Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pirates of Caribbean - Bequia Style

Okay not "Pirates" but a standard snatch and grab thief with a Caribbean twist.

There are no pics.....with good camera got stolen.  

Here is what happened-
When returning home Friday night (of the Bequia Music Fest- Jan 22, 2106) a man suddenly appeared behind me on the dinghy dock and grabbed my shoulder bag.  I carry a small waterproof bag as my purse.  It was around my neck and thus across my chest so it didn't come off easily.  He cut the strap with a machete and ran off down the beach in the dark.

We were NOT hurt!  Repeat NOT hurt in anyway.  We quickly got the dinghy unlocked and headed to our boat.  I immediately confirmed what was and wasn't in the bag.  Luckily, I left my wallet behind on the boat.  Because the bag is small, I also left behind several other items I normally carry ashore.  In the bag were my camera, cheap reading glasses, package of tissues ( for TP), a pen, our boat cards (like business cards), and red and green dinghy lights.  That was it.  NO personal documents like DL or passports.  NO credit cardsNO money.  Then we sat stunned as what just happened sunk in.

The response - police, cruisers, locals - 

The next morning I reported it on the morning VHF radio net.  We also let a long term cruiser named Art know.  He has been in Bequia for years and is anchored near us.  He knows many locals and has the inside skinny on stuff.

We then went to the local police station to report it.  We don't think anything will come of it but we reported it anyway.  This was interesting.  It was like stepping way back in time.  They took a report from each of us.  It was written out long hand on a piece of notebook paper and then I signed it.  No computers in sight,  There were many big ledgers laying around - logbooks I guess.  One crazy thing is that if we want an official copy of the police report, we need to wait one week and then take the ferry from Bequia over to St Vincent, find our way to the main police station and PAY $100 EC to get a copy of the report we just filed!  Because so little was stolen of value, we will not be jumping through those hoops.  We asked the police to copy the Coast Guard.  Art had told us to do this.  By coast guard, it's really just three guys cruising around in a wooden motor boat that says Coast Guard but they are official.

Next we went to the Bequia Tourist Office to let them know.  Another local told us to do this.  We had been in there a couple of different times and so now the girl knows us.  The music fest guy Wilfred came in while we were there and we told him.  Both were very upset this happened to us.

When we were returning to the boat after all of this, Art waved us over.  He said the Rasta guy at the end of the beach found my bag.  Of course the camera is gone.  We went back to the boat because we had meat we bought that needed to go in the fridge.  Then we had a bite to eat.  Our plan was to go get my bag after lunch.  The coast guard arrived to tell us what Art had already told us that the Rasta guy had my bag.  "But there is a procedure.  I must get the bag and take it to the station.  There is a process.  Then you can come and get it.  One hour.  You can come in one hour and get it."  He said he was sorry this happened and gave us an update on his patrolling actions out in the anchorage.  It was nice of him.

Almost two hours later we arrived back at the police station.  The man that took my report said "Um.....can you come back......say at 5pm?"  Sigh!  I had serious doubts that I could even get it at 5 so I told him we would come back Monday morning.  I didn't think they would be open on Sunday.  He said everything was all in the bag expect for the camera and cheap reading glasses.

We went back to the boat and went swimming to wash off all that had happened.  We were in a funk most of the morning of course.  The swim helped.  We determined to put it behind us.  We were not hurt.

Than came the outpouring from the cruising community.  Several dinghied by to check on us and say so sorry.  We went on to the afternoon music fest.  We arrived to many hugs.   Pat on sv Illusions rushed me saying "You need a big hug" and then he put me in a bear hug.  Even cruisers we don't know gave their support.

Monday morning we went and got the bag back at the Bequia police station.  The inspector that gave it back to me wanted to know if I had filed an application so I could go to St Vincent and get the police report (MY police report).  I said firmly "NO. We will not be doing.  It is absolutely ridiculous that we should have to do that just to get a report."  He seemed surprised.   

The Caribbean twist - 
Yes, guy with a machete is scary.  However, you need to understand that machetes are very common in the islands.  Everyone has one, including little old grandmas.  It's a historic item from sugar cane days but also used now to cut down coconuts and cut them open as well as breadfruit, papaya, bananas, ect...  It is sort of the Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman of the Caribbean.  It is not uncommon to see someone walking down the street with a big machete.
What now -

By this point, we had decided that even though it was a bad situation, we really are lucky.  First, we were not hurt.  Second it was only a camera.  And, I am pretty good at downloading pics to the laptop, so I only lost two nights of music fest pics.

While this shook us up, Tom and I have talked through the incident several times.  We are pretty diligent about our security and situational awareness.  We will continue to do so at a new, higher level.

We will continue to sail and explore.  These islands are no different than the rest of the world, things happen.  But for the most part, 99% of the people are good.  Several years back I had my purse and laptop stolen out of my car in KC.  That was way worse than this in terms of canceling credit cards, getting new ones, etc,  at least we didn't have to deal with that.  We stay alert and informed using technology and fellow cruisers and make decisions based on that information.

One interesting side effect -  
I wanted to go and thank the Rasta guy that found my bag but I kept putting it off.  I couldn't figure out why and then I finally realized, I didn't want to go to that dinghy dock and beach where it happened.  I just couldn't seem to bring myself to go back on Princess Margaret Beach, even in the day time.  I explained to Art and asked if he would pass on my gratitude and he said he would. 

So there is our Pirates of the Caribbean tale.  

1 comment:

  1. SO glad you were not harmed and that only a camera was taken (and replaceable glasses). It could have been SO much worse. You are right, this could happen anywhere.