One of the most frequent questions I get is, “Are you afraid of pirates?” or “I’d be worried about pirates, aren’t you?” Piracy is defined as the act of attacking or robbing ships at sea. So, what I think I’m being asked is aren’t you afraid of someone attacking you or trying to steal your boat? The short answer is yes and no.
Generally speaking, I’m no more worried about that, than I am someone breaking into my house right now. Do I lock my door at night, yes. Not that I have much in the way of personal possessions anymore, but I don’t run around advertising everything I have that is of value. Of course, in my neighborhood, I have houses to the left and right of me, across the street, next to my backyard. Like any city, I have people all around me. Not every anchorage will be empty, but you can bet we are going to be looking for empty anchorages, not because of safety but because of solitude.
Even in anchorages where there are people, where plenty of other boats are around, I don’t know that I’m too worried. In my short experience in the San Juan Islands, people kept to themselves for the most part. As we expand our travels, there are places that cruisers say, “Make sure your outboard is secured before you wander on shore.” Take some basic precautions to protect your belongings and generally, I think you’ll be ok.
When you cross an ocean, generally you’re not going to be running into a lot of other boats, though you will see some, because most people use the same general routes at given times of year. Piracy there is not as big a concern.
When does piracy become a concern then? Believe it or not, there’s a map of the world that tracks real time incidents of piracy as they are reported. Most of these are commercial vessels; that’s where the money is after all. But using that map, plus a couple of other resources for cruisers, there are parts of the world that you get an idea of avoiding or if you can’t avoid them, being more cautious. Parts of the western Caribbean, the Horn of Africa, even a few places along the west coast of Africa. Some of the southern portions of Philippine Sea are also notable for piracy. We will try to avoid those areas. When we can’t, there are precautions you can take.
Some folks will turn off their AIS system, which broadcasts the location of your boat. Turn off your running lights at night. Keep an extra set of eyes on the horizon and give other ships a wide berth if possible. Sailing Nahoa, SV/Delos, and others have done videos about some of the protective measures they take in case of an actual boarding.
I’ve had many suggest that firearms are a must for this adventure because of piracy. The reality of this is though that that’s not really practical. Laws on that matter vary greatly from country to country and you really don’t want to be considered a smuggler. But there are other things on board that can be used for defense, if need be.
I recognize that piracy is real, but generally speaking from everything I’ve seen and read, the boating community is pretty supportive of each other. Honestly, I’m a little more worried about rogue wave than I am piracy, does that mean I will be cavalier and not keep a close eye out if we decide we are going to hit the Horn of Africa, no. But that’s maybe an area we will avoid because if you look at international piracy maps, that’s a high risk area.
Being cautious is important, there’s no doubt about it. But at the same time, I don’t want to let caution turn into a fear of something that isn’t that high a probability.
Leave a Reply