Skipper's Tips – LOCK IT AND LEAVE IT – The British Virgin Islands have long been known as tranquil retreats from the cares of the daily grind. The sailing is usually undemanding, the views exquisite, the locals well educated and friendly. Here in the BVI, de livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the liver count is high.

Recent reports of sneak thieves in dinghies patrolling the Bight at Norman Island, assaulting good cruising charter guests and demanding money at gun point have set the Internet message boards atwitter—there has been much chest pounding and promises of flares
fired in anger and the like should any such scoundrels come near.

Behind all the bluster, though, lies a real concern that the BVI is changing rapidly, that the idyllic ilons are turning into just another grubby suburb. Beyond that lies another concern—that the police and other law enforcement organizations may not get to you on time.  Whilst the Royal BVI Police Force is working hard to restore the idyll, there are a few preventative actions you can take to minimize possible ‘tight spots.’

What to do
• First, know where you are by taking note of the number of the mooring ball, if it has one, or your GPS co-ordinates. Even better, make sure you know which bay you’re in. Is it Great Harbour or Little Harbour or White Bay….and is that Peter Island or Jost Van Dyke or Guana Island?

• Talk to your neighbours on the next mooring or swinging at anchor and ask them to keep an eye open, as you will too.

• Have a noise-making whistle or horn close by.

• Take note of the phone number of the nearest bar or restaurant and check to see which VHF channel they’re monitoring.

• When going ashore, close and lock your hatches, including the companionway hatch. You’d lock the doors of your rental car, wouldn’t you? Leave the deck and cockpit lights on. Most important, demand that the charter company provide a lock and chain for the dinghy—if they won’t, ask them to sign an agreement freeing you from responsibility should the dinghy be stolen.

• Don’t leave thousands of dollars’ worth of electronic equipment aboard; likewise passports and travel documents. Many visitors to the islands will say that they’ve been coming here for years and they’ve never locked the boat or worried about their dinghy, and there’s no doubt they’re right. The real point is, though, that where there is very little hope for a cure post-facto, prevention is your only weapon.