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Panama, Colon, Club Nautico: Skipper tied up and Robbed

By Sue Richards last modified Apr 08, 2012 07:52 PM

Published: 2012-04-08 19:52:07
Countries: Panama

In the first serious incident involving yachts in Colon this year, the sailing vessel "African Seawing", anchored at the Club Nautico facility in Colon, was boarded by 3 men during the night of Wednesday 28 March, the owner tied up and robbed.

Frank Peeters, Captain of "African Seawing", sent noonsite the following report:

On the night of Tue-27 to Wed-28 March at around 1:00am, the sailing vessel African Seawing anchored at the Club Nautico facility in Colon was boarded by 3 unknown brown skinned males of approx ~30 yrs old.

The 3 robbers reached the vessel apparently by swimming from the shore, since they appeared naked and wet on board (wearing only underpants). I was the only person present on board at that time since my 2 other crew members had departed for the night with vessel “Morning Cloud” for a rope handling assignment through the Panama Canal.

The robbers entered the boat through the main door and confronted me in my bed shouting “police…police” and demanding “Dinero”. One robber pulled me out of bed and repeated the demand for “Dineiro”. In order to comply, I went to the navigation table to look for my wallet which was no longer there. They threatened violence if I didn’t present them with my wallet and the keys for the safe. After giving them the keys for the safe, they tied up my hands with electric tie wraps and made me sit down and keep still in the corridor of the port hull. At this time they emptied the contents of the safe and searched the remainder of the boat for valuables. A while later they tied my legs together with electric tie wraps and a short time thereafter the boat fell quiet and I assumed that the 3 robbers had left the boat.

With difficulty I worked my way up towards the kitchen in search for a knife to cut the ties. After finding a knife and cutting the ties I went outside to look for help and I noticed that the dinghy was gone. In order to raise the alarm, I used the VHF radio to make a distress call on several common channels but I was not getting any replies to my calls. Looking through the mess on the navigation table I was able to locate my mobile and I called 911.

After approximately 20min, the police arrived in the grounds of the Club Nautico, but they could not reach African Seawing since no dinghy was available. A dinghy was found after ~30 min at which time the police boarded African Seawing to investigate and take statements. They also recovered my dinghy from the beach after which they departed.

Thereafter I started taking an inventory of missing money, computers and other items (camera, binoculars, stereo, electronic charts etc.).

Comment from the Management of Shelter Bay Marina

Last week we berthed the SV African Sea Wing and the owner reported that he was boarded, tied up and robbed while anchored off the Club Nautico in Colon. We are assisting him with the police.

This is the first serious incident involving yachts in Colon which has come to our attention this year. Unfortunately conditions in Colon have not improved in the last 10 years. Colon remains a risky place for tourists; snatch-and-run as well as hold-ups are all too common.

We do not recommend that boats use the Club Nautico anchorage as it is not patrolled by the Panama Canal Police boats. It offers easy access with a small boat, there are frequent wakes, and the anchorage is exposed to the north - consequently it encounters severe swells in certain conditions. For boats who wish to anchor while provisioning, arrange for canal transit or conduct other business, anchorage F remains the safest, if very inconvenient, option.

We frequently receive requests from boats to anchor off Shelter Bay, unfortunately the Panama Canal specifically restricts this area, we have been enjoined not to promote or approve anchoring or any other activity - races, dinghy sailing, water skiing etc. - in the area.