Over the years, I have found myself in many long conversations with cruisers about whether or not to carry a gun on board, about pirates, and about crime in various parts of the world. It isn’t an easy topic, and it is difficult to give a clear answer on it.

Obviously, Somalia is one thing. The reality of the situation is that the country is so poor and desperate that no amount of killing off pirates acts as a deterrent and there is an endless supply of guys willing to step in–that is the level of desperation that exists.

Somali Pirates

Until that political situation is sorted out, Somalia is a dangerous place to sail through, period. Your best bet is to just avoid it. Short of that, go en mass, with a Navy escort.

But what about the Southern Caribbean? There are infrequent, but still notable instances of boats being boarded by local criminals looking to rob whatever they can steal. So, would you pull out a gun and shoot someone who is stealing your dinghy? Think about it. And think about this, too: If you do pull out that gun, you’d better know how to use it, and you’d better be willing to shoot someone dead. If you don’t, chances are, they will shoot you dead.

Remember Peter Blake, the great Kiwi sailing Icon? He was doing philanthropic work up the Amazon River, had his boat boarded by

Peter Blake

petty thieves, went below to get his gun to apparently scare off the criminals, and ended up shot to death. His mistake? He had to be willing to kill those boarders, no questions asked.

If you do carry a gun on your boat, do you declare it each time you clear in to a new island? Almost without fail, every country will then take your gun while you are there, so what good does that do? The alternative is that you have smuggled a gun in, which has criminal implications. Slippery slope indeed.

Don Street, the legendary Caribbean cruiser, always said that the best alternative is to carry a dog on board. That has its issues, too, but his theory is, if you are anchored among a bunch of boats, petty thieves will avoid your boat if there is a barking dog and look for easier prey.

There is no “right” answer on this one. I carried a gun for three years on a boat we had in the Grenadines, an probably wouldn’t do it again. But I don’t know…


Schipperke, The ultimate boat dog

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