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Close Encounters at Sea (Survival Stories) Pt.3

by Angel Nunez – In this article (Part 3) I want to document real close encounters of San Pedranos that we may remember for generations. They are real stories that have been told throughout the years. They were a big deal back then, when local fishermen and divers lacked the modern equipment, technology and medical services were scarce on the island. Enjoy this third article with incredible stories about our local fishermen.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s the San Pedro’s Caribena Fishing Cooperative was the leading producer of lobster in Belize. In the early 1970’s Gonzalo “Chalo” Valdez Sr. and his crew of four were returning from a fishing trip down south with their vessel, La Luisa, with a full load of 600 pounds of frozen lobster tails. They were crossing from Glover’s Reef heading to the channel “quebrado” that is in front of San Pedro.

Close Encounters at Sea (Survival Stories) Gonzalo Valdez

These were all sea experts and seasoned fishermen but in rough weather and ten feet waves even the professionals can be put to test. Three rolling waves caught the Luisa just 200 hundred feet from the channel.  The first forced them to swerve sideways. The second hit them on the side and half filled the boat with water. The third wave fully capsized La Luisa. There was no panic because, as I told you, these were seasoned men of the sea. However there was great disappointment and concern because 600 pounds of lobster tails had been lost. With was also lost 12 days of hard work in the scorching sun, countless hours of diving, all their efforts, their plans for their families, but most of all $15,000.00 cash, that is at today’s prices.

Based on prices in the 1970’s they hey had lost $6,000.00 that was due for their families. This one was not a close encounter at sea as it relates to tragedy and life, but it was a difficult  financial and emotional occasion at sea. These guys are still alive and you can be sure they have never forgotten this encounter.


This incredible story was told to me in person – a real movie. Alfredo Rubio was spearfishing at the Tres Cocos Channel on northern Ambergris Caye and was following a barracuda trying to escape with his spear. Suddenly he felt a strong bump to his leg. Thinking it was a log, he continued only to find a short distance away a shark swimming towards him.

Close Encounters at Sea (Survival Stories) Alfredo Rubio

He had come face to face with many sharks so he took this lightly, but the animal kept coming closer and closer with its mouth wide open. It was then that reality kicked in and he knew he was under attack. After a short commotion Rubio felt he was being dragged backwards but suddenly the beast opened its mouth and ripped off his pants. Rubio swam frantically towards the shallow but at every turn there was Mr. Shark, his fierce opponent.  

“Oh my God I am going to die,” was Rubio’s immediate reaction but then picked up courage and pointed his finger saying,  “I am not afraid of you.”  It was then he noticed his fingers were bleeding. Like a fool he tried covering the wound so it would not bleed. But the beast returned again  and again as he tried swimming towards the corals. Poor Rubio must have had flashes of friends, his children and family. He even asked for pardon during those frantic seconds that seemed like minutes. 

Then he was inspired. He thought of making a tapping sound by cupping his fist and tapping it with the palm of the other hand. It worked but the shark spun and returned. By now Rubio was on the corals which felt like dry land. From there he swam to his boat and lay flat to be able to come back to reality. Rubio admits he thought of quitting this job but quickly realized that this was his living and one unfortunate incident could not change his life so drastically. “I made up my mind to challenge myself and to prove a point,” says Rubio. So he started his engine and went to a shallow spot now inside the reef to do some more spearfishing. Mission accomplished, he got on board and drove to San Pedro to narrate his surprise incident. 


Close Encounters at Sea (Survival Stories) Pt.3, Wilfredo Alamilla

In days gone by it was a common practice for San Pedranos to visit our neighboring village of X’calak Mexico to celebrate Dia de Los Marinos or Day of the Sailors/Marines. Indeed it was only an opportunity to go and see the beautiful Mexican girls with whom San Pedranos had fallen in love. This particular year in the 1960’s Wilfredo Alamilla Sr. and a few other young men had sailed  to Mexico with a crew of family members, ladies and children. It was on the return trip that the small sailing boat was caught in rough seas at the Channel of Rocky Point and it capsized.  You can all imagine the desperation of everyone on board but fortunately they were able to drift to the reef safe and sound. No injuries nor fatalities were suffered, so you know that that unfortunate incident did not stop the annual practice of sailing to X’Calak for Dia de Los Marinos. 

Close Encounters in the sea amigos. Let’s keep these stories documented for future generations, and do remember if you have any topic that you are curious about, just ask Ambergris Today or message me at

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