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Old 03-06-2014, 22:26   #1
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Shared Responsibility in Belize?

Innocent American tourist victimized by Belizean Authorities | Travel Belize?

Their site..

I know these people second hand. There's a ring of truth about their statements that indicates Moorings shares some of the responsibility.

At the very least there's some things here to beware of when renting boats that might often be swept aside.
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Old 04-06-2014, 01:36   #2
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

Don't know them or first hand anything of their situation, but their description of the Moorings operation sounds nothing like the Moorings I know. Renee (base manager) always ran a tight ship, their chart briefings were excellent, and I can't imagine them sending anyone off without a copy of Freya Rauscher's cruising guide (the "purple book" they reference). But, its been a few years since I worked with the Moorings in Belize and things may have changed.

Does sound like they were inexperienced. If so, that's something for which both they and Moorings share responsibility. And, that they had not prepared well for the complex waters of Bleize (their responsibility).

Ranguana is a very easy approach from any Westerly quadrant (W-NW being their most likely direction of approach from Lark). There is a nasty bit of reef very close just SW of Ranguana (good snorkeling). Sounds like that's what they hit.

However, their account of Belizean authorities is typical, especially when foreign boats go up on the reef. Belizean attornies are unfortuantely generally useless and are not going to fight with officials they have to work with in the future (tourists...well they come and go). Likely they will be inconvenienced for a while, some money will change hands (a lot less than the wild amounts they always come up with at first), and then all this ruckus will go away. That's the way things usually play out in Belize.

Ah, another day in paradise! ;-)
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Old 04-06-2014, 02:19   #3
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

I was going to visit Belize in 2011, but heard on the Sw Caribbean net about yachties being shaken down by some port captains for exorbitant exit fees. I sent the Belize tourist bureau an email asking about the inconsistencies in the fees being charged, but never got a response. I just hardened up and sailed on to Roatan. Reading the account of the Moorings charterers, it confirms my suspicion that corruption is rampant and they view sailors/tourists as pigeons for the plucking--I'm glad I gave it a miss.
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Old 04-06-2014, 03:54   #4
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

Hi
I have spent years in the Honduras Belize area and this is just typical. It is a shame as I think Belize is a good place other than the government.
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Old 04-06-2014, 07:07   #5
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

This is crazy! Doesn't the tourism authority know that this stuff spreads like wildfire! Too many other beautiful places to sail to take this risk....
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Old 04-06-2014, 09:21   #6
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
I was going to visit Belize in 2011, but heard on the Sw Caribbean net about yachties being shaken down by some port captains for exorbitant exit fees. I sent the Belize tourist bureau an email asking about the inconsistencies in the fees being charged, but never got a response. I just hardened up and sailed on to Roatan. Reading the account of the Moorings charterers, it confirms my suspicion that corruption is rampant and they view sailors/tourists as pigeons for the plucking--I'm glad I gave it a miss.
Many cruisers have complained about the inconsistency and have written officials. Net result has just been to stir up discontent among the front line officials you actually have to deal with.

Over many years of moving boats around Belize, I have seen fees & procedures change very fluidly....sometimes as quickly as between you and the next person in line!

This is just the nature of the culture and not likely to change. All you can do is go with flow...fighting it will just make it worse. Once you become a known quantity, and learn how the system really works, and establish a few "allies" in officialdom, then it can become a little easier, but you will always be a "foreigner" and that colors everything you do with officials in Belize. The hassle and inconsistency never totally go away (spoken as a former business owner and charter captain in Belize)...and it all changes every time there is an election or change of officials.

This can all be very frustrating of course, which is a shame because it is a great cruising ground.

If you suspect you are about to have serious official/legal problems in Belize then the best strategy is to leave the country immediately (forget paperwork, head straight for the nearest way out). Same strategy used by McAfee (totally crazy, but not stupid) and the owner of M/Y "Great Escape". Unfortunately, these current folks missed their chance just to step on the plane and be gone.
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Old 04-06-2014, 09:34   #7
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

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This is crazy! Doesn't the tourism authority know that this stuff spreads like wildfire! Too many other beautiful places to sail to take this risk....
BTB (Belize Tourism Board) swings a pretty big stick in Belize and does get concerned about such things. Probably the best strategy for these folks, and those supporting them ashore, is to try and gain some traction with BTB and the US Embassy.

They should of course also retain local legal council to advise and help with formalities, but thats about all they are good for...do not mistakenly assume that your Belizean attorney is going to do anything effective for you (voice of experience). The Embassy can recommend legal council, but they are all pretty lame in my experience...and the Judicial system is extremely inefficient...though my impression of some of the Justices I've dealt with there is certainly higher than Belizean attorneys.
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Old 04-06-2014, 09:46   #8
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

It's pretty common knowledge around Belize or should be, you don't run onto a reef. If you do, be really careful who you tell. Lucky it was not their own boat.
Getting into trouble with any of those third world countries down there can be a bad deal. I wish them all the luck.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:18   #9
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

I know I'd sure rather hit a reef in Belize than in Florida, if you want to talk consequences.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:21   #10
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

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I know I'd sure rather hit a reef in Belize than in Florida, if you want to talk consequences.
What are the consequences? $200k fine and 5 years in prison?

These stories of government corruption in 'bannana republics' scare me more than anything.
Do these officials not think the word gets out and doesn't have an effect?
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:34   #11
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

The difference is that an average US citizen can afford to buy his way out in a banana republic. In the US, the corruption is at such a high level that the average Joe can't even afford the ante to be in that game.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:45   #12
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

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I know I'd sure rather hit a reef in Belize than in Florida, if you want to talk consequences.
Yep, have a buddy who now has a felony (FELONY!) conviction because they drifted into a restricted area with fishing gear aboard in FL...it was stowed, they were not even actively fishing.

Down here in the Bannana Republics officials can be pretty flexible. Not so back in the USA. The real corruption is at such a high level, and for such big $s, that the average Joe is not of interest.

Down here some of these officials are just trying to survive on meager pay, so a little payola is very tempting (...and effective).
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Old 04-06-2014, 11:09   #13
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

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What are the consequences? $200k fine and 5 years in prison?

These stories of government corruption in 'bannana republics' scare me more than anything.
Do these officials not think the word gets out and doesn't have an effect?
The typical front line official in Belize could careless about word getting out, other than it might interfer with their payola, they mostly resent foreigners being here anyway. Some folks further up the food chain are concerned about bad PR.

Corruption is the grease that makes the wheels turn in Belize (and in all fairness, many other countries too). Without it the country would grind to a halt because it would elimimate the motivation for many officials to do anything. Getting anything done without an official getting a little "tip" is very unusual (especially for foreigners). This may not seem "right" by USA standards, but its how the system works...and it most definately does not work without it. Often, for folks who've been here a while, this is an amicable arrangement, not a threatening situation. You make a buddy (ally) over in Customs and when you show up to claim your imported goods, he valuates them low in consideration for his "tip". Everyone walks away happy.

I suspect this is how this current situation will ultimately get resolved...although I don't suspect they will walk away happy, but walk away they will because no one profits from them going to jail (at least not for long).

These folks are not in any real physical danger, but it is going to be unpleasant, inconvenient, and expensive.
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Old 04-06-2014, 11:12   #14
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Re: Shared responsibility in Belize?

Seems like the problem is as much with Moorings as with the government. I can understand the Belizians siding with compatriots over tourists, and also money attracting businesses but it sure seems tough on these guys to foot the whole bill here, and if what they say is correct Moorings needs to tighten a few screws in their operation down there.

Overall I don't know much about the company, they seem to get people on the water in interesting locations and the few people I know first hand who have used them have had an excellent time. My guess is that experience will vary dramatically based on location and local managers, and the more out of the way spots have more chance to fly under the radar of normal company quality control. Of course lady luck plays a part - if the Freunds hadn't hit that reef they might have had an amazing vacation and come away with a completely different opinion.
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Old 04-06-2014, 12:26   #15
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Re: Shared Responsibility in Belize?

I think the advice Belizesailor gives is good for most of the third world--if you have a serious incident with your boat, head directly to the airport. I'll add another one--if you get arrested for anything, get someone else to get your boat out of the country ASAP.

Reminds me a a friend who was in a car wreck south of Ensenada, MX and woke up in jail. She managed to get them to take a check (last time they will do that), beat it for the border, and blocked the check first thing.
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