The Rebirth of a Mermaid

Written by Sabrina Littee

Sabby Manta-03878.jpg

Living on a cruising sailboat with an irreparable eardrum has been challenging learning to accept my limitations. 3 years back I got an infection that disintegrated my ear drum and kept me on multiple antibiotics then steroids for over a month. It wrecked havoc on me physically and emotionally. I’ve had 2 operations on my eardrum, both unsuccessful, in attempts to repair what the bacteria had disintegrated. My broken eardrum has made it physically impossible to swim at depth. For years, I’ve suspended myself, floating at the surface, staring into the depths of what once was my life.

The eardrum is a small very important piece of tissue that separates our middle ear from the outside world. The problem with ear stuff, is it’s completely limiting when your life revolves around the ocean. I was imprisoned on my own boat while friends who visited surfed and dove to their hearts content.

After the initial infection and rupture, I had to keep my ear completely dry, I’m talking head out of the water dry, as the bacteria left a gaping hole where my eardrum once was. While most ruptured eardrums will heal on their own in about a month, mine was a rather extreme case, 70% was missing, plus the edges of the hole were jagged and not smooth due to the mechanism of how my drum got destroyed. After 6 months my recovery stalled out and I was left with a 40-50% opening that was never going to fully close on its own without surgical intervention. 

The surgical repair of a broken eardrum, called a Tympanoplasty, is a 2.5-3 hour operation under general anesthesia. The surgeon works meticulously to cut off the ear, peeling it back from the skull to expose the canal and drum. They harvest tissue from the scalp to create a new grafted ear drum. They then scratch up the surrounding healthy tissue, irritating it to cause it to bleed so it can adhere to the new tissue graft as it heals. It’s all pretty intense. Recovery process is about a month. It’s a challenge to heal due to the little amount of blood flow that feeds the area. Yet, surprisingly, the success rate for tympanoplasty is 90%. 

Despite the impressive statistics, I’ve undergone two of these operations about a year apart. Sadly, neither have been hugely successful. My first graft didn’t adhere on one edge leaving a wide slit. The second attempt had a better outcome, but still wasn’t perfect. The graft adhered, but the tissue itself was too thin in one section (only 1 of 3 layers of skin grew back). I diligently wore ear plugs to keep water out, otherwise the ocean stung – like salt in a wound (literally). Years have passed and my ear remains about the same, mostly fixed, but not perfect. Any sort of pressure would force water into my ear giving me an intense headache and a feeling of a head full of water. By the evening I would be congested and miserable. I was saddened from my inability to fully participate in the activities that now dictated my life. I avoided waves at all cost and surface snorkeling was all I could do. 

It was a hard truth to swallow – the reality that I live on a boat and I may never be able to dive again. My body just didn’t want to heal itself. I felt totally dependent on Kristian for so much. If our anchor ever got stuck, I couldn’t do anything about it, Kristian had to be the one to dive down and help untangle the anchor chain. If we wanted to go snorkel from the dinghy, the same anchoring issues arose. Often, the best way to anchor the dinghy was to swim the front line that attaches to the dinghy down to a rock and secure it through or around; yet another job I was reliant on Kristian for. This feeling of dependence ate away at my fierce independence. I swallowed what little pride I had left and remained grateful Kristian did so much for us. 

Every year I try and take some time off the boat to work and visit family. This year I did a 6 month nurse contract, which is probably the longest time I’ve spent away from the boat. The dry climate and lack of water exposure seemed to have positive effects. “My ear feels different, more solid” I remember expressing to Kristian. It still wasn’t perfect as every so often when I would equalize my ears, air would leak out and whistle continuously indicative of a tiny pinhole. I remember discussing my issues with my friend Toby who also happens to be an ear specialist. “Have you tried diving with it?” He asked curious if my ear still functioned. My eyes wide with disbelief, he seemed to be suggesting that my ear might actually work in this not so ideal state. He planted a tiny seed of wonder and hope. Maybe air leaks out, but does water come in? 

I was building the courage to evaluate the current function of my not so perfect ear while on my most recent trip to visit Kristian in Tikehau. I had scheduled an ear doctor appointment with my surgeon for my return. I was setting up the pawn pieces for the biggest move I was yet to make. The fear of pain and worsening damage crippled me from testing the limits until the end of my trip. Three days before flying home, I decided to summon the courage and give it a try. Surprisingly, I made it to 2 feet and it seemed to work, ears equalized, no pain, no water getting in. (I use special vented ear plugs to allow me to dive while keeping salt water out of my highly sensitive ears). I didn’t have weights with me to go deeper without struggling, so I waited till the following day to make sure I didn’t have rebound sinus symptoms that evening.

Feeling great the following morning, I collected my dive gear I hadn’t worn in years. Strapping that rubber waist belt on felt so strange. I was taking it one baby step at a time. We were heading to a special coral island that is known for swimming with Manta Rays. It’s hit or miss if you see them, but I was feeling hopeful and I remember saying, “if the mantas are there, I’m diving down!” 

We tied the dinghy up to a rope mooring in the water. I rolled off the dinghy and will never forget lifting my head back out of the water excitedly yelling “They’re RIGHT HERE!” The mantas, 3 of them, were literally beneath us! You’re lucky if you see one. But my golly, there were 3! 

Without more than a second to think, I took a deep breath and started my descent towards these majestic giants. I equalized every foot of the way down. I could feel air bubble out of my ear with each equalization, but water wasn’t getting in. IT WORKED!! I was eye to eye with the manta, transfixed by its grace and beauty. I could see the opal sheen of its horn shaped cephalic fins that twist and unfold helping it feed on tiny plankton. It flapped it’s way around coral rocks getting cleaned by little cleaner fish, not phased by my presence. It was mesmerizing and I continued going up and diving back down for hours. 

I felt like I was lucid dreaming, weightlessly moving thru the crystal clear water column, as if floating in space. All my favorite fishy characters that I’ve been so accustomed to seeing from the top down, were now inches from my face, starring back at me with equally wide eyes. It was astonishing, flexing my gills and feeling my mermaid tail come back to life.



Route Map of Hiva Oa

Aldebaran route map along southern Marquesas and Hiva Oa island

Losing track of all the place names?  We do too!  Here’s a map of our route so far along the islands of Marquesas to help orient yourself during our travels…

Map of Marquesas Archipelago (lower image):

We first arrived in Fatu Hiva, after a crossing from Gambier Islands (via Reao Atoll). After that we went to the Hiva Oa, the largest island in the southern Marquesas. We cruised twice to the island of Tahuatu, before exploring the northern coast of Hiva Oa. After we finish the repairs to Aldebaran, we hope to go to Nuku Hiva and Ua Poa, which are islands on the northern part of the archipelago.

Map of Hiva Oa (upper image):

Atuona is the main town in Hiva Oa, also the regional capital of the southern Marquesas. Many sailboats check into French Polynesia here after crossing the Pacific. It has spectacular scenery but we jokingly call the anchorage the “toilet bowl” for its swirly, chaotic nature. The island of Tahuata is just to the south a few miles. The primary anchorages in the north coast of Hiva Oa are Hanamenu (where we got eaten up by no-nos) and Hanaipa (which is as far as we’ll take Aldebaran on the north coast). Further west, the bays of Hanapaaoa and Puamau are exposed to the easterly trade winds, so aren’t good anchorages; but they have great Tiki archeological sites; we want to try to visit them even if it means renting a car.

Pro Tip: Notice how many of the

From Seahorses to Uprooted Lives: Cruising with a Cause

The solar light recipients at Albuergue "Fuerza Sucre" - thanks to !

A few of the solar light recipients at Albuergue “Fuerza Sucre” – thanks to

From our sailboat, the city looked bombed, as if gone through a war. Seven story buildings are cracked in half. Concrete is fractured like massive stitches in wounded white elephants. We sailed into this dystopian landscape – resort beach town meets mayhem – which is the entrance to Bahia Caraquez, mainland Ecuador. Our trimaran Aldebaran was armed with a shipment of solar lights to give away to people living in tent camps, homeless from the massive earthquake of April 16, 2016.  Continue reading

Robby’s Reflections (Osa Peninsula)

leg three (1 of 28)

Arriving in Playa Herradura: new friends and old friend uniting to cruise Costa Rica’s central and southern coast (Left to Right: Ed France, Jonathan Bastian, Robby Seid, Kristian Beadle)

How do I begin to recall my time spent aboard the fine pirate-class vessel named Aldebaran?  It is difficult to sum up past feelings, so why dont I draw them direct from the source?  Here is my journal entry on the day I was departing Costa Rica to return home to San Diego:

Continue reading

How Aldebaran was on front cover of a magazine in 1979

Magazine articleTo subscribe to this blog by email, click here.  In a scraggly photocopy in a binder with the boat’s documentation, I saw an article from the previous owner, Bob McMahan, about flying the spinnaker on a trimaran.

“Wow.” I thought, “He was really into it!” I searched for Bob, to no avail.



Fast forward to our Santa Barbara Yacht Club talk, early this January.

Guess who shows up at the talk?  Bob and wife Jackie, the previous owners of Aldebaran, who had received the notice from the club, and recognized the ship in the photos: “that’s our old boat!”

Continue reading

Pirate for a week

By Guest Crew: Angelica Almazan

(Voyage Leg: From Huatulco, Oaxaca to Marina Chiapas.) 


Land Ho!

Since the first time I saw the Aldebaran, I knew that I had to travel on it; no matter how, no matter where, but I felt first sight love for that little sailboat.

The crew sailing south along the coast. I couldn't wait to join this family and sail with them!

The crew sailing south along the coast. I couldn’t wait to join this family and sail with them!

The crew were four of the most beautiful and interesting people I’ve ever met. Captain Kristian Beadle arrived in Mazunte with his girlfriend and first mate Sabrina Littee and their friends and skippers Ryan Smith and Michael Chiacos, after traveling for two months from California to Oaxaca, as part of The Green Coconut Run, a journey through the Pacific Ocean to visit protected marine areas, dive, surf and do environmental research.

The Salty Crew of Aldebaran (left to right: Sabrina, Ryan, Michael, myself, and Kristian. Our friend Dania is front and center, hanging out with us all.

The Salty Crew of Aldebaran (left to right: Sabrina, Ryan, Michael, myself, and Kristian). Our friend Dania is front and center, hanging out with us as well. You can also just barely see Kristian’s sister in back of Ryan.

They anchored off Playa Rinconcito. “How do you get to shore in the morning?” I asked them. Ryan explained laughing, “we swim with our fins and hide them under a palapa on the beach. Kristian and Sabrina paddle the big blue board in together.” After visiting the town and the people, at night they swam back to sleep in their 42 ft trimaran with everything necessary to sleep in it: dormitories, a kitchen with propane stove, bathroom, water desalinization system and solar panels to provide electric energy.

Some people take buses to work, or drive cars....these guys paddle their surfboards with dry bags to get to shore and back.

Some people take buses to work, or drive cars….these guys paddle boards with dry bags to get to shore.

I met this group of modern pirates thanks to my neighbor and good Brazilian friend Samara, Kristian’s sister. “My birthday party will be on the boat!” she told me. I was very excited, since I was looking forward to a chance to go aboard. That birthday trip from Mazunte to Puerto Ángel intrigued me as I learned how life is on the boat, seeing the variety of surf boards on deck, along with the pictures of diving and fishing sessions, all convinced me that I wanted to be part of that fascinating adventure.

My dear friend Samara, with her brother Captain Kristian.

My dear friend and neighbor Samara, with her brother Captain Kristian, celebrate her birthday on the boat!

“Where is your next destination?” I asked them. I was disappointed to hear it was El Salvador, because unfortunately I didn’t have a passport. “But you don’t need a passport to go to Puerto Chiapas” said Kristian “we need to stop there before leaving Mexico. Would you like to join us?”

That was the invitation I was hoping for. It would be a relatively short trip, from Huatulco in Oaxaca to the border with Guatemala, 250 miles, but they would take a week to get there. They needed to wait for a good weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and would spend those few days exploring the beaches of the National Park Bahias de Huatulco, and working on the boat. The crew agreed that I could travel with them if I paid for my meals and helped with the work.

My floating home for a week

My floating home for a week

Michael jokingly warned me, “Doing a crossing isn’t as easy and fun as parties on the boat – this is supposed to be one of the roughest passages in Mexico. But it’ll probably be amazing as well.” I assumed I’d get seasick at some point going through turbulence along the Gulf of Tehuantepec, but I didn’t hesitate for one second on my intention to go on that trip.

It was a great boat party for Samara's birthday!

It was a great boat party we had celebrating Samara’s birthday!

Blissful freedom. Ryan leaps into the ocean to play.

Blissful freedom. Ryan leaps into the ocean to play.

A few days later, I met the boat and crew at Marina Chahue, joining one of the most amazing experiences of my whole life.

Our first mission was to catch fish for dinner before we went into the natural protected area. We anchored a few miles away from Chahue Beach and while Ryan and Michael dived armed with their harpoons (spearguns), I did some snorkeling, watching in awe schools of surgeon fish and other species of all sizes and colors. The guys came back with yummy ones, and explained patiently which species was each one and how they caught them, and they showed me how to scale and fillet them.

Does it get any better than this!?

Does it get any better than this!?

We went to Tangolunda Bay, next to the Club Med and other luxury resorts. It wasn’t the greatest since the lights from the hotels didn’t let us see too many stars, and we could hear the music from the clubs until late night, with an entertainer shouting “Tequila! Tequila! Margarita!” to tell the guests which dance step they had to follow.

But, the crew needed to use their phone internet and work on the boat, so that is why we went there. “This is cruising, Angelica!” smiled Sabrina. “Working on your boat in exotic places.”

Before we jumped into action, they had a meeting to distribute the chores, and I was surprised by the capacity of organization of these people. Every decision is taken democratically, the obligations are taken equitably and each one is responsible to finish their mission on schedule. Some of my chores were to grease the wood on deck, to take out some nets and – my favorite one- to get underwater to clean the bottom of the boat to take away the mud and seashells. I felt like a real pirate working hard while watching the beautiful sunset.

All smiles here, getting ready to clean the bottom of Aldebaran

All smiles here, getting ready to clean the bottom of Aldebaran

Sabrina and Kristian inspect the nice clean hulls of our beautiful ship

Sabrina and Kristian inspect the nice clean hulls of our beautiful ship – two thumbs up!!

Another thing that caught my attention was the order needed to live on a boat. Since there is not too much space, everything needs to have its place, and everyone needs to know where to put things at all time. They pointed out that I was new and wasn’t familiar with the strict order, but Sabrina explained that every time someone leaves stuff out of their place, they had to pay a fine of pushups or sit-ups, and I testified that not even the captain was excused to escape that rule.

“That’s why the crew is so fit,” said Michael. And the truth is that life on the boat is very physically challenging: the water pumping system is made out of pedals and levers, so you have to exercise even when flushing the toilet or washing the dishes!

The Aldebaran has salt water and fresh water faucets, same as a complex desalination and purification system to get drinking water, which Sabrina was kind enough to show and explain to me. All the crew was always happy to answer every question that I had, and explain all the details I needed to know about the life on the boat.

Work hard to play harder!

Work hard to play harder! Welcome to paradise… says Captain Kristian

It's amazing to find such stunning bays all to ourselves!

It’s amazing to find such stunning bays all to ourselves!

Done with internet for now, we decided to go to a more quiet and lonely place, so we anchored at Playa El Organo in the national park. It was a lonely and gorgeous beach, and when we arrived we saw a fox resting on the shore. The reef is beautiful there, and I loved to snorkel there and watch a spotted ray, along with several species of fish and coral.

A beautiful spotted eagle ray glided by us!

A beautiful spotted eagle ray glided by

This was a neat coral crevace with tons of fish around

This was a neat coral crevace with tons of fish around

That night I slept on the net. I can’t describe the incredible feeling of sleeping under the stars, with the water underneath me, and waking up with the sunrise on my face. Absolute happiness is to wake up and jump right from your bed to the sea for a morning swim, and be called for breakfast with the call of the conch.

Food was absolutely fabulous every time. From the fancy dinners consisting of fish in a ginger and garlic sauce, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables, to the Baja style fish tacos, going through the eggs on toasts for breakfast, the kimchi salad, and every one of the healthy and delicious snacks I tried that week.

I was welcomed in like family. Here we are at Organico, so happy to be together in such a beautiful bay

I was welcomed in like family. Here we are at Playa el Organo, so happy to be together in this beautiful bay!

The next days we lived an ecstasy of virgin bays in the middle of forest and cliffs that can only be reached on a boat. In Chachacual I saw a lot of butterflies, as I’ve never seen before in a beach, and Riscalillo had hermit crabs with shells of all sizes and designs. For the first time in my life I did some Stand Up Paddling and we made a concert on the boat, when the guys took out all their music instruments and we sang along Gracias a la vida with a guitar, maracas and a ukulele.

Gracias a la vida.

Gracias a la vida: “Thanks to life, for you have given me so much…”

After going to Huatulco city to buy final groceries for the next months, on June 28th we launched at 3 am and started the 48 hour sail trip to Puerto Madero in Chiapas. The first stop we did was in Punta San Diego for Michael and Ryan to do some surfing, and I had the chance to behold the amazing spectacle of seeing them “flying” on the waves.

Michael flying in the surf

Michael flying in the surf. I hope to one day be as graceful as them when I surf!

When underway again, the fishing pole caught something. “I hope it is a Mahi mahi!” exclaimed Michael, as he jumped to deck. Indeed, they captured a big beautiful dorado, which amazed me with its colors and big head. That day was very prolific for fishing: aside from the Mahi mahi, we caught an Agujon (needlefish) more than 4 feet long and even I had the chance to reel in a fish for the first time — I ended up taking out of the ocean a giant almost 5 ft barracuda!

The mahi mahi fish are so beautifully colored with bright yellows and greens. And boy are they Delicious!

The mahi mahi fish are so beautifully colored with bright yellows and greens. And boy are they Delicious! Sabrina lifts this guy out of the ocean on the deck where the crew helps to control the fish.

This is a great Pacific Needlefish. They are also really tasty, but some people get turned off by the green flesh. We didn't mind at all.

This is a great Pacific Needlefish. They are also really tasty, but some people get turned off by the green flesh. We didn’t mind at all.

This was my first time reeling in a fish - and I landed a massive barracuda just as the sun was setting! It was so exciting! Sabrina helped me hold it up for the photo to remember the moment forever!!

This was my first time reeling in a fish – and I landed a massive barracuda just as the sun was setting! It was so exciting! Sabrina helped me hold it up for the photo to remember the moment forever!!

After dinner they distributed the shifts for steering through the night. I offered to keep Sabrina company during her shift, and it was a magical night, watching the sails glowing with the moon light and chatting with a beautiful mermaid, and she told me a little about her life and travels, her career as a nurse and how she met her great love, captain Kristian.

Sabrina and Kristian are so happy together!

What a happy couple!

Next day we saw beaches with huge sand dunes, and we stopped near Chipehua to surf. This time I had the chance to go with the guys using a body board and feel the adrenaline of catching some waves. I also had the honor of learning to drive the boat and to follow the compass to keep the course. Even when I made the boat spin 360 degrees, no one got upset and kindly taught me the right way to steer. Before I noticed I was driving, happy and relaxed, as if I had been doing that for years.

It was an interesting coastline we sailed past! Ryan shows off the great view from the bow.

It was an interesting coastline we sailed past! Ryan shows off the beautiful sand dunes from the bow.

That evening we saw several turtles mating in the sea, and the sunset gave me the spectacle that I was longing the most to see: a group of dolphins followed our boat for miles, while I watched them from the bow.


This beautiful sunset lit up the sky.

At twilight, we started to see a lot of dark clouds coming our way: lightning shone on the ocean and a strong wind started to blow, splashing the inside of the cabin with a powerful breeze. Even though the boat started to shake violently, the crew remained calm. Kristian put the sails away, Michael grilled barracuda steaks, Sabrina made mashed potatoes and Ryan washed the dishes. We had dinner warm in our rain coats and tried not to touch the metal parts from the cabin. After a while the storm stopped and the sea calmed, even the full moon peeked through the clouds for moments.

It was a wild storm, and I felt more and more like a real pirate!

It was a wild storm, with rough seas and lots of rain….It made me feel more and more like a real pirate!

I woke up early next morning to take my shift to steer, and I drove by myself for more than two hours while the crew slept. These were sublime moments, listening to music, observing the seagulls fly with only seas all around.

Couple hours later we arrived in Puerto Chiapas and anchored at the Marina, where the crew registered with the guards and asked for information about the papers needed to get out of Mexico. Watching small rays swimming next to the boat, I had my last fish tacos on the Aldebaran, and then I had to say goodbye to my dear friends and take my bus to Tapachula.

I can say that my week on the Aldebaran was one of the happiest times of my life; I learned a lot about the ocean, life and about myself. Living on a sailboat is a dream that many people have and I am glad that I had the opportunity to live it, and to see that it takes a lot of organization, work and optimism.

I will never forget this dream....

I will never forget this dream….

I can testify that when chasing a common dream, a group of people can live together 24/7 and get along. It isn’t easy to have a functional and organized society, even when it’s a very small one and this trip gave me a lot of clues of what is needed to reach that goal. Everybody was always positive and kind to each other, acting like brothers, putting the welfare of the group first, never letting the fun aside.

Those moments will be saved in my memory forever. I hope someday I will have the chance to sail on new seas with these amazing people again. I was a pirate for a week, but I will be a mermaid for the rest of my life.

"I was a pirate for a week, but I will be a mermaid for the rest of my life"

“I was a pirate for a week, but I will be a mermaid for the rest of my life.”

National Geographic shares the Green Coconut Run story

We’re popping the corks!  It’s not everyday our adventure-loving voyage gets covered on Nat Geo. You wondering how it came about?

It began with Green Coco joining forces with a non-profit called ASC (Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation) to sample micro-plastics along our route. 

Featured in Nat Geo for video pic_cropped

This basically means we collect sea water from different locations, so scientists can analyze how much micro-plastic is in the water column. These are miniature pieces of plastic (originally from bottles, toys, or whatever) that pervade the ocean after decades of breakdown. Scientists are now trying to understand their wide-ranging impact.

Green Coco is visiting remote locations that are challenging for scientists to gather data from; so this was a great opportunity for us to assist in this new field of science.

Tessa ASC

At 3 years of age, our youngest crew member Tessa used floating toys in her quest to contribute to science! Check out other fun moments in our Instagram feed.

Here’s the interesting parallel: whereas Green Coco is a unique crowd-funded adventure, ASC has a unique crowd-sourced model for helping scientists. By having adventurers in far-flung destinations gather data, everyone (including the Aldebaran crew) gets to lend a hand in scientific understanding.

Read the full story in the Nat Geo “Voices” link!


eric lohela asc

Crew mate Eric shows the water sampling technique taken at the “Islotes” — a rocky outcropping and SCUBA site just north of Isla Espiritu Santo. Check out Eric & Brian’s post about their remarkable Sea of Cortez voyage leg.


One Big, Happy Family

By Guest Crew: Keri, Bryan, and Tessa Hope

One Big Happy Family

Boating isn’t ALL work and wave-hunting. Here we are building sand castles!

Hello, fellow Green Coconut enthusiasts! We are Keri, Bryan, and Tessa Hope, a family of ocean- and adventure-loving souls. We joined the Aldebaran cooperative to be a small part of something bigger than ourselves—exploration, raw exposure to the elements, and once-in-a-lifetime travels with old friends and new.

Satellite image of Huatulco's harbor, Marina Chahue (green circle). Happy family explored the coast just east for 5 days. For the interactive map, check the Google map and click on "Huatulco"

Satellite image of Huatulco’s harbor, Marina Chahue (green circle). Happy family explored the coast just east for 5 days. For the interactive map, check the Google map and click on “Huatulco” on the left menu .

We have been lucky to experience all of these things, whether first-hand at sea or indirectly through the shared stoke of the blog posts, youtube videos, and borderline-obsessive checks of the spot tracker (we can’t be the only ones, right?). Here is our rendition of 6 days spent bobbing along the wind-chopped coast of Eastern Oaxaca with the Aldebaran family in early June of 2015.

group pic

The cockpit of Aldebaran… Tessa was a natural at the helm, even though she couldn’t see over the dashboard 😉

Bryan: What a trip, 2 weeks in Oaxaca –oneth by land and oneth by sea! I’ve been eyeing this coastline of Mexico since Google has been providing satellite images for map geeks like me. The multitude of right hand points with wrapping waves is visible even from space. If you’re a surfer, you’ve certainly seen the footage of experts ripping one of the many right-hand, sand-bottom, warm-water waves. And to explore this paradise with family and friends by sailboat, my expectations were understandably high.

its all flippers and fun for Tessa!

Tessa trying out her aquatic footwear.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, we started getting nervous about how our 3-year-old daughter, Tessa, would handle our time at sea. We counted the days with excitement and enthusiasm despite having a healthy amount of fear about how badly it might go, subjecting our hosting friends to the potential tantrums with nowhere to escape. Like the dread of a child freaking out in the back of the plane on a long flight, this could have been a 6-day nightmare. But it wasn’t.

Warm tropical waters...what a treat!

Warm tropical waters…what a treat!

Keri: We hopped aboard the Aldebaran amidst loud greetings from the salty crew. Immediately, we set to work getting the boat ready for departure. Tessa dove into her assigned task, preparing the eggs for preservation at sea— dip in vinegar, then water, dry, be sure not to crack any! She had been successfully initiated into boat life– all work and all fun.

“we caught a mahi mahi!” exclaimed Tessa

Bryan: Tessa quickly found her groove on the boat. Kristian, Sabrina, Ryan, and Michael welcomed us with open arms and we instantly felt part of a tight family, one that engages in mandatory morning hugs. I thought things might get tough with Tessa in those hours of down time that travel provides, requiring one to be still and think. At home, there are the distractions of play kitchens, the LeapPad (don’t think we didn’t bring it), and a multitude of toys. As it turned out, more quiet time was what the whole family, especially Tessa, needed as part of our vacation from the norm.


oh how we all love the Leap Pad!

Keri: We surfed, we swam, and we fished our way along a mostly empty coastline. Most magical were those morning and evening surfing, hooting, and “squiggling” sessions when absolutely no one was around but the crew and maybe a lone fisherman leading his horse around the point.

Bryan on the SUP, enjoying solitude and amazing scenery

Less magical was a local, burly “surf tour guide” who told Bryan, in no uncertain terms, that a particular wave we encountered was for guided surfers only. A mere $100 could buy us his guide services, and allow us to surf this little wave. No thanks, we all decided, as more beauty and better vibes were waiting for our happy-go-lucky crew elsewhere.

Ladies party wave!!

Ladies party wave!! Loving the lighthouse spot!

Bryan: I had just come off the busiest wine tour month in 8 years in business. In conjunction with the hopefully short-lived fad of the dad bod, I had little motivation or time to prepare physically for the trip. I expected to have my ass handed to me at least once, but it never happened. The waves were small and soft, but consistent. The new shortboard came out only a couple of times as I usually opted for one of the many larger boards that make up the boat’s extensive quiver. The size did make for a user-friendly experience for anyone wanting to get relief from the heat. Point after point, you could see the potential, and it was just a matter of being there on the right swell when the stars aligned.

Keri: Maybe they weren’t the classic tubes that Bryan was hoping for, but when I dream about waves, these are exactly the type of waves that I dream about! Super long, playful, really fun and easy, waist to shoulder high. Perfect for squiggling, as Sabrina would say…

Keri and Bryan tandem surfing at the lighthouse

The Hopes tandem surfing at the lighthouse… riding “Big Blue”, a 12ft soft top board they used to own, which now lives aboard Aldebaran.

Michael ripping it up and having fun!

Michael in the early morning light

Keri: For those considering sailing with small children, we found that the persistent lulls of the ocean were perfect for inducing long naps and heavy nighttime sleep. All that quality shuteye gave Tessa the energy to chase Sabrina’s awesomeness, collect water samples with Uncle Ryan while pretending to be a pirate, scan for fish with dad and Uncle Michael, and learn the best jumping-off point from the boat (next to the ladder, in her opinion), all under the watchful eye of the competent Captain Kristian. I’m sure there were moments when those onboard were ready to make Tessa walk the plank; I know I was. But she gifted us with smiles and squeals of “Best. Day. Ever!!!” on more than one occasion during our time at sea.

Uncle Ry and Tessa just before retreating from the incoming squall

Uncle Ry and Tessa surveying the incoming squall… we retreated to Huatulco’s marina shortly after!

Bryan: All in all, it was an amazing trip. Seeing how this seaworthy group fulfills their daily needs is infectious. The effects of their healthy lifestyle are evident, motivating me to think about how I might return with the priority of better balance.

Keri: I was blown away by the culinary routines of the crew. In their tiny kitchen, they marinate their freshly caught fish, bake focaccia bread from scratch deriving yeast from the salty sea air (nope, not kidding), and make their own yogurt, creating unbelievably healthy and delicious meals based mainly around the offerings of the sea.

Tessa gobbled up the sashimi, even claiming the last piece!

Tessa gobbled up the sashimi, even claiming the last piece!

Keri: We do not come close to eating this well on land, truth be told, but watching their efforts to collect, prepare, and share food to such high standards has made a lasting mark on our own food rituals. Foods that might have gone untouched by Tessa at home were devoured, perhaps as a result of her participation in their aptly coined “hook-to-fork” food prep. As I write this, it has been almost 2 months since we’ve been back from the trip, and just yesterday, she said, “I don’t like fish. Oh yeah, we ate fish on the boat. I do like fish.” YES!

Bryan: Somewhere along our journey, our daughter transitioned from less of a 3-year-old to more of a 4-year-old– hopefully a trip she’ll never forget. Thank you to the crew and my wife for helping to instill in her a sense of adventure and the idea that anything, like sailing around the world, is possible. Until we join you on the next leg…cheers!

goodbye group

From all of the Hope Family–Thanks for the ride, guys. Best. Trip. Ever!!!

The Burly Military Island of San Clemente


Late in the morning we motored out another 40nm to San Clemente Island, a military base within the Channel Islands chain. It was a stark contrast from the National Park islands we had recently visited – the barracks, industrial buildings, and mock “Baghdad” village looked mean. Scary helicopters flew overhead launching flares out into the ocean – live military exercises!

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.03.36 AM

Most of the island zones were flagged ‘red’ due to this activity so we continued motoring to the south end in hopes we could spend the night. We found a safe little anchorage and tucked in for the evening. The following morning, under foggy skies, we hunted for a surf break near an area strewn with bullet-hole-riddled-junk we called “targets” but it wasn’t quite lining up despite the large swell.


We eventually went around Pyramid Head on the southernmost tip, which marks a dramatic transition in the topography – suddenly the coastline turns precipitously steep with 300 foot cliffs. That is where we met Captain Moore of Alguita – the famous captain who “found” the Pacific Trash Gyre and helped bring that catastrophe to the public’s attention.

Hanging out with Captain Moore on Algalita

Hanging out with Captain Moore on Alguita

We went aboard his custom catamaran and asked him about the micro-plastics data we are collecting in collaboration with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC); Capt. Moore was really supportive and sent us on our way with a signed copy of his book. The plastic problem is extremely serious and it is great to help bring some additional knowledge to science through the Green Coconut Run.

Matt collecting a water sample for ASC at Santa Barbara Island

Matt collecting a water sample for ASC at Santa Barbara Island

In the middle of the clear, deep, endless blue in the final 55nm passage to San Diego, we celebrated Captain Beadle’s birthday in grand style: we ate fresh sashimi from our 2nd bonita catch, and took a birthday-suit dip with visibility well over 100 feet and water temperatures in the 68 F degree mark.DCIM104GOPRO

We’ve only sailed one degree south and the temp is already warmer by 8 degrees! We snuck into San Diego harbor (Shelter Island public dock) as the sun sank below the horizon, just in time to make it out to dinner with Kristian’s brother and sister in law before they flew off to Australia. Happy Birthday Kristian: we all love you so much! We settled in to get some work done in our last USA stop before heading into “foreign waters”…

The Mini Magical Island of Santa Barbara

en route to SB island

At the end of the calm 40nm passage to Santa Barbara Island Michael hollered: Fish! Fish! The trolling line was buzzing out and the sparkling hues of the fish jumped above the water’s edge. A shining bonito was our first catch of the trip – we were stoked!


A sashimi appetizer followed with green onions, wasabi, and shoyu. You should have seen all our faces as the freshness and deliciousness of the fish caused us all to unanimously raise our eyebrows, in a ‘holy-smokes-this-is-freakin-delicious!’ kind of way. It was the best sashimi I have ever eaten.

doesn't get much fresher than this!

doesn’t get much fresher than this!

It was my first time visiting Santa Barbara Island, the smallest of our local islands, and boy was I taken away by its magic. We pulled into the lee of the island late afternoon with enough daylight to go for a dive. The island was teaming with life.


Numerous birds flew overhead, and the fish were bountiful below. We speared a sheepshead and an opaleye for a ceviche & fish taco dinner (respectively).


The crew was aching for exercise, so the following morning just after sunrise, we launched our red skiff Luna-Bell and paddled to shore. The landing on the pier was challenging as the south swell churned the waters into a turbulent mess around us. But we were all able to safely clamber up to shore.


Jogging around the island felt like the hills of Ireland – rolling, barren and dramatic. The view of Elephant Seal Cove and the giant cliffs in the North side are fantastic!


At the National Park Ranger station, we met a biologist named Jim. He showed us the nest of a little tiny native bird called the Scripps Murrelet – it is so furry and cute! He said that about 200 years ago there were so many birds that it was hard to walk around the island – then cats and rats brought by ranchers made easy prey of these birds as they hide under bushes instead of flying away. Sheep grazing destroyed the native plants that the birds used as habitat, and in their place the ice plant took over.

Red ice plant covers the hills of SB Island

Red ice plant covers the hills of SB Island

We thought the ice plant looked so pretty in its red fields around the islands, little did we know it is a vicious little plant, which increases the salinity of the soil resultantly making it uninhabitable for other plants.

Biologist, Jim Howard, showing us some native seedlings

Biologist, Jim Howard, showing us some native seedlings

Jim explained the restoration process involved removing the exotic predators from the island as well as planting native bushes, all in the hopes of helping the seabirds find a home again. Great news is that their numbers have increased, especially on Anacapa island. You can support their efforts by checking out their website and visiting this magical island yourself.


Next up: The Burly Military Island of San Clemente

The Journey Begins! First stop, Santa Cruz Island.

the crew

So cliché, yet so perfect: we sailed off into the sunset! Aldebaran left Santa Barbara Harbor 6:15pm on March 26, to begin our voyage: the Green Coconut Run.

The winds filled the big colorful headsail, the sun melted below the horizon, and we had one of the most magical channel crossings ever. Aldebaran was weighed down with hundreds of pounds of provisions, but she still zipped at 7 knots in the smooth, starry seas. It was as if Nature was on our side and cheering us on- giving us one final farewell gift! This is going to be one incredible story…

finally underway

Slogging away 4 months in the Ventura Boatyard was terribly exhausting, but suddenly it all was worthwhile. The sight of the wind in our sails was surreal – we were heading off for the adventure of our lives!

We still reeled from the immense amount of work it took to physically untie the dock lines –from planning, packing, provisioning, and finding room for all our stuff. (yeah, we’re still working on the latter). But somehow we pulled it off and actually set sail despite the chaos.

where are we going to put all this?

Onboard Aldebaran were the 4 crew mates that are heading down Central America on this first season: Kristian the captain; Sabrina the nurse; Michael the fisherman; Ryan the ukelele-player. Joining us for the five day leg to San Diego was Annie the videographer, who decided to jump onboard less than 24hrs prior!

We spent two nights on Santa Cruz island. We pulled in long after dark and anchored at a beautiful protected anchorage near Smuggler’s Cove. The sheer golden cliffs provided a stunning contrast to the turquoise waters. The sun rose over Anacapa Island’s silhouetted pyramid-shape… this is one of our favorite sunrise spots in the world.

sunrise over Anacapa Island

In the book “Care and Feeding of Offshore Crew”, Lin Pardey suggests taking a day off at a nearby anchorage after departing from home; all your provisioning and celebrating and last minute repairs inevitably turn the boat into utter chaos! This was certainly our case, things were ridiculously messy! We spent a glorious 36 hours ‘decompressing’ on the sunny, calm side of the island, riding waves and organizing the mess in the cabin.

Santa Cruz Island backside

It felt amazing to bask one last time in the beauty of our ‘home island’ before we ventured south to parts unknown.

Next up: The Mini Magical Island of Santa Barbara

surfs up