About a week after our Green Coco raffle, the Marquesan school kids went to Chile. (The Green Coco community fundraised nearly $2100 to gift to the non-profit Motu Haka, which is coordinating the school kids’ marine reserves. Read more on our post her)
“It all started seven years ago when Beadle purchased the 42-foot trimaran, Aldebaran, and set-up a cooperative model with 30 graduate school friends to allow for a rotating crew on the adventures.”
SCUBA diving from a sailboat is hard (read: dealing with heavy tanks, a big compressor, and lots of gear). We feel very fortunate to be able to do it from Aldebaran! Happy to share that success with SCUBA diving magazine, which ran this short report on us, thanks to Lauren DeRemer for helping us get this published! Read the article here.
“How to have a millionaire’s lifestyle cruising your yacht in exotic places – for pennies on the dollar ! ”
To 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!”
Let me introduce this book with a recollection. It was my first trip, my first sailboat, year ’04. We barely crawled into SB harbor after a troubled passage from Long Beach with a smoking gas engine, ripping sails, and dry-heaving crew. I called a guy who had fixed my van “bro-style” a few year before – I knew he was a boat mechanic – and begged for his help.
That’s how I met “Billy Sparrow”.
With a knowing eye Billy glanced at the sorry state of my vessel, a 29ft Columbia, which I had bought sight unseen with zero boating experience, under the foolhardy impression one could just sail her north around Point Conception to Morro Bay. Most professional mechanics would walk away at this point with a sad dismissal.
Luckily, I had a beautiful Amazonian-brunette crew lady aboard with me, and she walked out the companionway extending her powerful feminine physique. This caught the eye of the irrepressible Billy, and kept him around long enough to hear my story, and share a bit of his.
Perhaps due to a mix of compassion and passion, he yielded. “Bro, I’m going to help you. This reminds me of myself. My maiden cruise was also trial by fire. Literally dude- my wooden boat caught on fire, I ran aground three horrible times, got taken out by waves, everything that could go wrong went wrong. You’re doing it man. We’ll get you to Morro Bay.”
Eleven years later, I get a copy of his book in the mail, relating the details of his maiden cruise.
As an adventure tale of youthful reckless-ness, there is none better, set amid the scenic and wild waters of the Pacific Northwest. As a story of overcoming hardship, perseverance, and accepting the power of things beyond our control, it has universal value and literary power. It is a transformative tale for everyone to read; to vicariously experience the wisdom of seeing ‘the struggle as the blessing’; and ultimately, to go for it.
Want to check it out? Order Tranquility: A Memoir of an American Sailor by Billy Sparrow directly through their publisher, Inland Waters Press, and enjoy!
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.
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.
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!
Here is one of the missing keys to the ocean’s health, and in fact, to our whole sailing voyage across 15,000 miles of the Pacific. We knew it had to do with marine reserves- and the incredible fish we had been catching on our boat- but we weren’t sure how.
The revelation began with a scream.
“Aaaaaah!!” Sabrina exclaimed as she lept up, nearly sending her dinner plate flying across the cockpit. “A flying fish just hit me in the back of the head!” she said bewildered, jumping up and down. We turned on a light with excited anticipation.
“No way, it’s actually a squid- check it out!” Michael scooped the slimy cephalopod off the cockpit bench with his fingers and put it on the table for closer inspection. We discovered over 50 ‘flying squid’ on the deck that night, but that first one we named Mr Squiddy: the “magic one”.
Outside was deep darkness, the groan of rigging, and the satisfying flutter of sails. Aldebaran, our 42ft trimaran, was heading south, 30nm off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, surrounded by stars and brisk north winds.
Sunrise over the Pacific the next morning, no land in sight, Ryan baited our trolling rod with Mr. Squiddy on our famous cedar plug lure. Within 20 minutes the line was singing with a catch! All hands were on deck as we pulled in the fish that we had been yearning for, but been eluded by, since we left Santa Barbara a month and a half before: a yellowfin tuna, weighing in at 20lbs. Here was the coveted, delicious “ahi”.
Spirits high, we spent the next two days in Chamela Bay gorging on sashimi and rolling every form of sushi roll we could conceive. The bay is a gorgeous cruising ground with a dozen small islands, perfect for exploring with a standup paddle board. Here was the kind of dreamy seascape that drove us to spend our savings and months of sweat and tears to make this voyage happen.
Admittedly, fishing was my greatest surprise in this trip so far. With our small budget and small kitchen, we were eating better than we had ever in our lives– thanks to the fresh fish from the sea. A deep appreciation for the ocean was growing in each of us as we harvested our daily protein. This reached new heights during magical moments like Mr. Squiddy bringing home a yellowfin tuna.
Just as we were enjoying our latest culinary invention, a “chili-mango-ahi roll”, we saw Four Arrows, aka Don Jacobs, paddling out to Aldebaran. It’s not every day that we see a 70 year old man paddling out to our sailboat, thin frame and sinewy muscles bronzed from sunshine.
Four Arrows is no ordinary man, however. He is a Native American of the Lakota tradition, a university professor and author of books covering dozens of topics. His expertise ranges from riding wild stallions, applied hypnotherapy, and his academic focus, curriculum for balanced education. He lives here in Chamela Bay, partly because it is the best place for him to battle his 7ry old lymphoma cancer. After being given just 2 yrs to live, he’s beating the cancer on a rigorous diet of coconut water, sunshine, organic whole foods, and a lot of exercise.
We had contacted Four Arrows to learn about his latest achievement: how he is setting up a grassroots marine reserve with Kickstarter funds for a local fishing cooperative, just south in a town called Arroyo Seco.
“I knew nothing about marine ecology. But I had a vision during one of my sweat lodges: the fish needed protection. I spoke at the fishing coop meeting with my kindergarten level Spanish, not really expecting much,” explained Four Arrows.
The younger fishermen were naturally very skeptical. But the older fishermen started telling stories of how the fish used to be bigger and closer to shore. Nowadays they had to go offshore many miles to find sizeable fish, which is dangerous with their single outboard pangas. By the end of the meeting they raised their hands and voted to consider the idea further.
They flew in a fisherman from Cabo Pulmo, a famous protected area in southern Baja, to tell the Arroyo Seco fisherman about the experience of creating a marine reserve: “It has transformed our lives,” said the fisherman from Cabo Pulmo.
The fisherman continued: “The fish have come back, because the big fish in the reserve have millions of babies more than the small fish. We also have new opportunities in tourism, which is great for our children – more options for work keeps them around.” Having heard the testimonial, the Arroyo Seco cooperative approved the idea! Now they just needed the $26,000 for biological and social assessments, required for a National Marine Area designation.
Four Arrows took on the fundraising task. He laughed about his first experiment in crowd-funding: “Some one raised a million bucks on Kickstarter to make a cooler; so I figured we could raise the cash for our little reserve. There was no “environmental” category in Kickstarter so I put our project under “seafood”- and we met our goal in four weeks.”
This innocent act – of connecting our love of eating seafood with the protection of the ocean – was an unplanned stroke of brilliance. Here was the missing link key which helped us define our own voyage.
As we had begun the Green Coconut Run, a sailing voyage from California to New Zealand, our dream was to enjoy the wild beauty of the ocean : surfing and diving in remote places. As young professionals in environmental and health fields we also wanted to visit marine reserves and help support them – somehow.
Here in Chamela Bay, enjoying ahi sushi and listening to Four Arrows, we realized that if we can connect appreciation of the ocean – through surfing, fishing, diving and sailing- to efforts like this community led marine reserve, we can help preserve the ocean.
“We are calling this the Three Dorados Project,” explained Four Arrows of the proposed reserve in Arroyo Seco. “The name came to us as I was paddling with a fellow sport fisherman who was quite skeptical of the idea of a marine reserve (as all fisherman are!). Then quite close to shore, unexpectedly, three large Dorados swam between our two boards, entrancing us with their glittering beauty. The sport fisherman was so moved by this moment that he donated $5000 the very next day. He knew the ocean was talking to him.”
Will our grand kids be able to enjoy seafood as we do? Scientists say that pollution and overfishing may cause the collapse of many fisheries by mid century. One of the most important solutions suggested is to expand the small network of marine protected areas, which currently cover less than 1% of coastal areas. Marine reserves give fish safe havens in which to breed and grow to full size and fecundity.
Most existing reserves have been designated by governments in complex bureaucratic affairs. It is no wonder their creation has been slow. In comparison, the proposed Arroyo Seco marine reserve, measuring 16 square km and including a complete mangrove area, was developed in nine months with the support of local community. Official designation is expected in under a year with less than $35,000 invested.
This is the power of the Grassroots reserve effort: it is community led, it is relatively small and attainable, it is crowd-funded, and it is fast.
The science behind protected areas is well documented, and says that reserves are beneficial for both ecology and fisherman. A network of small marine reserves, located in important habitats every 50 miles, would make a vast improvement to fisheries and the ocean’s health.
The capstone to improve our relationship with the ocean will be to shift our attitude. Four Arrows put it eloquently:
“While we consider the ocean a ‘resource’, we will continue to abuse it. When we consider the ocean a ‘relation, – the fish and corals as our brothers and sisters – then we love and protect it.”
We have been moved by many moments on this voyage, only the latest being Mr Squiddy’s yellowfin tuna. The next night, we swam around the most brilliant display of bioluminescence, snorkeling through a galaxy of tiny stars. Two days later, we found a “magic log” in the middle of the ocean with dozens of turtles, small sharks, and schools of fish.
These experiences make it easy to see what Four Arrows is talking about. But even on a mundane beach, looking out at the horizon of the vast ocean, who doesn’t catch a glimpse of this awesome power and beauty?
Raising anchor and continuing our voyage south, we contemplated our fishing poles with new eyes- ever grateful for the offerings from the sea. We also contemplated our tasks ahead: to dodge hurricanes and lightning as we sail to Panama in the storm season; to find (and share) amazing experiences that move us; and in so doing, do our part to promote a growing network of marine protected areas. Because now we know that it is possible.
- Support the grassroots, community marine reserve being set up in Arroyo Seco with Four Arrow’s help… see their Kickstarter link here.
- Like what the Green Coconut Run is about? Become a ‘patron’ of our video series and help the voyage keep going! Follow this blog for updates on our up-and-coming Patreon campaign.
How a Baja fishing co-op is overcoming the effects of climate change
“Where are the kelp beds?” we wondered, looking outside the cockpit.
The cruising guide stated: “Extensive kelp fields surround the reefs on the south-western portion of the island…” It directed sailors to keep clear of hazards including thick kelp forests. We had no such problem — the warm waters this year prevented the growth of kelp.
With almost religious fervor, we celebrated every degree in rising water temperatures. We look forward to tropical waters were we could swim without thick neoprene rubber. However during our visit to the offshore islands of Baja we learned how warmer water is affecting local fishermen in ways we didn’t expect.
Island fishermen at the tip of Baja’s largest indentation, Vizcaino Bay, harvest many of the same species commercially important at California’s Channel Islands. Abundant lobster, abalone, and sea cucumbers – along with various fish – are managed by cooperative fisheries with well-organized panga fleets, patrol boats to prevent poachers, and village assemblies. These have resulted in prosperous communities in the middle of extremely arid areas.
One community we visited, Isla Natividad, is considered one of the most successful fishing cooperatives in all the 11,000 kilometers of Mexican coastline. The islanders manage their fisheries as a cooperative organization with the help of biologist advisors. They work with top universities from La Paz, Ensenada, and California, including Stanford. They are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for their artesian lobster fishery, have a decompression chamber for divers, and even sport an amphibious vehicle.
After surfing the legendary wave of Isla Natividad, we went to shore and met researchers from COBI — a Mexican non-profit working on the conservation of marine biodiversity and the establishment of sustainable fisheries by empowering local communities.
Since Isla Natividad is on the fringe of the range of many cold water species, the region is especially vulnerable to changing climate. Warm waters are negatively affecting most species except lobster. Episodes of warmer waters and hypoxia (low oxygen) tend to stress species and kelp forests, reducing the productivity of ecosystems and their populations.
COBI is helping the cooperative understand the effects of climate change and what they can do about it. One innovative solution they are considering is a multi-species aquaculture project. This would be the first one in Mexico, and could help them hedge against the forecasted affects of climate change.
After sailing for days to distant, offshore spots in Mexico, we were not expecting to see island fishermen working independently with biologists and researchers in such an organized fashion. We were impressed with our talk with COBI; and then a subsequent visit to the village in Isla Natividad, where a local family showed us a delicious lobster dinner.
Although we continue to cheer for the warming waters as we head south, the value of cold water is now clearer than ever. Even if the waters in the Vizcaino Peninsula warm and affect fisheries, there’s a good chance the cooperatives will be ready for it, given their preparation. This resourcefulness is a great perspective to remember from this remote, beautiful, windswept part of the world.
For those of you who didn’t catch Ryan in his apron in Santa Barbara’s finest weekly publication, the Independent, here’s a snippet. We’ll be scanning the article (and SB newspress article) soon per requests! They captured us during our massive go-away party with 30 people on board…! If anyone has the online link feel free to share.
Our friend Ben was telling someone about the voyage while at the grocery store, looked down and there we were — on the front page of the newspaper! As we were working on the hatches on Monday morning, several people came by on kayaks and SUPs and wished us a good trip. Interesting articles around the other parts of the newspaper… Ebola scare… murder victims… hopefully we are adding some lightness to the news this week. Another interesting article was the commentary about Santa Rosa article on the back page, which talks about the Vail & Vickers family running the Santa Rosa Island ranch, back in the day. Thanks Santa Barbara Newspress for the feature!
Prepared by our media partner Loatree.com, thanks so much!
For Immediate ReleaseContact:
March 17, 2015 Eric Cardenas, LoaTree
Trans-Pacific ‘Green Coconut Run’ to set sail end of March
Promoting Island Protection: Cruising 15,000 miles with a Cause
SANTA BARBARA, Ca. – Later this month, a three year journey called ‘The Green Coconut Run’ will set sail across the Pacific and link protected areas from California to New Zealand.
Inspired by the beauty of the Channel Islands, the crew aboard the 42 foot trimaran Aldebaran will be diving, surfing, and creating a route that supports the conservation of remote islands.
A spin off of the famous ‘Coconut Milk Run’ — used to describe the downwind voyage along the South Seas taken by hundreds of ‘cruising sailboats’ every year — the ‘Green Coconut Run’ is a sailing route that visits wild and protected areas. The trip is spearheaded by the Aldebaran Sailing Cooperative, a group of young marine ecologists, environmental professionals, and artists from around California. Their goal is to encourage other sailors to cruise on the Green Coconut Run and lend a hand to island communities.
“It’s like a Pacific Crest Trail for sailing,” explains Ryan Smith, previously a project manager at a conservation investment group and now Aldebaran’s development director. “It’s a route connecting vast regions which helps us appreciate the majesty of Nature.”
The Green Coconut Run begins in California’s Channel Islands, hugs the Pacific coast of Central America down to Panama, and then west across to the Galapagos, Tahiti, Fiji, eventually ending in New Zealand. The journey will cover more than 15,000 miles.
Along the way, the Aldebaran crew will meet nonprofit conservation groups and responsible businesses that steward protected areas, using video and photography to share their stories and raise awareness about their needs.
This first year, Green Coconut Run is partnering with ‘Adventures and Scientists for Conservation (ASC)’. On behalf of ASC, the crew will sample for micro-plastics and promote the global campaign to assess the quantity and impact of micro-plastics around the world.
“This is another way cruising sailboats can help,” says Ben Best, a PhD candidate in marine ecology and Aldebaran’s science advisor. “With today’s GPS-enabled phones and cameras, we can crowdsource data collection, which opens up new possibilities for science.”
The end goal of the voyage is to support the health and vitality of islands and oceans by harnessing the collective network of cruising sailboats and the general public.
“Cruisers are in a unique position,” says Kristian Beadle, captain of Aldebaran. “We can bring resources to island communities and collect data from far-flung places. We’d like to make ‘cruising with a cause’ a reality.”
“This is how we are living our dream while also making a positive impact,” says Sabrina Littée, the ship’s nurse and dive master. “We hope other people can be inspired to do the same.”
To participate in the journey, visit www.GreenCoconutRun.com. The Aldebaran Sailing Cooperative seeks sponsors (gear and funds) and nonprofit partners to collaborate with along the route. To learn more, contact Ryan Smith at greencoconutrun at gmail dot com. Photos available upon request.
“Dreaming Big: the Green Coconut Run to set sail”
Check out the story here.. It does a great job of capturing the playful energy of our project.
The best part is that Loa Tree – which specializes in eco-lifestyle marketing – wants to partner with us! They are coming aboard for two weeks, and will be sponsoring our media outreach with their support savvy PR skills.
I couldn’t imagine a better fit to help spread the word about the Green Coconut Run.. Read more about Loa Tree on their site.
One would never imagine they were declared extinct in the 1880s due to over hunting. And that they bounced back against all odds. Hang on– extinct? That would mean they would be gone. There would be none here. How do we see so many on the webcam right now?
Their secret lies in an island 200 miles offshore of Baja: Isla Guadalupe, more reknown for diving with great white sharks than anything else.
The magic of the come-back. This is why we’re doing the Green Coconut Run, and not just a traditional cruise. We want to learn about how it’s possible, in our frenetic world of resource consumption, to see nature thrive once again.
Isla Guadalupe will be one of our first stops in the Green Coconut Run, sailing 3 days from Ensenada, in the middle of the ocean. Few boats go out there –mostly, exclusive dive charter boats.
It’ll be in the middle of our 1 month Baja leg, from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas, starting mid-March.
What’s the Green Coconut Run? Read more about it in this post.