This is not about the sailor that hoists the Jolly Roger at the local raftup, or the Parrot Head Pirate. This is about real, modern-day pirates.
A sailor I know (cruiser and actual “Sailor”, former Navy SEAL) posted a link to Facebook a couple of days ago and I just got around to reading about it. The article was about a pirate attack. Not off the coast of Aden, not East Africa, not by Somalian Pirates; but by pirates of the Caribbean.
A couple from Canada recently were learning to sail with a hired skipper off the coast of Honduras. Two weeks ago, retired nurse Loretta Reinholdt, 54, and former computer programmer Andy Wasinger, 46, set off in a 17-metre hired boat with a captain, heading from Belize to the Honduran island of Roatan. Their purpose for being there was to learn to sail. Instead they wound up being attacked by four armed men who boarded the boat and took them hostage, threatening to kill them for money.
“They were yelling,” said Reinholdt. “They were demanding more money. They didn’t believe we only had that amount. And the more angry they got, the more scary it was.”
“And,” she stated, “they actually had me, pulling my hair and a knife on my throat, demanding more money from the captain.”
Wasinger added: “I knew we had to comply with the pirates and not be heroes.”
The pirates then rammed the stolen boat into the shoreline of a remote beach in Jeanette Kawas National Park.
They cut the line to the main sail and tore out the engine wiring. They took the gasoline, the radio and the drinking water, leaving Reinholdt, Wasinger and the captain stranded in the jungle.
A map showing where the pirates grounded the couple’s sailboat in the Escondido Bay, and where the victims left SOS signals while they hid from the pirates in the jungle. (Google Earth )
The Canadian Government has put out substantial warnings about visiting Honduras. The United States Department of State has at least one warning listed I could locate on the site: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/honduras-travel-warning.html
In 2014 a Canadian from Calgary was killed for his iPhone during a night on the town, bar hopping with a couple of local women. While this did not happen on the water, the murderers are still “pirates” after a fashion. Every country, including the US and Canada has it’s pirates. Pirates are real. They have no remorse or compunction about taking something from someone else, especially if they have this “perception” the victim is weaker, has money, is Rich, is Norte Americano. Honduras, indeed many small countries in Central America, and islands in the Caribbean do not have vast sums of money to go around, and iPhones are like gold. Many of these countries count on tourism and believe me, many of us have spent large sums on vacations in the region in the past.
Canadian Tim Vallee was shot and killed while on vacation in Honduras, October 2014.
The last time I was personally in Honduras, I was getting shot at from bad guys across the border of Nicaragua. I seriously have no intention of revisiting that sort of environment in my life time – at least not with any deliberate consideration of doing so. My thinking is that Americans, Canadians – and really anyone who ventures out on a sailboat into areas which have issued warnings about them are taking their lives into the hands.
The other thinking that many cruisers have is that “The world be damned, I’ll go where I wish….” and I can respect that. I tend to think along similar lines. But, when there are stories of “pirates” who actually attack people, your best bet is to be forewarned. Praemonitus, praemunitus. Forewarned is forearmed. Knowledge of the preexistence of danger in an area gives one the ability to logically determine if they wish to place themselves into a dangerous situation.
In general, most sailors I’ve met are relatively cautious individuals. Absolutely so, the cruisers I’ve met. They study the weather, fix broken things, watch the skies, the tides, reef before they should and so forth. But many pooh pooh the dangers of the human animal believing that human beings are, at the heart all good people.
In my travels, not sailing, but flying from place to place, I’ve visited 50 countries. I’ve encountered good, bad, evil and angelic people throughout the world. No country in particular has any more of it’s bad share of people than any other. There are concerns for places in the Middle East these days; and though I have been there in the past I won’t visit in the future. The Caribbean has a long, storied history of Pirates. Some countries, in particular those of a third world nature tend at having desperate people who take desperate measures, whether to feed themselves, or their children is irrelevant to me. But, desperation at times drives good people to do bad things.
Cruisers should be wary. They should not advertise “wealth”. They should not wear expensive rings, and jewelry and in fact don’t even bring it to the boat with you if you can avoid it. Leave it to your children if you’re traveling for extended periods of time, or leave it home if you’re going back soon. Don’t flash your phone. Wear cheap sunglasses. Dress down, unless visiting the Port Captain of course…. separate your money. Keep a small amount of spending cash in a pocket, anything extra hidden or plan better and don’t bring extra at all on the islands or into town.
Do common sense things; avoid people who look like they are trying to scope you out.
Finally, if you hear of, or know of attacks inform the local authorities if you can and warn other cruisers away if you can. However, don’t pass rumors, only get the facts, dates, times and exactly what you know or saw, or experienced. Don’t repeat others’ stories as “sea stories” because they get blown out of proportion, the truth gets lost and eventually people discount what was told because it sounds just too outlandish.
For those who absolutely believe in the good in humans I wish you luck and hope and pray your beliefs hold true.
For the rest of us, there are other measures to fend off “pirates”.
Whether we have to use those methods… or die trying, is obviously, ultimately up to each of us to decide.
There was one other blog entry on this subject on 6 April 2014. This does not only affect people who are cruising sailboats, a crew member from a large cruise ship was also killed, for his iPhone as well.