Piracy attacks off Honduras

There have been three recent attacks on yachts off the coast of Honduras. Merchant Marine Captain Mike Brown, S/V Reflections, and his female crewmember were sailing off the coast of Honduras. They had left Puerto Cortes and were on passage to Roatan. After 10 hours of sailing, they had made just 13 miles of easting and were five miles off the coast when they were sideswiped by a fishing panga with eight armed men aboard on Jan. 13. Two of the men immediately jumped aboard Reflections with semi-automatic pistols in hand. Four other armed men soon joined the other two while two men remained in the boat.

Captain Brown remained calm and did not challenge the intruders. With guns aimed at him from two of the men, the other four took his crewmember down below to get cash, electronics and anything of value. Captain Brown then offered the men his dinghy, which was lashed to the deck. They cut it loose, but the dinghy got away. The armed pirates jumped back onto to their fishing vessel to chase down the dinghy and left. Reflections made it safely to Roatan, about 70 miles away, without navigation equipment.

On Jan. 18, a French-flagged catamaran departed Isla de Providencia for Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Traveling well off the Nicaraguan coast, they turned off their AIS transmitter but monitored all traffic closely.

At 0830 on the morning of the 19th, after traveling 175 nm, now located 70 nm off the Nicaraguan coast and 35 nm ESE of the Hobbies Islands, they were approached by a single panga from the north with seven men who asked for water and food. They were provided. At 0900 the same panga returned asking for more, and a pack of cigarettes was given, while suddenly two more fishing boats with 40-hp outboards approached at high speed from the south with seven additional men. They converged on the catamaran, rammed and boarded the yacht, now visibly armed with knives and iron bars.

Some of the pirates beat the locked doors and gained entry to the cabin while the others scavenged on deck. The leaders seemed to be looking for drugs but found none. The pirates took computers, a smartphone, cash, assorted electronics, binoculars, VHF and hand-held radios, alcohol, clothing, anything that they could grab or remove. After about an hour they departed.

Using a hidden VHF, the crew contacted a nearby cargo ship which then contacted the Colombian navy and piracy agency.

At 1030, a single panga returned with a mixed group of eight of the youngest of the original pirates and again boarded, holding knives to the throats of the crew, this time attempting to sever the lock to the yacht dinghy/outboard. They failed and became nervous when they heard a VHF transmission from the approaching cargo vessel. The second group of pirates departed.

The crew again made radio contact with the cargo vessel, which took all necessary information and agreed to inform Colombian officials.

The yacht proceeded to Guanaja, Honduras, without further incident. They arrived on Friday, Jan. 20.

On Jan. 19, a 40-foot monohull sailing from Panama to the Yucatan passed over Gordo Banks at night. Chris Parker of the Marine Weather Center reported that the yacht was boarded by pirates who seemed to be looking for drugs. Finding none, they took iPads, electronics and rum.

-Excerpted from the Seven Seas Cruising Association Commodore’s Bulletin

By Ocean Navigator