Break-in at Ibiza: Lessons Learnt In Security

Published 16 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Following is a lightly edited version of an e-mail I sent to a few close friends two weeks ago after our boat was boarded by thieves at anchor in the Balearic Islands while we were asleep. I’m posting it here because there are lessons to be learned!

Let me suggest that you read it and then ask yourself whether the same could happen to you. We’ve definitely changed our modus operandi, including a pre-bedtime locking of not only doors but all hatches and windows large enough to admit an adult. We also leave on exterior deck lights in “suspect” anchorages or if we’re less than comfortable with our surroundings. A good onboard security system with a noisy alarm as moved up rapidly on my list of priorities!

We are glad that before leaving to cross the Atlantic we loaded up on Iridum minutes at a good price. Thanks to the potential for identity theft using the data we lost, Judy has spent many hours on the Iridium phone closing bank accounts, changing passwords, cancelling credit cards, and all the associated follow-thru. We’re lucky: at two weeks and counting we see no evidence of identity theft–a good sign but not necessarily the final score.

They are lots of lessons here. Lesson one is don’t be so damned complacent about onboard security, a misstep for which we are paying dearly!

Just a quick note to let you know that we’re doing just fine after a frightening experience while we were at anchor in Puerto Torrent, a call (cove) near Puerto de San Antonio on the island of Ibiza. We awoke yesterday morning to discover that during the night thieves had boarded our boat while we were sleeping and made off with three laptops, a cell phone, an old camera, an iPod and my wallet. These were skilled and stealthy thieves and clearly had no interest in confronting us–they did their dirty work silently in the main saloon, galley and pilothouse and as far as we can determine made it a point not to go down the forward stairs where we were sleeping. Our best guess is that two persons were involved and aboard the boat. We never heard a thing, though any noises were probably masked by the “white noise” of a fan running in our stateroom.

We were lucky! In so many ways.

The incident was frightening only when we began to think about the “what ifs”. What if one of us had come upon them . . . what if our dog had heard them and barked. . . what if they had been drunk or high on drugs . . . what if they had been the kind of people who enjoy personal confrontation, to name a few. The truth is we let our guard down and we suffered the consequences. We always make it a point to lock up the boat at night before going to bed, but the next morning we found a pilothouse door unlocked–did we mistakenly leave it unlocked or did they enter through one of the two overhead hatches we trustingly had open? Either way, we feel a real sense of “invasion,” thinking of intruders roaming our boat at will with us blissfully asleep just a few feet away.

The bad news is that they got our Nobeltec computer which is central to our all-important navigation and our e-mail computer which is one of our principal links to the rest of the world. The good is that they left behind the Nobeltec “dongle” that was plugged into the computer, without which I would have no Nobeltec. I had a backup navigation computer up and running in an hour or two. They also left behind the hard-wired Iridium phone and docking station, so I was able to get e-mail Ocens/Iridium running on the backup nav computer, but we lost all e-mail since our departure from Fort Lauderdale in May.

Of course, we spent much of yesterday on the satellite phone cancelling credit cards and notifying the credit agencies and others like the cell phone provider. Unfortunately, there was a good bit of personal information on our computers–SSANs, bank account numbers, etc. etc. — so there’s the possibility, though probably remote, of identify theft. We’ll make more phone calls on Monday when we can reach businesses in the USA.

Let this be a lesson to you: ask yourself what would happen if your principal laptops were stolen? Do you have a backup navigation plan if your nav computer (and dongle) are stolen? Backup communications if your cell phones and Iridium phone are taken? Don’t feel sorry for us–learn from our misfortune!

Lessons learned? You can bet there are a lot of them! Meanwhile, we find a sense of real irony that we spent a winter in Venezuela which is known for this kind of stuff and had to come to Spain to have it happen to us.

To be sure, yesterday was a singularly depressing day for us, but we see the glass as half full–it could have been so much worse! We have resolved not to allow this to ruin our summer; we keep reminding ourselves that a single isolated incident has to be taken in perspective. I hope we can soon close the door on this incident.

Milt Baker, Nordhavn 47 Bluewater, Cala Santa Ponsa, Mallorca

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