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post #16 of Old 07-07-2017
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Re: Safety on board when sailing alone

Man ... a lot of people getting snippy about the question.

The fact is that carrying a firearm on a boat these days is complicated and difficult. Laws change each time you change ports. As a foreigner, if you ever _use_ the weapon you're going to have a lot of trouble with the local authorities.

But there is a _really_ good reason _not_ to have a gun on board when you cruise. And I've heard this repeated over and over again by many, many experienced cruisers: 99.99% of the people who would board your boat with malicious intent can be scared off with a spotlight. Stories of people being shot because they came out of their cabin brandishing a gun and caused panic in the boarders are frequent. Stories of cruisers keeping watch in the cockpit in sketchy anchorages and the simple act of them shining a spotlight was enough to scare away suspicious persons are numerous. Stories of people spending totally safe, uneventful nights in anchorages are so frequently it would be impossible to count them.

Stories of anyone protecting themselves with a gun while on a sailboat are non-existent. I've never heard a single one. If you know of any stories of this tactic being useful in the last 20 years, I'd be interested to hear it.

So, the reason for not carrying a gun is simple statistics: The chances of you needing it are near zero. The chances that attempting to use it will make the situation worse are small, but existent. And the chances that it will actually protect you are so small that there are no recorded incidences of it. Add to that the likelihood that it will prevent you from entering certain harbors, and make entry complicated in many more ... well, it just doesn't seem practical.

An experienced captain explained his theory on why this is the case: Cruisers bring money to the local economy, so those economies have a vested interest in keeping cruisers coming in; and cruisers talk, so incidents of theft and violence spread and reduce money coming in to the local economy. This alone isn't enough to completely _stop_ crime in these areas, but criminals have learned that there are LOTS of boats to steal from. They want the easy, low-risk take. So any indication that the boat is keeping a watch, or that there will be any resistance and they just move on ... eventually they'll find a careless boater to steal from with no worries. They know that there's lots on deck they can steal without making enough noise to wake anyone, so they almost never go below decks. They know that cruisers have insurance, so a stolen MFD is likely to create a police report that the police don't have time to follow up on, and an insurance claim. But they know that if they go below decks, and if someone gets hurt, then the local police will have the motivation to track them down, as a story spreading about an assault will cause cruisers to stop spending money at their anchorage. Just a few stolen MFDs a week makes pretty good money on the black market, so they aren't terribly desperate to take any risks.

It _is_ unintuitive. At least it was to me. But the facts support the conclusion that carrying a guy while cruising just isn't worth it.

But, of course, you've brought one of the more controversial topics to this forum, so you're going to get heated answers. The fact that you're surprised by that is somewhat funny to me. You might as well start a pro-life vs. pro-choice debate -- it would be equally ponderous to me if you were surprised by the heated responses you got.
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