Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

M Alexand Guarding Dixon Cove

M Alexand has become an icon for tourist visiting Mahogany Bay cruise ship terminal.

Dark Secrets of Roatan’s Most Photographed Wreck

With its bow almost touching Roatan’s shore in Dixon Cove, M Alexand, has a story that begins in newly formed Israel and involves an assassination attempt at president of Honduras in 1980s. With a capacity of 4,064 tons M Alexand is the largest shipwreck in the waters around Roatan.

Marine Traffic records have her listed as a general cargo ship built in 1951 and currently missing. The 107 meters long and 14 meters wide vessel, was built in Germany and integrated into Zim Israel Lines, as part of German war reparations “for lost property taken from Jews persecuted by the Nazis and the cost of resettlement in Israel.”

According to the Ship’s List her name in service for Israel was Rimon, named after pomegranate wine in Israel. She moved cargo to and from the newly created state of Israel until the mid 1960s.

In 1965 she was sold and renamed Kastor then in 1970 renamed Nausika. In 1974 she was renamed Lady Salla and in 1977 the vessel was again sold to Honduras and renamed M Alexand. The ship’s Honduran name traces its origin to brown rat subspecies (M Rattus) common in the English warehouses in the city of Bristol. That rat is sometimes given a different species name of M Alexand.

During her brief service M Alexand was the key in the growth of Honduras’ cement export industry. She was based in Puerto Cortés and moved cement for Cementos Bijao, from San Pedro Sula, then sold cement though out the Caribbean: Belize, Cayman Islands and Mexico. Honduras was a major cement exporter in the region, and M Alexand was a key element in its international distribution chain.

In 1981 M Alexand headed to Ecuador to deliver 300,000 sacks of Honduran cement. The ship carried Honduran cement to Manta, Ecuador, but on its way there she ran into mechanical trouble. Luey McLaughlin, a Roatanian who was managing the ship, flew to Ecuador in March 1981 with spare parts for the ship.

M Alexand was key in the growth of Honduras’ cement export industry.

She had mechanical problems. M Alexand was anchored for several weeks in Cristobal and then she ran into mechanical problems near Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. She finally limped in to Roatan. “We brought her here [Roatan] as a safe haven,” remembers McLaughlin, adding that the ship was scheduled to continue on her way to Tampa for repairs.

The ship ended up with broken pipes that wet the bottom layer of the cargo – around 2,000 sacks of cement became ballast. That cement was unloaded and used in the construction of the bulkhead in the French Harbour’s A&D Dry Dock. The A&D dry dock was named after Seth Arch and Lindsborg Dixon, the two owners of the dry dock.

“The cement company ended up in financial trouble because the Honduran government was supposed to be guaranteeing a 50-million-dollar expansion program,” said McLaughlin. “We had plans to fix her up nice because she had tremendous potential. We probably had enough cargo to buy a second ship.”

But the timing was awful. The Honduran government changed and Suazo Cordoba, the new president who took over power in 1982, wasn’t keen to helping Cementos Bijao out. President Cordoba was more focused on turning Honduras into “USS Honduras” – a base for US operations in Nicaragua. “President of Cementos ended up in jail because they tried to assassinate [president] Suazo Cordoba because of the same loan,” remembers McLaughlin. “He wouldn’t sign it.” M Alexand was the cause of an attempted Honduran coup.

In early 1980s construction business was booming and Cementos Bijao had many contracts lined up around the Caribbean. However, with M Alexand stranded on Roatan the company couldn’t make deliveries. “She [M Alexand] needed substantial work, but she didn’t have anything that was seaworthy threatening,” says McLaughlin, about the then 30-year-old cargo ship. “She was supposed to be in dry-docking for refurbishing and repairs in Tampa, Florida It was a source of income in case the loan went through.”

On Roatan things followed their own drama. As the threat of hurricane season loomed near, M Alexand was towed to Dixon Cove, then an uninhabited bay surrounded by mangroves. “She was beached and eventually she started bilging. Her rear end sits on the bottom. Where her stern is it’s at least 60-70 feet of water,” says McLaughlin. According to McLaughlin in the late 1980s US Navy Seals, offered to raise her as an exercise, but they never got the approval from Tegucigalpa.

“After that deal fell through, she just sat there all these years,” says McLaughlin. In 1980s and 90s people came at night to cut off metal pieces of the ship’s hull to sell them for scrap. Like the affair of the never built Trans Honduran railway and the missing Honduran army divisions in the 1969 Football War, M Alexand is another skeleton of Honduran history.