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Old 07-08-2012, 07:45   #1
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Piracy in Honduras

This is a report I received from Cliff Vaughs about what happened to him

Incident July 30, 2012, Catarasca Lagoon, Honduras

On July 27, 2012 I was at anchor on Varillas Bank, Honduras. The Fuerza Naval Honduras boarded my vessel, S/V Amistad ( U.S. Documented 63135) to examine my documents. I asked for assistance in obtaining a quantity of transmission fluid (ATF Type A). They had non on board their patrol boat but agreed to inquire of fishing boats in the area. The following day they returned to indicate that none of the boats in the area carried the transmission fluid I required.. They advised me to go to Catarasca Lagoon where I would find a store to buy the fluid.
I broadcast a “Pawn” advisory concerning my intentions to enter Catarasca Lagoon. I arrived the evening of 29 July, 2012 and not wanting to try the entrance in darkness I anchored nearby. That night a squall occurred. High winds, stormy seas. I was blown off my anchor about five miles westward and deposited on a shoal bank.
I immediately broadcast a distress signal. “Mayday” giving my name , name of my vessel and position. I continued broadcasting a distress signal each fifteen minutes. There was no response although I sighted three unidentified vessels nearby. Direct calls to the Fuerza Naval Honduras went unanswered.
A small open boat approached to offer assistance. The outboard he used for propulsion was insufficient to tow me off the shoal. He left and said he would contact the nearby authorities. He left aboard my boat a crewmember who manned the VHF and presumably was in contact with the Fuerza Naval Honduras or other authority. I could hear the conversation but was unable to actually translate under the circumstances.
A group of men boarded my vessel and began to disconnect the anchor rode. I restrained them and ordered them ashore.
In retrospect they wanted to assure themselves that I was alone. They returned later in force, about fifteen men, bound me and began to remove everything from my boat. The identified “crewman” was with them. The man in the small boat also.
I went overboard to the beach with the clothes on my back. My two computers, three GPS units, cellular phone, four hundred dollars in US money ,ship batteries, 150 gallons diesel fuel, sails, Compass, four anchors, clothing, three months provisions…the inventory is extensive…gone. I was told that the naval station was five miles away to the east. The beach ended at the jungle. I turned back in despair. A torrential rain began. I could see the “pirate” boat standing a bit offshore. Some of the men had come from there. The remainder had appeared out of “nowhere”.
As I returned to the scene I watched as load after load was removed from my boat and disappeared into the jungle. I was quite exhausted. I prevailed on them not to leave me to perish on this uninhabited beach. A young boy was chosen to lead me out through the jungle to a “house”. He sympathetic, handed me a billfold, small, containing a life saving Debit card and Passport.
Two hours through thick underbrush. Swampland. At times wading through chest high water we entered a clearing with several houses. I looked around and saw the contents of my boat strewn on the ground with a long line of bearers coming through the jungle loaded with more.
The owner of the settlement was the man who had arrived that morning to query me.
They gave me a glass of water and bade me wait on the raised porch of the main dwelling. Four hours later I was urged into a small boat for a two hour journey to Lempira.
On the way to Lempira we stopped at a station of the Fuerza Naval Honduras. They were conversant with each other. I saw no real possibility of appeal. Miles away a different world.
One curious aspect though. ..I was walking through the streets when a man called out “Capitan, Capitan” there’s a phone call for you. The pirates apparently being friends locally had used my cellular phone to call my Chief Mate in the States. It was her, tearfully looking for me. She had been given the number of my captor.
So they are all complicit in this matter.

6 August, 2012
Atlanta, Georgia

Clifford A. Vaughs
S/V Amistad

Incidentally. I have an e-mail, which I’ll forward to the Agency, offering to regain my boat.

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Old 07-08-2012, 08:30   #2
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Re: piracy in Honduras

Unfortunate experience, but this area off the coast of Hondruas is rather dicey and best avoided. At least they were rather accommodating "pirates", providing a guide ashore, returning his passport and debit card, and calling for help.

I expect this kind of behavior has been historic of "wreckers" for eons....makes me think of the past history of Key West.

Any news on what became of Amistad? Still on the shoal? If so, TS ERNESTO is not going to do it any good.

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Old 07-08-2012, 08:58   #3
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Re: piracy in Honduras

On the way to Lempira we stopped at a station of the Fuerza Naval Honduras. They were conversant with each other. I saw no real possibility of appeal.
Poor guy. Honduras is off the list of places to go. Still will take precautions, wherever I go. But he was experienced, why oh why was he so blasé?
Ps 139:9-10 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
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Old 07-08-2012, 09:54   #4
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Re: piracy in Honduras

If you collected statics on sailing accidents (and maybe to a lesser extent security events which may have occurred partially due to being a little less cautious than maybe is warranted) my conjecture is that you might find they follow the trend of SCUBA diving accidents.

"DAN" collected statistics on diving accidents a number of years ago and found that accidents occurred more frequently in two categories of divers -- the less experienced and the very experienced. I don't know of similar statistics for sailing, but expect this trend transfers pretty well.

The very experienced divers had accidents because they were a bit "too" comfortable under the water and took risks that more moderately experienced divers would not.

I suspect the same thing happens with sailors. I know I've certainly done things both diving and sailing, that in retrospect were maybe not the most prudent decision. Maybe Mr. Vaughn under the circumstances did the same.

I would love to explore this fascinating and remote area of the Honduran and Nicaraguan coasts more, but have given it a wide berth due to issues there in the past (and now the present).
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Old 07-08-2012, 14:44   #5
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Re: piracy in Honduras

The US State Department Bullitens on the country are enough to keep me away:

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, according to the UN.

So far this year, six (6) US Citizens have been killed in Honduras.

Over 20 reporters have been killed in Honduras since 2010

As far as boating, I cut this right of the State Department site:
Incidents of piracy off the coast of Honduras can occur. In 2012, a U.S. citizen reported that his boat was boarded and his passengers were the victims of an armed robbery while sailing in Honduran waters near Puerto Cortez, three miles north of Punta Sal. In 2011, a Canadian citizen was killed in a similar incident. U.S. citizens should exercise caution while sailing or mooring in Honduran water

That is enough to keep me away from Honduras...
Tom Jeremiason
SV Camelot
Punta Gorda, Florida
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Old 07-08-2012, 19:03   #6
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Re: piracy in Honduras

Welcome to the world of "cultural differences". It's a sad state of affairs indeed.
While Vaughn looks at this situation as "piracy" I expect the locals look at it as a wrecked boat and one they salvaged as Vaughn requested their "help". It seems they did help him. Bringing him to the navel station, returning his passport, debit card etc... Going to be an interesting one for the insurance company to figure out. Wonder how well maritime law works along this coast too.
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Old 11-08-2012, 09:06   #7
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Re: piracy in Honduras

I've been to that part of the world and I will tell you I never once felt comfortable. Calling the area dicey is an understatement-its flat one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Always had one eye open and always checking my 6. As bad as this incident was though it certainly could have turned out much, much worse. Thanks lorenzo b for your tale. Sorry to hear what happened but count your Blessings brother. You are indeed a lucky man.
And what of the S/V Amistad???

Pura Vida on the Horizon
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Honduras, piracy, honduras

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