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I don't own a boat yet, but one of my major concerns about owning one is getting hijacked or robbed or killed out at sea where I would be a long way from help. Is this something that rarely happens, or does everyone have to arm themselves?

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With the large guns they have, sailors would not have a chance...You could not shoot all, and they each have weapons...I would say try not to go to the problem areas.

Fellow sailors could throw you overboard too, then call Coast Guard and say you fell overboard and can not find you....and on and on....
The kind of pirates you're talking about, Lola, are the ones that hijack merchant vessels. The ones that I'm talking about want to steal your little sailboat or your cash and electronics and may not even have a weapon and it might only be one guy.

And if a small army of heavily armed pirates with rocket propelled lauchers and AK 47's does want to board my vessel, of course I'm not going to bust out my weapons and start shooting. I might offer them a margarita though and show them my porn collection.
Just because you can't defend yourself in ALL cases, doesn't mean you should never try to defend yourself.
I find it interesting that I'm even participating in this discussion. It's out of character for me, but I'm glad I am. I ended up doing some searches online.
For me, I discovered two things. One, it is not considered piracy unless it is in international waters which is, I think, 30 miles out. Otherwise, it's robbery. This is important, because there are a lot of robberies of crusing yachts that don't show up on statistics.
The other thing I discovered is that there is a lot of piracy in the area off the Yucatan and Belize. This is very disappointing to me, because I spent a lot of time there in the nineties cruising and working, and loved it, especially the barrier reef off Belize. There were no problems at that time.
I lived in New York City for 20 years and then in the country for 20 years. Now I am back living in the city. When I first moved here it turned out to be a huge adjustment ~ friends have alarm systems, you can't leave anything visible in your car. Heck, the last 20 years, I never locked my car and never had an alarm system. Now I'm part of a neighborhood watch. I'm getting used to it ~ getting used to being aware.
For me when I end up living aboard and cruising, I will carry a flare gun with lots of spares and use if I have to and have an opportunity, if I am threatened. I would never be a passenger on a vessel with arms other than the flare guns, and will never try to hide guns in other countries. That's me and my choice. My other choice, is to learn where the danger areas are, just as I would in New York City or any city, and avoid them and if for some reason I had to be there, I would travel with a buddy. But as a single woman, it makes you think twice about where to anchor. I love those remote areas the best and will be thinking about creative deterrents other than guns.
Death by chocolate ?
I think best bet would be to electrify the lifelines/rails and put the switch on at nite. And of course the brownies laden with ExLax in the cockpit (that's kinda almost death by chocolate). Have heard pie plates strung on fishing line across cockpit works for a noise alert, which would give u time to grab the flare gun and fire extinguisher. That and the high grade pepper spray you have to get from someone on the police force..not the mamby pamby stuff from online. If I spray someone and still feel very threatened..the baseball bat comes out...yikes..then i guess I have to do the push em overboard thing and haul ass outta there. Guess that's why i'll be cruising Greenwich Bay mostly! :-)
A really good choice for close quarters self protection is oven cleaner. It sprays a solid stream, a pretty good distance and makes pepper spray look like eyewash. But you'll never have an excuse for having a dirty oven.

Bill
I just looked up flare guns on YouTube since some sailors here think that a flare gun is a viable self defense weapon. Check out this video. A guy accidentally shoots himself in the head with a flare gun LOL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTU2o3LGumI

Well, the fact that the guy was DRUNK and pointed gun to his own head.... hmmmmmm...
I don't think I'll be relying on a flare gun for personal protection. hehehe
You just haven't seen a real flare gun. My flare gun will put you on your ass and make you take tomorrow off.

Bill
This guy is on his ass and I don't think he's showing up for work tomorrow. LOL
Geezus..."hi, I'm your new neighbor, can I borrow a bottle opener??" time to haul anchor...and find another spot. There's ALOT of them out there...lot's more than pirates.

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