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There are times when the cruising lifestyle is nothing but rainbows and sunsets. There are other times when dark elements are thrust front and center. The day before yesterday was one such time.

After tuning in to the morning radio net, we, and all those others listening, were shocked to hear that two cruisers were brutally attacked in an anchorage not far from Grenada. Anchored in Ashton Harbor at Union Island, an island in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines chain, a boat was boarded by several machete-wielding attackers. Note that this is one of our favorite stopping places. Without provocation, the woman on board was struck with a machete in the face/head area giving her serious lacerations. Her husband was able to grab a kitchen knife and fight back but he was also cut in the process. When the call for help was raised, assistance was rendered and the couple received medical help but not before they raised anchor and sailed to Carriacou. We’ve learned that they are both now in Grenada and that the woman is soon to be released from the hospital.

This incident comes only weeks after a friend of ours had his boat boarded by 4 bandits armed with a pistol. That attack occured in appropriately-named Bloody Bay, Tobago (of Trinidad and Tobago, not to be confused with the Tobago Cays in the Grenadines). Although I have yet to speak to our friend since that occurred, we heard through the grapevine that the gun was held to his mother’s head and shots were fired at another cruiser who was attempting to render aid!

When I made mention of these crazy attacks on Facebook, wondering aloud WTF is wrong with people, a flurry of comments ensued. Some shared that attacks like this are their “greatest fear” while others talked about how they would arm themselves to repel boarders. I have no answers. There are desperate people everywhere. We all take whatever security measures we feel are prudent, including where we will travel and what areas we will avoid. As you can imagine, these two spots will now be on many cruisers’ do-not-visit list! We hope that we make the right choices. We do not live in fear on our boat and in fact, it is quite the opposite. We are a part of a strong community and by and large the locals on the islands we frequent are some of the kindest people that you could hope to meet. They are as shocked about these incidents as we are.

We have since heard that several people have been apprehended and are in custody following that attack in Union Island. We hope that justice is metered out appropriately.

47 Comments

  1. If the locals find out that cruisers will not be stopping because of the acts of a few, they may solve the problem “internally”.

  2. Sadly, there really is no way to prevent these events from happening – there is no way to stop someone from inflicting harm on another if they really want to.

    I hope you guys stay safe!

  3. Whether in your land-based home or on your cruising home, everyone should have plan “a”, plan “b” and plan “c” to deter, protect and to conquer!

  4. wow! Be safe out there guys!

  5. Swinging from the yardarm? That would be a good deterrent to copy cat pirates and banditos. However, there are those that believe that these sort of people need a more tender touch such as counselling and guidance. I think my shotgun offers excellent counselling but there are those who feel that guns are not the answer. To them, I say, fine, figure out some other method for yourself. It would be and is my choice of protection. I know you can’t have guns down there and in your case, I would suggest Slocum’s method of protection against banditos. Tacks carefully arranged on deck. On my boat we had numerous short baseball bats stashed around the cabin and deck. They were used to club fish when we caught them but I think they would work good in hand to hand combat. Best of luck out there. Can’t we all just get along?

  6. Hi Mike, your post just freak me up…we will charter a lagoon 4500 with 9 adults aboard in july from Martinique and we are planning to go to the grenadines…and the girls are a bit afraid of attacks like these, any comments on how you would act on the boat to prevent it ? will it be a better choice to go up north to Dominica and Guadeloupe instead of going south ? I was dreaming of this trip for many years but my wife is becoming a little bit afraid…I followed your website for the last two years and I want to visit the places you guys loved…but I want to reaaure my crew that it is not that bad out there…any toughts !!

    • Alain, in January we chartered from St. Lucia to Grenada and back, spending one night in this same anchorage off Frigate Island. This coming January we are chartering the same boat and going North through Martinique, Dominina, Guadaloupe to Antigua and back.

      We have a larger group that have done other charters as well and have always felt since these attackers are opportunistic, they will leave a larger group along. Even if boarded, once six or eight people arrive on the scene and they realize what’s up, it’s unlikely they would stay around.

      So that’s our logic. We know we need to keep our heads up, but we have no plans to stop chartering to these amazingly beautiful and interesting destinations.

    • There is crime everywhere but with that many people on board, I’m sure you’ll be fine. You are likely more at risk in the city where you reside. Enjoy your vacation!

  7. Hi Mike,

    There will always be this sort of thing. Interestingly, we become desensitized to our dangers where we live. Check your local paper for crimes in your area. Probably far more, however we are “home” so feel safe.Crime is everywhere, evil exists.

    My thought for a defence weapon which will incapacitate the attacker and at the same time; 1 won’t cause me to be arrested and 2 won’t be used against me and kill me is; BEAR spray!! If it will stop a Grizzly bear it will stop a man in his tracks. Most of these attacks are in close range. Pepper sprays are a within 15 feet zone…perfect I say. Watch the vids on them being tested… very effective!! They won’t expect this defence weapon. And due respect for martial arts, things can go wrong even with the best. Better to be at a distance and win the day.

    Just my thoughts….

    Fred and Phyllis
    Lady J111

    • Bear/Pepper spray is NOT legal everywhere and as soon as you spray it at someone, it becomes a weapon. The fact that there are no bears on the water is evidence that you were carrying it for a weapon too. Not saying that it wouldn’t work but there are legal repercussions for something even as simple as that. Wasp spray may be a bit more appropriate. You could at least argue that you have had wasps on board.

      • I agree totally Mike. The first defense is stay away from questionable areas anywhere. Second keep from looking like easy “prey”. Third have an alarm type deterrent on board such as an sound alarm and lites. Then and only then is the last option the question. If you have a gun. Will you really use it?? Most people are untrained at this. Have you police or military training? Keep to the first ones! I only mention the spray as it is not lethal.

        Fred and Phyllis
        Lady J 111

  8. I don’t want, in any way, to diminish the nastiness of these attacks.
    However, 2 incidents in a year(?) amongst say 2000 cruisers per year, may not be half as dangerous as the rate of attacks in many cities in the world.

    It is important to keep a sense of perspective, even though it is very difficult.

    But I still think it is awful.

    Mike 🙁

  9. Mike, Rebeca,
    As I sit here in Burlington , ont. planning my own trip south soon, I pray for all the people out there just trying to live their lives of cruising . It makes me sad to hear of such attacks on people that help the economy in so many ways! As you have said though, other cruisers will simply not go there…. God be with you all out there and protect you…

  10. Hey Mike I understand the issue we cruised for three years .And yes I had a shot gun on board. It would not of helped in a surprise attack . But I will tell you this I would not have run for a kitchen knife. You only ever hear of this in very rare cases and I am sure the odds are you could get killed climbing up some side of a mountain or robbed in your resort just as easy. The big problem is people who have never been on a boat full time think that pirates are out there in waiting and as we know this is not true. I hope this does not affect your charter business.

    • It will in no way affect our charter business. We will be in the Virgins, not down here. Will it affect the locals on Union Island? Without a doubt.

    • You would not have run for a kitchen knife? That is what was at hand, literally. If your partner was being attacked with a machete, you wouldn’t grab the closest thing and fight to defend him or her? These are full time cruisers, not inexperienced in island life, the goods and the bads, and prepared as best as they could against the unexpected. Of course these are random attacks and not at all the norm, thankfully, but until you’ve been in the situation, saying what you would or would not do seems a bit of grandstand thinking to me.

  11. Hi Mike I’m glad it isn’t you guys that were involved. Do cruisers usually have their own protections (weapons) or is that usually a no-no? I’ve never owned a gun. But it seems like there is great opportunity for those that would like to take advantage of “stray” sailors (couples).

  12. Heading to that exact spot later next week had me starting to worry but one has to remember that this is not the norm and that one must always be aware of what is going on around them. Also it seems these guys have been apprehended so that might take care of it for the foreseeable future – one hopes anyway.

    I have been looking forward to taking this trip for many years and now that it is happening, I am not going to let this spoil it for me. And I trust Capt. Rick will take good care of me. 🙂

  13. Hate to hear this happening again. When we were down there years ago. St. Vincent was a trouble spot then. Think it was Wallilebu (sp) Bay. Yachtsman was actually killed. Others threatened and robbed and hurt. Other bays, locals would come out and say, don’t worry, safe here. St. Vincent just seems to explode or implode now and again and when it does, it’s bad. Never comfortable there.

  14. Well, the incident in Bloody Bay did occur on the island of Tobago – which you say is “not to be confused with the Tobago Cays”. However, I’m personally aware of Allan and Kate aboard Mendicino Queen – and they were subjected also to armed robbery in the Tobago Cays in July 2011. It was a vicious armed attack (the robbers had guns) and took place late at night when Allan and Kate were sleeping aboard their boat, and yes, it was the Tobago Cays. Maybe you should be cutting this area from your list of favourite anchorages as well? Unfortunately, if you stay in the Eastern Caribbean long enough, you become aware of incidents like this that happen on every island, in every anchorage. We’ve had enough of the Eastern Caribbean and are finally moving West this Fall.

    • You are reading into the comment that which is not there. I said that it is not St. Vincent and the Grenadines because some people wrongly assume that that is the only area where crimes occur, and I just got through speaking of another island in SVG. Also, look at the Noonsite link to Ian’s attack. Even that URL says St.Vincent and the Grenadines!

      And yes, there are a few spots which are on OUR do not visit list.

  15. Also an added note, back then, say in 70’s and 80’s Donald Street’s wife was killed I believe in Grenada. He’s the one who wrote all those first Cruising Guides for the Caribbean and all those wonderful charts. Well, well known thruout the Caribbean and cruisers worldwide. Seems like a few bad eggs just pop up again and when they do, it’s terrible. Be careful out there. All the more reason for a weapon on board and flare guns. But be prepared to use them.

    • The gun, no-gun debate will rage on forever. I know of NO cruiser, not a single one, who has a gun on board down here or if they do, they certainly don’t advertise it.

  16. At least Mike and Rebecca are martial artists with the warriors instincts. For mere mortals such attacks have the added danger of panic. I hope whoever is responsible gets caught… Machetes to the face are not the act of a desperate person. That’s the act of a thug.

  17. I can remember a certain Jamaican who was responsible for missing dinghy’s who (rumour only) was feeding fishes with 5 meters chain round his legs , in the vicinity of SXM
    If the perp is related to the local governer or drug lord, not much happens, but if its a punk, the local community will take action.
    Thanks for the update

  18. My Friends a 10 gauge Flare Gun would go a long way! Wishing you all the best!

    • Not unless it was sitting in his hand at the time of the incident, which it would not have been. Also, shooting a flare guy INSIDE a boat would rank right up there on the BAD IDEA list.

  19. Such a sad thing to hear! Glad that they’re okay, and that the thugs have been captured. It seems that no place is guaranteed safe, so may as well continue living the dream.

    • Hi all
      Just wanted to let you know that we were in Union and then the Cays the day after this happened without any trouble – in fact the reverse
      The locals were really upset and worried by this horrible and random attack and concerned they would all be thought of in the same way
      The attackers who were 14/15 years were in custody within 2 days but apparently these lads were known to be trouble – and sadly you can get bad lads anywhere in the world
      The islands and the people generally are beautiful and hospitable so please remember that but just be a little more aware and cautious
      We are holidaying here visiting friends who are cruisers and we would definitely go back to Union

      • The locals SHOULD be concerned. One incident like this can kill their tourism. It won’t stop us from visiting but many others are considerably more easily influenced.

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