Posidonia

The lush carpet of a Posidonia prairie in Spain’s Balearic Islands. Photograph: Jeffrey Cardenas

The Spanish Posidonia Police came calling on Flying Fish today. I was happy to see them.

Posidonia is a seagrass species that is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. Like the turtlegrass of the subtropic Americas and the Caribbean, Posidonia forms large underwater meadows vital to the ecosystem. The aquatic grass has a high carbon absorption capacity. It is said to soak up 15 times more carbon dioxide every year than a similar-sized piece of the Amazon rainforest.1 In 2006, a vast colony of Posidonia was discovered south of Ibiza and is estimated at around 100,000 years old. It may be one of the largest and oldest clonal colonies on Earth.2

Posidonia grows best in clean waters, and its presence is a marker for lack of pollution. It is found only in the Mediterranean Sea, where it is in decline. The UNESCO world heritage site around the Balearic Islands includes about 140,000 acres of Posidonia, which has global significance because of the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs. The meadows are being threatened by rising temperatures, slowing its growth, as well as damage from anchors.3 The Posidonia meadows of Ibiza are fiercely protected. Drop an anchor on Posidonia, and you are breaking the law.

This is why it astonished me when I watched the superyacht Chuck Taylor drop its anchor in a bed of Posidonia at an anchorage on Mallorca that we were sharing. (I don’t know that it was the shoe guy Chuck Taylor; who would name a boat after themselves?) Nonetheless, I wish the Posidonia Police had been in the bay that day. When Chuck Taylor departed, an entire square yard of the living colony was impaled on the tines of its anchor. 

Granted, anchoring in the Balearic Islands in July and August–especially during this post-lockdown year–is a challenge. Nowhere in the world have I seen so many boats, and so many inconsiderate boat operators, as I have here during the past two months. Because anchorage space is limited, boats battle for every square foot of sea bottom available without Posidonia. Many boats anchor regardless of the protected areas. Bays are so tightly packed that adequate anchor scope for holding is frequently compromised. Two nights ago, at 03:00, katabatic winds ripped through my anchorage at Benirràs, Ibiza, and tore the fleet apart. One sailboat dragging an anchor collided with two other sailboats, pulling their anchors from the bottom and sending them adrift. A boat ended up against a ragged rock wall. Two large powerboats also dragged and collided in the wind. In the darkness, shouts and curses in foreign languages echoed across the anchorage. Flying Fish somehow escaped the carnage, but the Posidonia meadow at Benirràs was most certainly plowed into oblivion by the dragging anchors.

The Posidonia Police encounter a repeat offender in the Illa Sa Conillera marine park who insisted that it was his “right” to drop an anchor anywhere he wanted. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

The Posidonia meadows are carefully identified on every chart. This morning over coffee, in the lovely anchorage of the Illa Sa Conillera marine park, I was startled by a heated argument coming from two boats. The Posidonia Police had arrived and warned a visiting sailboat owner (for the second time) that he anchored on the protected grass. His anchor was crushing the habitat of plants, fish, and juvenile crustaceans. The sailboat captain maintained it was his “right” to anchor where he wanted. The park ranger explained otherwise. The argument increased in volume and acrimony, and continued for 30 minutes. Then the guilty sailor pointed at me. I was anchored nearby.

The Posidonia Police motored up to Flying Fish with an underwater viewing scope. I passed the inspection; my anchor was embedded in a pocket of sand, where I had carefully placed it when I arrived.

“May I take your photograph,” I asked?

“¿Por qué?” was the reply.

“Because,” I said, “I think what you are doing is important.”

###

Park rangers inspect the placement of the anchor of Flying Fish at Illa Sa Conillera, Ibiza. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

References:

  1. Ibiza’s Monster Marine Plant, Ibiza Spotlight, 28 May 2006
  2. Oldest living thing on earth’ discovered, Jonathan Pearlman, The Telegraph. 7 February 2012
  3. Posidonia oceanica, Wikipedia

Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places to which this boat takes me.

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You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Mediterranean by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/FlyingfishClick the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for en route Passage Notes. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

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Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   –Fr. John Baker

14 thoughts on “Posidonia

  1. We’ve had a similar problem with flats boats in Florida tearing up turtle grass as they scar their way across shallow back bays like Turtle and Bull bays in Charlotte Harbor. From the air, the bays look like the New York Times crossword puzzle. I wish there was more respect but it seems there’s no going back. Gentle breezes your way.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeffrey, thank you for being an ambassador for environmental protection and information around the world. With your kind heart and careful research, we manage to once again protect our fragile ecosystem. Your stories and acts of kindness inspire me daily. Take care and sail on…you are my favorite captain…don’t tell Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha… Thank you Debbi. Your secret is safe with me!
      More seriously, the private kindness and generosity that you and Tom have bestowed upon literally thousands of people is what is truly inspirational. Love to you, my friend, and your second-favorite captain 🙂

      Like

  3. Jeff, great story! Not surprised you passed inspection! How inconsiderate of that sailor to say it was his “right” to anchor anywhere he wanted!! Thanks for always doing the correct thing for the ecosystem. Such a lovely photo as well! Looks like fresh green pine needles!
    Leanne

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never heard of this grass bed and it’s much needed CO2 consumptions. Right it is to protect this. It’s crazy that other boaters pay zero attention to the environment and drop anchor on this protected area. So wrong. Thank you as always for your wonderful writings and photos. I can’t wait for your many books that you are writing about this world cruise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Hayden. As I understand it, Posidonia is like a security blanket for the environment. And co2 absorption is just one of its benefits. The grass hosts an amazing ecosystem of aquatic life. The formative years of much of the seafood that feeds the world begin in the sanctuary of these grass beds and others like it.
      I always appreciate your comments and thoughts.

      Like

  5. It’s always amazing the beauty we seek out, that we aren’t always considerate to it’s protection.
    Jeffrey, thank-you for your beautiful stories and information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I have difficulty understanding, Barbara, is the mentality of immediate self-gratification at the expense of future generations. Don’t people like this have children and grandchildren who would one day appreciate coming to a place like this and seeing an unscarred ocean bottom? It is a cliché, but for some, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.

      Like

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