Tuesday, January 14, 2014


This huge motorsailer turned up in the Bahia de Banderas this week. I probably should have recognized her, but Pam had to tell me it was the Rainbow Warrior. Then I trained the binoculars on her and saw the enormous “Greenpeace” painted on her hull.

Watching her this morning ghosting across the bay, spreading every sail she has in the nearly nonexistent breeze, made me think about the non-stop boat show we get to see from our front porch.

I stopped gawking long enough to learn that the Warrior is touring Mexican ports to bring awareness to the environmental damage from overdevelopment in sensitive watersheds and lack of serious government efforts to regulate it. 

The ship is a spectacular sight and a perfect vessel for carrying a message of protest against abuse and neglect of the planet.

But Greenpeace isn’t the only organization that shows the flag around here to make a point or two.

The U.S. Coast Guard has sent the cutters Steadfast, Mellon, Jarrett and Alert on good will visits here. Sometimes their crews come ashore and do great volunteer work in poor neighborhoods. 

The ships themselves make dignified circuits of the bay to show off their impressive size, armament and fresh paint. I’m sure military authorities hope that smugglers are watching.

The Mexican Navy has a base north of town and a small fleet of patrol boats, some so elderly you worry for them if they venture out too far. They all make little voyages now and then past our line of sight and then head back without having done anything in particular but prove they could. Enemies of the state, ashore and afloat, beware.

Cruise ship arrivals and departures are routine, but they’re so enormous it’s nearly impossible not to stare at them. They stop short of the marina entrance to take on a port pilot. Then their vast bulk seems to slip right into the hotel skyline to the north of us and disappear. “This could be you,” is the message.

There’s another fleet that says just the opposite. These are the glossy, bulbous private and charter yachts that home port in Vallarta. Now and then somebody comes up with enough scratch to fuel one up and float it along the shoreline with a party on board, transmitting loud and clear to nearly all of us, “This couldn’t be you.”

Small sailing vessels of all kinds remind us throughout the day that life is beautiful. Hardly a happy hour goes by without at least one of them traversing the brilliant orange path that narrows across the water to the setting sun. Add a squad of pelicans and if you have a camera you have a postcard.

And after dark, the noisy pirate party ship Marigalante slips close inshore directly in front of us to launch its nightly five-rocket fireworks show. In that case, the medium really is the message.

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