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Colombia, Santa Marta, Taganga Bay: Armed Boarding and Robbery

By Report from cruiser Arjan — last modified Oct 16, 2012 01:25 PM
Important information for boats heading to Colombia from the Eastern Caribbean. Taganga bay is a favourite stopover for cruising yachts whilst waiting for Colombia clearance. The marina in Santa Marta is the only secure alternative.

Published: 2012-10-01 01:00:00
Countries: Colombia

(See response to this incident by Marina Santa Marta at bottom)

On September 24th 2012 we were victims of an armed attack and robbery on board our yacht anchored in the bay of Taganga. We were anchored in the middle of the bay, it is not that big...

Four men with a gun boarded the yacht during the night at around 02:00. They were fisherman who arrived paddling their canoe. They appeared to be high on drugs. They entered via the companion way, which was open as we do not have AC and it is the only way to keep it cool.

There were 3 of us onboard and we were made to lie on the floor face down and our hands were tied behind our backs. They went through the whole boat taking money/computers/cameras/DVD player/fishing gear/flashlights/pepper spray gun/my wife’s shoes (their size..). They turned the boat upside down. A harrowing experience to lie on the ground and feel the books from the shelves landing on your back.

When they left, they took the dinghy to tow their canoe. The inflatable (with engine) was later recovered.

One of the crew members tried to resist when they entered and he had to go to hospital afterwards to get 20 stitches in his head.

Please note - it took the coast guard an hour to get to us after they were notified.

There was another boat in the bay, but between 02:00 and 04:00 it blows up to 30 knots - so screaming and shouting does not get you anywhere.

Lessons Learnt:
1. Do NOT check in while in Taganga Bay. The check in process takes 1 to 2 weeks so your boat becomes a fixture in the bay, not a good idea.
2. Do get a security gate(s) so you can lock the boat without suffocating. This simple measure might have prevented the whole ordeal. DO NOT GO TO COLOMBIA WITHOUT ONE.
3. We understood there was a rumour that we had a lot of money on board. We did ask for lobsters for the night, maybe skip that the next time... (not sure if that was the source of the rumor but no idea where else they might get the idea from).
4. A flare gun/pepper spray might have worked/might not have worked. They had a gun (will luckily never know whether it actually worked) and were likely high on coke. We did not see the gun immediately so
god knows in what way any escalation would have worked out. The 20 stitches hurt.....

Arjan (my family and I are Europeans)
We sail on a US flagged yacht

Response to this incident received from Marina Santa Marta 8 October, 2012

For us here in the Marina Santa Marta, we are very sorry for this incident. It seems this is an isolated incident in Taganga, which is known for its peace and tranquility. It’s very important to establish that Santa Marta is a safe city to come to. As a marina we recommend our visitors to come and stay here where we give them security 24 / 7 /365 and the best services.

This is the first incident of this type that has happened in Santa Marta. We assisted the three crew of the yacht that was attacked, receiving them here in the Marina and giving them all the support they needed with the authorities in the city, as well as the security they needed after this incident. We hope we guided them in the best way possible.

Safety is very important for all our visitors including the ones that stay in our bays near the Marina. The authorities in charge of these bays assure us they will give maximum protection to our visitors so this incident will not happen again. Santa Marta is a city known for its tranquility and friendly people who greet their visitors as their own. The police reacted as soon as they heard and were able to apprehend 2 suspects and retrieve the dinghy.

Comments from Cruisers

Posted 15 October, 2012
The recent incident in Taganga, although rare, was very unfortunate. I have been in Santa Marta for a year and would like to assure visitors of the safety of the city.

Santa Marta on the northern coast of Colombia is a friendly and safe city. I arrived here October, 2011 and have been in Marina Santa Marta for the entire year. The marina offers excellent security and we have had not one incident of  theft or unwanted boardings during that time. Many yachts are left in the marina while the owners return to their native land (I left Clarity for five months with no problem). The historical district, beaming with new restaurants and venues, has proven to be safe day and night. We 'old-timers' are establishing a sailing community and welcome others to come to this lovely city.

Joseph Cagna
s/v Clarity (USA)

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