Last night, while we were enjoying post dinner laughs and conversation with our friends in our cockpit, two fellow cruisers were being brutally attacked in the anchorage next to us. According to reports, the boat s/v Rainbow was boarded by two men wielding machetes around 8:40pm. Both crew members, a husband and wife, were badly injured and received lacerations during the skirmish and, after fighting off the thieves, both are now safe and the woman is receiving medical care in Grenada.
While "pirate" attacks have certainly been occurring in this area of the world for quite some time, this particular assault was a little closer than we have ever been to something like this. In fact, around 9:15 pm a boat ghosted into our anchorage. They called on the radio, asking for "the American boat anchored in Ashton harbor at Frigate Island". Scott answered their call, thinking that maybe they were referring to us and were just confused as to what anchorage they were in. They replied that they left Frigate Island after hearing screams. Before leaving, they tried calling the neighboring boat several times on the radio to see if they needed help and after getting no reply, they figured it was a domestic dispute that had gone awry and decided to leave the anchorage to avoid listening to fighting all night. It is horrible to think that what was happening was far from a domestic dispute. It's even more horrible to think that as we were laughing and talking in our cockpit with our friends, there were two fellow cruisers fighting for their lives three miles away.
While there are many arguments that state how this sort of thing happens anywhere (and it does) and that we shouldn't let "fear" rule our lives (and we shouldn't), the fact remains that this particular cluster of Islands - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - has, in recent history, been on many cruiser's radars as being a place where crime against boaters is undeniably on the rise. Because of this, these islands have very quickly gotten a reputation as being a place to avoid all together which is a definite lose/lose situation for all involved - yet another example of how a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. Unfortunately, the "bunch" we're talking about is the tourism industry that so many of these islanders rely on for their livelihoods and cruisers who will chose to skip this lovely island chain, a true gem of the southern Caribbean, because of these "bad apples". While we have no plans to leave here based on this incident alone, it certainly has us thinking. Yes, we are traveling with a buddy boat, and yes, there is some safety in numbers - but we also have babies on board which makes us even more protective and safety conscious. I cannot even begin to imagine what we would do if faced with a similar situation, and I hope and pray we never have to. The sad truth is that no one is immune - not us, not anyone - and all we can do is make our own judgement calls based on the information we have and weigh the risks involved.
We - along with our friends - will be considering our options closely in regards to our next steps and we will most certainly be coming up with a plan of action should this sort of event happen to either of our boats. It is entirely possible that we will leave these beautiful islands much faster than we would have otherwise to sail for a place where violent crime is less of a threat. Crimes like these won't stop sailors from sailing to far off lands - we're a pretty tough bunch and we love our lifestyle - but what it will do is make us think twice and possibly avoid some of those beautiful lands all together.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark and Christina of s/v Rainbow.
Update: Not 24 hours after the incident, it has been reported that there are three suspects in custody. Major props to the Saint Vincent and Grenadine officials for acting incredibly fast and taking this incident very seriously.