How safe is it to sail around the world and what precautions do you need to take? We asked bluewater sailors who have cruised areas including the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean how safe they felt living aboard. Reassuringly, none reported what they considered to be any serious incidents. They also shared tips on how they had improved security afloat.
The most fundamental decision every sailor said they made to reduce risk was in their choice of route. Besides keeping abreast of the political climate and other risks in the local press and on Foreign Office websites, Noonsite (noonsite.com) publishes reports of issues affecting cruising sailors by region, with a page dedicated to piracy and security incidents.
The Caribbean Safety and Security Net (CSSN – safetyandsecuritynet.org) also publishes reports made by yachtsmen of incidents in the Caribbean, including the many thefts from unsecured yachts or dinghies.
Sue Richards, editor of Noonsite, says: “Cruisers need to have their wits about them and research in advance the reputation a place has so they can prepare where to anchor/moor, where to go and how to behave once they get there. Twenty years ago, your average cruiser was pretty low profile. Nowadays, there are many more out there doing it, on high-value boats with flashy kit. Consequently, they are a hot target.”
Stuart Letton, who has sailed his Island Packet 45, Time Bandit, from Scotland to the southern hemisphere, says he trusts his instincts when choosing a Caribbean anchorage. “We’ve never had any problems but we have steered clear of some of the bays in St Lucia. St Vincent I’d never stop in an open bay again; a very unpleasant vibe. I have to say, it’s one reason we’ve really enjoyed the Pacific – the Caribbean without the hassle.”
While volunteering for the Sea Mercy charity on his 47ft catamaran Shine of Exeter, Paul Whetter has visited remote and povertystricken regions but says they have felt safe on board. “In our three years cruising I can honestly say we never had any concerns. We travelled the well-trodden path from the Med to Australia and were probably more cautious in the Caribbean than anywhere else and avoided Venezuela on purpose.