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!”

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Funding success! Trip is on!

In an awesome show of collective support, the Aldebaran crew raked in $35,000 to fulfill the “essential budget” for the boat —- allowing us to green light the Green Coconut Run for departure this March!!

Over 30 crew signed up as “Early SeaBirds” to get time onboard the voyage during different legs. Many of those are doing work trade on the boat to help reduce our costs. Check out some of the crew bios in our Facebook page.

On January 19 we splashed the boat back in the water — it is so good to be afloat again! We continue to reside in the Ventura Harbor, just 100 yards from the Boatyard.. we haven’t moved far! But it is a start.

There is still piles of work to do by March — reinstalling all the bow hardware, installing solar panels, and building our battery compartment. It is truly intimidating but we are pushing ahead with the plans.

What is the Green Coconut Run?


Artist’s image of Bora Bora, Tahiti. Photo Credit:

The Coconut Milk Run is the popular tradewind route that sailors like to take across the South Seas, going downwind along dreamy islands… what could be better?

The Green Coconut Run !  It’s like the dream route above but it follows amazing protected areas from California to the South Seas.  By documenting the journey, we want to help establish the route, so that other sailors and travelers can visit and help support these remote, spectacular places – marine reserves, Biosphere Reserves, World Heritage sites, and other locally protected areas.

fiji from air

Fiji from the air. Photo credit: unknown

“What’s the big deal with islands?” you ask. The Galapagos Islands are a classic example of the qualities that I cherish in islands: animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth, astounding landscapes, and captivating culture & history!  Some of these places are fading… some of them are thriving… all of them are worth seeing and supporting for the unique role they play in Nature and humanity.


Galapagos scenery. Photo credit:

After years of planning, cruising sailors (like us!) go to the most far-flung islands. We see them, enjoy them, and leave. Can cruisers do more for these fragile places that they find so inspiring?  Who are the heroes preserving these places, and helping the quality of life for locals? Can we bring them mainstream awareness and support?

In Green Coconut Run we are searching for the success stories of ecological come-back. Like the elephant seal, grey whale, and others that came back from near extinction, there are remarkable tales of how life can blossom once again. We hope to learn about smart restoration and protection, qualities that the world needs now; to protect the fragile ecosystems that bring the Earth and humanity so much value.

The Green Coconut Run is run by the Aldebaran Sailing Cooperative — a group of scientists, artists, and adventurers, collectively funding this voyage. Come and join us aboard or from afar!

Green Coconut Promo 2014-12-27

Boating meets Art ! Our Parade of lights experiments

Our fantastic mermaids Sarah and Sabrina kept the fisherman trying to catch them all night!

Our fantastic mermaids Sarah and Sabrina kept the fisherman trying to catch them all night!

Last year we did the semi-impossible: in a matter of 4 days, we decided to join the Xmas Parade of Lights with Aldebaran and won Grand Prize.

This year, we wanted to raise the bar even higher. We put on a fantastic show. We lost. But here’s the story of why we ultimately won.

Jason the fisherman was catching the mermaids at the bow

Jason the fisherman trying to catch the mermaids at the bow with a lighted pole

Black Rock City, Nevada. The art cars at Burning Man blew our minds! We are driving back from the desert feeling horribly dusty and utterly inspired. “Let’s make an Art Boat for the parade of lights!!” we decided.

Santa Barbara, California. We had ambitions to build a big Pygmy Mammoth on the boat, since the theme was originally Jungle Love — but when the theme shifted to Gone Fishing, we took some liberties, and decided to Go Phishing!

The great jam band Phish had just played at the Santa Barbara bowl and we loved their famous cover of 2001 Space Odyssey — so we called our boat the “2015 Ocean Odyssey”, and set about making a big party.

Photo: Lara Cooper / Noozhawk. Okiva in her lit up glory!

Photo: Lara Cooper / Noozhawk. Okiva in her lit up glory!

Our fine ship Aldebaran was stuck in the boatyard due to delays… bummed!  Good news, we recruited our good friend Spencer to use his iconic cruising boat, the 41ft “Okiva”.

The Idea. The lighting master Coronel Mango had a vision: blue and greens creating an underwater scene on deck, with contrasting red lights on the hull, and green laser like a phosphorescence trail off the back. Captain Spencer wanted a fisherman aloft, and we wanted mermaids. Voilá!  Nothing like the usual Christmas string of lights — we wanted to put on a SHOW.

The installation. The night before the parade, we had a last minute stroke of insight: let’s blast white work lights during the song’s epic climaxes, controlled by simple power strip plugs!  Super caveman style, as the Coronel described it, but he was willing to try.

The parade. The morning of the parade, we put up the 25+ spotlights, and without dry running once, set off at sunset to join the parade. While navigating the chaos afloat, we tried our “caveman” setup — it was worse than we thought. The coronel had to stand next to the generators, inhaling exhaust fumes, not being able to hear the music over their deafening noise. I had to signal to him from on deck when to flip the switches! Believe me, this was not simple amidst the mayhem.

Somehow we pulled it off. A video from a friend’s iPhone was pretty amazing.  (We’ll post it here in a day or two, come back to see it)

The results.  We ended up winning second place in the sailboat division. We all had an absolute blast, thrilled a lot of people, and brought serious joy into the the night. We felt like winners in our minds… Plus, our boat made front page of the paper!! Hurray to the merger of boating and art!

2013 grand prize winner Aldebaran! Dressed up as a James Brown Funky Christmans show.

Photo: Ronald Williams.  2013 grand prize winner Aldebaran! Dressed up as a James Brown Funky Christmans show.

Thanksgiving letter: how the Green Coconut Run came to be


May 2006. Sailing south from Morro Bay on my first boat, the Tabula Raza, a 29ft Columbia monohull.

 While getting my ass thoroughly whooped in a little monohull around Point Conception about 10 years ago, I wondered: “How hard can this be? I can sail this little cork all the way to the South Pacific!”

But as I plunged into the crazy business of boat prep, I discovered that it is a huge undertaking. Particularly when I had the bright idea to buy a big ol’ trimaran!
Over the years, the dream seemed to crumble under the weight of its monumental implications.
Dreams, however, have their own magic and timing. Behind the scenes, a hidden transformation was occurring…
Cabin Dinner

February 2013. Dinner aboard Aldebaran at Ladies Harbor.

Sailing became about sharing. During our trips to the Channel Islands in the last two years, I heard a constant refrain from the many friends who joined us:
“That was the best weekend of this whole year for me”.
People were shining… re-energized, feeling a deep connection, we became a floating family enjoying great meals and moments.
Off-the-grid, fully present with each other, alive in Nature’s unceasing majesty, we returned to the harbor every time like new people.
I realized something special was happening. Somewhere along the way,  the informal Aldebaran Sailing Cooperative turned from a way to subsidize the boat into a service for our community of friends.
Keeping it alive became an amazing gift to ourselves, and that has become my work and passion.
Re-igniting the vision of a trans-oceanic voyage was a big step I wasn’t prepared to take alone. A number of crew encouraged — no, gently insisted — that it happen. “What’s it going to take?” they asked.
If the Channel Islands are so fantastic, why not take this singular chance in our lives and go farther..?  We put it out to the group, to see if this is part of our collective dream.  It is appears it is.
Our first round of fundraising has been awesome – 14 friends and fellow ocean-lovers have pledged to participate as Trip Partners and Early SeaBirds on the trip.
This is a great responsibility and honor. It apexes on the boat, which is now its own entity, and I no longer just “the owner”. Instead, like a community plot of land, I have become the Steward, and everyone who is participating, its Trustees.
The trip has a mission, our way to give back and have fun. It is called the Green Coconut Run, a route along remote protected areas, from California to New Zealand, which will become a Travel Guide so others can visit & support these unique islands and their conservation efforts.
Aldebaran Trip 11-29_cropped
We deeply thank those who have taken the leap — and we invite you to participate, in the way that fits you best, in this wonderful madness.
Giving thanks to this and much else this Thanksgiving —
(Head Honcho Steward & El Capitan)

First days with Aldebaran

In Channel Islands harbor.

I had always longed for the speed and stability of a trimaran, and here was a beautiful 42ft example. For sale.

I took a picture and emailed it to my mom. “Aldebaran!” She said over the phone. “That’s the name of your great-uncle’s boat!” He was a family legend, having sailed from Brazil to Greece and back.

Oh-oh. I was having misgivings about tending to such a large seabird, with its gentle wings and soft underbelly. Now with family synchronicity it would be harder to remain impartial.

The seller was a well-meaning landlubber, but had left the boat in disarray. In contrast, the past owners had treated her like a crown jewel. She was a tired princess, having dressed luxuriously to the ball, then left to sleep for years in the barn, dirty and dishevelled.

There is a certain charm to worn out glory, one that you imagine might return with some buffing and polishing, one that I found irresistibly bringing me back.