Honduras and Guatemala Border, SE of Cayos Miskitos: Pursued by Suspicious Vessel – December 2014

(December 18, 2014) – This report was sourced via Cruisers Network Online taken directly from the victims’ blog. A shorter report was also made by the Caribbean Security and Safety Net.

Published 8 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Pirate attack averted off the Nicaragua/Honduras border

On December 21, 2014, we were ready to set sail from Coxen Hole, Roatan, for Old Providence, our intermediate step towards Panama.

The forecast was for light winds (around 10 knots) from east south/east for the next 3 days and for which the approximately 400 miles that separated us from our destination, appeared to be very slow: upwind and without a large sail at the bow due to a problem with the jib furler (we only had our storm jib, a handkerchief of just 14 square meters).

Starting from Guatemala, the route to Panama presents some difficulties. The first 300 miles, along the coast of Honduras, are almost certain to be done against the wind because of the trade wind that blows constantly from the east in its north or south components. Moreover, the trade wind blows on average between 18 and 25 knots of real, that with our boat turn quickly in 25/35 knots of apparent! Not exactly a comfortable stretch.

Many prefer to avoid this route, so to get to Panama from Guatemala, they go up to the Cayman Islands before falling back with a more favorable angle. All but lengthening the path of more than 400 miles (70%)!

But there are other reasons to avoid the direct route along the coast of Honduras. In fact, leaving the Honduras coast you are navigating near the coast of Nicaragua, a country certainly not among the safest.

At our departure from Rio Dulce, we were advised to go well off the coast of Nicaragua, because the fishermen of the area do not seem to have completely “given up” to the ancient pirate activities. But the idea to stretch again to over 100 miles on our journey with the expecting wind conditions and without Genoa led me to underestimate the council.

So I decided on a course of 90 ° with the idea to keep some thirty miles from the coast to the border between Honduras and Nicaragua and then break down to about 50 degrees and, through the Edinburg Channel “, take off again towards Old Providence. As a precaution, we have decided to hold off the navigation lights at night and to maintain close surveillance radar six miles for all 24 hours.

For the first two days everything went fine, except that the fuel made in Guatemala before our departure proved to be contaminated and as the level of the same fell in the tanks, we began to experience power problems. Dirty filters, feed pipes clogged and finally, engines off! I had to clean the entire fuel system.

Furthermore, most of the contaminated fuel was no longer usable, which we put in some spare jerry cans with the intention of downloading in Old Providence. So we were with little fuel, light wind and little “canvas” !!

The Incident

Day 24 around 11 am we had just passed the Edimburg Channel and our position was 14 ° 11.947’N; 082 ° 16.289W. Sunshine, wind from 125 ° at around 15 knots of apparent and us on a course of 163 °, starboard tack.

For some time we had a boat on the radar, quite firm on its position, about 6 miles NE ahead of us. In the days before we had encountered some of them and no one had ever shown any hostile and even suspicious attitude. Truly at 07:34h of the same day, I recorded on my logbook: “We passed the area of shallow water on the border between Honduras and Guatemala. The suggestions of those with whom we discussed the route to keep after Roatan, they said to keep on a route of 90 ° to 200 miles from the island due to the presence of fishermen / Pirates/traffickers. We have only met fishing boats engaged in their honest work. ”

But arrived at about 3 miles away, the fishing boat began to move for a colliding route. We noticed the fact, but we did not worry that much. In the following minutes, their course became increasingly colliding with our own. At that point, an uneasy feeling grew in all the crew. It was not yet fear, just our sixth sense warning that something was wrong.

I thought the best move to make was to immediately change course, tacking. A change, of course, that could also mean for those looking at us, the choice of a not colliding course, perhaps to facilitate navigation to those engaged in fishing operations and at the same time would force our fishermen friends to reveal their intentions. If they would continue on their course, there would be nothing to fear. If it were us the object of their interest, they would be forced to change course, stating clearly their hostile intentions.

At that point, we began to observe them with our binoculars. It was a 60/70 foot boat in poor condition, with no fishing equipment, which we had noticed in all vessels sighted in the previous days. In the meantime, the distance between the 2 vessels decreased to about two miles. Few minutes later our tack even the fishing boat was changing course of about 180 °, putting his bow to our stern.

We were sailing on port tack at an angle of about 35 degrees to the wind and, considering the little sail on the bow, we developed only 5 or 6 knots. The boat, at this point openly pirate, would have reached us shortly.

I quickly realized that the only possible way out of such situation was developing speed. I decided to tack again. Starboard tack then, but this time taking Angelique II to  90 ° angle to the wind. With this maneuver, I managed to cross the “ship” pirate course, now less than 200 meters from our stern, remaining ahead.

The entire crew was in the bow, around the quarterdeck and I think I also saw the hooks on deck, ready to be launched.

The starboard engine was pushing us but the port side engine was struggling as a result of the known contaminated fuel. However we were doing 8 knots and the pirate ship seemed to not gain any further on our stern. Completed the maneuver, I had to focus on speed. I yelled at Ray “gennaker out”, and in less than 30 seconds, the gennaker was ashore. At that point, the log has begun to score 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 knots. The pirate ship started to become smaller and smaller. The gloomy figures on the quarterdeck less distinguishable.

After just a few minutes the pirates decided to “give up”, changing route again. We decided to stay on a full speed course until we had put at least 10 miles of water between us and them.


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