The Dangers of Sailing in the Caribbean

Sailing in the Caribbean Sea

While yachts sailing in the Caribbean generally experience a safe and hassle-free adventure, it is important to realize that boardings, piracy and other serious events do sometimes happen. While it would be sad if visitors were put of sailing through this breathtakingly beautiful maritime region, it pays to be aware of the dangers of sailing in the Caribbean and to mitigate the risks wherever possible.

Theft, burglary, assault and other criminal acts are rare – but high impact – events. Sadly, these do occur in the Caribbean each year. Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do while sailing in the Caribbean to mitigate the risks.

For example you should:

* Avoid anchoring in known high-risk locations wherever possible, especially alone. If you do have to stop somewhere with a known risk, post a watch, use full security precautions, introduce yourself to others in the harbor and decide on a VHF frequency for everyone to monitor. Leave your radio on overnight.

* If you use an SSB/HF radio, tune it to stations monitored by USCG and other authorities. Distress voice frequencies are 4125, 6215, 8291 or 12290kHz. 14300 kHz (The Maritime Mobile Service Network) is monitored 24/7 and can be used by anyone during an emergency.

* Satellite phones should be programmed with an emergency distress contact, such as the ICC-CCS Anti-Piracy Hotline, +60 3 2031 0014.

* Securely lock all access points including hatches and ports when you leave the boat.

* Do not paint the name of your yacht on a dinghy or tender. This can broadcast the fact that at least one person is away from the vessel. Obviously, it is also a bad idea to leave valuables or desirable items unlocked in the dinghy or on the shore while swimming, for example. Lock outboards securely to the dinghy, and dinghies securely to the dock when ashore.

* Pull up any boarding ladder at night. Do not leave anything valuable in sight on deck when the boat is unoccupied or while you are sleeping.

* Do not broadcast your plans to leave your yacht on VHF or social media.

* In high risk areas, secure the companionway with barrel bolts and hatches with security bars.

* Separate your valuables and hide them in multiple, unpredictable locations onboard. Create a ‘sacrificial stash’ that you can give over – but try to hide and retain a spare GPS, VHF radio and even a personal locator beacon if possible. It is also a good idea to hide and store an electronic copy of important documents that you can access if your devices and documents are stolen.

* Consider installing an alarm system on your vessel.

* Have an emergency response plan in place and make sure you know what to do if you are boarded.

* Seek to deter pirates/ criminals before they board, but avoid violent confrontation at all costs. If in doubt, capitulate, then report the theft as soon as possible.

The dangers are real. But with some common sense, you should be able to mitigate the dangers and enjoy a safe and relaxing sailing vacation around Caribbean countries and islands.

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