20+ years sailing in the Caribbean: An insiders perspective on security

Published 14 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Wed, 25 Feb 2009

With two recent Caribbean sailing murders, including that of Australian sailor Drew Gollan in Antigua, sailors considering a visit in their own boat or a charter holiday to the Caribbean are wondering Were they isolated? Or is too dangerous to go there? Here one experienced captain gives the inside view to The Triton

I first moved to St Thomas in 1983 at the age of 21 and I have been going to and living in the Caribbean on boats ever since. I am happy to say that I have never been mugged and none of my crew has.

Although I have had my boat broken into twice in the Bahamas (no one was hurt and the crew detained one of them for the cops) I must say that I always warn the crew to stay together and take cabs everywhere.

While I do not know the exact details of the last two attacks on the crew it seems that they were not doing anything that normally would be considered risky. My heart goes out to the friends and family of the crew who were killed.

Like everywhere else in the world, things are hard, and the economies of the Caribbean have always been iffy. They have always had major drug issues, not to mention the amazing lack of mental health hospitals.

It only takes one bad guy on an island with a crew member in the wrong place to have things end badly.

Safety is always a concern on the boat and some of the things we do for security are:

We keep combo lockboxes at all entry doors to the guests and crew do not have to carry keys.

We always keep the doors locked.

At night we keep every light on the boat on.

We lock all tenders and jet skis to the big boat or dock every night.

My crew and guests are older so they are not out late at night and we always stay together in groups. I warn my female crew not to go out without at least one of the male crew. If a local asks, she is to say the male crew member is her brother. I am not sure why but the locals respect brothers, not husbands or boyfriends.

We have all seen an increase in security at most marinas and I think they do a good job overall. The locals always take a strong stance against any crime on tourists as they know well that we are their bread and butter.

I have mixed feelings about having guns on the boat. I do not have any now after years of having enough to set up a small army. Not to mention that you probably will not have a gun close when you do need it.

It is not worth the trouble to clear them in at each port. Yes, you should always clear them in. One thing I learned a long time ago is that you never break the law in a country that you are not a citizen of.

Not clearing in your weapons is just asking for trouble. Remember that some places consider spear guns of any type a weapon.

I have walked into bars in the islands and when everyone stops and stares at you, I’ve learned to turn around and walk back out.

The Caribbean has always been and always will be a haven for pirates. Be careful, be smart and do not take chances.

Capt. Les Annan

M/Y Portofino

by The Triton/Sail-World Cruising

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