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Docile hurricane season predicted

Notice: The exodus of English-reading snowbirds is just about complete for the season. In keeping with this annual migration north, the Pelican Free Press ends its weekly publications with today’s issue and begins monthly (and special) editions beginning in May. As customary, we will notify subscribers of publication dates via e-mail. We extend a special gratitude to our sponsors for their support of this effort to inform and occasionally entertain the residents of Puerto Aventuras and environs. Ex-pats living here year-round can contact us at [email protected] or U.S. telephone 508-771-5174. Until November: The Publisher


Community continuing effort

to reopen Red Cross service

By Staff
Community leaders met again this week to clarify financial details and debate various approaches to reopen and sustain the Red Cross clinic and ambulance service that closed without notice in December. It has remained shut to the chagrin of major donors here and local labor force that cannot afford private ambulance service. Red Cross officials have stated earlier that the opening of a new and much larger clinic in Playa del Carmen drained the district agency’s operating funds, necessitating the PA closure.

While Colonos GM Armando Rincon is coordinating the effort with resident Tim Howard, a member of the Colonos Vigilance Committee, Rene Malacara, general manager of the Hard Rock Hotel, has generously hosted the breakfast meetings at the Hard Rock. He and others are actively involved in pursuing a financial solution that guarantees a consistent Red Cross presence in Puerto Aventuras.

Although financial specifics are still in flux for the moment, there was general agreement among the participants they would donate fair shares, but specifically for the operation of the Puerto Aventuras clinic and ambulance as opposed to district funding, which could again divert funds for the Puerto Aventuras facility.

While the Barcelo and Catalonia Hotels were not represented at the meeting, it was understood they are also behind the effort and willing to contribute their fair share for the Puerto Aventuras operation.

The importance of a nearby Red Cross ambulance was demonstrated at the expense of a boat crewman in January who was badly burned in an accident down by the marina and had to wait 30-40 minutes for an ambulance. Fortunately, he was given emergency care by several part-time residents who had considerable nursing experience.

The Red Cross district office has twice set dates to reopen its outpost in Puerto Aventuras while funds for its operation were being donated locally, but has yet to do so. The Pelican will continue to monitor this issue in future editions.



Beware Chedraui lot ‘con couple’

Walked out of Chedraui Market across the highway at about 2 p.m. yesterday with four heavy bags. Opened the trunk and placed the bags in there, not noticing the couple behind me squirting some sticky sauce on my shirt and shorts and on the driver’s door handle. When I went to open the door and saw the mess, a woman appeared with napkins and began wiping the door as her male partner began wiping the back of my shirt as though they were good Samaritans.

They must have figured me for an easy mark, not a lifelong journalist who spent many years on the police and court beats learning all about these scams. I wheeled from the door, felt for my wallet – it was still in my buttoned pocket so no crime other than vandalism had been committed – and hissed at the couple in a gesturing rage: “Get the f— away from me before I whack you.” They disappeared like quicksilver among the parked cars while I tried to find something to get the sticky stuff off my hands.

I removed my now-soiled shirt, placed a copy of the Playa Times on my seat to absorb the sticky stuff near my wallet in my shorts, drove twice around the lot to see if I could spot them but didn’t, went home, shocked my wife as I walked in without a shirt, ate two croissants, drank a small Pepsi, wrote this editorial, and published the Pelican with a warning for shoppers at the Chedraui Market to be alert for the scam artists, a male and female who appeared to be in their fifties. Forewarned is forearmed.

On other fronts, kudos to local hotels that snuff the loud music by 11 p.m. as requested by residents through the Colonos rules. One resident wrote to us this week suggesting the compliment since he has been able to enjoy sitting in his garden evenings quietly contemplating silent nights in Paradise

While many people complained a few years ago about the prolific appearance of algae in the dolphin pools, none have spoken out about how clean the pools have been this year. Let’s hear it for GM Guillermo Lobo and his work crews for a job well done.




Relax: Hurricane season forecast

predicts a below-average year

By Staff

The talk at breakfast last Thursday among the few remaining snowbirds somehow evolved into a discussion of nylon hurricane “curtains” that some folks are using instead of the squeaky aluminum affairs that appear to be the protection of choice here. And that discussion reminded the Pelican to check if the annual Colorado State University extended forecast for the hurricane season beginning June 1 and lasting until November had been released.

It was, and it’s good news.

Professors Phil Klotzbach and Bill Gray, meteorologists with doctorates, predict a below average Atlantic-Caribbean storm season with seven named storms, only three mild hurricanes and one major hurricane. This comes on the heels of one of the mildest seasons on record. Average forecasts are for seven of 12 named storms to develop into major hurricanes.

While precautions remain necessary for those who leave their property unattended during the summer months, the forecast does offer relief from worry since these professors from the university’s Tropical Meteorology Project have been pretty much on the mark with their predictions in the past.

And, while we do hear foreboding whispers of the Yucatan’s vulnerability to tropical storms and hurricane, the fact is that the Yucatan area has had only four hurricanes in 41 years. There was Inez (October, 1968) – Category 4; Gilbert (September, 1988) – Category 5; Roxanne (October, 1995) – Category 3 and of course, Wilma (October, 2005) – Category 5, that hit this area pretty hard.

So it’s been 10 years since this specific area has been battered by hurricane force winds and tides and we might be encouraged by the fact that there was a 20-year span between Inez and 7 between Gilbert and Roxanne. On the other hand, a pessimistic view is also appropriate since there was only a 10-year span between Roxanne and Wilma, the latter in 2005 – 10 years ago. Oh! Oh!

El Niño conditions also promote a stronger vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, making it more difficult for storms and hurricanes to develop. In contrast, El Niño can lead to a more active tropical season for the Pacific Ocean.


Temperatures could be around

90-100 degrees F. on Yucatan

Warnings against UV rays and dehydration went out on the Yucatan Peninsula last week and continued into this week as temperatures climbed to a record 40 degrees C (104 F) in some places like Merida. One degree Celsius equals 33.8 degrees Farenheit.

That continuing weather pattern was expected this week as drought conditions worsen for farmers in the Chetumal region and has some area homeowners pondering private wells as a hedge against waning community water supplies.

Conagua’s (water agency) hydrometeorological center said temperatures will be near the record because the region will remain in an anti-cyclonic, or high-pressure, system. This system is linked to stable weather conditions, significantly high temperatures and lack of rain.

Officials of community services are cautioned residents not to linger in the sunshine mostly between noon and 4 p.m., drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, mostly between those afternoon hours, and wear protective clothing and/or sun block lotions.


Commerce Corner…

New airport in Puerto Aventuras

holds added promise for area

By Staff
The proposed airport in Puerto Aventuras touted early on as a “replacement” for the aerodrome in Playa del Carmen is turning out to be much more than just a replacement.

According to latest reports, the landing strip, for example, will be long enough to handle business jets. That being the case, it could also easily accommodate a type of regional propeller craft such as the twin-engine Cessna 402 that is used in short-range shuttles from suburban areas like Puerto Aventuras to connecting flights at national airports like the one in Cancun.

Other improvements over the outdated and tiny aerodrome in the heart of the hectic business section of Playa del Carmen include a terminal building, control tower, hangars, a runway length estimated at roughly 1,600 meters (5,425 feet) long and 30 meters (98 feet) wide capable of accommodating medium sized jet aircraft.

The plan also includes construction of a road (just north of Lapis Jewelry) which has already begun into the jungle from Highway 307 (at the Chedraui retorno) to reach the airport site in the jungle, fencing around the facilities, interior roads, parking and conservation areas, fuel depot, fire and rescue operation, taxiways and elevator platforms.

With a forward-thinking, well-equipped and designed airport facility capable of handling passengers and limited cargo (such as mail) comes added shuttle possibilities.

For example, Dan Wolf, the owner and pilot of Cape Air of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, started shuttling passengers between Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod across Cape Cod Bay to Boston’s Logan International airport with one plane. In the ensuing four years between 1989’s first flight and 1993, the service expanded across New England with more planes and flights out of touristy Hyannis and posh Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard islands, iconic fishing city New Bedford and Providence, R.I.

The world was Wolf’s oyster. In 1993 Cape Air started flights between South Florida and the Keys, then expanded to Caribbean Routes between Florida and the Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico. In 2004, Cape Air tackled Micronesia in the Pacific by launching flights between Guam, Rota and Saipan with three new planes.

Today, Cape Air has a fleet of 85 Cessna 402s that carry 9-10 passengers, four Britten-Norman Islanders that carry up to nine passengers and three turbo-prop ATR 42s that carry 46 passengers and is used in the short-hop Pacific routes.

Cape Air, which has partnered with major airlines for the shuttle service, has helped bring added growth and multiple jobs to Cape Cod and could serve as a model – as could other regional airports – for pilot entrepreneurs who may envision the opportunities that could spring from a newer, small but modern airport in Puerto Aventuras. Today, Wolf is also a popular state senator in Massachusetts. Hyannis is Cape Air’s headquarters and home base.

AIRCRAFT TRIVIA: What is the shortest scheduled flight in the world? It is from Papa Westray Airport in the UK to Westray Airport and takes two minutes including taxiing.


Sargassum: Clean it up…

…or wait for it to sink

What’s Happening…

VIOLIN CONCERT – Arlindo Silva, formerly with the symphony orchestra of Portugal, will present his first solo concert here from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. April 17 at the Cultural Center to benefit the medal-winning PA Youth Sailing Club. Advance tickets are available at the Colonos office and will be sold at the door. Refreshments will be available. Mr. Silva has a quarter century of music experience and performance and is owner of the recently opened Music Academy above the Hoo Haa Restaurant in Centro Comercial.

GET MOTIVATED to overcome adversity as did Bernard “Chalky” White, one of the world’s top Alpine ski instructors, by attending his free motivational lecture at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 18, at the cultural center. Attendees are asked that “no young children attend” since the talk will be videotaped. Attendees may bring drinks for hydration. Admission is free.

LABOR DAY  is May 1 in Mexico… SPANISH CLASSES at Latitude 20: Call Gloria Contreras at cel: 984-108-3517 for information… ERROL THE ENTERTAINER appears evenings on Tuesdays and Fridays at Latitude 20 Restaurant, the “Cheers” of Puerto Aventuras … SEASIDE ROTARY is an English speaking Rotary Club that services the Municipality of Solidaridad. The club meets at 12;30 p.m. Tuesdays at the SOHO Bistro in Playa del Carmen. Meetings are open to the public and visits from visiting Rotarians and anyone interested in doing good work to support our local community are encouraged to attend… Monthly recycling will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 8 at the Skate Park as usual … Training Courses for employees of Dolphin Discovery will be conducted in the Colonos meeting room from May 4 through May 8… Children’s Day is April 30…


Briefly Noted…

A few days after President Enrique Pena Nieto’s daughter went diving with the Aquanauts dive shop crew off Puerto Aventuras , the president himself arrived by air at Cancun Airport and visited the Riviera Maya with Quintana Roo Gov. Roberto Borge Angulo to announce major nationwide investments by the Vidanta Hotel Group, including an undisclosed location in the Rivera Maya. The tourism industry provides 3 million jobs nationally… Incidentally, Vidanta and Catalonia hotel groups placed high among the 100 best places to work nationally with the Catalonia sites – there is one in Puerto Aventuras – arning the 18th, 36th and 38th positions while Vidanta came in 5th. The local Catalonia Hotel and Spa ranked 18th and has 326 employees… Founders Park Beach in Playa del Carmen will become the first beach in the municipality to be “smoke-free” according to the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (Cofepris). San Martin Beach in Cozumel was the first county beach to become smoke free… Car leasing spokesmen were saying their business reached 55 percent of capacity this year, indicating, as have retailers, that while the the number of tourists was up, their spending was down, even with a favorable exchange rate… The Mexican Senate has approved, 78-20, the carrying of weapons in national territory by foreign immigration, customs and security agents. The measure now goes to the House for a vote… More than 40 vendors of food and clothing along area beaches were shut down and fined during the holiday period for operating without proper permits and ignoring sanitary requirements… Playa del Carmen street musicians previously banned from performing on beaches are asking that they be allowed back on the beach to resurrect a drop in income the ban has caused in the past… A 90 percent occupancy rate was reported for the area’s 40,000 hotel rooms over the holiday period, a 3 percent increase over last season. Occupancy is expected to drop until early summer when it will spike again for the domestic tourist season… Playa del Carmen is short 100 policemen, say officials there. That’s because half of the training class drops out for various reasons before finishing the course. Expect an open enrollment period soon for new recruits…


Library seeks new volunteers,

announces more book additions

By Lucille Renaud,
The Puerto Aventuras Library is looking for several new full-time resident volunteers to work for two hours one day a week in the afternoon. We are open between 2:30-4:30 P.M. Mondays through Fridays when school is in session. Once school is out in June, the library opens on Wednesdays only.

The library is located in the Colegio’s Puerto Aventura Marina-side. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Linda Gosslin via email at [email protected]. The library is an educational and entertaining community resource that serves PA, Paamul, Akumal and the entire Riviera Maya.

In other news, the library has received and shelved many new titles in English and Spanish since January. In the following categories, here is a sample of the books added for titles published since 2010: Young Adult – 90; Middle Grade – 14; Fiction – 66­ and Non-fiction – 28.

Donated new young adult titles include book collections by authors like Emma Pass, Veronica Rossi, Kimberly Derting, Suzanne Collins and Thomas Sniegoski among others. The new shelves for young-adult and middle-grade titles are expanding weekly with more and more options for our young reading enthusiasts.

The new Young Adult Book Club is also meeting monthly and discussing a variety of titles as a group.  For more information, feel free to contact Elle at [email protected].

New lifetime memberships are available for $100 pesos.  Please remember to return borrowed books you may have at home.  No fee for late returns.  Used books are available for $10 pesos at the Library and at the Latitude 20 Restaurant.  All funds collected support maintenance of the library.



Nature Watch…


‘Baltimore Oriole’ is not only

a professional baseball team

By Gayle Sandholm
It has been a good birding year in Puerto Aventuras. My count includes 65 different birds in Puerto alone. 10% of these have been orioles: Orange, Hooded, Orchard, Altamira, Yellow-backed and Baltimore.

‘How sweet it is’ seeing these brightly colored orange or yellow, black with white bar winged beauties in a dark green tree or palm with a deep blue sky behind. And the Rivera Maya hosts these colorful birds in 8 varieties. Males vary in color from bright orange to yellow to reddish brown. Females are yellow, though the color is less intense.

The wings are black with white bars. The Orange, Hooded, Altamira and Yellow-backed have brightly colored heads with black bibs below their beak. The Orchard and Baltimore have black heads. Often several different kinds of orioles are seen together. These “brightly colored blackbirds” have stout, fairly long, sharply pointed bills.

In contrast to many other birds, orioles can open their bills with a strength to force open gaps to obtain hidden food. They eat insects, fruit and nectar. They are often seen in newly blossoming trees which attract flies, bees and other insects. One half an orange placed on a bird feeder will often be found by an oriole or two.

Their nests are woven cups or pouches of plant fibers hanging conspicuously under tree branches. I recall seeing numerous of these nests hanging in trees on the highway from Tulum to Coba.

The Baltimore Oriole migrates longer distances north in the spring. The Orchard migrates a shorter distance to higher elevations in Mexico to breed. The others may be seen here year round. And, the Orange Oriole (Turpial Yucateo in Spanish) is a real local, found only in the Yucatan and occasionally northern Belize. It joins several other birds which are to be found only in Mexico’s Yucatan.


Lagoon residents seek advice

to rid water of lingering algae

Residents along the Kantenah Lagoon adjacent to the Catalonia Hotel are seeking a way to rid lagoon waters of the unusual amount of sargassum weed concentrated where the lagoon ends. Some residents wonder if barrier work by the Catalonia Hotel to preserve its beach could be affecting the flow of sargassum, since long-time residents abutting the lagoon say they’ve never seen such a pervasive invasion,

Lagoon waters are evidently in the federal maritime zone and it is a given the federal government isn’t going to pay workers to remove the foul smelling weed from the lagoon. There was a similar pile-up of sargassum at the caleta in Phase 4 a few weeks ago, but it disappeared, either by sinking or being carried out by outgoing  currents and/or tidal flow.

As the residents seek advice, it is worth mentioning that hotels, condos and private homeowners all along Fatima Bay beaches have been paying labor to remove the recurring waves of algae all along the shoreline. In Playa del Carmen, there have been multiple reports of workers removing many tons of the algae from beaches there.

Perhaps a meeting of Catalonia and Colonos officials and lagoon-side residents could be arranged in an attempt to reach a solution. Meanwhile, below is a primer on the ebb and flow of sargassum from the sea and the Gulf of Mexico.


Rotating currents and sargassum

By Melissa Gaskill,
(in Alert Diver Online Magazine)

The Sargasso Sea, a 1.5-million-square-mile circle of ocean filled with vast rafts of free-floating algae, occupies the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, a large system of rotating currents within the Atlantic. The Sargasso Sea is bounded by the Gulf Stream, the North Atlantic current, the Canary Current and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current, and it has inspired ancient poets, mariners’ tales, 20th-century science fiction and even music videos. “Sailing ships were afraid of becoming trapped in it,” said Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “I’ve been in sargassum mats so thick … the size of 10 football fields, I could almost imagine that happening.”

Far from being hazardous, sargassum plays a significant role in the marine ecosystem, providing a variety of habitats that include resting, feeding and breeding areas for many species. The young of four types of sea turtles — loggerhead, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley and green — hide from predators in the mats and eat both the algae and creatures that live in it. (They and other creatures also eat plastic bits that collect in the mats, sometimes with deadly consequences.)

More thqnn 100 species of fish spawn in the Sargasso Sea, including white marlin, porbeagle shark, dolphinfish and eels, and the mats shelter larval forms of billfish, flying fish and many other species. More than 150 invertebrates are associated with sargassum. Ten species endemic to the environment (which include fish, mollusks and crustaceans) are camouflaged to match the surroundings. The sargassumfish even has modified fins that allow it to crawl through the seaweed.

McKinney likens sargassum to a huge, moving nursery for open-water megafauna. “Inshore, these organisms hide and grow in wetlands, bays and estuaries, and sargassum plays that role out in the open ocean,” he said. “You have transients — the juveniles that hide there to grow and then move into the open ocean. You have resident populations, which have evolved together with the algae over millions of years. And hanging around the edges of these mats are the predators, waiting to pounce on anything that comes out.”

Humpback whales pass through the Sargasso Sea on their annual migrations, as do birds and commercially valuable fish such as tuna, all depending on it for food. Particulate rains from sargassum mats to nourish creatures in the ocean’s depths; depending on when and where mats sink, they may represent the bulk of that marine snow. “The open sea is like a desert, and sargassum is an oasis in that desert,” said Blair Witherington, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The algae is even an important part of coastal ecosystems. Wind blows it onto beaches, where it helps anchor sand and contributes nutrients. While other seaweeds reproduce and begin life on the seafloor, sargassum floats and grows vegetatively, with new mats produced from parts of the parent organism rather than from seeds or spores. “That makes the Sargasso Sea essentially one enormous super-organism,” Witheringon said.

According to a 2008 study, most new growth in the Sargasso Sea occurs in the northwest Gulf of Mexico, where sargassum grows rapidly in the spring. It then travels via the Loop Current into the Atlantic, where it accumulates in the gyre. The Gulf produces about a million tons of sargassum a year, McKinney said, and at any given time between 4.5 and 12 million tons of it bob in the Gulf and Atlantic. An individual mat lives about a year or possibly two, starting out bright orange and gradually becoming brown as it ages. It eventually loses its buoyancy and sinks.

Sargassum’s abundance waxes and wanes and can be hard to measure; storms sink it, currents break it up and move it, and nutrients make it grow. Some worry that it is in decline, but McKinney said there is little scientific evidence of that. A recent study analyzed images from the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), a satellite launched by the European Space Agency, to measure abundance of sargassum from 2002 to 2008. The images showed an increased abundance in 2008 compared to 2002 and a maximum abundance in 2005.

That could change, however. As recently as the late 1990s, tons of sargassum were harvested for use in animal feed and as fertilizer. Given its importance as habitat, the U.S. South Atlantic Fishery Management Council set a commercial annual catch limit of 5,000 pounds and prohibited harvesting within 100 miles of shore, effectively halting commercial harvesting. However, the council’s authority only covers U.S. waters off North and South Carolina, Georgia and eastern Florida.

Elsewhere in the U.S. and on the high seas, where most sargassum is found, the algae has no protection. The Sargasso Sea Alliance, a collaboration led by the government of Bermuda and including the World Wildlife Fund, Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue and the Marine Conservation Institute, is working on a mechanism to protect and manage what it calls “the golden floating rainforest.” New potential uses for sargassum, including pharmaceuticals and biofuel, make the need to protect it more urgent, as do increasing threats such as climate change, ship traffic and pollution.

Those who have been diving around mats of sargassum say they make excellent dive sites because of the many critters living in them and the predators that hang out around them. “Diving under sargassum is like diving in another world,” said Billy Causey, Southeast Regional Director for NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries. “If you can’t get out on a reef, it’s just as good.”

Fish Species Found in Sargassum (Transient and Resident) include Jacks (rainbow runners, almaco jacks, banded rudderfish, greater and lesser amberjack, round scad, bar jack, hardtail, jack crevalle and Atlantic bumper), white mullet, flying fish, tripletail, cobia, dolphinfish, vermilion snappers, swordfish, pipefish, scrawled filefish, gray triggerfish, sargassumfish, barracudas, mackerels, tunas and billfishes


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