Many of us have read about safety when traveling on your private vessel anywhere in the world. Traveling on your own boat alone or with a small crew is no different from visiting unfamiliar places anywhere in the world. You should always be aware of your surroundings. I do not mean to be an alarmist. Also, when ashore, many of the same precautions mentioned above, need to apply.
Any time you leave your dock, mooring, or anchorage you should lock your boat hatches and cabin doors. This may seem extreme when you are in your own marina or yacht club. True. Here, however, you have friends who know who belongs on which boat. As you travel as a visitor to distant anchorages or mooring fields, no one really knows who belongs on each boat. I would be most concerned in a big city marina such as Miami, Baltimore, New York City. It is true that not all crime occurs in large cities. The difference is that in smaller yacht clubs or town harbors there are less people and it is easier to recognize a boat or dinghy that does not belong there.
We have had a variety of experiences from having someone watch our boat while we were gone. We had other cruisers, known as Yatchies” by the local boating facilities, watch our boat. Some marinas, down island and in the US as well, have guards in the evenings. You are to report to the guards that you are leaving the boat compound for a period of time and they will keep an extra eye on your vessel. Other marinas have no visible security and you are on your own.
We traveled from Connecticut down the Eastern US coast to the Bahamas on to the Turks and Cacaos and the entire island chain to the North shore of Venezuela and the out islands of South America. All this time and all the 4 years we were afloat security was not the same every where we went. You have to provide your own security safety except when you have your boat hauled and placed in a safety yard behind locked fences.
Any time you travel out of the United States and stay at a slip or a mooring, you have to be extra cautious. Americans are easy marks throughout the island nations because we are very trusting folks. Common sense should rule if you are in doubt about procedures regarding banking, shopping, jewelry, or anything that will draw attention to you or your boat. Do not flaunt money especially large bills in public places. Carry small denominations such as ones, fives, or tens. Stay away from big bills. Only keep a few US dollars or the local denomination in view. Hide the other money some where it can not be seen.
There are safety belts and shoulder holders that can be worn under your clothing. Fanny packsare very tempting to pickpockets when they see your bag around your waist in the back rather than in the front. A friend of ours literally had one cut in two seconds as he boarded a bus. One slash from someone behind him and off it came. By the time he realized it, the bus was underway and the robber long gone. There are many tales of woe I could write about, but not enough space to do it.
Try to be low key and blend in with the crowd. Purses are a quick snatch and grab. Ladies do not sling your purse over your shoulder. Put it across your chest and leave the opening clip facing your body, not the out side.
Keeping your boat safe from burglary is another matter. Do not be flashy and leave things around in your cockpit or foredeck. Do not advertise around public places what your boat’s name is and where you are located or how long you are going to be ashore. Try not to look too much like a visitor or yatchie as you are a target for a quick snatch of anything they can get. Do not act shy. Be aggressive in your manner of walking, and general handling of yourself. Act comfortable, like you belong there or at least have been around for a while and know the score.
Keep your boat tidy and things that would be an easy grab out of sight. Some of the things that should be below are cameras, binoculars, charts, hand held instruments and so on. Try not to leave clothes hanging on the life lines for an easy grab from the cockpit.
You have more control of your belongings below. For example, if you need to carry extra cash and not keep it all in your wallet, find a good hiding place below and do not keep it all in one place. Some people I know have left out a certain amount of money that was easy to grab hoping to satisfy the would be robber.
Above all be alert, be aware of your surroundings and all who are in your view. Common sense will guide you how to dress simply, how not to flash money, how to be aware of all that is going on around you. If in doubt about an area, stay out! I do not mean to be afraid of a different culture or a poorer neighborhood. Thieves are anywhere that unaware travelers could be. Don’t be an easy mark. Be aware, dress moderately, do not flash money, or jewelry and most of all, do not act arrogant, loud, and showy.
With all that said, enjoy your stay, try to experience the local culture, dress modestly and relax. Don’t be a snob or xenophobe.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.