Calgary couple survives pirate attack on sailing trip in Honduras

A retired Calgary couple is thankful to be alive, after being attacked by pirates while on a sailing trip in Honduras.

Couple and sailboat captain threatened by armed men and left stranded in the jungle

Andy Wasinger and Loretta Reinholdt relax on the beach at Jeanette Kawas National Park shortly after being rescued from the jungle following an attack by pirates in Honduras. (Ciro Vladimir Navarro Umana)

A retired Calgary couple is thankful to be alive after being attacked by pirates while on a sailing trip in Honduras.

Two weeks ago, retired nurse Loretta Reinholdt, 54, and former computer programmer Andy Wasinger, 46, set off in a 17-metre hired boat with a captain, heading from Belize to the Honduran island of Roatan.

They had wanted to learn how to sail. Instead, they were set upon by four men armed with guns and knives who boarded the boat and took their money.

"They were yelling," said Reinholdt. "They were demanding more money. They didn't believe we only had that amount. And the more angry they got, the more scary it was.

"And they actually had me, pulling my hair and a knife on my throat, demanding more money from the captain."

The couple poses with Ciro Vladimir Navarro Umana (in blue shirt), the man who rescued them. (Ciro Vladimir Navarro Umana)

Wasinger added: "I knew we had to comply with the pirates and not be heroes."

The pirates then rammed the stolen boat into the shoreline of a remote beach in Jeanette Kawas National Park.

They cut the line to the main sail and tore out the engine wiring. They took the gasoline, the radio and the drinking water, leaving Reinholdt, Wasinger and the captain stranded in the jungle.

Peanut butter, cheese, rainwater

"I mean, that was like being on Survivor, but all alone," said Reinholdt. "We always kept thinking, they're really going to be coming back for us."

The Canadians and their captain lived on rationed peanut butter, cheese and rainwater for four days until their SOS messages — spelled out in branches along a park trail — were discovered by some people camping nearby.

"We hugged each other, we cried," said Reinholdt. "And we couldn't thank them enough for doing this for us, because they were also brave that they actually came to the area. So, it's unbelievable. We were so happy to be alive."

After their rescue, they even met President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who happened to be staying in the town of Tela, where they were taken after the attack. He offered them a presidential helicopter ride to the nearest airport.

The Honduran government footed the bill for the couple's flight to Mexico, where they are now recovering.

Despite their experience, Reinholdt and Wasinger say they'd go back to Honduras — but they would stick to populated areas. 

"I can't say enough about how the Honduran people helped us," Reinholdt said. "Everyone was so friendly."

A map showing where the pirates grounded the couple's sailboat in the Escondido Bay, and where the victims left SOS signals while they hid from the pirates in the jungle. (Google Earth )

Canadian government 'aware' of attack

In an email, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed it knew about the attack and that Canadian consular officials at the embassy in Tegucigalpa have been in touch with local authorities to gather more 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 foreign affairs spokesman Nicolas Doire in a statement.

Doire directed people traveling to Honduras to read the travel advisory regarding safety and security on the government of Canada website.