Our condo at Chac Hal Al overlooked Bahia de Fatima, a beautiful, serene bay with clear cerulean water perfect for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or paddle boarding. For the less active, it was a beautiful setting for sunbathing or just sitting in the shade of a palm tree or palapa with a good book or a cocktail.
Idyllic, wouldn’t you agree? That is until our idyll was disturbed by two events. The first disruption occurred when we observed this.
What looked like brown seaweed invaded the peaceful azure waters and definitely discouraged water activities. My research revealed it was sargassum or sargasso seaweed, which is an increasingly common problem in the Caribbean. The free-floating algae originate in the Sargasso Sea located in the Bermuda Triangle of the North Atlantic. While its existence is nothing new, the amount has increased dramatically and may be attributed to the warming of the ocean due to global climate change. In normal amounts, sargassum provides habitat for lots of marine life including hatching sea turtles but the massive amounts washing ashore today can adversely impact tourism. Clogging the water, it discourages swimmers and snorkelers and the smell as it deteriorates drives away beach-lovers.
I was impressed to see residents and employees working side by side to rake and bag the sargassum and haul it away from the beach. Soon they had the beach looking pristine again and ready for activities. We did, however, observe sargassum at other beaches along the Riviera Maya during our stay so I wonder how they are dealing with the issue.
The next puzzling event occurred when we noticed a large ship which appeared offshore in Bahia de Fatima.
After several days continued presence, we asked a local realtor that paddle boarded to our beach about it. She said a Mexican Navy ship hit the reef and sank. I posted a teaser on Facebook and Twitter that a blog post would follow. This is finally that post.
We still didn’t know the full story. Why was the large ship there? Day after day, when I saw it was still there, I wondered what it was doing and how long it would continue to be present. It dominated our view and became a daily topic of conversation.
We even discussed it over cocktails at the Omni swim-up bar.
And then it was gone and the drama ended. We finally learned from reading the local paper, The Pelican Free Press, a Polaris Patrol Interceptor boat lost power causing it to hit the reef. It was hung up on the reef for several days, where Jim first saw it, but it sank when it was pulled from the rocks. Salvage operations first centered around removing equipment and weapons from the boat. The Mexican Navy’s second largest multipurpose logistical ship, a BAL-02, equipped with a hoist arrived to refloat the sunken ship and tow her in for repairs.
Life on Bahia Fátima returned to its previous undisturbed halcyon state. But I’m sure the tourists and locals who were there sometimes say, “Remember when…”
Next time: Playa del Carmen
Based on events from January 2016.