An Unfortunate Reef Encounter
Sailboat Choupique hits a reef in Belize. This is
Bob's sad tale of what happened afterward.
by Bob Smith, s/v
On June 16, 2005 at 3:30am, the sailing trimaran CHOUPIQUE
struck the reef just South of Xcalak, Mexico, just inside the
The following is a reprint of a letter sent to the American
Consulate in Merida, Mexico detailing the events before and
after the incident.
Ms. Maureen Smith
American Consulate Office
Dear Ms. Smith:
Thanks again for your prompt reply, but there seems to be a
misunderstanding concerning the logistics of the rescue. I have
always kept a daily log on my boat and I would like to share
this information with you, directly as it was entered on a daily
Thurs, 16 June 05
- 3:30 AM: The sailing trimaran CHOUPIQUE struck the
reef just south of Xcalak, Mexico, just inside Belize
- 3:40 AM: Called for assistance to anyone within
the sound of my voice (at this point I knew I was near the
border but not sure of my exact position).
- 3:45 AM: Xcalak Captain of the Port answered and
informed me that help was on the way.
- 4:30 AM: Two pangas (boats) appeared, one with a
Mexican Park Ranger and the Port Captain on board and one
Mexican Navy boat with approx. 6 sailors aboard.
- 5:30 AM: Park Ranger attempted to pull the boat
- 6:30 AM: Navy panga was in process of taking me
off the reef.
- 7:00 AM: Both Mexican boats were told by a Belize
Park ranger to leave Belizean waters and that a larger
Belizean boat was on its way to the scene. No boat of
any kind showed up that day.
Fri, 17 June 05
- No help came.
- VHF radio failed (submerged batteries).
- Belizean Park Rangers came out to inspect damage to
- Found minimal damage to reef (mostly fire coral).
- Also found minimal damage to the boat.
- I also made an underwater assessment along with the park
divers and found only one hole, a cut about 8 inches long
that could easily be repaired while boat was in the water,
but boat had to be removed from reef first and quickly.
Sat, 18 June 05
- No help came today.
- I salvaged one of my boat batteries and re-activated my
- Damage to boat getting steadily worse from the constant
pounding of the surf.
- Radioed my son-in-law in San Pedro and asked him to try
to locate the proper officials and request help, he was
un-successful in doing so.
Sun 19-June 05
Mon, 20 June 05
- Damage to boat getting progressively worse.
- Began calling on VHF for anybody within sound of my
- Xcalak Captain of Port answered and informed me again
that he was told to stay out of Belizean waters and that he
could do nothing.
- I received several calls from Cliff Evans (Xcalak) who
had been on the radio continuously trying to get me some
help. As well as Steve from XTC dive shop (Xcalak).
- Son-in-law and daughter from Tulsa and two friends also
from Tulsa finally hired a fisherman to bring them to the
site, we worked all after noon trying to shift the boat away
from the direct pounding of the surf using my (3) anchors,
helped a little.
- They left around 5:00 PM.
- At approximately 9:00 PM a large hole appeared in
starboard side of main hull (result of 5 days of constant
racking and pounding from the surf).
- It was obviously time for me to leave!! The weather was
- In the process of launching my dingy I lost my fuel tank
overboard and it was blown into the darkness and out of
sight, so I began rowing. I estimate the time to be about
10PM when I started rowing. I headed for the Mexican Navy
base, the nearest land other than mangroves.
- I arrived at Navy base at daybreak (6:AM approx.). The
Navy Commandant graciously put me in a Navy vehicle and took
me to the Port Captains office.
- I finally locate a private boat captain that agrees to
take me out to get my personal belongings.
- We arrived at the boat at 3:00PM to find that the boat
had been completely ransacked. There was nothing left but
the bare mast and the diesel and clothing etc. scattered
around. I estimate that from first light until I got back to
the boat, approx 8-9 hours had elapsed, the time the
Belizeans had to strip the boat.
around 21 June, the Belize Diplomatic Office in Washington DC
issued a bulletin that said the Belizeans had in fact rescued me
and my boat from the reef on June 20!
EVER TRIED TO COLLECT INSURANCE ON A SUNKEN BOAT THAT HAS
BEEN OFFICIALLY AND SUCCESSFULLY RESCUED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT
AND VERIFIED BY YOUR OWN AMERICAN CONSULATE??????
A couple days later a Belizean (with several of his buddies)
came to see me and offered to sell my Passport (taken from my
boat) back to me for 750 pesos. I had no choice but to
make the purchase. A few days later when I was arranging
to head south by bus the Mexican Port Captain came to inform me
"not to cross the Belize border," The Belizeans had issued an
order to confiscate my passport and hold me under arrest and
fine me $6000 USD for damage to the reef.
Bob is currently re-fitting his new boat "Defiance" a 31'
Friendship Sloop in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala. He stays
away from Belize.