One of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about our trip plans is what we will do about piracy. Much fewer people seemed to be concerned about weather factors, burglary, man overboard scenarios, and maintenance issues (which are probably our greatest risks).
With regards to piracy, there are actually only a few areas of the world where piracy is a real threat. In fact, most places you go with a boat have had little or no reports of any type of crime. The people are friendly, and welcoming. That’s what’s so enjoyable about cruising!
The biggest threat of modern piracy is actually to large ships (the worst being off the coast of Somalia – which is widely reported in the press). The Somalia pirates are much more interested in multi-million dollar ransoms for ship cargos than trying to raid smaller cruising yachts. Regardless, the areas where pirates operate are well documented – and the easiest step is to avoid traveling in those areas.
I try to describe it this way to people who are unfamiliar with sailing: If you were visiting a large city, it’s always prudent to avoid the sections of town which are known to have violent crimes. The same thing applies to your sailing route. If frequent crime is reported in a certain harbor or country – you just don’t go there. Instead, we visit the places which welcome visitors and provide services to make life easier for sailing cruisers.
The bigger concern, from a crime standpoint, is actually burglary, or near-coastal boardings. Dinghy thefts (more often for the outboard motors than the boats) are the most common. But, there are also places where “cat burglars” have been known to swim out to boats at anchor and board your boat while you are sleeping and take money and other valuables. Once again, knowing the local areas is valuable. There’s a web site called Noonsite, which lists all kinds of information on piracy and boating incidents involving burglary and other crimes, along with much other valuable information, organized by country.
We do take precautions on our boat regarding crime (locks for our dinghy and its outboard motor), security alarms and cameras on the boat, carry credit cards in favor of cash, several forms of communication (to alert authorities) while at sea, and a few forms of personal security. And, we will check for reports of crime/piracy before each passage and before choosing each destination. Crime is always a concern (both on land, and while traveling). Prudent travel decision making and preparations can help for all, but the most random and violent crimes.
Our biggest concerns on the trip is properly forecasting weather and being prepared for bad weather, keeping up with the maintenance, being prepared for equipment failures, and personal safety during passages (particularly avoiding man overboard incidents). Fortunately, all of these issues (except freak weather incidents), can be addressed with proper preparations and equipment.
One concern we have with piracy: making sure we have proper pirate costumes for the parties we’re always reading about!