Cruiser Adrift 2 Weeks After Pirate Attack

Coast of Venezuela


Not much information on this one, but the few details available are chilling. Evidently Don Stollmeyer, who runs the famous Power Boats yard in Trinidad, has confirmed via the local Coast Guard there that a German woman, Angelica Ropke-Wiels, was picked up on April 16 by a merchant vessel that found her alone, adrift in a liferaft, near Curacao. She and her husband, Hans Jorgen Ropke, were attacked aboard their sailboat, Spirit of Cologne II, on April 3 about one mile off the north coast of Venezuela’s Paria Penisula (directly west of Trinidad on the map above). Hans was shot and killed in the attack.

According to other sources, Angelica, on being taken aboard M/V San Fernando, told her rescuers she’d been adrift for 13 days and had had her husband’s body aboard the liferaft with her, but had pushed it overboard. Meanwhile, however, Spirit of Cologne was discovered afloat and reportedly in sound condition off the coast of Venezuela with Hans’ body still aboard. According to Stollmeyer’s secondhand report, Angelica had sailed the yacht north for four days after the attack, then abandoned it and boarded the raft for reasons unknown.

It’s hard to know what to make of this. Lots of compost for a fertile imagination. Was the woman deranged with grief? Has she murdered her husband and concocted the pirate tale as a cover? More likely the former methinks, but the simulated piracy scam might indeed be a smart ploy for those looking to lose a troublesome spouse.

However you want to spin this, it seems clear the coast of Venezuela is best avoided if you are sailing in the Caribbean. Though it is described by some as a very attractive cruising ground, tales of piracy there have been rampant there for several years. As recently as February there were stories swirling about a yacht called Triton that was fired upon and robbed en route between Trinidad and Grenada. Fortunately none aboard were harmed.

The conventional wisdom is cruisers should stay at least 60 miles off the Paria coast. Meanwhile, opinions are apparently a bit mixed now on security between Trinidad and Grenada, which is a critical passage for Caribbean cruisers heading south to escape the summer hurricane season.

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