Friday, December 17, 2010

Lions and tigers and PIRATES, oh my!

We're off to see the Wizard!
Pirates.  This subject comes up a LOT.  It seems to be what everyone wants to know about and I don't think we have met a single non-cruiser* who has not broached this topic.  The question that follows is inevitably, "do you carry a gun?!" after which they launch into a monologue of how they would carry a gun and how foolish it is for us not too.  Although we appreciate people's concern and their healthy "shoot 'em up" attitudes - we find that more often than not, these folks are a little ignorant on the subject.

Scott and I have actually sat up nights trying to figure out ways to nip this conversation in the bud the moment it comes up.  We're thinking saying something like, "Sure, we'll talk about guns and pirates - just after we discuss politics, religion, and gays in the military!**"  We think that might drive the point home.

Yes, there are pirates.  Yes, they take boats.  Yes, they take some sail boats.  Yes, they have held cruisers captive for ransom.  But do you know the odds of this happening?  I'm no accountant, but I have to guess that getting struck by lightning is more likely***.  In addition, the term "pirate" is giving these people way too much credit.  They are petty thieves.  They are low-lives.  They are robbers.  Jack Sparrow, they are not.  More often than not - they're looking for the container ships and mega-yachts who actually have some substantial coinage behind them.****  Cruisers (like us) aren't usually famed for their riches.  We live in a floating RV for god's sake.

Let me paint you another picture...It's June and your are looking to go on vacation.  You want to experience the thrills of a big city.  Chicago, naturally, tops your list.  A beautiful place, full of great restaurants, fabulous museums, a gorgeous waterfront and all sorts of other activities and amenities attractive to vacationers.  It's clean, it's fun, and it's one of the best places on earth in the summertime.


It also boasts a murder rate of 29 per 100,000 people and theft?  Don't even get me started. Are you not going to vacation in Chicago because there is a slim chance you might get "offed" or robbed?  I sincerely hope not.  Furthermore, do you go out and buy a gun to protect yourself just in case*****?  No, you do not.  You stay in safe areas and travel wisely.  Just like Scott and I.  We are not going to scrap our trip and this opportunity to visit all the magical places we can in this world because of 'pirate' threats.

I don't mean to sound cavalier, because I am not.  We've read, and continue to read, quite a bit on the subject and try our best to remain informed.  Piracy is a real threat and one we will take seriously.  We will avoid places that are 'hot spots' and will proceed with caution wherever we are.  Will our dinghy and/or dinghy motor get stolen?  Perhaps.  Might we be pick-pocketed while shopping a local market? Maybe.  Will we be held ransom by Somalians yielding semi-automatic weapons?  Not likely.

Imagine if Dorothy had let her fears of lions and tigers and bears hold her back on her journey to Oz - she would have never met the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion and she would never have had the adventure of a lifetime.

That said, we're off to see the Wizard!

Brittany & Scott

* I specify 'non-cruiser' because I don't think this subject has ever come up with another cruiser.
** For the record, we are 100% for equal HUMAN rights.
*** If you want to learn more about piracy in today's world or actually crunch numbers and come up with the odds, I suggest you go to this site.
**** Did you know that even container ships don't do too much to thwart pirates?  It's actually cheaper to pay the ransom in most cases!
***** Lots of cruisers do carry guns, and we have no problem with their guns.  We just don't want them on our boat. I don't want this to turn into an NRA debate. We do however, have some nasty bear spray.


Al said...

I was one of "those" that asked the question - thanks for answering and, you got it right!

Brett Anderson said...

Awesome post! I feel the same way about everything you said. Furthermore, should you carry a gun and end up using it in some place like the Rio Dulce in Guatamala where there have been many thievery incidents, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the local judicial system for murdering a local. I venture to guess that third world prisons are not good places to bide your time while waiting for your trial for being the rich American who killed the poor local villager who was just coming to your yacht to "borrow some medicine".

Billy Bob said...

If I were you, I would get a .50 CAL Machine gun mounted to the bow and fire it anyone that looked at me the wrong way. BANG BANG.

Serah said...

We're members of the Bluewater Cruising Association up here in Vancouver, BC. This is a group of mostly seasoned "doners", some "doers" and a group of "dreamers" (i.e. us!) A few months ago, they hosted a talk on piracy. A French fellow who had just been through the Gulf of Aden (piracy hot spot, as I'm sure you know) described the convoys they set up, armed vs. not, areas of concern, insurance concerns (we'll be going without, so no matter) and anything else we could ask about. A great talk, and seemed to quell many of the worries of the (large) crowd in attendance.

Not one person in the room, with thousands upon thousands of miles under their keels had ever had an incident any more serious that petty thieves boarding their vessels in marinas in developing countries, all of which were easily deterred.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that odds of being the victim of a violent assault in our own (relatively peaceful) Canadian metropolis is HIGHER than the risk of being victim to piracy on the Seven Seas.

As for the guns, all philosophical grounds aside, it is unlikely that we will be carrying any with us. The added hassle of bringing them in and out of port in a foreign country is just too onerous. You often have to leave from the same port you entered, and for a country such as Australia, that would be nearly unworkable.

Enjoying your travels!

Neophyte Cruiser said...

I'm often ambivalent about trying to assuage others fears about pirates and safety while cruising abroad. It's too bad so many people fall prey to the sensationalized news reports; on the other hand, it would be far more crowded if people knew how safe it really is. Good sailing and have fun!

Lisa said...

Yours is a serious and thoughtful answer to the question. Our answer has always been "Are you kidding? We would probably shoot a hole in the boat!"

Last Paradise said...

Nice one! We kept pepper spray (police grade) in 2 places, in quick release hooks. one under the chart table and the other next to my side of the bunk. Also, on those 'questionable' passages/places we had our flare gun in the chart table ready- those puppies can pack a punch I'm told! Our trick was to be aware of our surroundings always. Cheers! said...

There are no state-wide permits, only local permits? The permit is only good in that particular town and would be illegal elsewhere. Anyone selling such a weapon must notify the chief of police with that information within 24 hours of the delivery at

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