Safety and Security – pt I

 Boardings And Theft

On last Thursday morning’s (5 June) Grenada Cruisers Net on VHF66 a boat anchored off the shore south of St George’s harbour reported they had been boarded during the night. The couple had woken to the sound of someone in the main cabin of their catamaran. By the time the husband had reached there the intruder was diving over the side leaving behind a puddle of sea water. It later transpired that the snorkel and flippers the swimmer was using were probably those missing from the cockpit of another boat nearby and that the catamaran who had woken to the intruder had not locked the doors between cockpit and saloon. Both were anchored within swimming distance of a collection of huts on the shore, a location where others confirmed there had been boardings and thefts in the past.
Back in the UK, the USA or wherever you call home, you’d lock your home at night prior to going to bed and anything of value you’d put away, locking the garden shed, garage or wherever it is stored. Having said that we often leave stuff like snorkelling gear out of sight on the cockpit floor to dry, too lazy to put it away in a locker after our daily swims but hey ho, out of sight out of mind. Our dinghy is always locked to the boat at night and if we ever happen to be alone in an anchorage with a previous reputation for theft (not that we have as yet) then we can raise it out of the wateralongside Temptress quickly and easily, the dinghy being already permanently prepared for such an event with strops installed inside it. In fact we may do this more often as being hauled out delays the inevitable cleaning of slime and stuff growing on the bottom and drains the rain out.
In many anchorages we would be hesitant to anchor too close to the shore especially if it was a spot close to town but without nearby businesses and homes such as the St George/Grand Anse anchorage for risk of easy access from the shore by a swimmer. And, since it was made for us in the Canaries, Temptress always has her security bars inserted at night, though not necessarily locked; the noise of the bars being removed would quickly awaken us if footsteps in the cockpit hadn’t already done so. Finally our cockpit lights are usually switched off at the plug down below as recommended so we can turn them on without going up top if noises are heard on deck.
However looking at the stats, crime against cruisers is actually very low even if some incidents seem quite shocking. There have been some terrible headline making incidents resulting in death such as the gentleman who drowned after an attack by thieves who boarded his boat in St Lucia earlier this but on the whole even outboard thefts in the Caribbean have not reach the level of the UK (cf almost half a million pounds worth in Cornwall and Devon in 2012  and a major crime wave in Essex and Suffolk last year). The local police often lack resources to fight crime on their small island land let alone the comparatively infrequent crimes against the many sailors visiting to their country?
A regularly review postings on the Caribbean Safety andSecurity website  as well as Noonsite the cruisers encyclopedia of ports, immigration processes and more helps gauge the crime climate in potential anchorages. The latter is referred to affectionately on Temptress as Doomsite as most of the contributions seem to be of the Eeyore kind – “we’re doomed all doomed”. On a more positive note we both follow several Facebook groups for cruisers like the Grenada Cruisers page which offer info on places to enjoy, advice and news as well as all the social activities that make life swing for any retiree wherever they happen to be.
Personal safety and security is a yachties responsibility; yes it is good if as in Bequia, the coastguard regularly patrols the anchorage at night but if you don’t lock it expect to lose it. And understand the social background before arriving; don’t flaunt wealth in the face of the poorer islanders and avoid run down, drug dealing parts of town. The latter is not hard such areas are well documented and you would avoid them in your own home town anyway. Admittedly Trinidad has a huge murder rate BUT it is mostly localised to specific drug and gun dealing areas, rarely occurring anywhere the legitimate yachtie should be. Understand how to call for help in the particular area you are in – VHF16 or dialling 999 may not be the correct action and nearby cruisers on the local hailing channel (eg VHF68 in Grenada and SVG) may be faster to react anyway. And avoid cruising areas know to be lawless such as the coast of Venezuela; there are plenty of places where you will be welcomed down here like Columbia, Guyana, Trinidad and Grenada.
The following Facebook pages may also be of interest to those cruising these waters:
Guyana and Surinam

Part II on Temptress of Down’s Hurricane Plans can be found here