Carrying Guns

The boat overtaking us in the picture and coming close alongside in the Indian Ocean may have had piracy in mind. A lot of people have been interested in whether we had guns to defend ourselves in such a situation situation. Heading offshore from the Bahamas with a pickup crew and sailing into waters where there had been several instances of yachts being hijacked and crews killed or injured by drug runners, I explained (after it was too late for any of them to jump ship) that I did not carry any firearms and laid out my philosophy on the matter. My view was and is that having guns aboard increases the danger rather than diminishing it. To be useful in an emergency, guns must be kept loaded and easily accessible, raising the continuing possibility of accidents even when there is no threat. Apart from that risk, there is always the chance, particularly near areas of deep poverty, that the intruders have no guns themselves and normally rely on more primitive weapons or none at all. Guns kept aboard may give an unarmed or lightly armed intruder access to a more deadly weapon. A loaded gun in an accessible place can escalate a theft attempt into a killing. In the case of intruders armed with guns, there is a good chance that they will be better armed than you are and a probability that they will more readily pull the trigger. Years later New Zealand icon Sir Peter Blake, "the world's most famous sailor," died in the Amazon delta brandishing his gun in just such an incident. Even if you survive and kill the intruders, you may end up in trouble with local authorities that could make you wish you had merely been successfully robbed. Add to all those downsides the customs red tape upon clearing in and out of countries where firearms must be declared and sealed. Most of the dangers that guns would be intended to defend against occur in local waters when your declared guns would be sealed and unavailable; if you have hidden the guns from the local officials when clearing in, and they find them, you are in major trouble. If customs failed to find them and you use them against an intruder, you may be in considerably worse trouble. The bottom line is that it is very unlikely that you will be attacked by pirates with guns outside local waters under circumstances that would allow you to use firearms to successfully defend yourself and your crew without injury. On the other hand, it is a certainty that having guns aboard will cause a lot of additional paperwork and delays or risks clearing in and out of ports. Having said all that, I did carry a flare gun, kept under the chart table near the aft cabin companionway. I regarded that as a potential and less problematic weapon against intruders.

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