Papua New Guinea, Madang - Attack on Yacht
After living in Madang for nearly 20 years and cruising in and around Madang without incident for the past year, we would have said that this was one of the few places in PNG where one could cruise in relative safety. That changed on 16 July when we were boarded by three men and assaulted on our Yacht "Stap Isi" while anchored in Madang harbor.
I was sleeping in the cockpit and my wife Kathy was sleeping below when at about 1 AM I awoke to find someone pressing a machete against my neck and telling me to stay still. Our plan in case of such an incident is for me to try to keep the assailants busy while Kathy locks herself in the head and sounds the portable air horn. Our assumption is that the best defence in case of attack, especially in a populated area, is to make as much commotion and noise as possible.
I called for Kathy to sound the horn, unaware that someone was already below with her. When she tried to get up, he laid her forehead open with a club. By this time I was grappling with one man in the cockpit while another covered me with a homemade shotgun. I was able to wrench the machete away from my assailant but not before receiving blows to the head and arms that would later require stitches. Apparently the shotgun was not loaded because the third guy's contribution to the attack was simply to hold it and attempt to look menacing.
By this time Kathy, in spite of being dazed and blinded by the blood, had been able to get up, find the horn, and make her way to the head. She started blowing the horn and at that point the assailants began going over the side. I was able to get one swipe with the machete at the guy who had hit me as he went over but unfortunately was not able to inflict much damage.
The last we saw of them they were pushing their canoe back out into the harbor. The next morning, after receiving medical care, we filled out the appropriate police reports but nothing is being done by the police. Their attitude seems to be that since we were not killed, what are we complaining about.
PNG is a wonderful place and we would still recommend it as a cruising destination, but with the warning that if one stays around long enough they will encounter security issues. For us, it took almost a year of cruising before it happened. But this is our home and we are going to continue to cruise here. We are definitely, however, going to rethink and upgrade our security arrangements. And we would encourage anyone who is thinking of cruising here to be very security conscious.
Given the results of our incident, I would say that the best response to such an attack is to make as much noise and commotion as possible. These people are relying on darkness and stealth. Light and noise tends to put them off.
Kyle and Kathy Harris, s/v Stap Isi
Madang, Papua New Guinea