CALGARY – A Calgary couple say they were terrified when armed pirates boarded their sailboat and demanded money, then abandoned them on a remote part of the Honduras coastline.
Andy Wasinger, 46, and Loretta Reinholdt, 54, set out on the adventure of a lifetime two weeks ago, helping transfer a boat from Belize to the island of Roatan in Honduras and learning to sail in the process from an American captain named Dave.
But just a few days into the adventure, a small fishing boat pulled up and the sailboat was boarded by four men armed with guns, a harpoon and a knife.
They ran the sailboat aground and took about $3,000 cash and anything of value they could find, then disappeared while the captain and the Calgary couple obeyed their orders to go below deck and stay there.
The trio then spent four days in the jungle, drinking rainwater and using the sail as a makeshift tent, until they were found and rescued by some hikers.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said the government was aware of reports of the attack and was in touch with local authorities to gather information.
“Canadians travelling to Honduras should be aware that serious crime ” including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion and sexual assault – is common, and armed attacks on marine vessels have been reported,” said a statement.
Wasinger and Reinholdt said things happened very quickly. First the pirates held Wasinger at gunpoint, then Reinholdt, before ransacking the captain’s quarters.
“They tore his place apart, yelling and screaming that they wanted more money,” Reinholdt, a retired nurse, told CTV Calgary. “They came back up on deck and they pulled my hair and they took a knife to my throat and threated to kill me if they didn’t get more money. This is when the captain did find some more money in his quarters. He gave it to them but they were still not satisfied.”
After the boat was run aground, the pirates cut the electrical lines to the boat’s communications system.
“After about five minutes we couldn’t hear anything, we peeked outside to see if we were safe and they were gone,” Reinholdt said. “We rejoiced that we were alive.”
However, that relief quickly turned to panic over fears the pirates could return. The trio set up a camp in a nearby mangrove swamp where they could hide out in case they did come back.
Wasinger said they eventually found a trail which led to the entrance to Jeanette Kawas National Park, a park that is only accessible by water. They set up an SOS on the ground using sticks, and after four days a group of hikers approached the beach where they had run aground.
“It was great. It was one of the best moments of my life, I think. I was ecstatic,” Wasinger said. “I know we can go through anything in life now after this situation. We are a lot closer as a couple and we live life every day as if it is our last.”
After their rescue, the couple met President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who offered them a ride in his presidential helicopter to the nearest airport. And the Honduran government covered the cost of their flight to Mexico, where they are recuperating from their ordeal.