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EDITOR:
Steve Van Nattan

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NINE DAYS ALEJANDRINA PRAYED--  
God was merciful!

 

This story has the sorrow of the age we live in, for a number of people had the opportunity to save these people.  By not helping them, God gained even greater glory in their rescue.

 

BELIZE REPORTER-

Four Hondurans lost at sea were rescued by police officers just beyond the reef at Caye Caulker last Sunday.

The four occupants of the boat had survived a gruelling nine days lost at sea after their diesel-powered boat developed engine trouble.

A police rescue party from Caye Caulker found them shaken by their experience, but otherwise in good health, immensely relieved and glad to be on firm land again.

The owner of the boat, Ernesto Atilio and his captain, Agusto Suazo, had made plans to leave the coastal town of Trujillo in Honduras to sell produce on the Island of Guanaja. It was a seven- hour trip, but one they had frequently made together.

Jose Ramon Fuñez and Alejan-drina Ramirez, who were heading for their home in Guanaja, joined them as passengers.

The group left Trujillo on May 1 expecting to be in Guanaja the same day. Instead they spent the most gruelling nine days of their lives lost at sea.

Five hours into the journey the fuel pump began to malfunction, and as night fell, the small boat lost all power.

Capt. Suazo used the boat’s compass and a map to try to steer the boat toward Guanaja but after the second day at sea, the steering mechanism gave way to the sea’s grip, putting the craft at the mercy of the waves.

The produce Ernesto Atilio had on board proved a godsend. They had watermelons and bananas and oranges. They also had a good supply of fresh water.

Extra clothing came in handy as well. Diesel-soaked pieces of clothing served as torches to signal for help to passing boats. During their nine-day ordeal many boats approached the castaways but none stopped to render assistance.

Despite all the setbacks, the captain managed to keep his wits about him and kept track of the boat’s direction on his compass. A new mattress Atilio had just bought served as a makeshift sail, keeping the small boat moving.

On the third day strong waves from the south-west battered the boat badly and forced its occupants to abandon the mattress sail. The waves also smashed the glass windows of the boat and almost swamped it. The occupants, who found themselves continuously bailing to keep the boat afloat, decided to dump the heavy watermelons overboard.

Around midnight that same night, even as the high waves continued to batter the boat, Ramon Funez saw another boat passing nearby. He had tied himself to a stanchion to keep from being thrown into the sea. In desperation he grabbed the only light bulb on board, which the captain used to keep track of the compass, to signal for help. The boat slowed, and stopped, but after seeing that there were people alive onboard, continued on its way.

After a while the captain and his passengers lost all sense of direction. Alone at sea, they had no clue as to where they were.

Burlap sacks that contained Atilio’s produce were ripped open to use as a makeshift sail. Wire and fishing line served as needle and thread. Pieces of wood hammered together served as a mast. Having put all these pieces together, the three resourceful men and the woman kept watch by day, taking turns to sleep at night, but always on the lookout for any sign of hope.

On the sixth day the wind died down, and the boat made no progress. That night wind freshened somewhat, and the passengers thought they saw traces of land. But their revived hopes did not stay high. As dawn broke, all they could make out, as far as the eye could see, was sea.

But on Sunday, the morning of their ninth day at sea, the survivors could see land beyond the reef. By then the craft was only 200 feet from the reef, and the captain became concerned that the boat would slam against the reef, so he dropped anchor some 100 feet away. Passenger Jose Ramon Fuñez then volunteered to swim to shore to ask for help.

A Caye Caulker fisherman found Fuñez while he was still trying to reach the shore, and took him to the Caye Caulker police, who promptly organized a rescue party.

Caye Caulker residents marvelled at the miracle that had brought the castaways safe and sound to their island, and plied them with food and clothing. The Government of Belize has also assisted by repairing the boat and providing return passages for all four people.

“It was God who saved us,” Atilio exclaimed, “but it was Alejandrina who interceded for us. She prayed constantly from her Bible that she carried with her. If it wasn’t for her prayers, we would not be alive today,” he said.