Contributed by: Don WinnerSince the yacht name the "Aqua Belle," owned by the President of the Republic Ricardo Martinelli, appeared anchored in Amador, a series of events has sailed around it. "Firings," "Institutional Protection Service (SPI)," and "sinking" are the key words in this story that last Saturday marked the beginning of the end of the ship.
In the early morning hours that day, the yacht suffered a mishap at sea and it faced the same sad ending as the "Titanic." It sunk. The images that appeared in the media showed the "Aqua Belle" sunk almost half way. The wreck was sinking in a sea of mysteries. The causes of the sinking are unknown, and the version that has surfaced is that the ship struck rocks. A source close to the marine world said the blow would have had to have been in the propeller or stern that ended up damaging the hull.
The yacht was near Piña Bay in the province of Darien, where it was seen frequently with Martinelli's children on board. It was a weekend of fishing like any other and not a fishing tournament, as previously reported. "There was no fishing tournament at Piña Bay," said the source. The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) and the National Air Service did not provide any information about the end of the "Aqua Belle."
TVN Channel 2 reported on Saturday, the day of the wreck, that three crew members and a bodyguard of one of Martinelli's sons had been rescued unharmed.
AMADOR - The story about the "Aqua Bella" is not only developed at sea. On land things also occurred around the ship. On Sunday 9 May 2010, the newspaper La Estrella published a photo of the yacht anchored at Amador on its cover. The newspaper referred to the president's "new toy," that according to one source had a cost of about $2.5 million dollars, which Martinelli had bought secondhand. Thus, the president added a second yacht to his personal tastes in less than a year at the helm of the presidency of Panama. "La Carolina" at 48 feet long is the other yacht owned by the president.
The "Aqua Belle" made by Bertram is of the highest comfort and performance, and the best fishing vessel in the Panamanian market, said La Estrella. The photo published by the newspaper apparently did not please the president, who ordered the SPI guard the ship.
Four months later, in August 2010, the 'Aqua Belle' made news again, this time between officials of the Panama Maritime Authority. Joaquín Carrasquedo, who at the time was the Director of Ports and Maritime Industries at the Panama Maritime Authority, was removed from office. Carrasquedo, according to information from the newspaper El Siglo, was dismissed for trying to fine the owner of a yacht moored in the Flamenco marina in Amador, because of a diesel spill. But it was not just any boat, let alone any owner. The ship that spilled the fuel was Martinelli's "Aqua Belle." Authorities at the Panama Maritime Authority were silent on the removal of Carrasquedo. Just as now they are silent on the wreck of the "Aqua Belle." A source close to the maritime world explained the ship is likely a total loss, and when that happens, the boat ends up in the name of the insurance company. (Estrella)
Editor's Comment: I received an email this morning from someone who knows the yachting and maritime industry in Panama, saying; "Good evening, Just some info. I don't know what happened on this sinking. I have heard many stories around Marina Flamenco (snip for privacy.) They hit the rocks near Pina's was the running story from the get go. Again I don't have any first hand details but many things could and often do sink boats this size.
The electronic charts are WAY off in Pinas Bay. The charts show your boat on land when you are at least 100 meters offshore after rounding the point and running the entrance to the west. They did spend around three weeks in the dry dock just prior to the trip from what I'm told. If someone did something as simple as not ensuring shaft seal cooling water flow upon returning to the water or forgot to tighten down the rudder securing set screw the incoming water could easily overcome the bilge pumps in about the time it takes to run to Pina's. Even the engines raw water cooling water pump itself is way more volume than the standard bilge pumps that would be trying to keep up with a large leak in a cooling hose or one that didn't have it's hose clamps tightened down so it came off. The cooling water pump comes in on about 4 inch pipe and the bilge pumps (maybe 2 in the engine room) have about 1 inch plastic hose discharges on a boat like this. The mechanical level of expertise and attention to detail is sub standard compared to most places with this level of vessel. Add a (Duro) tight budget and or timeline and it's a recipe for disaster.
What sticks out in my head a bit is what tournament. A few boats might put on their own (brown bag) tournament or a private organization might rent out Pina's for a private tournament but I didn't hear about it. I usually hear about all the tournaments. Pina's didn't have a regular public tournament at this time.
I believe Aqua Bella has been his for at least a few years. I have seen the boat on both coasts with security for a couple years."
So yeah, according to this expert, it's very possible that they made their run down to Piñas Bay, and didn't realize the boat was actually taking on water the whole time, because of some sort of possible error in the repairs while the boat was in dry dock. Or maybe it hit a rock. Or maybe it was gremlins. Who knows.