Not one for negative posts but recently there have been far too many violent crimes against cruisers in the Caribbean Islands and certain islands are becoming no-go areas for yachts here.
We have had first hand accounts on two occasions, of issues in Vieux Fort in the south of St Lucia. The bay is close to the airport, so ideal for picking up guests and saving the 50 GBP taxi fare from Rodney Bay, which is in the north west. It is also has a Customs and Immigration office for clearing out of the country. On one occasion, our friend Howard went ashore to clear out and was threatened at knife point. On another, friends had decided to anchor there and tour the island for the day, with family who had just arrived. On their return, the entire boat had been stripped of all valuables and food, using the guest’s luggage to remove it. Last week, however, a cruiser lost his life there, trying to defend his wife. Their dream of sailing around the world was cut short in the most awful circumstances.
Last autumn, in Union Island, a couple who are friends of friends, had had a lovely day snorkelling, followed by a nice evening on the boat. Suddenly at 2030 their boat was boarded and without any provocation or warning, a 15 year old youth cut the lady across the face and shoulder with a machete. Her husband knifed one of the intruders and managed to sail an hour to the next island to get medical assistance. In the dark some of the coasts are very dangerous but it was still their best bet.
We met a fellow cruiser only today, who dinghied over and introduced himself as having read our blog since 2011 and he had just sailed into Bequia after doing the ARC last year. He told us he felt unsafe in St Lucia, there were a lot of hassles, people being threatened and beaten up for money and he wouldn’t be keen to return.
All this is very tragic, not only for the cruisers involved but for the wider sailing community and the islands themselves. Word gets around fast and the lost of income can badly affect the businesses in those islands. The way in which Dominica and Colombia have turned their story around though, gives hope that the governments of St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines can do the same. Drugs, unemployment and poverty are a nasty mix and people with boats are seen as ‘rich’ and easy targets. UK boats are known not to carry firearms, another disadvantage.
So, not all is perfect in ‘Paradise’ I’m sad to say. We remain vigilant, despite not having had any issues but continue to be optimistic and find the good guys and places wherever we go. So far, we have been lucky too, we know that.