This is sad information to pass on … Bocas Del Toro, Panama was one of our favorite marinas when we spent six years commuter cruising the Western Caribbean. We anchored in the anchorage described in the article and left Winterlude in Bocas Marina and felt safe — a welcome change after being robbed in Utila, Bay Islands Honduras a year earlier.
As you read the information below, be aware local situations change frequently and it’s imperative to keep abreast of local developments while cruising. After all, there are streets in NYC that are far more dangerous than most cruising locales, and most people have enough common sense not to walk down them after dark! In this situation, there may be other circumstances involved — often what is described in the media is only part of the story — but it certainly raises safety issues.
I remember a few years ago, we anchored in San Andres, a Columbian island off the Nicaraguan coast soon after another American couple had been brutally assaulted there. But we found out they anchored in an area that they were advised was not safe. And according to others, they might have flaunted their jewelry more than advisable. This does not appear to be the situation in Bocas Del Toro, at least from this early information.
While this incident in Bocas Del Toro is a major surprise, it might be an isolated instance, or it might not. Whatever the case, it’s wise to be knowledgeable before you naively sail in and drop the hook. Here’s an update from Don Winner at the Panama-Guide.com:
“From the Panama-Guide.com … A pair of armed and dangerous assailants brutally attacked an American couple last night aboard their sailboat anchored in the “South Anchorage” of the Bocas Marina, next to Isla Colon in the province of Bocas del Toro in the Republic of Panama. The attack started after midnight last night, during early morning hours today, Sunday, 8 July 2012. The assailants pulled up next to the couple’s sailboat at 1:00 am early this morning in a typical Panamanian wooden cayuco. The two assailants boarded the sailboat, held the couple at gunpoint, and tied them up. They ransacked the boat and stole everything of value, including cameras, electronics, a computer, cash, and jewelry. The attack lasted at least two hours, during which time the victims were assaulted and brutalized. The victims were finally able to put out a call for help on the radio at 3:30 am in the morning, after the assailants had left.”
For more information on the assault and robbery, click here — be sure to read the comments at the bottom of the post for an update on this unfortunate situation.
The Americans Ex-Patriot community in Bocas Del Toro and surrounding areas is organizing a reward fund to help apprehend the two assailants. Again, from the Panama-Guide.com:
“The community of English speaking expatriates in Bocas del Toro has rallied to support the American Couple Brutally Assaulted And Robbed On Their Sailboat Near Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama. They are just now getting organized and are in the process of printing reward posters to be distributed throughout the islands. A sketch artist will be used who will interview the victims in order to create a likeness of the assailants for the reward posters. Thus far they have about $1,600 dollars pledged for this fund, which will be paid to anyone providing a tip or information directly leading to the arrest and conviction of the assailants. Organizers have established an account in the Banco Nacional (I don’t have the account number yet) which anyone can use to make a deposit from anywhere in Panama.”
If anyone would like to make a contribution or pledge to this project, Don Winner of The-Panama-Guide.com, has offered to coordinate between online and on the ground in Bocas Del Toro. E-mail Don here.