security

  1. OVERVIEW

  2. GENERAL SAFETY AND SECURITY

  3. VESSEL SECURITY & BEST PRACTICES

  4. ORGANIZED CONVOYS UNDER THE PANAMA POSSE

  5. SELF PROTECTION – MYTHS DEBUNKED

 

 

 

1) OVERVIEW


The Panama Posse Rally sails from California to Florida (and back) via the Central American Pacific and Western Caribbean waters. It’s name and formation was conceived to allow for the joining of like-minded cruisers, adventurers and explorers and creating small pods. Each vessels sets sail at their  own schedule and over 155 yachts have signed up for this 4th season for the first time connecting California and Florida in an organized formation. The mostly US Flagged Participants ( 85% followed by Canada and other western nation states )  collect and disseminate the latest information and live observations in the area. The organization has negotiated discounts for all participants with over 40 marinas in 13 countries.  This 4th season expands the route in the Caribbean with a cumulative distance of up to 4,500 nm journey via Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Panama Canal, Colombia, Jamaica, Roatan, Rio Dulce, Belize, Yucatan peninsula via Cuba to Key West. 

Generally, the routes of the Panama Posse are as safe as any waters in the world. Low risk does not mean no risk, however, and simple common-sense precautions should be taken no matter where you and your vessel find yourselves. While cruisers in previous Posses have lost outboards and other valuables to theft, but it has been exceedingly rare.

 

 

 

2) GENERAL SAFETY AND SECURITY

Personal Security

  • Follow the communication plan. Check in with the weekly calls and always read the weekly email update.
  • Be modest in your appearance at all times, on deck and ashore. Leave fancy jewelry at home.
  • Women should be cautious about running, or shopping in public markets, alone.
  • Carry only a laminated copy of your passport when ashore, leaving your original passport in the ship’s safe.
  • Don’t even consider purchasing firearms, but do purchase pepper spray. Bear spray sold in sporting goods stores is industrial sized, longer range version of pepper spray. (Note: In most countries south of the USA, Mace, Dog and Bear Sprays are illegal)
  • Use a taxi for provisioning in higher risk areas having the driver wait or accompany you shopping.
  • Leave debit cards at home as they allow thieves to completely drain your account. Alternatively keep minimal money in the accounts linked to the card so you minimize any losses. Credit cards, although they have higher rates for cash advances also limit your risk.
  • Have copies of personal information (passport and other ID, credit cards, boat registry, boat insurance and other important documents) available in case of loss/theft. You can photograph and store on a memory stick, photocopy, or photograph and store on the web (for example, create a draft email with all the photos and store in your email’s draft folder, or email to yourself)

 

 

3)  VESSEL SECURITY & BEST PRACTICES

 

  • Never leave gear lying unattended on deck or in your dinghy. Secure hatches and portholes when sleeping when in questionable areas.
  • Consider installing a motion alarm system or motion activated lights on deck (Solar powered motion activated lights can be purchased at most large hardware stores in the region for a few dollars).
  • Install a safe, ideally large enough for your laptop computer.
  • Ensure all hatches, companionways, etc. are secure and will withstand reasonable efforts to breach them. Some companionways are wooden slats or hinged doors that would be susceptible to a strong kick or a sliding glass door that can be ‘derailed’ and lifted off their tracks. These should be secured or reinforced so that they are more secure.
  • Window shades or coverings should be in place so that bad people outside the cabin cannot see people inside and threaten them with firearms.
  • Make sure your boat is lockable from the inside.
  • Have a second wallet with small amount of cash, an expired credit card or two and perhaps cheap watch or old cell phone to give aggressive intruders, or leave lying around as a ‘decoy’.
  • Find or make several ‘hidey holes’ for valuables and cash, so that if one is discovered (or you are forced to reveal one) the others may be safe.
  • Always lock hatches and ports when leaving the vessel and leave lights and music on if going ashore in the evening.
  • Lock up all cameras, computers, wallets, jewelry and other valuables when going ashore or at night.
  • ALWAYS lock your outboard to your dinghy and ALWAYS hoist your dinghy and motor out of the water on a bridle or davits at night. Lock your dinghy when leaving it ashore.
  • Get to know your neighbors on boats anchored or moored near you.  
  • In the most questionable areas, it may be prudent to turn off your AIS transmitter while underway.
  • See https://currents.bluewatercruising.org/articles/ready-aye-ready/ for some security ideas.

 

 

4) ORGANIZED CONVOYS UNDER THE PANAMA POSSE

 

Before Departure

 

‘Know before you go’ – Read Panama Posse updates, Noonsite (https://www.noonsite.com/ ), Caribbean Safety & Security Network https://safetyandsecuritynet.org/ ), and Facebook cruising groups (search for <destination name> and <cruising &/or cruisers> on Facebook) for the most recent reports prior to going anywhere for up to date information on the risk environment.

 

Northeast Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras

 
In the recent past, criminal elements have boarded, held at gunpoint and ransacked vessels passing through this region.  The chart below is a composite of incidents between 2014 and 2020 for the area from the Caribbean Safety and Security Net (CSSN), linked here at https://safetyandsecuritynet.org/.  Red pins represent attacks, and yellow pins represent attempted attacks.

 

 

 

These violent incidents appear to be executed by “part-time pirates”, fisherman who organize on an ad hoc basis and seize targets of opportunity in the absence of effective law enforcement.  They do not target larger commercial vessels at this time.

 

Geographically, the Honduran and Nicaraguan east coasts do not provide harbor for larger vessels and the national navies are small and poorly equipped to deal with the issue, as they are small forces primarily designed for dealing with coastal and riverine security.  The naval forces are under-resourced.

 

As the incidents normally occur well offshore, often between 75 and 125 miles from land, they are beyond VHF radio range from shore bases, and in any case it is believed the relevant navies do not effectively maintain a 24/7 radio watch. It is uncertain what other illegal activities these part time pirates may engage in.

 

While these areas are variously within the territorial waters or exclusive economic zones of Colombia, Guatemala, or Honduras, they are not effectively patrolled or policed by any of these states.  Adding complication to the situation, some areas including the Serranilla Bank are disputed territories.

 

 

Security and Safety Risks Associated with the Entire Coast of Venezuela

 

For westbound vessels, a transit of the Venezuelan coast from Trinidad to the ABCs and Columbia is often undertaken.  For vessels leaving Colombia to points north, a close approach to the easternmost stretch of the Venezuelan coast is also unavoidable.  There has also been an increase in piracy activities in the coastal waters near Trinidad, believed to be the actions of Venezuelan smugglers.

 

Additional precautions recommended

In these areas, it is recommended that additional security precautions are taken, including extra check ins, convoys, and enhanced float plans.

 

 

 

VESSEL PREPARATION

 

Test communications with other convoy vessels.

 

Move all valuables possible below decks (unneeded blocks, lines, etc.)

 

Complete Vessel and Convoy Information sheets, send to security@panamaposse.com.

 

Ensure you can barricade below on your vessel, out of sight or intruders on deck.

 

Establish ‘Action Plan’ with roles and responsibilities (locking hatches, etc.) should you be approached.

 

Set tracker on minimum one hour tracking interval.

 

Consider obtaining “Biohazard COVID 19” banners to attach to lifelines.

 

Program SAR and emergency contact information into communications systems (inreach, DCS VHF, etc.)

 

SAR Areas of Responsibility and Contacts

 

SRR: PANAMA

Tel: +507 315 9807 (H24)

naerea@aeronautica.gob.pa

 

SRR: COSTA RICA

Tel: +506 2286 4418

operaciones.sng.cr@gmail.com

rfic@dgac.go.cr

 

SRR: NICARAGUA CARIBBEAN COAST

Tel: +505 08244

 

SRR: Honduras

Tel: +504 234 3360 ext 1318, 1310

rccsar@cocesna.org

 

SRR:  COLOMBIA CARIBBEAN COAST

Tel: +57 4 827 5379

cegut@fnc.armada.mil.co

 

Data and chart from https://sarcontacts.info/

 

 

 

CONVOY STRATEGY

 

  • Convoys should be formed when passing through waters known to be dangerous. This is a step up from ‘buddy boating’ and entails additional preparations and precautions.
  • Convoys are not formed so that vessels not under attack can come to the physical assistance of those vessels under attack. They are formed to discourage attacks by showing a greater presence, and to allow vessels not under attack to call for help for vessels under attack.
  • Every convoy should have a designated convoy leader. The leader of the convoy should not try to micro manage, he/she will have enough to do dealing without any of the problems that might occur. There will be potential disputes which can, if not dealt with promptly, cause upset within the convoy. They must be part counsellor and mediator. The abiding rule is that no-one will be left behind and that all vessels undertake whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the yachts that leave together arrive together.

    Convoy leaders should typically have the most robust and greatest variety of communications options (VHF, Sat comms (Inreach, Iridium, etc.), HF/SSB).
  • Boat speed should be determined by the speed of the slowest yacht, but all should be able to make ~5 kts boat speed. Routes should be determined for comfort, efficient passage and safety.
  • Be prepared for engine problems during convoy; ensure a tow is available.
  • Effective communication among the convoy vessels is essential. A communications plan should be established and followed. Radio communications between vessels should be limited in number and conducted at the lowest power/profile possible to avoid giving away the presence or position of the convoy (use lowest power on built in VHF or hand held radios, establish a ‘ping’ via DSC radio for check ins, etc.). Define a schedule that is irregular (e.g. not every hour on the hour, but a list of times to follow). Do not use channel 16, use an alternate channel or series of channels. Check ins should be approximately every two to three hours. An agreed channel should be monitored by all vessels 24/7.
  • Satellite tracking should be enabled for all vessels that have it. AIS (transmit) should be available but may be set to ‘silent’ for passages in the worst / most dangerous areas.
  • Create a float plan with waypoints every ~12 hours (every ~50-60 miles or so) for all vessels to follow.
  • Use code names for each of the yachts in the convoy. Have a separate code name for the convoy itself (to use in all vessel hails).
  • Always try to manage speed and course so all members of the convoy always remain in clear sight of all other members of the convoy (Maximum distance 2.5 Nm). Spreading out further will not let approaching vessels see the size of the group, and the size of the group is what gives the safety in numbers. Sailing in closer proximity makes watchkeeping more difficult.
  • In the most dangerous areas, consider motoring with sails down during daylight hours (reduces your long range visibility), only using sails at night.
  • Consider using only deck level running lights at night (reduces your long range visibility)
  • In the event of an anticipated attack (shadowing by unknown vessel(s), approach by multiple unknown vessels, etc.):
    1. Radio alert (PAN PAN) on agreed monitor channel to all convoy members
    2. Leader (or designate if leader is vessel being approached) makes PAN PAN call, emails/messages Posse HQ with PAN PAN message
    3. Note particulars of approaching vessel(s) (number, type, colour, number of crew, speed, etc.) report to all vessels and Posse HQ ASAP.
    4. Tighten up convoy ‘formation’ so vessels are in clearer view – approx. 0.25-0.50 Nm maximum (in case of MOB, etc.)
    5. Turn away from approaching vessels and increase convoy speed to agreed maximum (leaving no one behind)
    6. All vessels activate their individual ‘action plans’ (crew is on station, hatches locked, etc.)
    7. Raise “Peligro COVID 19” banners/signs (if you have them) in clear view
    8. Consider having one vessel respond to PAN PAN call impersonating a USCG or USN ship, signaling response and giving an ETA
    9. Upon close approach, maneuver aggressively (rapid port and starboard turns of 35-45° at max vessel speed on either side of desired course to make boarding difficult).
  • In the event of an actual attack (i.e. one of the convoy vessels is boarded or fired upon):
    1. Vessel under attack sets off DSC Mayday
    2. Vessel under attack sets off EPIRB
    3. Vessel under attack sends SOS(s) by all other available means (Inreach SOS to GOES, e-mail / sms message Posse HQ, SOS on HF/SSB, etc.)
    4. Convoy leader or designate sends SOS(s) by e-mail / sms message to Posse HQ.
    5. All Vessels Ensure AIS transponders are set to transmit
    6. Note particulars of attacking vessel(s), report ASAP.

Every vessel should have an electronic (for emailing) and a printed copy (for referring to when making radio calls in the heat of the moment) of a profile document for every other vessel in the convoy (as attached).

 

         

  • Participants are responsible for their own vessel and   crew – should they wish to go through known conflict areas and a vessels crew is willing to continue on this route we ask that  participants  follow these  procedures.

  • We can no guarantee success but we will do everything in our power to seek help.

  • Once your convoy goes underway we will monitor it’s progress and messages.

  • THE LEAD VESSEL MUST BE A VOLUNTARY LEAD VESSEL AND US FLAGGED

 

 

PANAMA POSSE SECURITY CONTACT INFORMATION

USCG LIC Captain Dietmar Petutschnig

+1 702 861 9823 (Dietmar)
Fallback
+1 650 275 2701 (Rob)

Email:
security@panamaposse.com

forwards to
dietmar@panamaposse.com
rob_murray_@hotmail.com

 

SMS and/or email recommended for contact. It’s durable and easy to forward.

 

CONVOY SUMMARY SHEET TO BE SUBMITTED

 

  • Convoy Code Name:
  • Number of vessels:
  • Vessel Names and Codenames:
    1. Vessel One (Name) (Code Name)
    2. Vessel Two (Name) (Code Name)
    3. Vessel Three (Name) (Code Name)
    4. Vessel Four (Name) (Code Name)
    5. Vessel Five (Name) (Code Name)
  • Lead Vessel: (Name) (Code Name)
  • Starting port
  • Destination Port
  • VHF Channel(s) to be monitored
  • Waypoints:
    1. Wp1 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    2. Wp2 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    3. Wp3 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    4. Wp4 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    5. Wp5 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    6. Wp6 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    7. Wp7 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    8. Wp8 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    9. Wp9 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W
    10. Wp10 ETA XX° XX.X N, XX° XX.X W

INDIVIDUAL VESSEL INFO SHEET TO BE SUBMITTED:

 

Vessel Name:

 

Vessel Convoy ‘code name’:

 

Vessel Description: LOA, Rig, Colour, distinguishing features (dodger, bimini, doghouse, etc.), typical speed on passage.

 

Delete box, add photo(s)

Photo(s) of vessel: (one or two, from a higher angle best to aid in aircraft recognition):

 

Vessel Registry: Flag/Country: ____________ Number: ____________

 

MMSI Number: XXX XXX XXX

 

Crew:

  • Last Name, First Name, Nationality, Passport Number, Date of Birth
  • Last Name, First Name, Nationality, Passport Number, Date of Birth
  • Last Name, First Name, Nationality, Passport Number, Date of Birth
  • Last Name, First Name, Nationality, Passport Number, Date of Birth

 

Safety Equipment:

Fixed VHF Y/N ___,    Handheld VHF Y/N/# if more than one ___,            Life Raft Y/N ___,             EPIRB Y/N/# if more than one ___,   PLB Y/N/# if more than one ___,     AIS Y/N ___,     Is Dinghy available to Launch at Sea Y/N ___,        Radar Y/N ___,          Other (describe) _________, _________, _________.

 

Mobile Phone numbers:

  1. (XXX) XXX-XXXX (name of user)
  2. (XXX) XXX-XXXX (name of user)
  3. (XXX) XXX-XXXX (name of user)
  4. (XXX) XXX-XXXX (name of user)

 

Email Addresses:

  1. PRIMARY Email: whatever@wherever.com (name of user)
  2. Crew Email: whatever1@wherever1.com (name of user)
  3. Crew Email: whatever2@wherever3.com (name of user)
  4. Crew Email: whatever3@wherever3.com (name of user)
  5. Crew Email: whatever4@wherever4.com (name of user)

 

Sat com email(s):

  1. PRIMARY Email: whatever5@wherever5.com (name of user)
  2. Secondary Email: whatever6@wherever6.com (name of user)

 

Satellite Tracking Link(s):

  1. https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/XXXXX
  2. https://my.yb.tl/boatname

 

Shoreside Contact Points:

  1. Name, Location, Email, Phone

Name Location, Email, Phone

 


CONVOY Threat Levels

We will be using a system of threat levels to build structure into our security management and communications.  The following defines the three levels within our protocol:

Threat Level Indicators

NORMAL

(Green)

·       No threats at present or anticipated.

·       Normal precautions are followed (lock your boat when away from her, lock your outboard engine, hoist dinghy when not in use, stow valuables out of sight, etc.)

CAUTION

(Amber)

·       Your vessel is in/approaching a high-risk area.

·       Recent ‘bad things’ have happened here recently.

·       Heightened precautions are in order.

·       Form convoy if underway.

·       Establish radio check-in schedule.

·       File enhanced float plan.

ALERT

(Red)

·       Your vessel is in a high-risk area

·       Your vessel is being approached by a suspect vessel

·       You have been fired upon

·       You have things stolen

·       You believe you are in personal danger

·       WE ONLY SPRING TO ACTION IF YOU RAISE THE ALARM

·       ANY POSSE MEMBER CAN RAISE CONDITION RED

 

 

5) SELF PROTECTION

5.1 MYTHS DEBUNKED

WASP SPRAY AS A WEAPON

FLARE GUN AS A SELF DEFENSE WEAPON
( not so much )