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Latest Caribbean murder of cruising sailor is tip of an iceberg

by Nancy Knudsen on 21 Jan 2014
Roger and Margaret (both right) in happier days SW
It's time that cruising rallies and Caribbean publicists stopped being so quiet about the violent crime in the Caribbean. The latest murder of an innocent British cruising sailor is only the last in a long line of violent attacks in various parts of the Caribbean. When four sailors were killed in the Indian Ocean a couple of years ago by Somali pirates it was mainstream world news, but many murders occur in the Caribbean without much fuss by anyone outside of the local area.

The Caribbean island of St Lucia, where the latest murder took place is an island of about 180,000 people. It is the arrival point for many Atlantic Rallies and is generally considered safer than areas such as the Central American coastline or the waters of Venezuela.

However, it has been struggling to stem a rise in violent crime in recent years, which authorities blame on drug trafficking. Police reported 34 killings last year, the lowest number in four years.

While Sail-World Cruising does not see its brief as covering all the crimes against cruisers, it has only too often had to report on violent attacks on sailors, some of them fatal. (See Sail-World story and story, just as examples.)

This week Roger Pratt, aged 62, died after attackers boarded his boat while it was moored near the town of Vieux Fort to the south of the Island. He was found floating in the water by his wife after the attack. It was reported after the attack that 'they thought St Lucia would be safe because it was where leading rallies arrived.'

Mr and Mrs Pratt, a semi-retired British couple, had taken 23 days to make the 3,000 mile Atlantic crossing from Lanzarote to Martinique in their 41ft steel, centre-cockpit cutter, Magnetic Attraction.

The attack happened as they lay off Vieux Fort awaiting customs clearance. An armed gang came aboard and Mr Pratt was reportedly stabbed to death as he went to protect his wife. Mrs Pratt was treated in hospital for minor injuries. Three people have been held by police.

Mr Pratt and his wife, from Moreton Morrell in Warwickshire, ran Okra Associates, a financial consultancy firm based at Harance House, Rumer Hill Road, in Cannock. They were on a long-planned round-the-world holiday, and the couple celebrated Margaret’s 60th birthday just days before the tragedy.

The Pratts, who were both highly-experienced sailors, set off on their global journey from Lowestoft in July last year, keeping family and friends back home updated on their progress through an online blog, which has now been taken offline.

For information about security in the Caribbean, intending sailors would be wise to consult the http://www.safetyandsecuritynet.com/Caribbean_Safety_and_Security_Net, who have reported several recent (2013) attacks on cruising sailors.

About the Safety and Security Net:

The Caribbean Safety and Security Net’s primary mission is the collection and dissemination of accurate information relating to crimes against yachts in the Caribbean, enabling cruisers to make intelligent decisions about how and where they cruise. This is accomplished in two primary ways
The daily HF radio voice net, 8104 USB at 0815 AST. The daily voice net receives and transmits incident reports and general safety and security related news items as well as communicating boat watches, reporting hazards to navigation (both natural and manmade) and provides other information by request.

The resources and information available on this website. The CSSN website includes not only all of the current and historic information on reported incidents (use the Island Reports button to search for/sort the database), but also information and links to a variety of other resources related to safety and security for cruisers.
Take a few minutes and explore our current site. We received nearly 300 responses to our 2013 User Survey and the CSSN team is hard at work making changes as a result – bookmark this page and check back often.
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