6 Ways to Stay Safe Ashore

30 January 2009 By Rubi McGrory

As the yachting world is still reeling after the killing of the captain in Antigua, it’s time to take a step back and look at how to increase our level of safety wherever we go ashore.

As professional travelers, we are guests wherever we go, even if it feels like we have the run of the place. In many areas, we create an enormous disparity in wealth simply by showing up in our multimillion-dollar recreational vessel. Many communities welcome yachties as bringing in capital, but some see our presence as mere exploitation.

The greatest weapon we have against violence is neither our fists nor our firearms, but our brains, and it is imperative that we engage them. Here are six tips for staying safer in port:

1. Although we may have come a long way toward equality, ladies, the fact that we are targeted for crime has not changed. Many cultures view gender very differently than those from the western world, and do not take kindly towards western women’s attitudes. Remember the buddy system? Use it—preferably with a male.

2. Even if it simply involves taking out the trash in the marina after dinner, don’t go alone (there is probably a foolish crewmember who will gladly escape to sneak a smoke). If you are provisioning in a new place or one where you don’t speak the language, insist that your captain send another crewmember with you, even if take a taxi.

3. When going out at night, ditch the handbag or backpack. I know this is difficult, but after a few drinks, you are making yourself and that beautiful Prada clutch nothing more than a target. Plus, what do you really need other than a small amount of cash and an ID?

4. Fitness junkies of either gender, you aren’t as immune as you think. It isn’t just you, your iPod and the open road; a crafty perp could be following you. What about that sunrise yoga session on the beach? After two days in the same secluded (or so you thought) spot, you have established a routine, and one which someone may try to exploit.

5. Capt. W asserts, “The best intentions are clouded by alcohol.” He warns of predators lurking in bars, nightclubs and parking lots laying in wait for unsuspecting yacht crew to make a bad day-off decision. “I had two crew members who insisted on being paid in cash. They carried that money along with their camera in a backpack,” he said. “After a day at the beach, they stopped in for a few drinks at Sunset Beach Bar and left their backpack in the car. They didn’t notice until the next morning that it was gone, that they had no funds to show for the previous month’s very hard work. Sadly, a few smarts would have avoided the whole thing.”

6. ATMs are a common crime scene. If at all possible, don’t wait until 11 p.m. after a few drinks to withdraw your spending money. You may not always have the chance to get off the boat during the day to do your banking, but when you do, be aware of where you are and who might be around you.

You don’t need to be paranoid, but a little vigilance will go a long way in keeping yourself and your fellow crewmembers safe. Some bad situations, as we’ve been reminded recently, can’t be avoided, but as a community we can send out a message that we are smart and have each other’s back.