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2005: More Reports On Violent Attacks On Yachts In Venezuela

By doina — last modified Jan 20, 2006 10:35 AM

Published: 2006-01-20 10:35:51
Countries: Venezuela

KRIS & SANDRA HARTFORD - s/v "NOMOTOS"

Thank you very much for your kind words of support following the report of our pirate attack - see Firsthand Report Of Pirate Boarding In Porlamar Venezuela

As requested you will find attached a copy of our report of the pirate attack in Laguna Grande for posting. A copy of a report of a third pirate attack has also been included. This would appear to have been the biggest haul to date and most frighteningly the first time to our knowledge that a woman has been stripped and molested.

The crime against cruisers in Venezuela is staggering with only a tiny bit of it being reported in the media and on the nets dedicated to the reporting of such things. There have been a great many boardings and pirate attacks in Venezuela with shootings and cruisers hospitalized.

Cruisers should be made aware that Venezuela is definitely not a safe place for either your property or your person. No one has been charged with the many crimes and the Authorities have recovered none of the stolen property.

This item was reported in the September 2005 issue of "Compass" as well as in the Venezuelan newspapers. The report that follows is from Canadians Kris and Sandra aboard s/v "Nomotos".

August 4, 2005 in the bay next to us in Laguna Grande Golfo De Cariaco Venezuela at 11:15 PM pitch black with no moon Dwayne and Marilyn aboard the American catamaran "Tortilla Flat" (the only boat there at the time) were awakened by the sound of their dinghy being stolen. The dinghy a ten foot "Caribe" with a 15 HP "Yamaha" had been raised on aft davits tied but not chained or cabled.

At least four pirates had arrived in a penero. Two of them had swum over to the catamaran, climbed aboard the steps and cut the dinghy's lifting tackle and lines with a machete. They had to know that releasing the dinghy in this fashion would make a lot of noise. It is scary that they were not concerned. Dwayne had removed the plastic key from the outboard but the pirates were ready with their own key. This was obviously not their first theft.

Dwayne came out and started fighting with the two pirates on his boat's aft deck. "Tortilla Flat" at the time had no working flashlight or working lights on it's aft deck. Dwayne was hit repeatedly with a machete but in the pitch black thought that they were hitting him with a club.

When the pirates jumped into the water Dwayne followed to try and save his dinghy. Unbeknownst to him a third pirate was swimming the dinghy away. A fourth pirate jumped into the dinghy from the penero and attacked Dwayne with a machete. The pirates got the dinghy started and took off leaving Dwayne for dead. Dwayne swam back to his boat.

Marilyn spent quite some time stemming Dwayne's blood flow by applying compresses. She then weighed anchor and motored to our bay using radar and depthsounder. She was attracted by our bright anchor light and was successful in waking us. I was nervous going out of our locked cabin but the voice was female, she spoke English and I could hear an inboard instead of a penero. We cycled our alarm system and radioed the other boats in our bay for help. As quickly as we could we launched our dinghy and I went over the first one aboard.

I had never been exposed to anything like this. It was horrible with large pools of blood everywhere on the aft deck and the port steps. Dwayne had nine very deep cuts to his head, chest, arms, shoulders and back. He had great difficulty rolling over so that I could check the wounds on his back. The wounds were some two to four inches long through both layers of skin and fat and into muscle. I looked at all of the wounds and ascertained that none of them was bleeding.

Dwayne was lucid, shaking, throwing up occasionally from shock, reasonably calm and coping well with the pain. He was as comfortable as he could be. I checked three other boats by dinghy and / or radio to find out if any of them had any medical training or medical supplies. Medical supplies were not going to help much as Dwayne was not bleeding and his cuts were so severe that only a doctor with suturing could help.

The other boats and Sandra called "Maydays" in English and Spanish on HF as well as VHF but there was no response of any kind. In times of crisis in third world countries we have found that the cruisers generally have to do it themselves.

Greg of "New Passages" was the only other person to dinghy over to help. He knew the area and knew that help could be secured in Cumana some 12 miles two hours away. He volunteered to drive the victims' boat there. When the catamaran arrived at "Marina Cumanagoto" the night security there pulled out all of the stops calling anyone who spoke English and could help get Dwayne medical help. Dwayne was quickly transferred by ambulance to a private hospital and got first class care.

It took four days for the Authorities to visit Laguna Grande and investigate. As was the case with all of the other pirate attacks in Venezuela no one was charged and the Authorities did not recover any of the stolen property.

The marina quickly came to the rescue. They offered free of charge their big double outboard penero to take Greg home. The trip took only 15 minutes. A fast boat when the alarm was raised is the sort of thing which should have been available from the Authorities in the first place. The time that was lost for the catamaran to motor two hours to Cumana could have had Dwayne's non-life threatening injuries kill him.

Dwayne was interviewed by the local media and the Authorities the next day in the hospital. He recovered extremely well and was out of the hospital within four days.

The following report was in the "Vancouver Sun" on December 13, 2005 and posted on "Yahoo News" on December 15, 2005.

Steve McVicar and his two crew had just set off on a two-week Caribbean cruise off the coast of Venezuela early last month when pirates turned their holiday into 30 minutes of helplessness and terror. The attack came the first evening out of Puerto la Cruz on the coast of Venezuela. McVicar had just spent two weeks working on the boat, and when his friends arrived, they headed 11 kilometers offshore to Isla Borracha and anchored for the night.

McVicar has kept Alioth, his 13-meter French-built steel-hulled ketch, in the Caribbean since 1999, and knows the waters well, having headed down for two-week trips three or four times a year. Both the Venezuelan coast guard and the national guard patrol the waters around Puerto la Cruz, and the bay they anchored in was reputed to be safe.

Early in the evening, the three were lounging in the cockpit, watching a DVD. McVicar, drowsy from a cold remedy, was not keeping a watch, and the sound of the movie muffled the noise of the outboard as a six-meter open fishing boat approached.

"All of a sudden, five armed men came on board and one of them put a shotgun right to my head," he recalled. "The others had pistols and a machete, and they ended up tying us up and proceeded to loot the boat."

The Canadians lay on the deck, bound hand and foot, with one pirate holding the shotgun on them while his companions ransacked the main cabin.

Nearby in the darkened aft cabin, McVicar's own shotgun and a handful of shells lay in plain sight on his bunk. Mercifully the pirates never looked there. "I shudder to think if they'd seen it," he said.

"You think, if only I had my gun on deck, I could have loaded it, which I usually do, but what if I had fired? What if they had a machine gun and fired back? You'd wind up having a firefight.

"That's what was going through my brain, so I offered no resistance, so it's just as well I didn't have my gun up there."

While he lay helpless, he could see into the main cabin, where the pirates were pawing through his gear and taking what they fancied - satellite phone, VHF radio, expensive sailing clothing, electronic instruments and more.

There was worse to come. The pirates then took the woman down into the boat and molested her, taking her clothes off. McVicar and the woman's husband were afraid she might be taken ashore and raped, but she was left on the boat.

After 30 minutes, the pirates left, and after 10 minutes of twisting and squirming, the captives freed themselves. They contacted a French yacht lying at anchor about 300 meters away, which came to see if they were alright.

Assured they were, it left the bay immediately, as did McVicar, who took the Alioth straight back to Puerto la Cruz.

The following incident occurred in late November, 2005. The sailors do not wish to be identified.

Knowing that Venezuela is a "rough" place with little law and order I keep a gun aboard, and it was very handy!!!

We were anchored at Isla Piritu about 5 miles from the mainland. Big Mistake. Too close to land!! At about 9 PM I heard a small outboard, turned out the lights and with our binoculars watched three guys approaching in a small boat. I already had my gun with me. When they got close I told them to move away. Instead they raced to our catamaran's stern and one guy jumped aboard. I shot over his head. He jumped back into the boat and I covered all of them with my gun. They could see the muzzle of my gun, but not me, and I had them right in front of me.

Pleading they were poor fishermen wanting to give us fish they pulled away slowly. About 100 meters from us they sat and had a discussion. We got more ammunition and moved things around so that we had good cover. All of a sudden they came towards us very fast and as they turned for land started shooting. I just watched as they headed away, more scared of us than we were of them. I never fired back. For sure, we got the anchor up quickly and were drinking rum in Puerto La Cruz 3 hours later. We were lucky ... very lucky.

Sadly Laguna Grande has had two boardings in the past 6 months. Not safe anymore. We don't want to feel that we went cruising in Baghdad!

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