Posts Tagged ‘cruisers’

Christian Colombo, a former French Navy sailor and his wife were on their way to fulfil their dream. They were sailing to see the world in their yacht, the S/Y TRIBAL KAT until this dream was destroyed in the most traumatic way.

The TRIBAL KAT was attacked by Somali suspect criminals off the coast of Yemen while passing through the Gulf of Aden. Christian Colombo was killed during the attack, his body thrown overboard and his wife taken against her will by the suspect criminals. She was being moved by skiff towards Somalia when by a combination of good fortune, considering the vast area to be searched, and close cooperation between the counter-piracy forces in the region, a complex and dangerous rescue operation succeeded in recovering Mrs. Colombo uninjured.

The S/Y TRIBAL KAT was only the most recent of about 10 yachts attacked and their crews captured by Somali suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in the past three years.

Nearly every recorded attack on a yacht has led to the crew being taken hostage and moved to Somalia where they were kept on land, their yachts being discarded. S/Y ROCKALL was completely stripped of everything onboard including the engine.


PHOTO: Somali Pirates being towed. UPI

On land, the level of risk and hardship on the hostages is increased. They are removed from their familiar environment and exposed to a rough country with a harsh, hot climate. Often, hostages are held in the most basic conditions, i.e. no electricity, no sanitary installations, rationed basic food and water. Pirates have frequently moved hostages at short notice to avoid detection, increasing the stress and strain for the hostages.

The ordeal hostages have to endure can include every form of abuse. Physical and psychological mistreatment can include physical violence and mock executions. In some cases, crews and families have been separated for extended periods of time exposing hostages to the stress of uncertainty on the fate of their partner or child. When hostages were separated, pirates have simulated killing one or more of the hostages with machine gun fire out of sight of the remainder to increase the pressure for a ransom to be paid; the hostages are assumed to be very rich and the ransom demands can be for millions of dollars.

On average, maritime hostages have been held for over 7 months. However, for Paul and Rachel Chandler from the S/Y LYNN RIVAL, their captivity lasted 388 days in the Somali bush. They were eventually released after payment of a ransom however others are not so fortunate; French yacht-owner, husband and father, Florent Lemacon, was killed in April 2009 during the liberation of the S/Y TANIT. In February 2011, pirates shot and killed four Americans aboard the S/Y QUEST off the coast of Somalia when U.S. naval forces were trying to negotiate their release.

(Read about the kidnapping of the crew of the Quest).

S/V Tanit

PHOTO: Sailing Yacht Tanit

The presence of warships from EUNAVFOR, NATO and the Coalition Maritime Force, in addition to other naval forces, in the Gulf of Aden has significantly reduced the success of piracy attacks in this area. However, there remains a serious and increasing threat from piracy from the southern Red Sea, through the Bab el-Mandeb to the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia and into the Indian Ocean. This area is the same size as Western Europe and there are only between 12 and 18 warships in the area, with far higher priority tasking than protection of yachts and their crews, so if attacked, the chance of release is remote.


PHOTO: S/V Quest, courtesy of svquest.com

The risks to yachts from pirates are significant – they operate from one or more small skiffs, able to reach up to 25 knots. Increasingly, pirates use small arms fire and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) to stop and board vessels. Attacks have taken place mostly during the day, but pirates have also attacked at night. Pirates are likely to be aggressive, highly agitated, and possibly under the influence of drugs, (including khat, an amphetamine like stimulant).


PHOTO: Pirate attack zone

Yachts cannot out-run the pirates and are unable to prevent boarding. Merchant ships, which have higher freeboards and can adopt the self-protection measures recommended in the fourth edition of “Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy” (BMP) improve their chances but even these only delay a determined pirate.

There is only one sure way of avoiding your yacht and crew being captured – freight the yacht across the high-risk area.

Otherwise you could be playing Russian Roulette with your crew and family.

Source: Maritime Executive Magazine Online


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The Cruisers-Network-Online, a Yahoo Group, have been buzzing with posts this month about the mysterious disappearance of an American cruiser Don North of the sailing vessel Windancer. Don and his dog were thought to be enroute to Ustupu from Chichime in the Kuna Yala of Panama’s San Blas Islands.

In his February 9th post, Eddie Tuttle, M/V Tohill, the moderator of the Cruisers-Network wrote;


Photo: San Blas Island. By N.Birnbaum

“Don and his boat, a 38 foot Morgan aft cockpit with a white hull, blue canvas covers, solar panels, and a wind generator. Don had several dinghies on deck and a female Schipperke dog named “Kuna”. Don is single-handed and had recently suffered a back injury. He also is taking medication for diabetes.”

Clues have been scarce and the Cruisers-Network has implored people cruising the area of the San Blas, Portobello, Panama to Cartagena, Columbia to be on the look-out for Don, his boat and for a man named Javier Martin. Javier Martin is wanted as a person of interest in a homicide investigation ongoing in Panama involving missing cruiser Don North, and the homicide of a French cruiser named Jean Pierre.

According to recent reports, Javier Martin is from Valencia, Spain, and described at a Latin male, approximately 5′ 7″-8″, thin build, with dark hair and eyes.  His age is unknown at this time, but he appears to be in his 30s or 40s and very fit.  For years he owned a charter sailboat named “Twlya” in which he used to take backpackers between Panama and Cartagena, Colombia, and spent a lot of time in the San Blas Islands.

Fortunately, Reporter Don Winner, editor of the Panama Guide.com is now on the case. You may recall from previous posts here, that Mr. Winner was a key investigator, (though unofficial) in solving the mysterious disappearance of resident ex-pats in the Bocas del Toro area of Panama last year. True to his name, Mr. Winner managed to put all the pieces of the puzzle together before the authorities and helped to solve the case which led to the arrests of William “Wild Bill” Holbert and his wife for the murders of an American couple among others living in this idyllic cruiser’s haven.

Yesterday, February 11, 2011, The Cruisers-Network-Online had this broadcast:



Be on the lookout for suspect Javier Martin

After numerous calls for help from cruisers, sailors and boaters in the San Blas Islands area, information is finally beginning to flow and Don Winner is starting to put those puzzle pieces together again.

Winner wrote on his Panama-Guide.com, “OK, this story is evolving pretty quickly. Apparently, the Frenchman who was found murdered last weekend, Janpiere Bouahard, and the Spaniard Javier Martin, were involved in some kind of a feud or dispute. Apparently the Panamanian law enforcement authorities arrested Javier Martin and interrogated him as a possible suspect in the murder of Bouahard, but then released him for lack of evidence. Now apparently Bouahard’s 50′ aluminum hulled catamaran called the “Levante” is missing – it’s not anchored near Portobelo or near the Green Turtle. What’s more, Javier Martin reportedly also crashed his boat the “Twyla” near Chichime, effectively putting an end to this business of taking backpackers between Panama and Colombia. So, we have a guy named Javier Martin who was in some kind of a fight or feud with the Frenchman Janpiere Bouahard, who has been murdered. We have a guy named “Martin” who was reportedly taken on as crew by the American Don North – and now both Don North and his sailboat the “Windancer” are missing. Javier Martin is questioned by the authorities and release, and immediately thereafter Janpiere Bouahard’s big boat the “Levante” is missing. This catamaran is a relatively large boat and Javier Martin is an experienced and capable sailor – so he could be anywhere. Literally. My gut tells me if you find Javier Martin and the “Levante” – that he will be able to tell you what happened to Don North and the “Windancer.” Supposedly the “Twyla” is still crashed on a reef near Chichime, and another boat called the “Green Twilight” – supposedly owned by Javier Martin – was towed into port by the Panamanian authorities. So – be on the lookout for Javier Martin and the “Levante” – photos follow below… (more)

Hacerse a la Mar, S.A. Javier Bermejo Martin is the owner of a Panamanian company called “Hacerse A La Mar, S.A., which was registered in the Public Registry on 17 March 2010. The name of this company appears on his Hacerse A La Mar website. The President is listed as “Javier Bermejo Martin” with the Treasurer as “Salvador Frasquet Mascarell” and Secretary as “Javier Bermejo Martin.” Also listed on the company as Directors are Javier Bermejo Martin, Gabriela Ailin Anderson Aguilar, and Salvador Frasquet Mascarell. For what it’s worth…”

Anyone who has any information regarding Javier Martin should contact the FBI in Panama City, Panama at telephone number 507-207-5000.  Also you may contact Investigative Reporter Don Winner, editor of The Panama Guide.Com online newspaper at telephone number 507-6614-0451 or US number 845-514-9893.

Tuttle implores cruisers to please “spread this information to ALL YOUR CRUISER FRIENDS via SSB radio and VHF radio nets throughout the world.  Javier Martin could be anywhere now. Do not approach Javier Martin yourself, but contact any police authority and let them know of the above information.  Javier Martin should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.”

Special Thanks to Glenn & Eddie Tuttle, M/V Tothill and to Don Winner, Editor of The Panama Guide.com.

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