"We are vulnerable out here on the water. Most boats are much less secure than a house and so most people will prioritise cruising in areas which are very safe..."
After several weeks of relative calm here at the Linton Bay anchorage, there have been a few reminders that living at anchor is never like sleeping soundly in your bed on land. You always have to keep an eye and an ear on what is happening around you.
On Tuesday night as we were lying in bed, Luciano suddenly stood up and poked his head out of the hatch. I hadn’t heard anything, but Luciano had heard a faint ‘Help me!’
He scrambled out on deck and I poked my own head out of the hatch to see what was happening. There was a boat right in front of ours. The skipper was on his own and explained that he couldn’t start his engine because the battery was too low and he was drifting back into us in strong winds.
We let out some chain to try and put some distance between us, but as we were anchored in quite deep water we already had most of our chain out. We started the engine to try and at least give us some steerage, although there’s not that much manoeuvring you can do when at anchor.
Another cruiser in a dinghy managed to board the boat and try to bring his anchor back on board the boat so he could move and eventually the man managed to use his generator to start his engine. Luciano leapt in a dinghy and went over to see if he needed help and someone else managed to guide him by flashlight to a mooring buoy.
It turned out the man had been lying in bed when the boat suddenly broke loose from its mooring. He put down his anchor but then with the engine not starting he had no control and was messaging for help in the cruisers Whatsapp group. Unfortunately we didn’t see the messages until the next morning when we turned on our Starlink as we have to wait for the solar panels to charge the batteries. The strong winds that night also meant that two boats anchored behind us came very close to colliding as the Whatsapp group messages attested. One set of owners was not on board at the time.
The weather was cloudy and rainy so we stayed on board the next day. At some point in the afternoon Luciano heard shouting in the anchorage. We came out on deck. About five dinghies were assisting a fibreglass sailing boat, trying to prevent it from hitting a hulking rusty steel vessel about four times its size.
Normally boats at anchor will swing in the same direction, according to wind and currents, thus preventing collisions. But sometimes, as in this case, different currents in a bay can cause a boat to swing in different directions. With the other two boats that nearly collided, we believe the problem was due to different lengths of chain being put out, as one boat was about twice as long as the other and so probably had more chain out to compensate for its greater size. You also have to be careful around boats on mooring buoys for this reason as they will not swing as much as someone at anchor with a long length of chain out.
The five dinghies managed to help out the fibreglass boat. It turned out it was just a young teenage boy on there at the time while his parents had gone to buy a new starter battery, so it was great to see how the sailing community reacted.
In the evening we heard shouting out in the anchorage yet again. We looked behind us. The sun was setting and the boat behind us was silhouetted. There were a couple of people on deck and behind the boat was a local boat. We thought they might be removing something from the deck to repair. But we glimpsed that the people were cutting something with a knife and they jumped quickly back into their boat and sped off and we realised the owners’ dinghy wasn’t there, but we weren’t sure if it was actually a theft. We looked but couldn’t see the name of the boat against the setting sun.
We put a message in the Whatsapp group and then when we saw the owners arrive back after dark, they went and had a look and confirmed that some ropes had been stolen. We put a message in the group confirming the theft so people could keep a look out. The next day at sunset someone else noticed something similar on another boat - again at sunset. Again, they hadn’t realised what they were looking at due to the daylight nature of the theft and that the people weren’t trying to stay quiet to stop attention being drawn to themselves.
It’s a shame, it looks to be a bunch of teenagers targeting boats with no one on board, but it has a harmful effect on the local tourist economy in an area that five years ago was besieged by armed robberies, including one that invaded the marina. Thankfully the people responsible for those are now imprisoned and there are more cruisers here. But even theft that is perpetrated without violence still makes you wary of leaving your boat unattended and has the danger of escalating if not put a stop to.
We are vulnerable out here on the water. Most boats are much less secure than a house and so most people will prioritise cruising in areas which are very safe.
But Linton Bay is still one of our favourite anchorages we've visited. This week we visited Isla Mamey and Portobelo (more on that next week when we talk about Afro-Panamamian culture of which Portobelo is the centre)
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