‘Lectronic Latitude readers may recall this writer’s misadventure last February during Vallejo YC’s annual Sweetheart’s Cruise to Martinez Marina. You can read all the embarrassing details at the link above, but the short version is that we didn’t check the tide charts and spent half the night aground just outside a slip on A dock. But, we learned during our stay, after years of political wrangling — and quite possibly some good old-fashioned begging — the City of Martinez had cleared the way for the marina to finally be dredged.
"The dredging was completed in December," reports Harbormaster Craig Paulsen. "The entrance and main fairway was dredged to nine feet, and the guest dock to seven." Paulsen also tried not to rub it in too much when he said that a couple of slips at the end of A dock — heh hem — had also been dredged.
"Now if everyone would let the City know how important it is to develop a long-term plan to have the entrance and one part of the marina dredged every two years, we could increase our tenancy," notes Paulsen. He suggests sending your emails of support for such a plan to Recreation Manager Mitch Austin.
"This was a blessing for the marina," he says. "We’re looking forward to more yacht club cruise-ins because now the marina is accessible 24/7." In fact, VYC’s Sweetheart’s Cruise is the marina’s first cruise-in for 2013, and we’re looking forward to spending this year tied to the guest dock instead of having our transom exposed to the world.
According to a just-released report by the London-based International Maritime Bureau, incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere have fallen substantially this year — in fact, to the lowest level in five years.
While this is potentially excellent news for would-be circumnavigators, it’s our understanding that virtually no cruising yachts passed through the Gulf last year en route to the Red Sea. Still, the trend is very encouraging.
The Bureau reports that 297 attacks were recorded worldwide in 2012, down sharply from 439 the previous year. Twenty-eight vessels were hijacked, 585 crew members were taken hostage, and six were killed. In waters off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden, only 75 attacks were reported — down from a whopping 237 in 2011. And only 14 of those resulted in hijacking, which is about half the 2011 tally. At the end of last year, Somali pirates still held 104 hostages on eight ships and 23 more were detained on land.
Why such a substantial reduction? The Bureau credits the efforts of various navies patrolling both Gulf and African waters — where piracy remains a serious problem — including pre-emptive strikes on mother ships, in addition to the ever-increasing practice of commercial vessels hiring private security contingents to accompany them.
Dinghies are often stolen in bunches. We can remember epidemics in Sausalito, San Diego Bay, and any number of islands in the Caribbean. Last year police broke up one of the biggest dinghy outboard theft rings ever in Long Beach. And last summer it was reported that something like 10 dinghies were stolen in short order from just one marina in Alameda.
There currently seems to be at least a mini-epidemic of dinghy thefts or attempted dinghy thefts in the anchorages near Mazatlan. We’ve reported that Nakia had their dinghy stolen at Stone Island to the south of Mazatlan; Oblivion had theirs stolen from the nearby Old Harbor; and there was an unsuccessful attempt to steal the outboard from Robert and Nancy Novak’s Shindig while anchored at Stone Island.
Now we must add the dinghy from the Cape George 34 Pearl to the list. "My sister, who has been a permanent resident of Mazatlan for almost 10 years, had the tender from her Norseman 447 Albatross stolen in early January while at anchor off the west side of Deer Island," reports Wes Hoffschildt.
The troubling thing is that in at least two cases, the thief or thieves boarded the boat in order to steal the dinghy or outboard. In our estimation, that’s brazen theft. It also seems to be a little territorial. It will be interesting to see if authorities are able to do anything about this. Such thefts almost never occur without members of the community knowing about them. As we reported in Monday’s ‘Lectronic, when we go to Mazatlan, we’re going to be staying in a marina.
We also need to add a stolen backpack with $1,500 worth of cameras and cash to the crime list. It was taken in the very early morning hours of December 31 from Lionel and Irene Bass’s Perth, Australia-based M&M 52 catamaran Kiapa while they were anchored at Matanchen Bay, just a few miles from San Blas, Mexico. The couple, along with the crews of several other nearby boats, were planning to take a guided jungle tour the following day, and Kiapa‘s backpack had been packed the night before. Irene heard a noise, and when she went into the salon and saw the thief, she yelled. He jumped into the water — destroying the cameras — and swam to a panga 30 feet away. Just over a year ago we reported that the owners of a cat anchored in the lagoon at San Blas saw a thief take off as they were returning to their boat. The thief apparently didn’t have time to take anything of value.
Our fear in publishing a crime report is that ignorant people will misuse the facts to ignite a campaign of fear and hate. For example, consider the letter — we’ll withhold the author’s name to protect the ignorant — we got in response to Monday’s ‘Lectronic:
"You’ve spent three years telling your readers that Mexico is safer than Sausalito, particularly when it comes to dinghy thievery. Now you say that there are places around P.V. that are as safe as the necker ‘hoods in Detroit."
The ignorance in the letter was breathtaking. For starters, apparently the author doesn’t realize that, rather than being a suburb of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, where the dinghies were stolen, is about 140 miles to the north. We’ve been in the Vallarta/Nayarit Riviera area for two months now, have been in almost constant contact with hundreds of cruisers, and we have yet to hear anyone complain of a crime against them in this area.
To our knowledge, we’ve never compared safety in Sausalito to safety on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. But had we, Sausalito would come out on the losing end. We kept Profligate at a high end marina in Sausalito during the summer for several years and, for Doña de Mallorca, that meant having to walk a nightly gauntlet of trash-talking drunks, druggies, and other low-lifes. We’ve been told that 70% of the anchor-outs in Richardson Bay are convicted felons, so we suppose that all the harrassment and all the theft shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. Complaints to the Sausalito Police Department brought no relief at all. By comparison, de Mallorca walks all over Mexican waterfront towns at night, and without fear or harrassment.
As for the claim that places around Puerto Vallarta and cruiser-frequented places along the Pacific Coast of Mexico are no safer than the ‘hoods in Detroit, how is one supposed to even begin to respond to such rubbish? The truth of the matter is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a cruiser in Mexico who doesn’t feel as safe or safer in Mexico than they do back in the States. And we won’t even mention the fact that Oakland had 14 — 14! — shootings last weekend alone.
We’re not saying there is no crime in Mexico, and we’re not saying that cruisers are immune from crime and/or attack. We’re just try to present some facts and put things in perspective. In the view of most cruisers, things look pretty good in Mexico.