Wow! Where has the summer gone? A year ago today we were prepping Due West
to ride out Hurricane Newton, then evacuating to hunker down with the cats in a hotel... our boat is insured, our lives are not. You know the rest of the story, or if not you can read it here
. Tropical storm Lidia hit Baja last week, leaving death and destruction in Cabo and La Paz. After last year's brush with Hurricane Newton, we are feeling thankful not to be up in the Sea of Cortez this Hurricane Season.
Our hearts go out to friends and fellow sailors effected in Baja; family and friends in Texas and along Harvey's path; and to those who have been or will soon be impacted by Category 5 Hurricane Irma barreling down on the Caribbean and Florida right now. Irma is the biggest Hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. As the oceans continue to warm, the hurricanes just keep getting bigger. But Climate Change isn't a "Thing"? Really?... We know that it is!
©Restore Coral Mural Project.
Although hurricanes rarely hit PV, and s/v Due West
is snugly moored in Marina Vallarta, September and October are the highest-risk months for hurricanes and tropical storms in this area. So we're still very humble, it ain't over 'till it's over, and that's not 'till November.
Tropical storms are formed and fuelled by warm water in the tropics. Here in southern Mexico they make their way north generally passing by the entrance to Banderas Bay, 30-miles to the west of Puerto Vallarta. However, we still can and do get a lot of rain and cloud cover from them, although not usually their accompanying high winds. Tropical Storm Lidia left us with overcast skies and 5-days of thunderstorms last week. Beach yoga was rained-out for a week. And of course with all that rain come the mosquito hatchings...such is life in paradise. But thankfully Due West
is safe for now, as are we.
In our last blog post you saw many of the beautiful murals and wall art around Puerto Vallarta. One particular collection of eye-catching murals that we didn't show you is scattered all over town. And these murals have a mission: to bring attention to the plight of Mexico's coral reefs. Although there aren't many coral reefs in the Banderas Bay/Puerto Vallarta area, Mexico's eastern state of Quintana Roo (home of Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancún) is also home to the Mesoamerican Reef, the second longest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.
Intrigued by the Restore Coral Mural Project
in Puerto Vallarta, we checked out their website and were shocked to learn that 75% of the Mesoamerican Reef has recently died off. This was the first place we ever scuba dived 20 years ago. It was SO beautiful then, and it's heartbreaking to think so much of it is now dead. As dwellers ON the sea, the ocean and it's health are vitally important to us.
And the die-off of the coral reefs is not just happening in Mexico, but all over the world. Plastic aside, (ocean pollution is another topic in itself) the bleaching and die-off of coral reefs is primarily due to rising ocean temperatures. Even the Great Barrier Reef, the greatest coral reef system in the world and visible from space, is now 25-30% dead, just in the past 10 years. This is SO horrifying to us we can hardly wrap our heads around it.
So whether you believe in Climate Change or not, or believe that man is causing or exacerbating the warming of the globe, the fact remains that ocean temperatures have been tracked for well over a century and they HAVE risen dramatically in the past couple of decades. While this only amounts to 2-3° increase in ocean temperature over-all--and that might seem relatively small--think if you had a 2-3° fever over a prolonged period of time what it would do to you. And these numbers are only increasing...killing the plants and animals that live in our oceans.
If you're not a scuba diver, or don't snorkel, or fish, or eat fish, you might be thinking, "that's too bad, but it doesn't really affect me." But you'd be wrong. As Heidi was amazed to find out when she started working at the Seattle Aquarium six years ago, 50-80% of the earth's oxygen comes from the ocean!?! WHAT?! Why aren't we teaching this in schools?! We've all heard that oxygen comes from plants and trees. But how many of you honestly knew that 50+% of our oxygen comes from the ocean? Specifically from phytoplankton (plant-plankton) photosynthesizing in the ocean. Coral are animals containing whole colonies of their own phytoplankton inside of them--they are actually farming their own food, which creates oxygen for us to breath in the process.
We just watched the award-winning Netflix documentary Chasing Coral
and highly recommend it (BIG thanks to our friend Shane for bringing it to our attention!) EVERYONE needs to see this documentary, as it goes into more detail on just how important coral reefs are to the planet as a whole, and to us humans in particular. And how 25-30% of the coral world wide has died off in the past 10 years. Among other things, this is depleting our oxygen folks!
But oxygen is only part of the story. Another major importance of coral reefs is providing natural storm surge protection for atolls and islands around the world. As water levels increase, without these natural coral barriers to protect islands, storm surge from tropical storms, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons will wreak even more havoc as time goes on. It's also estimated that 1- to 1.5-billion people around the globe make their living directly from coral reefs - from fishing to tourism, if the reefs are gone, that is a LOT of people without their livelihood or food on the table.
So without coral reefs, we're down 50+% of our oxygen, 20% of the world loses its livelihood, and countless more lose their homes and lives due to massive storms and flooding. Not a pretty picture... luckily there is still hope.
What's causing the oceans to warm so quickly? In simple terms the carbon dioxide (C02) that the "civilized" world is pumping out each day creates a thick blanket around the atmosphere, trapping in and reflecting heat. Luckily for us humans, the oceans absorb 90% of of this heat. Without the help of the oceans absorbing heat, our air temperatures would be rising significantly more than they already are. Most likely, the average temperature on earth would be over 120° right now! Gulp--And this C02 absorption by the oceans, while helping us stay cooler on land is also causing the ocean temperatures to rise, impacting the coral and fish, and spawning super-storms like Hurricanes Irma.
It's not all bad news...the oceans are helping us, but how can we help them in return? Watch Chasing Coral
, or host the documentary in your own town, share this info with your friends and family via social media, work with your governments - this is not just a US problem, this is a GLOBAL problem, even though the US government is the one with its head stuck in the sand right now. Check out this Action Guide PDF
to help you get started.
In addition to championing for coral reefs we continue to pick up plastic and garbage from the beach and ocean on our beach walks. It's also sea turtle laying and hatching season right now, and a few mama turtles have been laying eggs on the beach right in front of the condo where we're staying! We're planning to volunteer at Campamento Tortuguero Boca De Tomates
for their baby-sea turtle releases later this week, so stay tuned for our next blob post on that.
And speaking of later this week...the Capitán is turning 70!?! How can that be?! We're excited that a few Seattle friends are flying down to help us celebrate. Captain Fantastic is doing fantastic, back to riding his bike as well as holding his yoga Crow Pose...70 is definitely the new 50! Next blog post will be all about the big birthday and our future sailing plans.
More exciting news! The Sailing Adventures of Tosh & Tikka will be featured in a new book of short stories published by Kitty-Karma Books
! Big Stories of the Small Cats Who Change Our Lives
. This is a non-profit venture with all proceeds from the the book going to fund cat rescue shelters around the globe. Please check out the FB page for more info and if you're a cat-lover consider a donation to help this book get published.
Many, many thanks to those of you who've continued to make donations to Kirk's medical bills
. We truly appreciate your generosity and love. Thoughts and love going out to everyone battling forest fires and hurricanes. Hoping for clean, fresh air in the western US and no more 'Canes in the tropics this year!
Happy September! xoxo