Skipper and crew injured as 16 shots exchanged

A British-registered yacht has been attacked by gunmen off the coast of Venezuela. Dave Jones, sailing a Fisher 37, Navarna III reports on, the website for cruising yachtsmen, that on Saturday April 7 he was ‘motoring along the Venezuelan coast just past Tres Puntos, [when] I noticed a penero coming up astern about a mile away. Looking through binoculars I saw 4 men armed with AK47s and shotguns’.

He goes on to say that 16 shots were fired and that he and one of his crew were injured in the attack. He feels that crusing Venezuela is now ‘out of control’ and that ‘lawlessness is rife’.

He says: ‘I headed north out to open sea at full speed. They came up on my starboard quarter and shot out the aft window in the wheelhouse. A piece of glass hit my crew member in the neck and I told her to get below. I was not going to stop, they were trying to kill us I have no doubt about that.

‘They fired 16 shots to the hull and wheelhouse shooting most of the windows out. I sustained a head and shoulder wound.

‘I returned fire with the only weapon I had, a large older flare gun, which I fired at the pirates at close range (about 30 feet) on my port quarter. I headed into the swells at full speed so my vessel was almost bouncing off the waves making it difficult for them to board, plus the added threat of them being lit up by a flare.

‘Eventually after realizing they wouldn’t be able to board me in the fading light they broke off the attack. These men, or at least two of them, had military training by the nature of their shooting.

‘After my experience I would carry a firearm in future. I’ve read and heard all the advice from the armchair Rambos – smoke screens, pepper spray etc., Once these thugs are on board you have no chance. Keep them at bay with a few shots and I’m sure they will break off their attack as they did with me.

‘(I feel that) cruising Venezuela now is out of control. There is no law enforcement anywhere in these waters, even if you do raise the coastguard or Guardia national they are not interested and most people think they are in cahoots with the pirates after you’ve checked out. I actually live and work in Venezuela and have travelled along the coast of Paria more then a dozen times, but in recent years there have been reports of serious aggrevated attacks on cruisers.

‘This attack on me was more like a terrorist attack. No warning shot in the air, just one through the wheelhouse window and then when I didn’t stop, it was a full on shooting of the boat. I have five bullets to the hull at the waterline, and the rest to the wheelhouse and windows. I called the Trinidad coastguard who monitored my progress but no assistance was given by any coastguard or military agency. The Trinidad coastguard did come to my assistance once I was in the Boca at Trinidad.

‘Lawlessness is rife in Venezuela now, a great pity as most of the people are warm and friendly. After 20 years cruising these waters it’s time to move on.’

For the full report.