Catamaran crashes into reef near Halfmoon Caye
A boating accident on the Lighthouse Reef Atoll earlier this week has prompted calls for improved navigational aides. According to the Belize Port Authority, around ten on Wednesday night, their officers were informed that a catamaran had run aground on the reef near Halfmoon Caye. The thirty-eight foot sailing vessel named Sun Jam, is registered in Huntington Beach, California and was being captained at the time by David Luckner. Luckner was travelling from the Turneffe Atoll to anchor at Halfmoon, but it was dark and being in unfamiliar territory, he inadvertently crashed head on into the coral reef. On Thursday, officials from the Belize Audubon Society, which manages the protected area, travelled with representatives from the Belize Port Authority, the Coast Guard, Fisheries, and the Department of the Environment to the scene to assess the damage and attempt to remove the catamaran. After a failed effort late Thursday, the boat was finally removed this afternoon. According to Marine Protected Areas Manager at B.A.S., Roberto Pott, such incidents will continue if nothing is done to update navigational charts given to boaters.
Roberto Pott, Protected Areas Mgr., B.A.S.
“Had he read the charts carefully, he would know that it is unsafe to navigate at night around the Lighthouse Reef Atoll and especially going into the Half Moon Caye Natural Monuments. It’s surrounded by coral reef, patch reefs, and fringe reefs on the outer edge, so you’d really have to be a local boy or local master to know your way into the caye at night.”
“We have a growing tourism market for bareboat charters as we call it, the sailboats that come in on their own, looking for an adventure and sailing into un-chartered waters in our view because the charts are not to the detail that might minimise these types of incidents. We had one other incident this year alone and last year we had—for us it was a very destructive incident when a larger vessel by the name of Tatoosh anchored outside of Lighthouse Reef and damaged a very pristine and cherished dive site known as cathedral.”
“What do you all think is the remedy to reduce these incidents?”
“Very careful and conscientious boatmanship or seaman ship would minimise impacts like these, navigating at night is a definite no in Belizean waters if you are not a native. But we also believe—we know that the Port Authority is working on several initiatives to try and improve the hydrographical information for our national waters. Until that is finalised, we will continue to have these incidents.”
Now that the catamaran has been removed, Audubon will be conducting an assessment of the reef to determine the extent of the damage.