Honduras, Punta Sal: Sailing Boat Boarded and Robbed by Pirates - June 2012
Our thanks to Michael Feldman for sending us a copy of his letter to the Ambassador, and our best wishes to both him and his wife for their recovery from this trauma.
The Honorable Lisa Kubiske
United State Ambassador to Honduras
Dear Ambassador Kubiske
On Saturday morning, June 2nd at approximately 8:30 AM, my sailing vessel, US flagged Southern Star, registered in Delaware, DL8764AB, was intercepted and boarded by 2 young men, who threatened us with a large pistol and took off money, jewelry and equipment with a value in excess of $11,000, US.
Bound for Utila, having spent the evening in Puerto Cortes, we took the direct line which brings one close to the coast, approximately 3 miles north off Punta Sal, approximately half way between our starting point and our destination of Utila.
The two young men were in a twenty-foot launcha, my wife was at the helm and I was below, resting when I heard some commotion and found my wife trying to convince the two young men to stay away as they were asking for some gasoline. Then the older of the two, an extremely handsome young man, almost beautiful displayed the large caliber pistol and we reverted to our “ New York smarts,” trying to be as calm as possible and to express no resistance to our captives.
I was ordered to sit where the younger of the two, threatened me with a machete while my wife with a gun to her head was ordered to produce “moony, moony.”
He went up and down several times taking US cash, a large roll of Honduran notes, 2 backpacks; one containing my wife’s jewelry a computer, cell phone, bankbook and 2 cameras. Returning to the deck, he took our rolled up dinghy and starting yelling: “mooter, mooter.” We tried to explain to him that the strange looking device on our stern was the motor (a Torquudo electric) and he wound up taking 2 of the 3 pieces.
The last portion was the strangest, like robbing Santa’s gift bag, he pulled out anything he saw and threw it in the launcha: a pair of West Marine flip-flops, a blue 5 gallon water jug, fishing gear, oars, kayak paddles. All into his launcha.
Then with a final instruction to start our engine and they motored speedily away in the direction of Puerto Escondito.
During the entire event, my wife was physically held from behind with a firearm pressed against her neck and threatened with death if cooperation was not complete nor expedient. They even made us take our wedding and engagement rings off our fingers.
At the conclusion of this event, which if I am not mistake, is the classic definition of privacy,(piracy Ed.) we called for assistance from the Honduran Coast Guard via channel 16. I understand that the US Coast Guard also monitors this channel as well, but they never answered our call.
We were instructed by what we think was Puerto Cortes harbor control to proceed back to that port and 4 hours later were greeted there by immigration, police and the civil maritime officials, the latter taking the lead in questioning us. They were extraordinarily polite and helpful especially agent Ricardo Hernandez of the Port Capitan’s office who drove us around to the various authorities as we were checked in and out of the country and spent the afternoon assisting the police and translating for us with regard their report. It was made clear that there is no police presence anywhere near the crime scene nor in the adjacent village and that there would likely be no investigation. We anchored in our familiar spot, near the Navy pier and left early the next morning, returning to our base in Rio Dulce Guatemala. There would be no more sailing for us this season.
- I have great concern that the ease with which we were overcome, the munificent haul and the anticipated subsequent lack of pressure from the authorities will encourage additional such activity by this group or copycats. If a bunch of kids with a big firearm can bring thousands of dollars of booty without the least chance of apprehension, then this coast has the potential for further mayhem and violence.
- Although there was no violence with regard this incident, an important reason for that was our immediate “Stockholm” approach. Not every boater will take that tact.
- The police in Puerto Cortes appear to be under-funded ill-equipped and completely ill-suited to do anything more than to complete a report with regard the incident, and even that was a trial. No computers, no knowledge of the area where the incident occurred, I was lead to believe perhaps no roads, though less than 30 miles away.
- This is the same general area where a Canadian sailor was killed last year. It now must be regarded as of dubious safety.
- And yet, Roatan/ Utila/ Rio Dolce is a main pathway for craft returning to Rio Dulce for hurricane season. It would be prudent that mariners be warned.
Michael S. Feldman
SV Southern Star
Catamaran Marina, Rio Dulce Guatemala and New York, NY