Panama Posse & Adventure Scientists

For the last several years we have joined the Panama Posse Rally. The Panama Posse is a cruising rally for sailors traveling the waters of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. 

Even though we have yet to leave Mexico, by being members of the Panama Posse each year, we get significant discounts on moorage and other cruiser amenities. And we highly recommend anyone leaving the states to sail south from the West Coast or the East Coast, join the Panama Posse, not only for the discounts but also for the wealth of information on their member’s only website. Dietmar and his organization have built an amazing rally for people who don’t like rallies!

The 2021 Panama Posse kick-off party. We are at the far left of photo.

The annual kick-off party each year is held in Barra de Navidad in early December. So we have been involved with that the last couple of years, although extremely socially distanced and safe. 

There are daily seminars on weather prediction and routing, safety at sea, provisioning, and natural history and attractions along the routes. And the evenings are full of a variety of outdoor social events and parties. 

One of our highlights from this year’s Panama Possee was having our friend Nicole over for dinner in the cockpit. Our first on-board social visit in almost two years! Nicole her husband Keenan, and their dog Jacks from s/v Mason de Sante, are from San Diego. They have been dock mates of ours for several years, both in Puerto Vallarta and in Barra for two hurricane/pandemic seasons. Recently they sailed Mason de Sante back to San Diego for the year, and we hope to see them down here again next year. Nicole flew down for the Panama Posse event. She is a great seamstress and has helped us our with some canvas for Due West.

On the first day of the Panama Posse kickoff event this year, Kirk was in one of the seminars when he noticed this T-shirt in front of him… 

For those of you not familiar with the Teton Valley area of Idaho, Rexburg is a small college town, 80 miles northwest of Jackson, Wyoming, Heidi‘s hometown. So Kirk was very surprised to see a T-shirt mentioning Rexburg and Jackson in Barra! 

At the next break, Kirk introduced himself to John McIntosh and learned that he was a builder formally from Jackson now living across the mountains, in Teton Valley, ID. Kirk asked if he knew any of Heidi‘s Jackson Hole family, and in the small world department of course he knew Heidi‘s parents Jean & Pete and also worked closely with Heidi‘s architect brother Arne. In fact, John and Arne had just had a meeting together a few weeks prior. 

John was crewing with his friend Ned, also from Teton Valley, and Ned’s co-boat owner Tim from Ohio, on their boat s/v Traveler. You can follow their adventures here, they have just arrived in Costa Rica. In talking with John and Ned, it was also fun to learn we had several mutual friends in common from Wyoming and Idaho. 

That night, we got introduced to a special added bonus at the Panama Posse kick-off party. The Panama Posse was now partnering with Adventure Scientists, a nonprofit organization out of Bozeman, Montana, that connects outdoor adventurers (ie: cruising sailors, snorkelers, scuba divers, hikers, etc) with scientists who need data collection. How cool is that?! 

And we met the founder of Adventure Scientists, Gregg Treinish, and his teammate Joshua, both from Bozeman, Montana, where Heidi‘s other brother Paul lives. So many two degrees of separation in Barra! 

Since we had representation from Jackson Hole, WY, Teton Valley, ID, and Bozeman, MT, all a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), we decided to form the GYEYC ~ Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Yacht Club! So fun to connect with like-minded people with friends and experiences in common, so far away from home. 

The specific project Adventure Scientists and Panama Posse were collaborating on was for Dr. Paola Rodreguiez from the University of Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta campus, surveying Mexican reefs to determine the amount of climate change damage to Mexico‘s coral reef system. 

From Adventure Scientists website: “Mexico’s Pacific Coast is home to some of the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs, underwater communities that support sharks, turtles, and other marine life. They also support human lives by buffering the coastline from intense storms and providing livelihoods from fishing and tourism. Yet these reefs are imperiled by ocean acidification, more frequent and powerful storms due to climate change, and damage from human overuse. 

Teams of volunteer divers will survey up to 40 coral reef sites multiple times a year for several years. Learn more about this Mexico coral reef survey project.” The map below depicts the starting locations of Adventure Scientists’ volunteer expeditions all over the world. These citizen scientists are collecting amazing data to help Mother Earth.


Two Pangas (open Mexican fishing boats) took us about 30 minutes up the coast to survey the reefs at Cuastecomate. Greg from Adventure Scientists with some of the Panama Posse volunteers.

This half-day adventure with Dr. Rodriguez, Greg, Joshua, and 20+ Panama Posse volunteers was a group effort of scuba divers and snorkelers, taking measurements and counting fish. This was also the first time this particular survey technique had been done so they were still working out the kinks, to make it user-friendly for citizen scientists to help collect data. 

Prior to signing up as volunteers, we all had to commit to several hours of online marine biology training, as well as a 2+ hour in-person training onshore with Dr. Rodriguez, to ensure we all understood our tasks and what we would be doing. 

Although we are certified PADI divers, we have not scuba-dived in years, so we opted for the snorkelers group. Our job was to be above the divers (who were only in about 20’ of water), and observe the diving teams and communicate any issues we saw. The video below is basically what we were viewing.

Although our fish ID card says “Hawaii’s Reef Fish”, the fish don’t recognize the arbitrary governmental boundaries, and most of the Pacific tropical fish are found in both Hawaii and Pacific Coast Mexico.

We saw a few tropical fish, from blue damselfish to wrasses, and parrotfish. Hoping for something cool like an octopus or eel, but there were likely too many people in the water (20-ish). Next time…

All in all a great experience, however, the coral reef was pretty sad and there were not a lot of fish… especially after all the divers started making bubbles and laying down measuring tape! We are definitely spoiled from our trips to the Grenadines and snorkeling there over the last 30 years. Thanks Pete and Jean!

That night we had a fun evening out with Gregg and Joshua and learned more about their other projects. If you are any type of outdoor adventurer, we highly recommend checking out, to learn how you can become a citizen scientist on your next outdoor adventure! And if you are a scientist needing data collection from the outdoors, you can hook up with Adventure Scientists as well. It’s a win-win for Mother Earth and our new favorite nonprofit organization.

We are keeping in touch with Dr. Paola Rodriguez, to see how we can assist her as citizen scientists in the future.


  1. Terry on January 5, 2022 at 2:25 am

    Hi Kirk and Heidi

    Although I haven’t responded much, I have enjoyed reading your posts. Great work and thanks for keeping us in the loop!

    Kay and I are doing well and enjoying life up here in Bellingham. Mostly weve been laying low here in Bellingham and local environs but some various ship relief jobs on the Thompson and Sikuliaq have given some fun travels as well. The skiing season at Mt Baker has been fantastic these past couple of years, amazing amounts of snow has been coming down each winter. We’ve been finding it to be some great hiking when its short summer season comes around as well! All in all, happy to have made the move to the north.

    Happy New Year to you! Enjoy the warmth and keep up the adventures. Cheers!

  2. Tim Hanken on January 5, 2022 at 3:48 pm

    You’ve got to make (and sell me) a GYEYC t shirt!

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