OK … I said no more blog entries until Nov 17, but….

I know I said that I wouldn’t post anything until Nov 17, but I noticed this posting on a Yahoo message group, and thought it merited reposting here.

-Ken W

Posted at the request of Eric & Sherrell / Sarana


I’m reluctant to write this story for 2 reasons. First off, as foreign travelers, we rely on and look forward to the kindness of strangers. Many of these great people live an existence which is unimaginable yet they still smile and offer any help they can. By telling our story, I don’t want the acts of a few bad people to destroy goodwill and openness towards strangers. Secondly, I’m reluctant because of human nature and our tendency out of sheer denial (“They must have done something wrong, because that could never happen to me…”) to point out faults or mistakes. I kindly request you put that aside as no amount of 2nd guessing will change what happened — sometimes others can simply take control of a situation away from us.

But we felt it is more important to get this message out on the hopes that it won’t happen to anyone else. The following is a very condensed version of what happened.

On Nov. 7th we anchored behind Punta Pedernales Ecuador along with s/v Nakia which unfortunately turned out to offer very little protection in the rough conditions. At around midnight, we were awoken by a panga bumping into our port side. I assumed it was just a panga fisherman who hadn’t seen us on this very dark night. When I reached to top of the ladder 2 guys with guns were entering the cockpit followed by 2 more large men, one with a big knife and a fifth guy waiting in the shadows of the panga. Two of them pinned me down in the cockpit with a gun in my mouth and a knife at my throat while one of the big guys pulled Sherrell into the cockpit smothering her with his hand over her nose and mouth. They made no demands and I repeatedly asked them to stay calm. They were extremely jumpy and erratic, jacked on adrenaline and/or drugs making them very unpredictable and dangerous.

Sherrell thought they were about to kill me (as did I) and I thought she was being raped, hearing only her muffled screams. When her attacker finally let up his hand so she could breath, Sherrell pleaded with them to stop while I struggled with the guys pinning me down. We both became frantic trying to protect each other. Sherrells continued yelling woke John and Linda on Nakia alerting them to the situation. They blasted their airhorn, turned on their deck lights, flashed a spotlight on our boat and shot off 2 rocket flares. The men started to panic and headed towards their panga but then realized they hadn’t taken anything yet, so they grabbed our GPS and our backpack containing about $40.

We were very lucky to have Nakia close by who responded so brilliantly. We don’t know what would have happened had they not been there — we shudder to think about it.

Needless to say after repeatedly trying to hail the Pedernales Port Captain (with no response to our Mayday) we pulled up anchor and headed 50+ miles up the coast to Punta Galera where we have safely spent the past 2 days amongst friendly fishermen regrouping, getting our paper charts in order (the GPS held our electronic charts) and rigging up a temporary GPS.

By John contacting the Alameda Coast Guard through the SSB, the Ecuadorian Coast Guard came to our boat several hours later in Punta Galera and filled out a detailed report. We can only hope they can track down the guys who did this. That being said, we recommend that no one stops in Punta Pedernales for the foreseeable future as it is far too dangerous.

Eric & Sherrell


6 Responses

  1. I am not sure what system Steve refers to here, but on the Windhorse Steve is using a system described on his site as follows.

    “There is indeed a security alarm system. This is triggered with a reed (magnetic) switch on the main door along with a series of deck sensors which amazingly detect slight movement in the aluminum deck. We’ve used the same sensors on Wind Horse and they work well, without false alarms. The system is turned on and off with a remote. When the alarm is triggered the deck lights flash and a loud signal sounds.

    Upon returning to the boat you turning the alarm off turns on the deck lights for a few minutes aiding your boarding in the dark.
    http://www.setsail.com/dash (http://www.setsail.com/dashew/64_faq_2.html) “

    Seems as though it would only go off if in fact someone came aboard your boat.

    I found this with a brief search http://www.marineguard.net/ (http://www.marineguard.net/catalog3.htm)

  2. There was a follow-up posting on the “Southbound Group” message board, so I am passing it along…

    Thanks for the post even though it wasn’t very pleasant news. It’s still good to know where the unsafe places are, in order to stay away from them.

    Its just for those reasons I’m passing along this story. Some of you may have already heard of this incident.

    Before we left the NW to return to Mazatlan for the season there was a story running in the news (Mid October) about a couple attacked on the beach near the city of Esmeraldas, which looks like its just around the point from this latest attack. However, in that case the gentlemen was stabbed 18 times and the lady rapped. I’ve included a couple of URLS for your followups. The guy almost died, luckily he was able to be flown back to the US for treatment and he’s recovering now.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2008 (http://edition.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/10/21/americans.ecuador/)
    http://www.oregonlive.com/n (http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/10/oregon_man_attacked_in_ecuador.html)
    http://www.kptv.com/news/17 (http://www.kptv.com/news/17771158/detail.html?rss=ptl1&psp=news)

    We all would like to think that the people we meet along the way, live by the same standards we live by, this just isn’t the case, always. So be safe, better then sorry, out there!

    Pat & Susan Canniff


  3. We have an “electric dog” on the boat that I’ve been using for security. It is nothing more than a motion sensor attached to a recording of a big dog. I have no idea if it would actually frighten away guys, but it does a really good job of waking us when a bird lands in the cockpit, wind blows anything in the cockpit, or the boat rotates while at anchor. Note: this is my way of saying that is prone to “LOTS of false alarms”, and using it in marinas does not add to your popularity.

    We need more than this, and perhaps we need to see if there are better motion sensors, or something that works via a pressure sensitive mat. I would like to have lights and a siren, and now have a good reason to pursue that.

    As to a gun…

    I’ve heard that half of all boats out there have a hidden weapon. It is probably better that customs agents, and bad guys, not know which boats have the weapons, so I shouldn’t answer that question.

    -Ken W

  4. Security:

    This story makes me think that deck senors hooked to bright lights and loud horns would be a really good idea. I know these incidents are isolated, but when they happen to you they can have profound life altering affects.

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