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Haiti, Grand Goave, Petit Paradis: Night time robbery and violent attack – May 2015

By SV Lucky Bitch — last modified Jun 29, 2015 05:04 PM
Sigrid cruises solo on board her boat "Lucky Bitch". She had spent some time in Haiti prior to this attack, cruising off the beaten track and working on a cruising guide "Sailing Haiti" to promote the country.

Published: 2015-05-30 23:00:00
Topics: Piracy & Security Incident Reports 2015
Countries: Haiti

First person report by Sigrid, circumnavigator on board her yacht SY Lucky Bitch

On Monday night (11 May 2015) around 9 in the evening, I finished my Sailing Haiti document and sent it with some pride and a huge optimistic feeling to the fairly large group of people interested in Haiti as a cruising destination. I went to sleep in the fore cabin with a happy smile and an open boat (as I have done every night since I started cruising).

At most, half an hour later, I had just dozed off when I was woken up by sounds on board. I opened my eyes and saw three black faces staring directly at me through the hatch. For a split second I thought it was my Petit Paradis friends playing a joke on me. But then I saw that the guy on the left had a gun in his hand and he was firing a shot in the air. This made me very alarmed and there was only one thought in my head: “Sigrid, you have to act now, you are being attacked”.

In a great reflex of self-defense I closed the fore cabin hatch, locked it and ran (naked) to the cabin main entrance to close that as well. Unfortunately I was too late and could do nothing else to raise the alarm (press the mayday button, call on the radio, flash my lights, sound the fog horn, grab a knife) – nothing - because two of the men caught me and dragged me outside. I screamed and cried as loud as possible “au secours” incessantly in the hope that someone would hear me. The two who had dragged me outside started to beat me whilst the third perpetrator with the gun was inside the boat (stealing things I assumed?).

The fight seemed to last indefinitely, and when it was over I realized that maybe I should have surrendered from the beginning? Unfortunately, I reacted reflexively to protect myself, my boat and my belongings, and was the worse off for it. At a certain point it became even more horrible when I felt a rope around my neck. I could still put all the fingers of my right hand between my neck and the rope, but then suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Miraculously, number three down below said something in Creole to the other two and they left me with a rope tied around my ankles.

They were all very agitated and there was a lot of stress on board. Number three was saying they should flee. But, I was still alive. I lay motionless in the cockpit and begged them not to kill me. I've never felt so vulnerable. I promised them that I would no longer cry and begged them to go away now saying that God would punish them if they did not. I'm not religious, but I was fiercely praying and begging that I might live. One of the perpetrators asked me for “le argent”, and I told him I had no money. Then another one wanted to drag the solar panel off the boat and again I begged them to leave. Before they did they grabbed me one last and pushed a rag with liquid (chloroform?) against my face. I pushed it away. Then I felt a hand between my legs, but fortunately one of them urges the other two that they have to escape now, immediately.

They left me behind and disappeared silently with the stolen goods rowing in a fishing boat (which I find out later was also stolen). It was a pitch dark night, no moon, no stars, no wind. I couldn’t see where the perpetrators had gone. I lay naked and in shock in the cockpit. But, I was still alive. Slowly I managed to remove the rope from around my neck and ankles with trembling fingers, and stumbled down below into the cabin to raise the alarm.

I pushed the distress button on the GMDSS system, but then realised I didn’t’ have the power on for that to work. I quickly pulled on some clothes (inside out) and unlocked the dinghy which I rowed as silently as possible to escape. I rowed ashore and prayed that I might arrive alive at the camp of Petit Paradis. I was very afraid that the attackers would see me and would shoot me. This didn’t happen. I arrived at the camp and pulled my dinghy up the beach then ran to the tents crying for help. Soon everyone was awake. The camp residents were so shocked at what had happened, dumbfounded and angry. They were so kind to me and made me feel safe in their camp. They arranged for me to be taken to the emergency hospital, and for an armed guard to watch over my boat.

I also reported the attack to the police, the juge de paix, contacted the French embassy and the Belgian consulate. The perpetrators stole 150 US dollars, 600 Goerdes, my bank cards, 2 jerry cans of gasoline, two knives, a machete, 1 GSM, a tablet, two hard disks, and my laptop. Nothing more. But it’s the computer data, photos and film (backed up on the hard disks that they also stole) that is irreplaceable.

This attack was not my fault, I provoked no one. I sail solo, without weapons and sleep with open hatches. Perhaps I can learn from this to be a little less naive in the future, avoid areas that are marked as dangerous and travel a little less idealistically through life?

After working for a long time on my Sailing Haiti document, I have mixed ideas about cruising in Haiti. It’s not safe, that’s for sure. Too bad, because it’s a great country with lovely people who could use some income.

Sigrid
SY Lucky Bitch
www.luckybitch.be

Editor’s Note: Grand Goave is about 25 miles west of Port au Prince on the north coast of the southern peninsula. If visiting Haiti, only those stops that have a proven track record should be trusted. Ile a Vache is certainly the best option as they have received so many boats over the years without an incident.

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