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Venezuela, Margarita - Increase in Yacht Attacks in 2007

By doina — last modified Jan 21, 2009 08:00 PM

Published: 2009-01-21 20:00:11
Topics: Piracy Reports 2007
Countries: Venezuela

Aubrey Millard forwarded a copy to Noonsite of a letter to the editor of Caribbean Compass regarding recent attacks on cruisers in Porlamar.

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic

Jan. 19, 2008

To: Caribbean Compass

From: Aubrey Millard

Dear Compass

Is Venezuela Safe?

We spent an enjoyable six week period in Venezuela last fall, including a few days at Porlamar on Margarita, then an enjoyable week in Golfo de Cariaco and four weeks at Bahia Redonda Marina in Puerto La Cruz and planned to return even longer next hurricane season until I received this account, exerpted below, with permission, from a friend in Porlamar about problems there.

FYI,

We have been in Porlamar, Margarita, Venezuela for about 6 months and up until a few weeks ago the crime directed towards sailboats (cruisers) has been stolen dinghies and items on-deck. Since Christmas Day, crime has escalated to actual boardings and acts of piracy. A sailboat owned by Venezuelans and anchored not far from our boat was boarded while the owners were ashore and robbed of everything including the toilet paper. The thieves’ boat was identified by name and was reported by a number of witnesses, but nothing was done.

A week after that I was sitting up top at 02:00 and watched while a local fishing boat quietly paddled their boat towards ours. After a few minutes of watching them I hailed them and told them to stand off. They were 20 feet from us at the time. They were startled and told me that they had engine problems. I did not believe them because they were paddling away from shore not towards it. After repeated failed warnings to leave I shot towards them with a flare gun. It was amazing how fast the engine, that was reported not to work, started up and they departed heading towards other boats in the anchorage. I alerted everyone in the harbor on the VHF and within seconds the harbor was lit up with spotlights and the thieves were driven out.

Last night at 24:00 another sailboat was boarded by 3 armed men while the skipper and his girlfriend were sleeping. The pirates held a shotgun to his face and demanded money and other valuables. He was then told to put his head between his legs while they held a shotgun to the back of his head. (He told me that he thought that he was going to die at that moment.) The thieves then departed in a local fishing pirogue with the valuables, leaving him and his girlfriend badly shaken but unharmed. He immediately called a "mayday" on the VHF and alerted the harbor.

On another account, a boat with two on board was coming back from the Golfo to Margarita. When they reached Margarita late in the evening they ran into some storms that stalled their forward progression, so they anchored around the point from Porlamar for the night near the new Cruise ship dock, but away from the shore. The skipper was wakened in the middle of the night by a couple of men in a fishing boat that were busy cutting the lines of the dinghy that was suspended on the davits. The thieves did not leave when he yelled at them, so he reached out to grab at the dinghy and a thief slashed his hand with a knife. He then went down below and grabbed his 38 revolver and when he came up, the thieves were towing his new Carib dinghy away. The skipper said that he emptied the revolver in their direction but does not know if he hit anything as it was dark. They came into Porlamar the next morning and reported the incident on the cruisers net and asked for a ride to shore which I gave them.

There were 2 more armed robberies that I know of since coming here, one was on a trimaran that was boarded at sea coming from Los Testgos to Porlamar. This happened during the day with 3 men with shotguns. There were the only two on board. The pirates took money and valuables. The other was on a single handed French sloop that was also boarded at sea on the north coast on Margarita. The captain was relieved of his money and outboard motor. The men had hand guns.

We have had enough and although we have met good people here, do not feel safe and will be leaving in 1 week. We will sail to the ABC islands and then on to Cartegena, Columbia. Although there is dinghy theft reported there the local authorities have implemented night patrols and have made arrests. The authorities in Margarita do nothing even when the pirogue and the thieves are identified.

Is this situation pervasive or only an aspect of Porlamar? Does anyone have any experiences to agree with or to differ with this report? We had no problems when there last fall, and would still like to return next summer — but?

Aubrey Millard, Veleda IV

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