Panama, Las Perlas: Second Armed Robbery in 6 Weeks

Cruising boats in Las Perlas, Panama are being advised to leave the area immediately, following a second armed robbery on a yacht within six weeks of another incident, both occurring in the San Miguel area. See updates in comments (speech bubble).

Published 6 months ago, updated 5 months ago

Update:  April 2 – 2023

According to unconfirmed reports, Stella the ship dog from SV Constellation that was taken by the bandits in the raid has been found by Aeronaval officials on Isla Mina, Panama.

Source:  CSSN

After transiting the Panama canal westbound, a cruising monohull with 4 persons onboard anchored in Las Perlas at about 1100HRS. No other boats were nearby. Just after dark at about 1930HRS four young Spanish speaking men armed with guns and machetes boarded from a quiet (paddled) but motorized panga.

One crew member took the handheld VHF and locked themselves into the head, and activated DSC. The door was immediately broken down, the radio silenced and taken from the crew. One crew member was hit over the head and back with a pistol and all were made to lie on the floor at gunpoint while the yacht was aggressively ransacked. Much damage was done to the yacht’s interior cabinets, doors, and drawers. The cables to the radios and autopilot display were cut.

The thieves were onboard for approximately 1.5 hours and stole cash, wallets, electronics, phones, jewelry, foul weather gear, lifejackets, clothing, alcohol and fuel jugs containing gasoline. A full inventory has not been completed.

The dog was missing and presumed to have been pushed overboard or taken. After searching unsuccessfully for the dog for about 20 minutes and confirming the yacht was safely operable, they departed for Panama City. On arrival a crew member was taken for medical care and a report was made to Aeronaval. No forensics were taken at that time.

The US consulate was advised of this event and a full report is planned.

This is the second cruising yacht boarded/assaulted in Las Perlas recently. See the prior incident here.

Sailing with the Panama Posse

The vessel, a catamaran named Constellation was a member of the Panama Posse, a boat rally with more than 300 boats participating each year.  The Posse was formed in 2017 to support boats to safely travel between the Panama Canal on the East and West Coast of North and Central America.

A spokesperson for the Panama Posse urged anyone in the area to leave Las Perlas immediately, especially any vessel in proximity to San Miguel.

“Both incidents were within 9NM of San Miguel,” said Suzanne DuBose, public relation for the Panama Posse.  “In the latest incident, the vessel was a US flagged sailboat and the incident occurred off the coast of Isla Del Rey, near the islet of La Nina in the Las Perlas.”

Direct Report from SY Constellation (from Panama Posse)

“Four armed black men, young (17-25 yrs), approached (our boat) rapidly just after dark. (They) quickly climbed on the boat and forced their way through closed hatches and broke our companion way. (They) had guns and machetes.

“I locked myself in the bathroom with our handhelf VHF and made a distress call and hit the distress button. No response. They kicked down the door and took the handheld VHF and asked in Spanish if I called the police.

“They ransacked the boat while we were all forced to sit or lie down. They hit some of us to force us down. They stole our dog.

“(There were) no signs of suspicious activity that made us worried at this anchorage. We have not seen any other boats all day.

“We are a 45 foot sailboat with a dinghy and one paddleboard on deck. They took the paddleboard but left the dinghy.

“It’s my husband and I on board and two of our friends (who are) visiting to be line handlers (for the Panama Canal). (We are) all in our late 20’s and early 30’s.

“Sharing since I know many will be interested to know our profile and if/why we might have been targeted.”


A similar attack occurred in Portobello on March 27, according to a CSSN secondhand report

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  1. April 10, 2023 at 4:47 PM
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    Sue Richards says:

    Update from the Panama Posse on the Las Perlas situation:

    1) The Panamanian government is committed to providing the safest possible environment for tourists, in particular those who go off the beaten paths

    2) Authorities believe the perpetrators to be islanders, (young males) not a group of organized criminals

    3) Authorities are committed to identifying the culprits and prosecuting them code name Operation Proteus

    4) Authorities are conducting an extensive search using Air Commands of the Marine Corps to conduct aerial reconnaissance flights, Naval Commands of the Marine Corp are utilizing speed boats and boots on the ground in coordination with the Public Ministry looking at locations which digital tracking indicate, for the items which were removed from the vessels

    5) For vessel considering visiting the Perlas Islands, Authorities have increase surveillance and the population is aware of the negative results of these thefts

    6) Through intelligence personnel, they have already registered raids in San Miguel, Ensenada Casaya, Caseyeta, Saboga, and other places where they are identifying possible lawbreakers

    7) If encounter any suspicious activity the emergency number for the Servico Areo Naval (SAN) is 108

    The number for the Panamanian Navy if using a non Panama Phone (Servicio Aeronaval) is +507-520-6200

    or visit

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