choose to do.

My only additional suggestion would be to consider the possibility of a more modest itinerary. Like, "spending a few months in the Bahamas". You don't have to go far from home to experience the wonderful freedom and discovery which come with the cruising life. Actually, your journey of discovery from Miami begins when you make the relatively short hop across the Gulf Stream.

The Bahamas stretch for hundreds of miles. The water is clear, the people are friendly, the snorkling is superb, the sailing is good, and navigation presents enough challenges to hone your skills. A great place to introduce your bride to simple pleasures, and to test yourselves before deciding on a longer and more difficult trip.

If things go well after a few months, you might just decide to continue through the chain and wind up in the Virgins. There, you'll find the best sailing grounds on earth, IMHO. You'll want to stay awhile and explore the BVI, the USVI, the Spanish Virgins and, with time, the Leeward and Windward islands leading down to Grenada and Trinidad and Venezuela.

Actually, that's a far better place from which to head for Belize than is Miami (because you won't be fighting the Gulf Stream). Actually, a 25' sailing boat would be VERY hard pressed to try to get to Belize around'd have to go south of Hispaniola and cross a wide expanse of the Caribbean with the trades behind you.


camaraderie 10-04-2007 10:39

This seems like the appropriate place to add a comment about CURRENT conditions in St. Vincent. 60 medical school students from Grenada who were working in St. Vincent hospital just returned to Grenada after a series of rapes and robberies took place and they no longer felt safe there...this in mid-semester. There are both cruisers and a lot of charters who pass through or elect to stop there and based on what I've recently heard directly...I would either think twice or be very careful about stopping on the mainland there.

hellosailor 10-04-2007 11:06

Something else to check out are local reports of drug activity. Even off the Florida keys, folks have been told "don't go there" because some areas are locally known to have drug running activities, and the runners don't want company. They're not looking to pirate you--they just don't want company. And small craft have been stolen by druggies looking for disposable boats that can be used as mules. Not a common or frequent problem, but IIRC a documented one, both here and down to the south american coast.

GordMay 10-04-2007 11:09

St Vincent & the Grenadians and Eastern Caribbean Crime

From the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs:
“Petty street crime occurs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. From time to time, property has been stolen from yachts anchored in the Grenadines. Valuables left unattended on beaches are vulnerable to theft. Persons interested in nature walks or hikes in the northern areas of St. Vincent should arrange in advance with a local tour operator for a guide; these areas are isolated, and police presence is limited.”
Goto: St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Overseas Security Advisory Council - Global Security News & Reports:
“The following general characterization of crime and public safety environments apply throughout the Eastern Caribbean. Generally, criminal individuals or groups are free to roam day or night with few restrictions; burglars and thieves target residential and lower-end hotel/resort areas for opportunistic crimes. Burglars and thieves typically rely on stealth to meet their objectives, but since 2002, reports reflect an increasing use of knives and handguns in the commission of crimes. Further, high-traffic business areas commonly frequented by tourists are targeted for opportunistic street crimes like purse snatching and pocket picking. Perpetrators committing street crimes in the public eye can become confrontational, but mostly they avoid gratuitous violence, which draws attention to them.
Generally, numbers of uniformed police are inadequate to have a substantial influence on crime deterrence, and uniformed police response to alarms or emergency calls is often too slow (15 minutes or longer) to disrupt crimes in progress. Police performance and conduct varies from poor to acceptable in professionalism and training, and regional police organizations have definite resource/manpower limitations that inhibit their deterrence and response effectiveness.


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