by Gemma Handy
Thefts from boats in English Harbour has sparked concern among yachties in the bustling south coast community.
More than 70 yachts are currently docked in the area – and several boaters spoke out on an online forum to share details of the recent incidents.
Many others expressed dismay that the popular sailing hub – loved as much for its laidback ambience as its prime weather conditions – was being targeted by criminals.
Two incidents were reported in the early hours of January 31 – one on a catamaran, the other on a monohull vessel. Neither was locked.
In the first incident, a noise was heard along the hull at around 2am. Spotting a door half open, the captain wandered outside to find a man boarding a kayak next to his vessel. When questioned, the kayaker paddled away.
Wet footprints were found in the saloon and at the top of the stairs leading to the quarters where crew were sleeping. Nothing appeared to be missing.
“The crew believe the intruder was chased off by the captain immediately after the boarding,” stated a report from the Caribbean Safety and Security Net (CSSN) which collates information on crimes against yachts in the region.
However, less than two hours later intruders boarded another boat in Falmouth Harbour while two people were asleep and stole an undisclosed amount of cash.
Another yacht anchored nearby also reported spotting a stranger boarding their vessel that night, but they got away empty-handed when disturbed.
Meanwhile, a fourth sailor docked at Pigeon Point said he later discovered he had also been a victim of theft when he went to pay for a takeaway pizza to discover his wallet empty.
“Very sad that things are resorting to this now,” he wrote on the Antigua Cruisers Facebook page.
One more page user reported a theft of US$800 cash stolen from wallets left in the saloon of his 50ft catamaran anchored off Galleon Beach on Christmas Eve.
The sailing industry is one of Antigua and Barbuda’s most lucrative sectors and with the economy already floundering amid the Covid pandemic, officials will be keen to keep it way.
“We spend a tremendous amount of time here and are very sad about this incident,” one of the victims wrote.
“A very sad development that has never really been a problem before,” said another Facebook user. “Everyone must be proactive in securing their vessel and belongings as a precautionary measure,” she added.
Police spokesman Inspector Frankie Thomas confirmed police officers are investigating two reports of larceny.