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2005 - Piracy Reports from Venezuela

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 21, 2009 07:08 PM

Published: 2009-01-21 19:08:20
Topics: Piracy Archive 2000-2005

13 May, 2005
Yacht Assault in Carenero, Venezuela

Contributors: Bruno and Catherine Millet

The catamaran "Madam", a Bahia 46, with owners Bruno and his wife Catherine on board, was anchored in Carenero, Venezuela, a hundred yards or so from the Carenero Yacht Club.

On May 13 2005, at 2am, we were boarded by two young local guys, there was probably a third one waiting in a small boat. They stole binoculars, shoes and some portable electronics.

Bruno woke-up and fought with them, taking from them a bat and a hammer they were using as weapons. One of the two thieves wanted to kill him ("lo mato!") with a knife but the other said to leave. They jumped in the water and left, taking the gear and leaving their knife in the cockpit.

We then heard a shot and impact of a projectile in the water close to the boat. We called for help on Ch.16: after some time, some local "vigilancia" relayed the call in better Spanish but no authority responded or showed up. Only the private guards of the nearby hotel called us and told us we could come anchor a hundred yards closer to them. We later learned that the Guardia Nacional sent a patrol on shore, but had no boat to come close to us. Despite numerous "mayday" calls between 2:10am and 6:00am no authority responded on Ch.16.

Around 7am in the morning, Bruno went to see the Guardia Nacional ashore: they finally made it to the boat at 10:15am, took our deposition and the evidences of armed robbery left by the thieves: a big knife and a 3ft bat. Later came an officer from the "Capitania de Puerto Carenero" who wrote a report of the incident. To this hour, both have been very reluctant to give us any copy, even that of our own deposition.

We invite you to broadcast this information as widely as possible in the hope to get more efficient reactions from the Venezuelian authorities.

Violent Attacks On Yachts In Venezuela

Contributors: Kris & Sandra Hartford – SV Nomotos
Report sent January 2006 – Nomotos was attacked twice in Venezuela during 2005 (see details of later attack at end of this report – 4 December).

Below is 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.

August 4, 2005
In the bay next to us in Laguna Grande Golfo De Cariaco Venezuela at 11:15 PM.

The following item was reported in the September 2005 issue of "Compass" as well as in the Venezuelan newspapers.

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 depth sounder. 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.

November 2005 - Isla Borracha
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, 11 kilometers offshore at Isla Borracha where they had 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.

Late November 2005 - Isla Piritu
The sailors involved in the following incident 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 9pm 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!

4 December, 2005
Pirate Boarding in Porlamar, Venezuela – First hand Report

Contributors: Kris and Sandra Hartford – SV Nomotos, Canada

We respectfully submit the following account of our recent pirate attack in Venezuela for posting. (2nd attack in 2005 on same yacht).

On December 4, 2005 at about 10:45 PM with some 85 boats in the anchorage we were robbed in Porlamar for the second time. Our circumnavigation was started in September of 1996 and is almost complete. In all that time we have only been robbed twice.

This time by three to four pirates in their 20's. The pirates were in our cockpit pounding on our companionway doors, screaming "Garda Costa" and shining a large spotlight in my eyes. Awakened out of a sound sleep and not thinking too clearly, I at first thought that it was a legitimate boarding by the authorities. Two pirates with rusty automatic handguns forced their way below decks. Describing the guns to people who know guns they guessed them to have been either 22 or 32 caliber - not that it means much looking down their barrels.

The first one below deck was drunk and barely in control of himself. He pointed his gun in my face and demanded drugs and money. I told Sandra to go forward and close the forward cabin door. The second rather calm pirate came down and controlled me with his gun. The first gunman went forward and started to kick down our forward cabin door. To calm the situation I told Sandra to open the door. While she sat on the bunk in her underwear the first gunman rifled our forward drawers and cabinets.

Sandra was amazingly calm and in control of herself. Given the out of control first gunman I felt that calm and cooperation would be the best course of action. I gave the second gunman all of the money that I had in my wallet (about $65.00 U.S. in Bs.). He demanded more. I told him that it was all we had. I showed him an old out of date credit card that I keep for just such a purpose explaining that we used it to get money from cash machines when we needed it. We learned a long time ago to carry very little "show cash".

The pirates also stole the 12 volt power supply for our computer. They likely had no idea what it was but they stole it anyway. They also stole our 35 MM "Minolta" camera. The forward gunman started to remove our small forward TV when his buddies outside screamed Policia and they all took off. I followed them outside as they fled in a dark hulled very high prow rather short penero with a very large outboard. They fired off one shot.

Luckily the pirates were not very bright. There were a lot of things exposed that they could have easily taken but missed. It could have been a lot worse for us.

As soon as the pirates were gone we set off our alarm system and called for help on our VHF. German "Antonia", American "Piper" and French "Jotake" all offered assistance. There is a "Police Boat" stationed at the "Power Boat Marina" in Porlamar with three cops rotating duty 24 hours a day. Unable to raise the cop on duty on the VHF radio we went to the "Power Boat Marina" to find him. The cop had turned off his marine VHF radio, his Police frequency portable radio, his cell phone and was asleep aboard a large powerboat. There was nothing the cops could do we were told. It had taken so long to find the cop and wake him up that the bad guys had gotten away. The cop made us feel that we should apologize for having disturbed him.

The forward gunman had not worn gloves and had touched a number of plastic fastener envelopes as well as our small TV. His fingerprints were on our boat. The cop refused to visit our boat to either file a report or to investigate.

We feel that we can identify one or both of the unmasked gunmen. From a pirate boarding a week or so earlier of another boat in Porlamar we had a complete description as well as the registration number of the penero likely used by the pirates in our attack. This was all presented to the Police the next morning when I filed a report at "Marina Juan". For a variety of lame reasons the cops said that there was nothing they could do.

We were not prepared for a pirate attack in Porlamar. Had we been prepared we would have handled the attack better. Having circumnavigated nearly around the globe we pride ourselves on doing our homework. When we arrived in Porlamar we specifically asked if there had ever been a pirate attack in the anchorage. We were told there had been none. After our attack we were told by a cruiser that there had been five in the last three years. We presented this information and repeated our question. This time instead of none we were told that it might not have been as many as five.

Nothing would likely change in Porlamar if a cruiser was knifed, macheteed, shot or even murdered. Things would likely change if the cruiser money went elsewhere.

Cruisers anchoring in Porlamar should ALWAYS bring up their dinghies up and have an ALARMED lock for their dingy and engine. VHF Channel 72 is listened to at night for security and in the mornings at 8:00 for the net.