Safety & Security Q&A

Is the Caribbean safe for cruising? Here's what Caribbean Compass' readers say


I have a question regarding safety while cruising. Our dream has for the last almost 20 years was to retire early and go cruising to the Caribbean aboard our 41 ft ketch.

But now, as that time is quickly approaching, I’m beginning to be afraid of the safety issues. It seems there is an increasing number of reported incidents against cruisers, whether petty theft or worse. Enough to make us wonder if going cruising is now safe.

To all of you who are living the life we are dreaming of, is it safe? Is personal safety in the Caribbean worse than cities here in the US? Am I being silly or ??? Any input would be appreciated!


Caribbean Compass - June 2010

We asked Sally Erdle, editor of the cruising newspaper “Caribbean Compass” to reply:

Dear Karen, I’d advise you not to give up your dream.

Yes, there are security issues in the Caribbean, as there are everywhere.

But recent input from active cruisers in the Caribbean might be enlightening:

Melodye Pompa of the “Caribbean Safety and Security Net” wrote in the January 2010 issue of Caribbean Compass:

Be wary of believing every blog you read on the Internet.

The downside of having such an extensive information tool is that everyone and his brother can post, claiming to have the final word on the facts.

Without specific information, various press media have published wild speculations about the dangers of cruising, including in their dire warnings about incidents that occurred ten or 20 years ago. There are now MORE rumors among the cruising community about crime than prior to the birth of the Security Net — change is not always progress!

The website includes a long list of safety tips accumulated throughout the nearly 14 years of the Net’s existence.

It is not difficult to take the necessary steps to avoid becoming the victim of a crime against yachts. There are, of course, no guarantees, but there are no guarantees in the life we choose to lead. There are, however, smart practices which can prevent petty to serious problems.

And here are excerpts from letters which are published in the June 2010 issue of Compass:

I am appalled at the wrong impression about the security situation in Chaguaramas, Trinidad that is being presented in articles put out by the media. My wife and I have lived on a boat in Chaguaramas for the past 11 years and have never felt that our personal safety was threatened.

Having enjoyed another wonderful cruising season from Grenada to Antigua, back to Grenada and in between, I felt I had to write to you about something that happened on our return to Canada.

One of the complaints most heard “down south” is about security issues, as if nothing happens anywhere else in the world.

After flying into Toronto we went to our son in Kingston, Ontario. He has a part share of a boat there and we arrived in time for launch weekend. On the Saturday we went to help with the clean-up on the boat. Being a small boat its propulsion, apart from sails, is by a small outboard engine. This we noted was locked in place. Early the Sunday morning we returned to the marina for launch to find a very distraught owner — the outboard had been stolen! Twelve engines and several dinghies on a trailer had gone.

So cruisers, just remember, it can happen anywhere…

It really amazes me when cruisers talk about all the crime in the Caribbean.

I don’t believe there is any more crime here than any other place in the world — there are just so many more opportunities.

When ashore, I live in a very nice home in a very nice neighborhood in the US. We have very little crime and feel secure in our house. But every night, we lock the doors, secure the windows and make sure lawnmowers, bicycles, etcetera, have been put away and locked up before we go to bed.

Why is it that cruisers who come to the Caribbean act differently? I am shocked at the stories I read in your paper, not by the acts of thievery, but in the ways that cruisers tempt would-be thieves and give them golden opportunities. Cruisers leave their hatches and companionways wide open and then go to sleep. Their decks are so cluttered with stuff, the boat looks like a floating Budget Marine store.

Ask yourself, would you really go to bed with your front door wide open back home, and leave a bunch of your belongings on the front yard by the street?

Hope this helps!


About Sally Erdle

Sally ErdleSally Erdle circumnavigated Bequia-to-Bequia with her husband, Tom Hopman, and their cat from 1989 to 1994 aboard their 1963 vintage Rhodes 41 double-headsail sloop, So Long, before settling back in the Caribbean to start the cruising newspaper Caribbean Compass in 1995.

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2 comments to Is the Caribbean safe for cruising? Here’s what Caribbean Compass’ readers say

  • Cheryl Baker

    I have been cruising aboard Caribee with my husband Randy in the Caribbean for 16 years. In all that time, we’ve only had one security issue; our little 2 hsp. dinghy motor was stolen in Guatemala – we had left in unlocked. Karen and Melodye are correct; with precautions, you should be able to cruise extensively and safely. We are usually on our boat after dark with the dinghy locked or raised to prevent theft in an area where problems have been reported. As you travel, listen to the cruisers around you to see what the situation is when you arrive. Stay up on current events and listen to local nets. But remember why you came; the Carribean is one of the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world. We are now in the Pacific but will never forget the beautiful anchorages and many wonderful islands of the Caribbean. Enjoy it with gusto mixed with prudent caution and it will bring you many fantastic memories to cherish for a lifetime!

  • I’ve spent almost ten of my cruising years in the Caribbean and in that time the only theft I personally experienced was losing some snorkel gear that we had carelessly left propped against the lifelines while in a St Lucia marina with guests aboard. Who knows who took it – someone in the marina or a local….

    Many years ago our boat was boarded once — in Portland, Maine, USA, we were tied up to a dock and I think a drunk thought it looked an appealing place to sleep it off. When he saw we were aboard, he fled. So crime can happen anywhere.

    In general I have felt quite safe in the Caribbean, but there ARE places that I personally would not sail now. For example, I have spent quite a lot of time in Venezeuela, but I wouldn’t cruise there now. The risks are just too high. There have been quite a few violent crimes there and I see absolutely no reason to risk my life there. There are other ports that I would avoid, eg some St Vincent ports, because I have heard of thefts and boardings there.

    The important thing is to get good information before visiting an area. Much of the Caribbean is quite safe, but I think it’s very important to get information on the specific areas before you visit. Fortunately we do have good information: the Caribbean Compass, the Caribbean Safety and Security Net, Noonsite. The Caribbean Safety and Security net comes on right before the weather on SSB. I don’t listen to it every day by any means, but if I am going to a new area, I might get on and ask if there have been any problems in the area I am thinking of visiting. And if we don’t like what we hear, we choose another destination.

    Of course, there are things that we do in almost every port to deter theft: lock the boat when we leave it, lock the dinghy and outboard, carry our money ashore in a money belt, etc.

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Caribbean, and wouldn’t hesitate to head that way again. But just as there are dangerous areas of many US cities, there are certainly dangerous areas in the Caribbean, and I choose not to cruise them. There are too many other wonderful places in the Caribbean! Enjoy! Go cruising!

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