Thursday, January 9, 2014

Aboard a Greenpeace Ship for a Day!

Life on the Isla might be pretty slow and carefree, but it’s rarely boring—something or someone is always coming down the beach or out on the sea in front of us.  One morning earlier this week, my RV neighbors shouted for me to grab my camera and come look at the weird boat that was headed towards port in Mazatlan.  The crowd of gawking RVers had certainly gathered!


The ship had the tallest masts I’d ever seen!  Hard to tell exactly from the first photo, but the second should put it into better perspective.


After noticing the large “Greenpeace” name on the side of the boat, Contessa went to do some online web searching and learned that the boat was coming in for a 3 day educational event as part of it’s tour of Mexico this winter.

Yesterday, five of us (me, Colin & Contessa, John & Val) went over to see the ship and take the grand tour.  The ship was docked near the front of the harbor, so we took the “Playa Sur” panga rather than the main harbor boats we usually take.  This one doesn’t make you pay until you return to the Isla, but it costs more as it mainly just serves tourists rather than locals (30 pesos round trip-- a whopping $2.30).

All aboard--


Our panga captain--


Colin is a quite distinguished professional commercial photographer when he’s home in BC.  Here on the Isla though, he usually avoids photography and just stays in vacation-mode, but today was an exception and he brought along his big Nikon to properly capture the event!


Noticing Colin snapping away, the panga driver asked if we’d like to see the boats up close before heading to the ferry dock.  Wow!  Of course we would!   The big white ship that docks here a few times a week is the Baja Ferry that does a 16-hour trip between Mazatlan and La Paz.


It’s hard to appreciate the size of this ship until you notice how tiny the 18-wheeler truck looks getting loaded onto it!


But the main ship to see today was it’s new neighbor, the Greenpeace sailboat called the Rainbow Warrior III.  This one is 58 meters long and it’s masts are 55 meters tall.  It was christened in 2011 as one of the most technologically-advanced, environmentally sustainable ships in the world.


The rear of the ship (where the white tent sail is) actually converts to a helicopter pad!


Once we arrived on shore and proceeded to the dock, we discovered that lots of fellow ship-gawkers had come for the free tours as well. We took our places at the end of the long line and people-watched for awhile.  A few journalists were even there covering the event.


Finally, it was our turn for a tour, and since the Greenpeace coordinators had managed to separate us Gringos into our own little group, they conducted our tour in English.


We first stopped at the solar exhibit where they had a wide variety of solar-powered appliances from large panels, to flexible roll-up rechargers, to even a cool solar-powered phone case that can recharge a smartphone!


But the neatest thing was this parabolic solar stove.  This was the mega version.  They also had a smaller one set up for heating up a small coffee pot.


Next, it was time to go aboard the ship!  From dockside, the ship looked a bit smaller than it had from the water, but as soon as we walked the plank to come on board, the height of the ship again revealed itself—it’s a long way down to water level!


There were a few large photo displays highlighting some of the stuff we did not get to see such as the overall layout of the 3 levels, and what the ship looks like when sails are deployed.  It’s capable of cruising up to 14 knots when sailing, and runs under a diesel-electric hybrid engine when not sailing.


Our first stop was the helipad deck at the rear of the ship where they gave us some history of the present Rainbow Warrior ship.  It typically sails with a crew of 16 and has room to bring an additional 16 passengers (typically other Greenpeace campaign coordinators, volunteers, donors, and/or members of the media).  They try to focus their education differently for each port that they visit.  For Mazatlan, the focus was GMO farming as the state of Sinaloa produces roughly 80% of the corn consumed in Mexico.  At present, the majority of farms here are not producing GMO crops, but Monsanto and other multi-national firms have been steadily expanding their influence among the government and larger farms, so GMO is on the rise here.


Next stop on the tour was to see the Bridge, where the captains and navigators command the ship.  The technology was amazing—GPS, sonar, radar, you name it, they had it!


Check out the air-suspension for these captain’s chairs—ready to smooth out any rough seas they may encounter!


One of the ship’s captains—a young Italian guy who has spent the majority of his life living on the high seas!


Something that surprised us the most was how small the actual steering wheel was.  No giant brass wheel needed to guide this high-tech sailing vessel!


Another surprise was when the young Italian guy suggested I take over captaining the ship!  “Batten down the hatches!  Full-speed ahead, mates!!!”  (thank goodness the engines were still shut down!)

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We next made our way to the bow of the ship where this Greenpeace volunteer gave us the history of the 3 Rainbow Warrior sailing vessels (see the Rainbow Warrior III link above).


Viewing the giant masts from the front of the ship.


They’ve also got a couple of high-speed runabout boats that can be quickly deployed when needed.


Some photos were posted of the crew quarters (not part of the tour).  Of course the décor is in green!


The crew has also decorated the hatchway with decals of places the ship has been and people they’ve met.


In one of the lower levels, there is a large open room with a projection screen and surround sound.  They showed a brief video overview of Greenpeace’s various initiatives over the years, from fighting nuclear and coal power, to protecting whales, to clean air/water campaigns, the organization strives to bring awareness to issues impacting our planet’s environment and it’s inhabitants.

We were all impressed with the tour and with the group’s approach to the event.  No arm-twisting for donations or heavy-handed preaching, just a very low-key, friendly approach that casually touched on the issues of concern here and there.  They assume that attendees will be curious enough to do their own research afterwards and talk to their neighbors to increase awareness.


Final shot of the Rainbow Warrior.  Thanks, Greenpeace, for a very interesting, thought-provoking day!


Back on the Isla, our drive home was a bit delayed when John encountered this “horse jam”.  It seems even the Isla has traffic jams at rush hour!



  1. Wow, interesting story, thanks fir sharing.

  2. Wow - amazing! That's an experience not many people get to have.

  3. That's an interesting looking ship. It's great that you were able to go on the tour.

  4. What a great day! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Very, very interesting indeed. What a luck that the ship was coming to port when you were there.

  6. WOW, what a ship! Thanks for the in-depth look. That captain looks all of what?? 18?? What an incredible adventurous life! I am "green" with envy.

    I really liked those flexible solar panels. I look forward to the day when those are "slap anywhere" commonplace....especially the top of our Winnies!


  7. Wow Lynn, that was really interesting. Thanks for taking us along! When would I EVER get to see a Greenpeace ship?! lol

  8. Another great post and photo adventure!


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