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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    UK
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    886

    Default Another reminder to avoid Venezuelan coast

    There has been some confusion lately about what happened in recent incident where a German national was found in a liferaft after an attack off the Venezuelan coast.

    This report from Don at Powerboats in Trini seems to provide the definitive story, and once again serves as a reminder to stay well away from the peninsula of Paria if transiting the Venezuelan coast:

    I had a meeting with the Captain of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard
    yesterday and can now provide you and all yachting interests (through your
    network) with definitive information as regards the incident concerning the
    lady who was found drifting in a liftraft near the vicinity of Curacao.

    The name of the boat is "Spirit of Cologne II", home port Koln, Germany. It
    was attacked on Saturday 3rd April, one mile off the North coast of
    Venezuela along the Paria de Peninsula. The lady's name is Angelica
    Ropke-Wiels, German. During the attack her husband, Hans Jorgen Ropke was
    shot and killed. After the assailants left, Mrs Ropke stayed on the boat
    trying to sail in a northerly direction for four days. As all communication
    equipment was removed she could contact no one. She eventually abandoned
    the boat in favour of her liferaft and drifted away from the boat which was
    left floating and seemingly in good condition. She was picked up on 16th
    April 2010 at approx 10.35am by a merchant vessel at position 13 16 01N 67
    51 01W.

    The above information is taken directly from an official written dispatch
    dated 19 April 2010 sent to the T and T Coast Guard by "Coast Guard,
    Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Naval Base Perera, Willemstad, Curacao". It
    was also sent to several other Coast Guard Stations in the Caribbean,

    There is no information as to why the lady eventually abandoned the boat in
    favour of her liferaft or why she headed in a northerly direction after the
    attack. Incidentally, Spirit of Cologne II stayed with us at Power Boats in
    1997, and Hans Jorgen Ropke was indeed registered as the owner.

    I will leave it to you to disseminate this information as you see fit. I
    can confirm its authenticity as it was given to me directly by the Commander
    of our Coast Guard. As always, thanks for your concern and the huge
    assistance you give the cruising community in these matters.

    Donald Stollmeyer

    Power Boats ,

    Trinidad.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Emsworth Hants
    Posts
    10,758

    Default

    What a terrible thing to happen. I think part of the problem is that people stop passing close to the Paria Peninsula and thus there are no incident reports. Others arrive in the area and see no incidents and think it's safe. That certainly happened when we were in the area. There had been no incidents for nearly three years, then there were three or four.

    Other areas to avoid are the south coast of the Gulf of Cariaco, the islands off Margarita and the islands off and east of Puerto La Cruz. Much of the problem is that Columbian drugs are run along Venezuela. The roads stop at the Paria Peninsula and the drugs have to be transferred to boats. The areas they do this are noted above and they don't want witnesses.

    If you want to see the drug trade in action the number of empty pirogues leaving Chaguaramas, Trinidad at night with no fishing gear is amazing. If you are careful you can see drugs being taken ashore at the Chaguaramas fishing harbour. The coastguard and police do the occasional bust for show purposes but turrn a blind eye to the bulk of the trade. Can't imagine why...
    Last edited by KellysEye; 02-05-10 at 09:28.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Me: Ronda, Paw Paw: Balis, Barcelona
    Posts
    3,161

    Default

    Often when you look behind these stories there is a drug related issue. Venezuelan 'gangs' or 'villains' do not normally attack yachts. However if you have been buying drugs or similarly involved and upset them then it happens.

    Clearly I know nothing of what was involved in this case to make a comment but generally Venezuela is wonderful cruising ground with superb islands which are major tourist resorts and national parks and some excellent yachting facilities and boat yards.

    I would go back again without a worry - this area is not the Gulf of Aden

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    Emsworth Hants
    Posts
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    Default

    Yes, agree with that. The people are lovely and the Venezuelan out islands are one of the nicest cruising areas we've ever been.

    You are also right about drugs. A Scandinavian yacht was boarded on the west side of Margarita. The couple were tied up and the throughull hoses cut - a death sentence. They did manage to free themselves and beached the boat. Needless to say there was an outcry about it. What only came out later was that they had taken a delivery of drugs and not paid in full - hence the sentence.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    886

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Paw Paw View Post
    Often when you look behind these stories there is a drug related issue. Venezuelan 'gangs' or 'villains' do not normally attack yachts.

    I would go back again without a worry - this area is not the Gulf of Aden
    No, but fishermen do sometimes attack yachts, and with Venezuela getting more chaotic the risk is this will get worse. Even when we cruised there in 2005-7 I would not have gone within 1m of Paria and the situation seems to have deteriorated since, with boardings in places previously considered safe. After all even the Grenada/Trini run has been the subject of a couple of attacks in recent years, and that was always considered completely safe. Not all these boats were drug debtors I'm afraid. Yes, the chances of boarding are still relatively small, but it makes no sense to go close to Paria.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Emsworth Hants
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    10,758

    Default

    The furthest out attack from the Paria Peninsula was 50 nautical miles. It's recommended boats stay 60 NM off.

    The attack that attracted the most attention between Trini and Grenada was on a single hander sailing a steel boat. He claimed they opened fire on him. A boat we know visited him to get details. They said there was no evidence of gunfire damage and he was 'a sandwich short of a picnic. Their conclusion was he made it up.

    I know of two other boat that have been approached but not attacked.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Near Plymouth
    Posts
    895

    Default

    I can confirm the single hander story as we heard it just before we did the Grenada/Trini run. He claimed he was shot at by a three engined pirogue in distinctive colours and forced them away by firing a flare pistol. Three engined pirouges are like hens teeth and the colours described should have made the boat easy to find. And why should a flare pistol scare them away? Mind you the Yank community loved it as it gave them something to worry about/talk on the net for months.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    886

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by KellysEye View Post
    I know of two other boat that have been approached but not attacked.
    Don't forget that Triton was definitely fired on, boarded and stripped 40nm north of Trini bound Prickly Bay Grenada. Although some people have expressed doubt about this I spoke to the MAYAG rep who debriefed them and she was clear that they were still in shock when she spoke to them.

    Generally accurate report here (although the position is wrong it is of course only about 70nm between Trini and Grenada).
    http://www.sail-world.com/Australia/...n-waters/66658

    But I would not suggest that this route is dangerous, just not as safe as it used to be. Whereas I do think anyone not giving Paria a wide berth is taking a significant risk.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    London
    Posts
    5,168

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jeremyshaw View Post

    Generally accurate report here (although the position is wrong it is of course only about 70nm between Trini and Grenada).
    http://www.sail-world.com/Australia/...n-waters/66658
    I know the single hander guy, can´t see what he wuold have to gain by maiking up a story like that, and to be honest he would only do something if there was a few dollars to be made out of it, nothing to gain by creating a story like that. This came up a few days ago in conversation and the story going round was that he and the guy on the triton had a chat and the porogues sounded similar, 3 engines, distinctive colours. The sail world report seems to reinforce this. And I think anyone in a wooden pirogue with couple of hundred litres of petrol onboard would be sh#t scared of a flare gun. Many stories flying round, Trini coast guard are said to have shot up a pirogue recently but they´ll never admit to that and are certainly capable of it.
    Who knows.
    Stay safe.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Emsworth Hants
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    Default

    Thanks, I didn't know one had been attacked.

    We often had pirogues and fishing boats approach us - usually the first selling lobsters and the second selling fish. All very friendly helped by the fact Jane speaks Spanish, but you never know.

    I used to ask the Americans boats we knew if they were members of the 'Paranoid Americans Club', some laughed and most said yes and proved it by saying how they will only sail in company. The strange thing is that until recently no American boats had been attacked because the bad guys thought they were all armed but they were paranoid even in those days.

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