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)
We’ve discovered inspiring projects during our travels but this has been the most mind-blowing of them all: Marquesan school children managing their own marine reserves.
(See our previous posts, link at bottom… it’s the smartest way to protect the ocean that we’ve seen!)
To help fund this grassroots project – and their travel to an global conference in September to share their innovative ideas with scientists – we are asking you to help us raise a couple thousand dollars.
To express our gratitude to our donors we have selected handicrafts collected from our travels to raffle as gifts.
Kick down $20 towards 1 raffle ticket, or $50 for 3 tickets. We have 7 great items to raffle.
–> Raffle Date: Saturday, August 19 (in one week!)
–> Location and Time: 3pm PST, Facebook live, streaming from French Polynesia (internet permitting)
–> Cost: $20 for 1 ticket, $50 for 3 tickets.
–> 6 Prizes:
HOW TO PAY:
Paypal or Wellsfargo transfer to email@example.com
– $20 one raffle ticket
– $50 three raffle tickets
– $100 or $250 for a special gift
Please write “raffle” or “donation” in the note.
About the Kid’s Reserve:
Why Funds are needed:
Green Coco in the last 2 years:
“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.”
With huge smiles, elder ladies sang Polynesian songs to the strum of acoustic guitars, swaying in their sarongs and flowers tucked into their hair. They were amidst the July festivities, celebrating with a community lunch. Although lunch time was technically over, our host Pascal kindly asked the cooks to serve us portions of the traditional Marquesan meal they had prepared for their village members.
To our surprise, a huge feast of poisson cru, fire roasted wild boar, taro and banana in various forms was placed before us. As we sat in awe of this generosity, Pascal shifted his immense body and offered a soft-spoken blessing to the meal: “We thank the sun for nourishing this food, may it bring you wonderful health.”
Despite the revelry, Pascal seemed somewhat morose on this day. I asked him how were things with the kid’s marine reserve.
“Well,” Pascal began, in a lumbering manner. “There’s an exciting thing happening in a month, we are taking 10 kids to a conference in Chile. They will share with scientists around the world what we are doing here in Marquesas.”
“That’s fantastic. They are actually presenting at the conference?” I asked, still wondering how this could be getting him down. “Yes, in fact, our EMMA model [educational marine managed area] is being considered as a new, official protected area format. There are six types that are recognized, ranging from “limited entry” to “no-take” to “managed use,” Pascal continued.
“The IUCN (international union of conservation of nature) is the body that regulates this, along with other things like ‘how endangered are species’. The EMMA would be the 7th type of marine protected area. Although it isn’t about enforcement, we see the EMMA as a natural way to weave communities into the fabric of protected areas.”
“What a great idea! I know many people in the States who would be very interested in the EMMA model. So plans for the Chile conference are solid?” I prompted.
“That’s the thing,” Pascal said, looking slightly uncomfortable. “We had all our funds for the trip, in fact we have the airline tickets already, so we are going.
“But the French Polynesian education ministry just told us that our choice of accommodation wasn’t approved. We were invited to stay at a school in Chile, and also at a school with our ancestral cousins in Easter Island, which we will visit enroute, so costs were kept low. But now we need to stay at a hotel or bungalow, an “approved tourist facility”, Pascal intoned with mild disgust, referring to the bureaucrats’ terms.
“I am sad and angry that they only told us this with so little time left. But tomorrow on Monday I will start the day with a clear head and start looking for the money we need,” Pascal nodded solemnly.
I probed Pascal further and he shared that they are short US$7000, which they actually need by mid August ideally, or soon after. The funds need to go to Motu Haka, the non profit organization in Marquesas.
The crew aboard Aldebaran met and discussed whether we can help out. The Green Coconut Run was originally born with two goals: as a community sailing adventure, and as a way to promote ocean conservation.
Here was a perfect example of what we hoped to achieve: come across amazing projects along our travels, which we can help support and share with the world.
We want to work together to help the Marquesan school children and the EMMAs. Want to learn how? Read below.
—-> Here’s how we plan to help the school kids fund their trip to Chile to share their model with scientists from around the world; while supporting the EMMA program and marine reserves in Marquesas.
- Share this post with your friends
- We ask you to contribute $100 or $250 via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org ; the first 20 donors will receive special Marquesan gifts.
- Green Coco will match up to $1500 in funds via our crowdfund site Patreon.com
- Conference in Chile, Sep 4-8, 2017. “International Congress of Marine Protected Areas”
- Network of EMMAs in Marquesas, known as “Pukatai”
- Video about Regional Marquesas Protected Area in the works
- Green Coconut Run’s last two years described by Seven Seas Magazine
We met Pascal during an extraordinary slideshow presentation about the school children in their village.
“Our kids have an important task,” Pascal had said in his resounding voice. “They are managing the marine protected area in front of our village.”
I raised my eyebrows. Come again?
“Our coastline in Marquesas is precious,” Pascal had explained. “We’ll need marine reserves, as other nations have done, but instead of starting with the adults, we are starting with the kids. They are our future.”
“How to have a millionaire’s lifestyle cruising your yacht in exotic places – for pennies on the dollar ! ”
Green Coconut Run goes biligual!
We’re excited to share a spanish translation of our popular post, “Crowd-funding Marine Reserves”… A small snippet follows below; the full text is in our new “Blog en Español” page.
Cuatro Flechas se dio a la tarea de recaudar fondos. Ríe al recordar su primer experimento en crowd-funding: “Alguien había conseguido un millón de dólares en Kickstarter para hacer una hielera; así que supuse que podíamos conseguir el dinero para nuestra pequeña reserva. No existía la categoría “ambiental” en Kickstarter, así que etiqueté a nuestro proyecto como “mariscos” ¡y alcanzamos nuestra meta en cuatro semanas!”
Este acto inocente – de conectar nuestro amor por comer mariscos con la protección del océano – fue un golpe imprevisto de ingenio. Ahí estaba el eslabón perdido que nos ayudó a definir nuestro propio viaje. leer mas
This translation is courtesy of Angelica Almazan – a teacher from Michoacan, Mexico – who we met in Mazunte, Oaxaca. She joined us aboard Aldebaran for a week during our passage across the infamous Tehuantepec Gulf. Read about her experiences aboard and how she became a Pirate for a week!
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.
“I’m going to stay on the boat,” sighed Kristian, as we loaded the skiff to surf. Fifteen foot swells jerked violently at the anchor snubber. We were 1.5 miles offshore but the depth sounder still read 30ft. Huge rolling swells whipped Aldebaran around like a toy.
We had just finished a 2 night crossing of the Sea of Cortez, complete with a fantastic show of spinner dolphins doing tricks over the azure blue water. Strong seas had blown out one of our beloved nets, which gave the boat a battle-worn, haggard appearance. To top it off, early May’s so-called “Platinum Swell”, one of the largest of the year, greeted us at Sinaloa’s famed left points. Scanning the horizon, Ryan lamented, “Looks big and unruly.”
While the captain looked after the mother ship, we took our trusty inflatable, Lunabel, to the inside of the point. It didn’t take long before a rogue swell pulled Lunabel’s anchor and we almost lost her as she drifted helplessly towards the shore pound! We frantically paddled back and called it quits on surfing.
After an anxiety ridden night in Barra de Piaxtla, which under those conditions felt like a washing machine on super cycle, we sailed to the city of Mazatlan. We had to deliver Eric and Brian, our diving buddies with whom we had just shared an amazing 10 days in the famous islands of the Sea of Cortez.
With the moon high over the grand Pacific and crowds promenading on the malecon (waterfront boardwalk), we danced in the back of the taxi pickup truck, and marveled at being in a city after a couple weeks of ocean wilderness. We had given up on surfing this historic swell… but the next day we had the most unexpected surprise…
Kristian woke us up early with uncharacteristic excitement. You see, the captain is notorious for dismissing all but the best conditions. His late night research had revealed an amazing wave which only breaks every blue moon, accessed by boat.
The “rare bird” decided to smile for us. It was a perfect, powerful righthand reef peeling off a picturesque island. Only one surfer was out and we surfed the best waves of our trip for six hours that day… with only a few urchin spines to remove from our feet. With a city of half a million people, we couldn’t believe we were getting these waves mostly alone. The hoots of stoke were sweet song to our ears, redeeming our Herculean anchoring efforts during the last few days.
The next day it was gone… the rare bird shone for 24hrs. We worked hard on Aldebaran, installing temporary replacements for the net that blew out in the passage. Filling propane tanks required three different visits – nobody had American valve connections – but eventually a screw driver got the job done. Filling diesel was also a task, as it was unavailable in Old Town harbor; we motored an hour north to Marina El Cid and struggled with the crowded dock.
We were preparing for an overnight passage to a remote island 60nm south. Isla Isabel, known as the Galapagos of Mexico. It is a square mile volcanic island in a National Park, with stories of crazy birds, bountiful fish, and amazing craggy views.
Approaching in a musky grey sunrise, rivers of birds flew through the sky. They never ceased the entire time we were in Isla Isabel. We jumped in the water to freedive a half submerged crater islet, reminiscent of Molokini crater on Maui, where we encountered a phenomenal underwater world. Around the crater swam an endless number of fish, probably the most complete marine ecosystem we’d found so far on our voyage: from huge schools fish of reef fish to large predatory Jacks skittishly eyeing us.
The island is open to fishing and the spearfishing was excellent. Everyone got out of the water except Ryan, who then had a magical encounter with a friendly whale shark, which rubbed its body on his before swimming away.
That night, we anchored in the lee of bizzare offshore rocks called Las Moñas. White sand beach spilled into a gorgeous cove with fantastic snorkeling in shallow water. On shore, vast numbers of blue footed boobies nested in scrubby underbrush.
We anchored next in the southern cove, and SCUBA dove along an underwater cliff pockmarked with caves. Here were by far the largest eels we’d ever seen — with the girth of a human being, but twice as long, they looked like dragons, receding into their underwater caves.
Wondering, “what next??”, we paddled our SUPs to the main fishing camp on shore. A short walk revealed a crater lake.
A gigantic colony of frigate birds was the next jaw-dropper. They nested in trees as prolifically as salmon running up a narrow Alaskan river. Iguanas crawled along the paths in the derelict national park center, evidently abandoned for some time.
We climbed past the iguanas and frigate birds to climb to the lighthouse, where a panoramic view swept 360 degrees. Waves crashed on the west side of the island, its wild, windy side; separated by a thin ridge of land, Aldebaran bobbed peacefully in the east side, the smooth, lee side.
On the hill top, we found more boobies! Here were lime green footed boobies, with more slender necks, sharing the territory with their blue footed cousins. They clucked angrily and refused to move if we approached their nests, which were directly on the ground. It was hard to pull ourselves away from this magical place, which had an aura of the Jurassic era.
We eventually left because the odor of bird poop got the best of us. It reminded us of our anchorage at Mazatlan, which got potent wafts from the sewage treatment plant with the afternoon seabreeze — another reason we wanted to keep moving.
Aldebaran sailed south of Isla Isabel late that afternoon, heading back for the mainland and the waves of Chacala on the coast of Nayarit. The late-night, graveyard shifts went by smoothly — we had learned to download new podcasts in advance, like TED, This American Life, and audiobooks, and time simply flew by!
Dawn revealed strange shapes on the beach… “what are those things?” we wondered for some time. “Trees!” someone cried. After a month and a half of cactus, we were finally in the land of trees, just around the corner from Puerto Vallarta.
Tropical lush-ness enveloped us. We thought about sitting on this beach for days, drinking coconut water, and relaxing in the spirit of mañana. But whispers of a mystical, forbidden island reached our ears… and we knew the Green Coconut Run must keep going.
This was a magical moment, and in the next week of diving didn’t disappoint as we visited island after island and watched an aquarium of beauty swam around us. I shot very few fish overall because we didn’t need to more and no dorado graced us with their colorful presence.
By Matt Hendren
Coming off a week and a half of constant movement, newness of friendship, exciting adventures, and bonding through challenges… it’s been hard trying to reintegrate into the world that doesn’t pitch and heave but moves non-stop. Reflecting back on time with the Coco crew, I was amazed at how well everything came together, how well we functioned, and what camaraderie we created in such a short while.
I’d known Kristian and Sabrina for a couple months as their vessel eeked its way through the Ventura Boatyard. There was a call for volunteers to help get things moving and so I showed up to lend a hand… after seeing that I had some real world skills to offer in building storage and shelves and getting things organized, Kristian asked me to put in more time. I’d show up, work hours in cramped quarters, drinking warm C- (coors light), and dream about the voyages that would fill the spaces I was creating with memories.
I instantly grew to respect Kristian’s gentle and trusting way, and Sabrina’s no-nonsense and whimsical balance – great new friends. As we finished up the last touches in Santa Barbara, and enjoyed the evening together at their launch party, Kristian off the cuff suggested I meet up with them in San Diego in a week and jump off somewhere down in Mexico later. It was a question I’d fondled in my mind for months, but here it was … a plan that could happen. I cleared it with work, with my family, and then just thought to myself, why shouldn’t I be doing this?
Throwing caution to the wind, I loaded up diving fins, a conch shell, and attempted to ride my supposedly fixed motorcycle to San Diego. With 4 battery charges and multiple push starts later, I joined the crew just as they were getting started on another 10pm session of boat organization and repair… we’d intended to leave the next morning, but there was still hours of work ahead. And so it goes with Aldebaran – never a gentle task master. Waking in the San Diego harbor, everything felt right about this and I was excited to be heading on another trip south of the border.
I’d spent little time with Michael and Ryan, but here we were, getting real cozy, sleeping in rotating bunks, starting each morning with a hug. It felt like I was just shoved into the middle of a new world where adapting and listening was crucial to sharing space, keeping peace, and embracing what life was offering me. The crew had been together a week by the time I’d arrived, and had spend the last two years doing trips to the Channel Islands. Though at times I could sense I might be an odd man out – lacking some experience in surfing and diving –I felt welcomed and celebrated from day one.
On a boat, there is nowhere to hide. All the ugly non-zen feelings you have come out somewhere or somehow. I wasn’t expecting to deal with my own ego on the boat, and really appreciated the patience people had with me learning to adapt with how life functions on a boat. For example, that it’s tough to remember not to flush the toilet paper (despite multiple signs I know!)
There are lots of good ways to do things, but from day 1, I decided that I would make it my goal to fit in, accommodate, and try what was working before offering any suggestions for how our trip should go. This attitude wound up working out great and I adapted to their systems and helped refine some things for the next guests who’d fill my shoes.
My expectations for the trip were few. I’d expected to be pushed in water sports, see a nice beach or two, and spend lots of time on the boat. Yes, all this and so much more … diving, surfing, paddle boarding… all relatively new experiences – to which I said, yes please, and drank from the firehose of life.
Cutting my surfing teeth at open doors, stand up/kneeling paddle boarding out around breaking reefs in the middle of the night, free diving on a pinnacle in the middle of the ocean floor… It took courage and trust to try new things in new ways, but coming away from the experience I learned to trust myself a little more, keep my head down when the boom is coming through, and gained some great memories with new friends.
Looking back, I feel like more than just learning and the adventure I took with me, I felt like I was really able to contribute and share the journey. Manning the helm on overnight passages, teaching knots, installing last minute hatch closures… this was not the typical sign me up for a fun time and pay to have experiences.
No, it was a cooperative adventure – putting in work days on the boat, taking turns with all the chores, being one of the decision makers that helps chart the courses and group activities. It was not only this, but the chance to see the work that I’d put into the boat really make life function there– that too was a satisfying, and what started off as unfamiliar waters with the Coco crew soon grew to include me as one of the family – miss you guys.
A lighthouse flashed in the pre-dawn hour. “Land ho!”
The two islands of San Benito took shape, with huge Cedros Island in the background. We were offshore in Central Baja, near a cluster of islands jutting out of the Vizcaino peninsula, after 2 nights and 230nm of sailing — our longest passage yet.
Originally we had planned on diving along the Baja coast, but 20nm south of Ensenada we registered 53 degrees Fahrenheit on our sonar, at Puerto Santo Thomas. “It is freezing!!!” said Michael after he free dove in the picturesque fishing bay. He speared two rockfish in the kelp forest. “I’m ready to go south!”
Say no more — we hoisted anchor that same day at 6pm, pulled out the harnesses, rigged up the jacklines to clip along the length of the boat, red lights for night vision, and set 4 “watches” for 3 hours each. The wind blew 12knots from the NW and Aldebaran galloped on a broad reach due South at 8 knots with the big blue reacher headsail and mainsail both at full throttle.
We pointed towards the rising constellation of Scorpio as we sailed into the night… south, ever to the south. “Geez, we are out here!” smiled Sabrina, looking into the 360 degree darkness, pulsating with white caps in all directions. The glowing phosphorescence in our wake twinkled with wild radiance.
The next 40hrs passed in a strange, wonderful continuum of 4 hour shifts, naps, brushing teeth, sun rises, star gazing, baking banana bread, and the occasional sail change from reacher to spinnaker and back. “Day or night, no matter. Our schedule revolves around the need to run the ship,” mumbled Ryan as if drunk, after a graveyard 1-4am shift. “It is a good delirium.”
Originally we had planned to visit Guadalupe Island, but now the Biosphere Reserve requires 10 day permits.We chose San Benito Island as an alternative because of its spectacular diving reputation and remotness.
Aldebaran dropped anchor around the corner from the fishing village. Once again, our Garmin Chartplotter insisted that we were on “dry land”, but nay, we were in a unbelievably scenic rocky cove, surrounded by tiny nooks FULL of elephant seals.
We had asked a local fisherman in a panga if he knew where the wrecks were, or good dive spots. He responded with a stern look. “Cuidado con el Abulon!” Careful with the Abalone? They might bite around here!
The cooperativa which manages the island’s fishery is VERY organized — they were worried about people catching their abalone and lobster (currently, they were out of season). They operate a tight ship which is an inspiration to other fisheries around the whole world. Check out Michael’s post about the Natividad cooperative’s efforts to tackle the effects of climate change.
Pescado, however is a different ballgame, and we caught a big sheepshead for fillet dinner and brunch ceviche… Yum! The freediving out there was spectacular. The stiff yucca plants on the hillside, iconic of the desert landscape, mirrored the underwater flora. It was uncanny.
In the early morning we took the skiff to a pinnacle (“Rocas Pinaculo” 1nm offshore on the windward, exposed side of the island and SCUBA dove to 80ft.. Lobsters in the hundreds stacked onto each other like people in a crowded subway during rush hour. Cuidado con el Abulon! We were careful. Schools of jack perch swarmed with glittering silver.
The trusty Luna Bell circumnavigated the island as we searched for wrecks, reportedly in the north coast per our dive guidebook. Eventually the lads went to the village and hiked to the old lighthouse, with its 1920s immaculate Parisian lens, and delapitaded construction. Everyone got some cholla spines stuck in the their feet.
Spirits remained high and we pulled anchor at 8pm, heading south to Isla Natividad, where we hoped to find waves on the building south swell.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Check out our highlight reel from our inaugural Channel Islands leg.
Thanks for all the support… Hope to see you on the boat soon!
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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.