Fair enough, but you make the assumption that I haven't spent a lot of time there. I lived in the Caribbean for several years and have travelled there many times since leaving, albeit not on a sailboat floating around in nice, tourist areas. I know what I'm talking about.
Get off the boat and go live in the typical ramshackle third-world neighborhoods that are several blocks inland from the nice pretty waterfront. After a few weeks you can tell me all about how lovely life is in most of those areas, particulary at night time.
I'm not saying that all of the islands are all dangerous, not by a long shot. But it is disengenous to put forth the romantic notion that it's all Gilligan's Island and sipping milk from coconuts. If you can see the cruise ships from where you are standing then you aren't anywhere close to the reality of the slum life prevalent in many areas there.
Situational awareness is key, no matter where in the world you happen to be. If you are anchoring for the night in St. Petersburg, FL you will think it's the greatest place around. If you wander a mile inland and sleep in your car in the Church's Chicken parking lot you might discover a whole new reality.
I've spent a bit of time aboard boats in some pretty sketchy places, and I'm certainly not "putting forth the romantic notion that it's all Gilligan's Island and sipping milk from coconuts." I don't think Mark is either, he's been around the block, and I imagine he's pretty savvy when it comes to security issues when cruising...
In discussions of these types of incidents, my first inclination is always to revert to my default position regarding the exposure of one's self or one's family to such risk, which is simply this:
It's just SO much simpler to cruise where the bad guys ain't...
Problem areas have become remarkably well defined in today's world... In addition to the Coconut Telegraph, resources such as Noonsite and the Caribbean Security & Safety Net keep cruisers remarkably up to date on places one might consider avoiding...
The geography of world piracy, and these sort of incidents against cruising sailors, is really quite simple... With the exception of a region like South Africa/Madagascar, virtually all of these incidents against cruising sailors occur in latitudes within roughly 20 degrees of the equator... It's a very simple formula - with very few exceptions, the further you distance yourself from the equator, the safer you will be, and the constant concern over security will diminish... The odds of one being boarded by someone wielding a machete in a place like Nova Scotia, for example, are statistically nonexistent...
There are many other common sense approaches towards increasing security in regions like the Caribbean, as well... Visiting such places in a modest, low-profile style would seem to be one of the most obvious. We've all heard the joke about not having to be able to outrun the bear, but only having to outrun the slowest person you're with... One of the things that gives me the greatest comfort in virtually every anchorage I wind up sharing with other boats, is that mine is almost always the smallest and most modest of the fleet... it's always nice to be surrounded by other targets far more tempting than yourself :-)
Unfortunately, this is not the modern trend... Cruisers continue to visit such places aboard boats of ever-increasing size and value, festooned with a growing array of 'toys' and other shiny objects... It doesn't take much effort to downplay one's comparative 'wealth', in this regard, all the little things you can do quickly add up... Don't wear a watch, or jewelry when going ashore, for instance... ROW
your tender ashore, or use a dinky 2 HP Honda in a place where NO ONE would have any use for such an engine, instead of zipping around with a 15 HP Yamaha that makes for an incredibly tempting target... In a world where the disparity of wealth only continues to grow, what the hell are some of these cruisers out there today thinking?
In places where security might be a concern, and there's a good chance you are being observed, simply making a 'show' of your concern with security could go a long way towards dissuading an observer from believing you might be an easy target... Even a little thing like always
lifting your dinghy clear of the water when not in use, might be enough to plant the seed in a bad guy's mind that you might be one who takes security VERY seriously... so much of this stuff is so simple to do, good cockpit/deck lighting at night, for instance... If I'm alone in a remote spot, I might routinely light up the surroundings with a 2 million candlepower searchlight, that alone might make someone seeing me as a potential target think, "Whoa..."
And, of course, always
flying my slightly oversized American flag proudly... Just because, well, everyone
knows what any red-blooded American just might
be packing... :-)
This attack is a sad and shocking occurrence, that appears to have taken the randomness and senselessness of such incidents to a new height... No matter how harshly the local authorities might deal with this one, I'm afraid this sort of thing will only continue to be of great concern to cruisers, going forward...
Again, there's a very simple solution, an easy means of avoiding such trouble...
All it requires, is the modification of the geographical parameters of what one considers to constitute "PARADISE"