Crime in the Med

Subtle  Crime

Incredible, flexible prices:  It is one thing to change prices to maximize the season.  The blackboard approach in a cafe in Bonifacio, Sardinia, illustrates the issue.  Prices rose in June, again in July, to a high in August, and then back to June’s prices for September.  For example, a one bedroom, one bath condo in Porto Rotondo, Sardinia, was advertised to rent for 1,000 € in June, 2,000 € in July, 3,200 € in August, and then 1,000 € again in September.

But Jackie has a real problem when she orders a cup of tea in Gibraltar to discover that it costs 3 £ ($6).  Or to order water in Ajaccio in a small cafe only to receive 8 ounces for 2.50 € ($3), the same as a 12 ounce can of Coca-Cola. No matter how hard she tried, she was always suckered into paying more than she thought or wanted, at least once per port.

Police Sting:  And then there was the evening in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, where Chris noticed several reconnaissance planes flying overhead as the megayachts were docking in a frenzy.  All of a sudden several police boats roared into the harbor and secured positions around the megayacht area.

It did not take much imagination to understand that this was some kind of a sting operation as the helicopters rotated above and the police motorboats circled below.

After a while, they all left in a flurry.  We never did find out if they got their man or if some king of some country on one of the megayachts complained and the Italian government told the police to leave!

Thief from Other Cruisers:  Another American sailboat preceded us to anchor in the inner harbor at Andratx, Spain, during a significant blow causing major swells in the outer harbor. 

While anchoring, they engaged a Dutch boat’s anchor and in the process of disengaging the two, the hysterical owner of the Dutch boat jumped onto the American boat, took control of the wheel and then rammed his own boat. 

Later the Dutch owner demanded 1,500 € ($1,800) to “satisfy” any legal claim he might have to restore the damage to his hull.  A quandary.  The American owner decided that it was safer to pay him and leave Andratx in good conscience without fear of retaliation than to spend his summer dealing with the Dutch owner.  What would you do if someone jumped on your boat and wrestled the wheel from your hands?

Inadequate workmanship:  It’s a real problem to hire unknown workers aboard.  Not only is there a language barrier, but they know that you will sail away, most likely never to return.  The incentive to render quality service as a craftsman to a transient yachtie is sometimes slim. 

We encountered this problem in Almerimar when we left our boat on the hard during the month of May and asked the yard to redo out antifouling. Yard rules did not allow cruisers to work on their own boat while it was on the hard.  Also the paint we chose, Micron 66, required “professional application.”  Imagine our surprise two weeks after we left the port when we discovered that the paint was peeling off.  Seems like the workmen did not prep the hull before applying the paint because “it was not on the work order.”  No one would accept responsibility for the bad job.

In a more serious vein, Anne and Olivier Lay aboard Rama discovered that their life raft container was empty after they had sailed for two years in the South Pacific.  Seems like the outfit that repacked the container before their trip was a little richer than they were entitled to be.

Overcharging for services:  We met an American boat in Olbia, Sardinia, who were charged 600 € ($720) to have their holding tank pumped out after a transcarrier passage from Florida. Luckily all they had was 200 € which the vendor accepted as full payment.


Not So Subtle Crime

Thief in the Night:  In early September, 2004, we chose Bonifacio, Corsica, a fabulous natural harbor supposedly described in Homer’s Odyssey, as the first harbor to dock for water and electricity in three months.  We med-moored bow-to and proceeded to drench the boat down with fresh, if somewhat chlorinated, water.  Our normal two hour wash down lasted over three hours and we were luck to have a good neighbor who ignored our over-spray in the 20 mph wind gusts. 

The captain of neighboring French sailboat warned us that a cat burglar had boarded and robbed his boat at 4 am the previous morning while everyone was sleeping.  The heist consisted of a woman’s purse with 600 euros, credit cards, address book, phone, etc, etc.  The Med is generally very safe and friendly, and theft had not been a concern to SHIBUMI as we have anchored outside of harbors for most of the summer. 

Nonplussed, we watered the boat down, loaded 450 gallons of water into the aft tanks while we sipped a little local wine, and dined across the quay at the “Kissing Pigs” restaurant.  We were so tired at the end of the night that we fell into bed at 10 pm … after Chris locked up the forward section and Jackie decided to pull down the vinyl curtains around the pilothouse.

Later Jackie awoke in the dark to the sound of a zipper opening.  Then she listened again, and sure enough, someone was unzipping the pilothouse curtains.  So Jackie poked Chris who sleeps on his only good ear and darted up to the pilothouse in her designer hospital scrubs to gaze into the eyes of the 20 year old male burglar standing outside … who decided to zip the curtain back up.  Good burglar.  He was more surprised than she, but he was right on time at 3:40 am.

In the meantime Chris turned on the spreader lights and stormed up to shoo him away.  The guy actually started a conversation in French to tell us not to make any noise because “he was trying to warn us about a robber in the area.”  Right!…after he walked on our boat without invitation in the middle of the night and unzipped the pilothouse curtains to access the boat.  Finally he left and walked down the quay.  The next morning, our French neighbor asked Chris to spend a couple of hours in the local pokey describing the fellow.  Pas de problem.  The gendarme was very efficient. 

If something like this happens again, we will activate all the alarms and sirens on board.  This time our intruder was by himself with no weapons, but who knows how aggressive others might be.  Another wake-up call.  Thank you to both our guardian angels.

Thief aboard other boats:  Other American friends aboard Onset were burglarized to the tune of a $5,000 insurance settlement.   Now they lock their boat every time they leave it. Even chain and cable locking dinghies ashore in Gibraltar is not effective according to Free Radical, who reports that at least two dinghies and outboards a week are disappearing from the cruising community. Chain cutters are in this year.

Thief from SHIBUMI:  And Gibraltar is the location where we have suffered our only loss since we arrived in the EU.  On our last run ashore during our transit into the Med, we discovered that our fish finder/depth sounder on our dinghy had been stripped off.  Unfortunately they did not take the sender so we have no idea what they will do with it.  We replaced the unit with an in dash depth sounder  to discourage the theft in the future.