Update from Puerto Chiapas

We just crossed the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec: the southernmost gulf in Pacific Mexico, where winds funnel out of the Caribbean, howling down across land to gobble up sailboats in the Pacific with 20-30′ waves. We grabbed our weather window and raced Prism on a double overnight to Puerto Chiapas. A great adventure and test piece accomplished — and what a relief to be through! Next stop: Central America.

We arrived to Puerto Chiapas on Friday and the first thing that we noticed when we pulled in is that we are the smallest boat in the marina — the majority of the boats that sail throughout Central America are much larger boats! I also chatted with the manager here, and he lamented that the sailing community doesn’t speak any Spanish, or really seem to try. This fact continues to irk me, but possibly works in our favor, since people are so surprised and pleased to speak with me in Spanish.

The rainy season is imminently upon us, so we are sealing up the last leaks on the sailboat before sailing south. On the last night of our sail through the gulf, we could see distant lightning hovering over the land, and every night in the marina we have sun, but a dark cloud whispers from the mountains about the rainy season to come. This means we have to prepare the boat. We are pulling up all the stanchions on the starboard side (the stainless rods that secure the lifelines the run the full length of the boat,) since these have probably not been rebedded with a sealing compound since the boat was built in 1978 — and they leak into the interior of the hull, where the water slowly rots the interior structural wood and ruins all books in its path. The process is slow but rewarding, because it means that we are making our boat drier as we get to know the awkward crevices that we have to access in order to do the work.

Once we’re done, we’ll take a quick trip up to the mountains nearby to visit the coffee plantations. I’ve been reading reports of how deeply climate change has already dug its claws into the coffee industry, but I’m interested to hear it from straight from the growers I have known for years in this area. I’m excited about this story because of a recent connection I made with an international fair trade coffee retailer who can inform me of the industry research as I learn the individual stories.

About the Author

In a first for ICWA, Jessica and her partner Josh Moman will conduct a seafaring Fellowship, exploring adaption to climate change in coastal communities in México, Central America and the Caribbean. Sailing the Pacific coast through the Panama canal and into the Caribbean on her 39-foot sailboat Oleada, Jessica will focus on how communities experience climate change impacts. Hazards such as erosion, storm surge, and the spread of disease can be consequences of sea level rise and sea temperature change, and Jessica will examine how these changes tear or build the social fabric. With her background as a research scientist, she has worked as a field biologist at the largest thermal solar plant in the world, mapped renewable energy development for 23 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa with the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, supported satellite-based forest mapping in the Andes-Amazon Region with the Carnegie Institution for Science, and authored multiple reports and user guides to translate science into digestible instruction. With a desire to better connect the science of climate change with stories on-the-ground, she plans to use her mapping experience to build vulnerability maps of the coast while gathering accounts of change and adaptation. Jessica was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to document climate impacts in México; she holds an Ecology degree from Brown University and an interdisciplinary MS from the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at UC Berkeley, where she also studied video journalism. By harnessing wind and sun to travel, Jessica hopes to access remote locations, share the ocean-bound experience of local communities, and listen to and document the stories of climate adaptation with words, images, and video.