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  #1  
Old 08-05-2003
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Jonathan316 is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

Hoping for tolerance & patience from experienced cruisers, wondered if I might find a few answers to odd tangent questions about the cruising lifestyle.

What is the threat of crime against cruisers? Mainly in the context of the Caribbean, is theft of - or from - your boat an issue of concern when cruising? Guess I am too American to grasp the concept of tying a $1800 dingy to an unknown dock for some daytime be-bopping for provisions and fun; never mind my floating home left naked. How common is theft or vandalism in the Caribbean cruising world -- or anywhere else for that matter? Must admit this scares me a bit, and causes me great concern for the welfare of my family, guests, and toys. How do you get over this anxiety? More Rum?

Related to that, generally how responsive are boating insurance companies to those travelling in far off places? If I return to a slip to find my transom crushed by some unknown mystery source, or find my el-neato charting computer gone from its mooring, should I anticipate having the resources to deal with it right then and hope to settle claims later? What -are- the most common insurance issues/problems/claims for long-term cruisers and liveaboards?

Last, is being "messed with" by local authorities a valid concern for a Caribbean cruiser? I never really thought much about having my boat molested by strangers. But I read the article in the Aug ''03 "Cruising World" magazine about the Cuban-cigar-smuggler fella, where he says "The boat was searched roughly a dozen times, but never that extensively." HUH? What''s with ''a dozen times'' in what was apparently a couple/few-week cruise? Although there seem to be missing holes in this story, that one statement really surprised me. Just how common is it to be boarded by authorities or strangers? And aside from polite subservience, what should a (legit) cruiser do to help make them go away quickly and happily? Do you have to maintain a license log like a cross-country US trucker, filled with permits and licenses for each locality you might travel through? I have no interest or desire for any illegal activity; nor wish avoidable association with those who work against it. Heck, I don''t even like cigars (grin).

Sorry to be such a negative and paranoid newbie... If someone could hold my hand on this I''d probably get leeward of it real quick.
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Old 08-05-2003
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jbanta is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

With all those concerns maybe you should think about sailing inthe PNW or the Great Lakes. The only foreign cops you''d have to worry about are the Mounties..
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Old 08-06-2003
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fourknots is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

I haven''t been to all parts of the Carib - mostly western, so I can''t be specific about the eastern part. I''ve also been all over central America. It saddens me to say that when I returned to the US I felt far MORE in danger than when I was in Nicaraqua.

That said, I cruised in a small (30-foot) boat without alot of stuff, my dinghy was a hard rowing model with no engine to steal. I didn''t look or act wealthy. We also had to kids.

There is theft, especially dinghys, in the Carib. Anytime you show up in a vessel that is worth 20 times more than the locals make in a year, there is risk. However, the risk is MUCH greater in places where cruisers are common and the local population is large (and poor). I generally stayed away from large population centers and in three years had nothing stolen. Once in Mexico, a local tried to steal my propane tank to use for lighting his squid lights. He couldn''t get it out, so he left. That was the worst incident. Local kids borrowed my dinghy in Guatemala while we were ashore, but had it back before we returned - no harm done.

If you''re going to the popular areas of the Carib, you''ll have to be cautious, but it''s still safer than walking in downtown (insert US city here).

That said, cruising does not carry with it the security of living in our country - the police, courts, insurance, etc...
You''ll need a new mindset. This is an adventure, not a cruiseship journey - some risk is to be expected.

I think in the popular areas of the Carib, you''ll have to lock up your boat when you leave, though where I was I never did unless I was gone overnight. Usually, you can find another cruiser to keep an eye on things if you''re gone for awhile.

I did not have insurance and only knew of one cruiser who did - his boat was financed. He was hit by a shrimper at anchor in Costa Rica. After helping him secure his broken mast, I rowed ashore to call the local police. No answer. I called the next morning and was told they might be able to come by in a day or two, but we''d have to pay for their gas. Things don''t work the same in other countries. He eventaully got his police report and 9 months later had his repairs done. Once my dinghy was run over by a drunken local in a fishing boat. It cracked it and sank it. I repaired it with some fiberglass and epoxy and kept going for two more years. Sh** happens.

As for the officials, I can''t comment on the eastern Carib, but we were always treated well by the local officials. If you get boarded, they will want to see all passports with entrance stamps for all passengers, ship''s papers (state reg or documentation), maybe a zarpe (ship''s clearance from previous port). In Mexico, we were boarded numerous times with very cursory searches done. Always painfully polite. We always were cooperative, offering something to drink, trying to speak their language, etc... The USCG is far more invasive and rude.

We were once boarded by the Nicaraquan Coast Guard 2 miles offshore in the middle of the night. It frightened us since they zoomed up on us in the dark. But, again, they were just doing their job, were polite and we laughed about it later.

However, if you are not in the country legally, or you have drugs/guns aboard you are SCREWED.

Getting boarded by strangers is not common. Don''t invite anyone on board that you wouidn''t invite in your house. No one was allowed on our boat, except officials, without our permission.

One point. If you are travelling with kids, especially small ones, I think you''ll find even better treatment. Especially in Latin American countries, the addition of kids made us a family that locals and officials could relate to. I''m certain several times that we were shown more kindness and courtesies because of our kids. Kids are natural icebreakers.

I hope this helps some. Others with more experience in the Carib might offer more advice. The bottom line for me was that aside from the risks inherent in cruising, I felt much safer in 99% of the places I visited than in a large US city.

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Old 08-06-2003
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TrishLambert is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

Jonathan--

I don''t think your questions are paranoid. Rather, they are prudent. The concerns you raise are valid, and do need some thought and planning.

About your dinghy--yes, it may be at risk. I suggest that you think about locking systems that will discourage a thief from taking the time to try to break through. It''s a terrible thing to have to say, but look from the viewpoint of the thief, and make it more attractive to focus on some other dinghy. Thing is, if they want to steal a dinghy, they will...and you want to make sure it''s not yours. Also, when you are at anchor, hoist your dinghy out of the water at night and, again, lock it. Ditto the outboard. When I was in Cartagena, the nighttime thiefs (who were fishermen by day) were extremely adept at lifting outboards off hoisted dinghies...sometimes with the skipper asleep in the cockpit right next to them!!! That said, don''t think about this in terms of only the Caribbean. U.S. anchorages can be risky as well...one cruiser I know had his dinghy stolen in West Palm Beach FL.

Security extends on land as well. Be careful when you are doing any banking transactions and assume that you are being watched. We always jumped in a taxi as soon as we did our banking business even if we were going within walking business, to deter any muggers who might be lurking. Also, do not wear any flashy jewelry (including watches) when you walk around on land--thieves can be very creative about how they relieve you of those belongings.

As far as insurance, I was also not insured when I was in the Caribbean. Now, on my current boat, we carry a policy we procured through West Marine that has pretty extensive coverage (which, of course, we pay for). Insurance companies will have policies and procedures for the Caribbean, since it is such a popular boating center.

When it comes to officials, in my books and talks I always make the point that if you hate bureaucracy, you might want to think twice about cruising. Even in U.S. waters, we have to interface with a lot more government agents than we did when we lived on land. When you leave the country, the interfaces multiply greatly. And you never know who you will be dealing with...some people can be very petty and wield their power almost brutally, while others can be quite friendly. Best way to prepare is to talk to as many folks as you can who have recently come from the place you are headed. They can give you the context of their experience and knowledge of the government interfaces, and it will be the most up to date. We did this when we were in Costa Rica, and elected to completely bypass a popular cruising stop because the official there was bullying visiting yachts and there was no way to counter his behavior.

Hope this helps with your PRUDENT questions!
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Old 08-06-2003
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dameware is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

Jon, For keeping the dinghy safe from thieves, here’s what I did; bought about 15’ of that white plastic coated cable and had a small loop swage fitted at each end, and use a big bronze lock to secure it to the dock or the boat when not in use. At the dock I threw a small anchor toward deep water and used its rode to keep the dinghy a few feet off the dock. If you have an inflatable dink this removes the possibility of a puncture, and someone might think twice about boarding the dink if it’s several feet off the dock.

Engine on the dinghy; bolt it to the transom with big stainless bolts and grind the nuts round. Stainless carriage bolts would work well, if you can find them. This means you will need to travel with spare bolts and nuts, and a grinder as well, but you shouldn’t lose the motor.

Keeping the sailboat safe while you are on shore; a simple switch which closes when your hatch opens, connected to a claxon horn mounted near the lowest spreader should get the attention of any other boaters in the area that something’s wrong on your boat. You would need to hide another switch (in the circuit) in the cockpit area, maybe in a lazarrette, to activate the circuit. You could also use the claxon horn and a high bilge water switch to warn against high water in the bilge. A flood light could be wired into the circuit as added security at night.

A big sign mounted inside saying something about no tolerance for drugs aboard will help if the coast guard boards you and you have temporary crew onboard.

St. Thomas and St Croix are 2 places where you might need a bit more vigilance. Hopefully things have changed for the better there.


Beyond that common sense will see you through just fine...
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Old 08-06-2003
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salnan is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

You will find answers to MANY of your questions on sv Watermelon''s webpage where they have a very comprehensive cruising FAQ section.

http://www.cruiser.co.za/hostmelon.asp

The very best of luck.
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Old 08-11-2003
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GordMay is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

You’re questions indicate a healthy prudence, and, I hope, are not the result of fretful anxiety. I’ve met many ‘anxious’ cruisers, who seem to worry about everything - and they never last long. Please note, there is a enormous difference between “due prudence” (care, caution, foresight & even wariness) - and anxiety (disquiet, worry).

FOREIGN OFFICIALS & REGULATIONS:
-Remember, you are an un-invited guest in a foreign country, and have NO RIGHT to be there. You’re presence is tolerated at their discretion (whim?).
- Be prepared with all documentation (ship, crew, etc.).
- Keep drug prescriptions with the drugs - do not volunteer info’, but be prepared to prove the legitimate presence & use of all drugs. If you carry PRESCRIPTION narcotics, keep a separate medication log, detailing every item & it’s use.
- If you carry a firearm (which I do not recommend), declare it & all ammunition immediately (keep a log, as /w drugs). Your guns may be impounded for the duration of your stay in some waters - accept this gracefully. Do NOT try to hide your weapons from the authorities - the consequences of being caught-out can be draconian.
- Clean up, and dress up, for all encounters with officialdom. Present yourself, and treat all officials with the greatest dignity. Many of the officials you encounter will have an exaggerated self-importance (arrogance), which you must accept & accommodate. You cannot “win” a confrontation with these officials - so humor them.

THEFT:
- Much of the theft, I’ve encountered, is perpetrated by OTHER CRUISERS.
- Due diligence is the key - secure & conceal everything, as previous posts have advised. Don’t tempt the potential thief . Most thefts are crimes of “opportunity”, and there is little you can do against the organized crime.
- Nice things “walk” - avoid “flashy” jewelry etc. An apparently “old” outboard is less attractive than a shiny new one.

Lastly, remember that even paranoids have enemies, but try to keep things in perspective. You are on an “adventure”, so expect and accept that things are going to get adventurous on occasion.

Regards, and best of luck!
Gord
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Old 08-11-2003
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GordMay is on a distinguished road
Cruising parnoia - valid?

Yes , you DO need to keep a log - just as you should in your home waters.
Gord
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