What we found in 2 years of micro plastic sampling

Hello Friends:   We’ll be LIVE on facebook on Friday Feb 3, 1pm PST talking about our participation with Adventure Scientists during the last few seasons… tune in at their page.  Learn in this blog post — originally published on Adventure Scientists “Field Notes” — what we discovered from sampling micro-plastics from Mexico to Ecuador along our sailing voyage.

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New Video Episode about Scorpion Bay – from Boat breakdowns to Perfect Waves

Finally!  Our all-new Video Series!   Thanks to support from our new Patrons we’re able to tell the full Green Coconut Run story.

This Episode is about our misadventures leaving Turtle Bay, glorious sailing conditions down Baja Peninsula, our first major engine breakdown, and then sweet redemption discovered at Scorpion Bay, in the form of loooooong waves!

Enjoy the new Episode  here.

Our motto -- Eating well, no matter what the tribulations at sea

Our motto — Eating well, no matter what the tribulations at sea

ps. A note about prior videos: Our new episodes will be 10 minutes, which allows us to share the full story of our trip. Our previous videos (2-3 min) were experimental.  From now on we’ll produce only full episodes on Patreon; and short 15 sec Instagram teasers.  Many thanks!

Video short #2: Flying Spinner Dolphins

We thought it was going to be a boring day! We were crossing the Sea of Cortez, a two night passage; with ocean on all sides we came across a massive pod of spinner dolphins riding our bow and flying into wild aerials. The crew included Eric Lohela and Brian Rossini who joined us to dive the Cortez leg

These dolphins would even impress famed snowboarder Shaun White, known for his dizzying spins.

Jaws agape, we watched the most virtuosic acrobatics we’ve seen outside the Cirque du Soleil. To capture the majesty of the dolphins underwater, Ryan dangled himself from the bow crossbars (note the blown out starboard net– it had torn the night before sailing with the Corumel south winds out of Isla Espiritu Santo). 

Even mundane days can throw something splendid at you — what delights can we find by going outside and watching the world unfold?

Short: Flying Spinner Dolphins

Video Short #1: “Dreams of Cortez”

Our video “shorts” are about delightful little moments that we come across during our sailing trip. Consider them teasers for our longer episodes (due in the next few months!)

Enjoy these nuggets of beauty. Get inspired to go outside, jump in the water, watch the sunset — you never know when you’ll find something remarkable.

Video short: “Dreams of Cortez” (56 seconds) … where sea lions dance and play with bubbles. By Ryan Smith. 

Dreams of Cortez pulls from two great SCUBA dives in the Sea of Cortez. Fifty miles offshore from La Paz sits the exposed rock reef – Arricefe de foca (seal reef).  Playful seals beckoned us to this rock spit, a spot that had claimed at least one ship still visible 80’ down in the gin clear water. We were amazed at the magnificent features and acrobatic creatures! (err.. including ourselves?)

Another 50 miles to the north, on the tip of the phenomenal Isla Espiritu Santu (Island of the Holy Ghost), the granite cathedral spires of the Islotes rise out of the Cortez. This surreal backdrop makes for a wild dive that is once again guarded by curious seals. These gentle beasts took a particular liking to Michael, sipping air bubbles from his regulator as he sat in wonder on the sea floor.

Feeding ourselves from the sea: Un mas pescado, Baja California… Part 1

Our largest catch (and release), a 300+ pound marlin!

Our largest catch (and release), a 300+ pound marlin!

Three months in, and we aren’t tired of fish yet!  We have surprised ourselves with our trolling and speardiving success, and eat the freshest fish almost every day.  Fishing from a cruising sailboat is different than most recreational or subsistence fishing, and we’ve been learning as we go.  From free diving for ceviche to the catch and release of a 300 pound marlin, here I’ll tell our best fishing tales and break down how we fish on the boat.

Fish patrolling the reef

Hefty jacks patrolling the reef

Flashback to Fall of 2014, and due to my two years living in Hawaii and some modest experience big game fishing with an expert friend in Kona on the Big Island, I’m elected the one in charge of getting our fishing gear together.  After listening to my stories of hooking up multiple 5 foot hawaiian mahi mahi at the same time and catching a 103 pound ahi tuna, Kristian shows me his scant supplies.  A few handlines and random old lures indicate not much line fishing has ever happened on Aldebaran.  Hawaiian slings have been the main source of spearing California reef fish.

Some of our fishing implements get prime rafter space on the boat

Some of our fishing implements get prime rafter space on the boat

I explain to him that we need at least $500-$1000 worth of trolling gear and he gulps.  The Green Coconut Run boat repairs are already way over budget and this extra expense seems like a luxury.  It will pay off in protein I say.  Tropical waters are full of large pelagic fish we can catch and I’m willing to put in a couple hundred dollars.  Coop member Matt Dobberteen, a fellow fishing enthusiast, comes to the rescue with the rest and after scouring Craigslist, local stores, and online, I’ve put together everything we need. 

I scoured Craigslist for deals like these lures, known as feathers.  They came with an hour of advice from a salty Ventura fishermen

I scoured Craigslist for deals like these lures, known as feathers. They came with an hour of advice from a salty Ventura fishermen

We have two medium class 30-50 lb trolling set-ups, three casting rods, dozens of lures of all types, line, hooks, gaffs, and a net.  My last minute request for a fighting belt gets passed over in our final Westmarine order in San Diego and it takes a bit of convincing to assure the Captain it is a necessity, not a luxury.  Ryan and I both also purchase spear guns to add to the hawaiian slings already on board.

Sabrina's brother Pierre shows off the fighting belt

Sabrina’s brother Pierre shows off perfect form with the fighting belt

Fish On The Boat!

Our first fish comes on the second day of the trip, as we pass an underwater seamount near Santa Barbara Island.  The trolling rod zings and I pull in a five pound bonito – enough tuna to feed the entire crew. 

I’m a bit rusty on the fish filleting, but the bonito is pretty easy to cut up.  We discover an important thing about our designated fish cleaning station atop the aft cabin.  We must always ask Kristian and Sabrina to close their windows so fish guts and sea water don’t spoil their sheets….

Our first fish!  Feeding the Green Coco Run family begins

Our first fish! Feeding the Green Coco Run family begins

Trolling in the Channel Islands is somewhat frustrating with all the kelp, as there are many false alarms.  The first couple weeks we mostly catch bonito, and they seem to get larger as we head into Mexican waters where we catch a 20 pounder off of Ensenada. 

Me flleting our first big fish

Me filleting our first big fish

As the adrenaline of our largest catch wears off, we savor the freshest sashimi, thinking how this one fish will feed all five of us for several days.  The fighting belt comes in very handy – it makes pulling in a large fish much easier by shifting the strain of the end of the pole to the legs while avoiding certain bruising.

Sometimes you gotta just kiss your catch.  Ryan, stoked for his first bonito

Sometimes you gotta just kiss your catch. Ryan, stoked for his first bonito

Diving For Fish

The wilds of Baja prove to be plentiful grounds for spear fishing as well.  The kelp forests and sea life are very similar to California, but larger and more plentiful fish are found.  On my very first shot ever with my new speargun I manage to hit a nice opal eye and a couple weeks later end up getting a 12 pound sheephead off remote San Benito island.  Ryan is a more experienced diver and has great success with his new spear gun.  We catch fish every single time we go spear diving.

The fish of Baja are similar to California, but often larger.  This sheephead fed the crew for days

The fish of Baja are similar to California, but often larger. This sheephead fed the crew for days

In sparsely populated Baja, we are primarily passing through pristine ocean wilderness areas, and most of the other human contact we have are with fishermen.  They often stop to show off their catch or just chat it up for a while.  When we go on shore we sometimes pass simple fishing villages.  We have mutual respect for each other fellow seafarers.

Baja fishermen often stopped by to chat.  These guys had netted a huge white sea bass.

Baja fishermen often stopped by to chat. These guys had netted a huge white sea bass.

Sushi Time

Just south of Magdalena Bay, three quarters down the length of Baja, we are dodging lobster traps and our trolling rod zings.  The line feels so heavy it seems like we’ve wrapped up in a trap and I curse and ask Sabrina to put it into reverse.  Pulling, pulling, pulling and I feel some life on the other end and we catch our first non bonito on the trolling lines, a gorgeous 15 pound yellowtail. 

Sabrina with a nice yellowtail

Sabrina with a nice yellowtail

That night we pull into wild and mesmerizing Punta Tosca and celebrate with a Japanese feast including the fresh yellowtail, also known as hamachi, a favorite at sushi restaurants.

Sabrina is the sushi master

Sabrina is the sushi master

The fish was caught with a simple wooden cedar plug, whose action must drive fish crazy as so far it has been our most prolific producer.

The simple cedar plug, our most prolific producer.  The action drives fish to bite, here we've rigged it up with some squid.

The simple cedar plug, our most prolific producer. The action drives fish to bite, here we’ve rigged it up with some squid.

Finally In The Tropics

Rounding the tip of Baja, we are suddenly in tropical waters and all the sea life changes.  Clearer water, colorful fish, and 75 degree seas greet us as we meet up with Eric and Brian, two very enthusiastic spearfishermen, who proceed to show us how it is done.  The familiar fish of California are now replaced by a myriad of different reef fish and we continually have to consult the fish book to see what we’ve caught.  No matter the fish, almost all of them are delicious and as fresh as can get!

Eric surrounded by a baitball

Eric surrounded by a baitball

In these tropical waters we start catching lots of small tuna in the 3-4 pound range, known as skip jack.  They have a darker flesh and stronger taste, so often aren’t considered the prime tunas.  However we find they are excellent grilled with BBQ sauce and the captain shows off his Brazilian heritage by putting them in an amazing coconut stew.  The name “Sea Beef” sticks as we catch many of these small tunas, including four in one day that included an 11 and a 9 pounder.  Good thing we had Brian with us, with an appetite for three normal people!  Eric also brings down my mother’s luggage scale, which is the perfect implement for weighing fish.  We have a grand time playing the guessing game each time we catch a memorable fish.

Kristian and Sabrina and some nice Skip Jack Tuna, AKA “Sea Beef”

Fishing has been a fun surprise for most of the crew.  Everyone leaps with excitement and adrenaline when hearing the reel zing.  The wonder of pulling in the line and seeing what kind of jackpot we’ve won each catch is addicting.  Feeding ourselves from the sea is a magnificent way to experience the fathomless and beautiful ocean and we give thanks to the fish that feed our adventure.

To Be Continued.…. Part 2 finds us in the tropical waters of Mainland Mexico where we encounter the 300 lb marlin, our first ahi tuna, and abundant dorado of Mainland Mexico.

100 Ft Visibility, One Eye Open: Sea of Cortez Leg

An epic sunset at Los Frailes

Guest Author: Eric Lohela
And the Mexican doctor says, “You’ve got an eye infection and you’re not going to be able to scuba, swim or even touch water… Probably for your entire trip.” We’ve been in Cabo for 12 hours and a poorly timed eye infection threatened to reshape my trip before my wounded eyes.  This trip was going to be interesting in more ways than I expected.
Eric and Brian stoked to join the Green Coco Crew

Eric and Brian stoked to join the Green Coco Crew

Brian and I flew down to join the boat from Cabo San Lucas through the sea of Cortez to mainland Mexico.  We came for the famed warm clear waters and noted spearfishing. How often do you get to watch your friends take a trip of a lifetime with your support and then climb aboard?!
Brian caught lunch.  And dinner.  And making a good candidate for the

Brian caught lunch. And dinner. And making a good candidate for the “Men of Aldebaran” calendar…..

As we left Cabo San Lucas, the decidedly American beats wafting from the flotilla of party boats subsided and we soon entered what is the real norm for Baja Sur: quiet, desolate, uninhabited, and beautiful coastline.

Michael and Eric enjoy the beaches of Cabo Pulmo National Park right after hearing Eric was cleared to dive.

Our days simplified immediately around boat tasks, chasing adventures, and preparing the next meal.  My days simplified around eyedrops every three hours and encouraging our divers from the deck.

SUP paradise in the sheltered bays with dramatic red rock cliffs, white sand coves, and turquoise waters

Having a painful event like this forced me to reset my priorities and ask myself… What do we have without health, how would I deal with adversity?  The resounding answer I came to was asking myself was striking balance and cultivating community are everything. I had simply been too busy in my life to be fully healthy,  and was only through the grace of our amazing group of friends that I was able to find care and be nursed back to health. I’m indebted to them for being so loving and supportive and everything looks bleak through the one eye I could use. They even dressed me up as a pirate so my handicap could bring laughter!

Kristian and Sabrina and some Sea Beef

The idea of crowdsourcing real adventure is a fresh concept to me. In a world where it seems like there are 100 television programs about chasing your dreams and adventure, we all seem to have but two weeks a year to find it for ourselves. The Green Coconut Run on the Aldebaran is a living example of chasing a big dream that we can all jump aboard. It inspires me and I hope many more people feel the desire to bite off something just slightly uncomfortable in scope. I found myself dreaming bigger because they did.
So.. Back to my eye. We had a minor engine issue that forced us to anchor for a day. I managed to take the skiff Lunabel to shore with Michael. After consulting the local fishermen we found the one spot on the deserted beach in the middle of nowhere that could connect a call to my doctor in Cabo. After solid discussion he agreed my progress could allow me back in the water in two days.
Eric made up for lost time with some epic dives

Eric made up for lost time with some epic dives

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.

Isla Espiritu Santu was like the landscape of the American Southwest meets a calm, tropical sea.

Isla Espiritu Santu was like the landscape of the American Southwest meets a calm, tropical sea.

As our last dive came to a close we sailed away from a scorching red sunset into night where winds pushed us across the Cortez. 38 hours later found us in the massive swell the plowed into Sinaloa and tricky waves to navigate on boat and boards. We finished our leg with a dinner in Mazatlan laughing over beers as I got to see a friend from high school living in Mazatlan.
Diving the chain to the El Bajo Seamount, 7 miles out in the middle of the ocean.

Diving the chain to the El Bajo Seamount, 7 miles out in the middle of the ocean.

I’m back in the States now, and my eye is fine. I reflect often about the places we visited and how magical that experience was. I’m thinking about adventure more and more now… And what my version might look like.

Ryan finds a power spot for some beach yoga

The boat sails on and I’ll continue to follow them online. I feel lucky to have had a taste of what the next generation of adventurers are exploring with healthy happy eyes wide open.
The crew and Aldebaran at the Mazatlan anchorage

The crew and Aldebaran at the Mazatlan anchorage


Impressions from Matt, visiting crewmember

food copy

I certainly wasn’t expecting to eat as well as wedid — every meal seems to be a production aboard Aldebaran

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.

gear copy

Organizing and cleaning the dive gear in Ensenada while waiting for our ship papers to clear

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?

Sailing downwind was a real treat

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.


Our first adventure on the skiff: diving a pinnacle 1 mile offshore in remote San Benito Island. No big deal!

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!)

Sabrina was on sanity patrol aboard the boat (making sure we were clean and tidy), and always down for adventures, including shore landings chock full of elephant seals.

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.

My last night on Aldebaran, we went to shore at Isla Natividad and were treated to lobsters at the island’s restaurant, aptly named “El Restaurante”. They asked us to pay for the beers only.

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. 

turtle bay pier

At Turtle Bay, where I got off Aldebaran, and began the journey overland north to San Diego, back to “real life”…


The Wild Energy and Luminous Peace of Night Sailing

The sun was setting in one direction, and the moon rose at the same time in the opposite sky

One of those magical moments where the sun was setting in one direction, and the moon rose at the same time in the opposite sky

When my alarm startles me awake at 2:45 am and bleary eyed contemplation of a three hour night watch soaks through my groggy consciousness, its hard to be stoked.  Some sips of green tea later I emerge into the cockpit where a vast sky of stars illuminates the ocean.  This scene and a good morning hug from a friend who is ready to take some rest usually brightens my spirits. 

Baja sunset as we get ready for a night sail

Baja sunset as we get ready for a night sail

The most glorious night sails have been downwind runs where Aldebaran the funky trimaran feels like battleship galactica in a sea of bioluminescent stars, with me at the helm, ruminating on life’s mysteries solo or with a friend, pushed along by the earth’s wind energy.  We’ve been lucky so far, but I can imagine the worst night sails involve tough upwind bashes, choppy seas, cold nights, seasickness and sail changes which involve foul weather gear and gratuitous use of the sailing harnesses and jack lines that we rely on at night when working on deck to make sure no sailor is lost. 

Flying fish sometimes land on deck at night

Flying fish sometimes land on deck at night

I’ve been dipping my toes in sailing for a few years now, but my first night sail with me solo at the helm was during our first big crossing, from just south of Ensenada to the San Benitos Islands, a small archipelago about halfway down the coast of Pacific Baja.  Since then, we’ve put a few other night sails under our belts as we hustled down Baja, trying to get ahead of hurricane season, and just finished another big 38 hour, 220 mile crossing through the Sea of Cortez to Sinaloa on mainland Mexico.

Our night watch schedule

Our night watch schedule

With the normal open vistas of the ocean cloaked in darkness, night sailing requires more careful and frequent consultation of all our technology.  We are also usually far offshore, with no land or landmarks in sight, so our compass, chart plotter and routing software on our GPS unit become more important. 

Our night time navigational aids

Our night time navigational aids

On clear nights, these gadgets help set the big picture routes, but more delightful is to sail by the stars, always keeping a certain constellation or star in position near a fixed point like our solar panels or one of the stays that hold up the mast.  My knowledge of the stars has expanded thanks to Kristian’s classic 1952 copy of The Stars, by H.A. Rey (the author of Curious George) a book I highly recommend to anyone wanting to develop their knowledge of the night sky.

This great little book by the author of Curious George is fantastic

This great little book by the author of Curious George is fantastic

We also consult our AIS (Automatic Identification System, which tracks speed and direction of large ships) to ensure our paths won’t collide with other vessels, and use our radar to see land outlines, ships, islands, etc.  If the engine is on we keep an eye on various gauges.

Our autopilot, affectionately named “Ziggy” has been on the fritz lately, so we’ve had to steer manually.  Kristian spent dozens of hours troubleshooting it and when we finally got to Cabo learned that it needed a new $600 part, which someone will hopefully bring down soon.  Ah the joys of boat ownership….

At night we’ve come to rely on Luci lights – nifty inflatable LED globes that can be set to different colors, creating cool night moods in Aldebaran’s cockpit.  Under sail we run the Luci lights on red to ensure our night vision stays intact.

Ryan and Sabrina on their first night watch

Ryan and Sabrina on their first night watch

We also have jack lines and harnesses, which we clip on at night if one needs to leave the cockpit.  Falling overboard at night could be fatal, particularly when the sails are up and precise turning and steering is more difficult.  The jack lines run the length of both sides of the boat, and you wear a harness to clip into it.  Life lines are rope set up to run the perimeter of the boat to add an extra measure of safety.

Our first night sails we doubled up and I enjoyed getting to learn new things about my friends or have those philosophical talks that seem to happen in the middle of the night.  Since then we’ve been doing solo shifts so we can sleep more and I’ve been enjoying silent contemplation or listening to music, audiobooks, and podcasts as I enjoy the tropical nights in my boardshorts.  Ernest Shackleton’s epic tale of The Endurance, the story of 26 men stuck in ice in Antartica and their adventures escaping have reminded me how comfortable and good our lives are.  Tim Ferris’ interviews with people doing great things inspire me and keep me in touch with the frenetic world back at home.

Night sailing has been a way for us to keep our relatively aggressive cruising schedule on track and save more daylight hours for diving, surfing, fishing, hiking and enjoying our adventures.  Its become a welcome bit of “me time” in the close quarters of boat life.  I love the magic of steering a boat pushed by wind with the stars and moon as my guides, bioluminescent trails off our hulls our only momentary footprints on the vast ocean.  Its a soul satisfying and poetic way to travel.

Moonset at Punta Tosca as we prepare for a night sail

Moonset at Punta Tosca as we prepare for a night sail

The Authentic Way of Mag Bay


Punta Tosca: a burly and majestic place, but a marginal anchorage

“Whatever it is we are looking for – we found it!”  Aldebaran had spent three nights in the Bahia Magdalena area; we were exhausted and euphoric.

Searching for surf and diving in remote places is not everyone’s cup of tea. The cruising book reads: “Shifting shoals, very marginal anchorage, various wrecks, avoid if possible.”  We interpret: “There might be waves and fish!”

It ain’t exactly ‘cruising’ … we dub it… Aggressive Cruising. We’re moving fast and going to funky places, courtesy of our trimaran’s great stability and the crew’s willingness for occasional suffering. Carving your own path has higher stakes but higher rewards — it feels pretty damn good to find our authentic way.

A lonely, blustery point break our friend Johnny had once told us about on a backdrop of gorgeous coastal mountains, near Bahia Magdalena.

Living authentically is also about eating really well- and getting close to the source.

At a village near a Mag Bay estuary, we traded a 10lb yellowtail for a few bucks and AA batteries, which Michael paddled in a SUP through the rivermouth breakers. Sabrina made exquisite sushi rolls that afternoon.

yellowtail sushi

The yellowtail soon became sushi rolls.. we have now run out of soy sauce

We later swam through a derelict ex-whaling station inside the bay, and when we pulled up anchor, a ton of tasty looking seaweed came up! That night it became seaweed salad (à la wakame) with sashimi from the yellowtail, along with Kim Chi that Ryan had been fermenting for 5 days (cabbage, carrots, and other vegetable detritus).

Breakfast featured fresh homemade yoghurt, which only fermented 8hrs in the sun, then was chilled overnight in the fridge. The jar of yoghurt was nicknamed “Bessie” and we talked to her sweetly as she matured in the dashboard basket.

seaweed anchor

Ok, making seaweed salad from what the anchor pulls up is a little extreme… but we had to give it a try!

Amid all this culinary extravaganza, we came upon the intimidating headland of Punta Tosca. The horrendous shoals and rock pinnacles sunk our spirits.. where was the anchorage? (Ahem, the book did mention it was an “emergency anchorage at best.)

anchoring bahia

Will she hold? Anchoring in strange places has its uncertainties.

The shoals had migrated offshore and we committed to a night in the turbulent, 50ft deep waters… then were rewarded with a most Mind-Blowing sunset and moonrise, and the next morning we scuba dove a 150ft ship wrecked on the rocks off the point with big lobster and gold treasures.

Subsequently every hugely intimidating but rewarding experience was dubbed a “Punta Tosca”. Few people probably stop here and for good reason– nevertheless it was one of our favorites for its pure ocean wilderness.

Dancing the seductive line between dreams and fears at Punta Tosca

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur fastest passage to date: 150nm in 24hrs. We left Punta Tosca and arrived in Cabo San Lucas the next afternoon after battling the twisted reacher sail off the forestay. We pulled up to Land’s End monumental rocks with a cavalry of tourism boats bumping techno music.

Tourist chaos spoiling the moment? Not at all… When aboard your own boat, you have your own world.  We marveled at the madness, and celebrated turning the “corner” with a fresh focaccia bread coming out of the oven.

Cabo is a love / hate relationship. What a contrast with the wild waters we had left; yet here was the arrival of blue water with 75ft visibility, 75F degree warm water we could swim anytime.

We would have another battle or two with purgatory, but the Holy Grail was within reach. The Sea of Cortez was the next stop.

sunrise yoga

Sunrise at Punta Entrada, Mag Bay

Walking on the footsteps of ex-whalers… grey whales were once decimated here, now they are protected and have made a great comeback.

The Blessed Bays of Turtle & Scorpion


We felt like sea cowboys who had just robbed a bank. We left Bahia Tortuga fast and furious, bombing south by 6pm in a hurry. We were thirsty for waves!

Our friend Matt had jumped ship after 10 days and 4 islands. He took the 3am bus to the highway, which would then be followed by a 10hr bus to Tijuana, and a shuttle back to San Diego. Farewell brave Matt!


Turtle Bay, as the cruisers call it, is a dusty remote town, the furthest major village from Baja’s “interpeninsular” highway, but everything works flawlessly.  The comfort of the calm Bay waters was tantalizing… one of the cruisers said he was staying there for a month. It is a perfect bay in the middle of the rugged, raw Baja peninsula.


Alas, there is no rest in calm waters for the adventure-lovers. Team Green Coconut Run was back at sea within 24hrs. We had places to go, and an ambitious schedule to keep.  “Whatever you do, don’t keep a schedule!” we were told by other cruisers. Three factors made us break this time-tested wisdom:

1- Hurricane season. We left late March and want to get past southern Mexico before middle of June. El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica are less exposed to tropical storms.

2- Aldebaran’s Cooperative model. We funded the voyage collectively with friends and plan on meeting them along different legs. Our friends Brian and Eric already had flights purchased to meet us in Cabo San Lucas in a week!

3- Ending in Panama. By late October we hope to be in Panama, to do more boatwork before setting off for the Galapagos and French Polynesia during January 2016.

Would the schedule be fool-hardy, impossible to keep, or would we succeed?  We would find out.

Either case, it is good to be on the move again! Outside, the fresh Pacific breeze greeted us…. as did our reels as they sung with a fresh catch of bonito.


We were heading to Scorpion Bay, and the overnight 100nm passage was immaculate. Wing-in-wing, or with headsail alone, we slid down the wave crests averaging 6knots, riding the windline 20nm offshore.


Oil pressure crisis!  Motoring in the smooth water just 2nm from our anchorage, I saw the oil pressure gauge was down to 20psi from the regular 60psi. Oh no!!  Instantly I stopped the Isuzu diesel engine, our faithful “iron wind”.

Anxious, I discovered Mr. Isuzu had lost 2 quarts of oil through the new oil pressure hose, which had been a little short and rubbed against metal until it chafed. I wrapped it in self-amalgamating rigging tape, pumped the black sludge with our 12v oil pump, and reduced the flow to a very minor leak, until we could repair it properly.


Bonito sashimi kept the morale high during oil leak crises

Finally, we arrived. Scorpion Bay had chest high waves zipping along the cliff edge. Longboards and fish shapes were a blast. A few old timers paddled out during low tide, but we had several hours to ourselves, including an absolutely magic evening glass-off.


Sabrina was besides herself with joy riding these perfect little peelers. We gorged ourselves for two days, an all-you-can-eat buffet of waves. It made the rush to get here worthwhile.

Meanwhile, we had run out of fish. It seems whenever that happens we catch a tuna. But at Scorpion, a fisherman came by in his panga and offered us octopus. I traded him for sunglasses. Fishermen are in open pangas all day and sunglasses we discovered are a big need. Luis el pescador was terribly happy about his Kind Bar sunglasses!


The octupus pasta, octupus ceviche, octupus ramen flowed… the latter being the only truly successful meal. Somewhere along this octupus experimentation, we hoisted the big blue reacher for another overnight sail: destination Bahia Magdalena, one of the most famous bays in Baja.




Central Baja: from Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortuga) to Scorpion Bay (Bahia San Juanico) about 100nm, with a pitstop in Punta Abreojos.

Skirting the Edge at Isla Natividad

open doors side tube

5am. Matt woke me up in the aft cabin and announced in the pitch black: “We’re here.” We had just sailed overnight from Isla San Benito.

I surveyed the disorienting lights. The wind was gusting to 20 knots. We were in the middle of a 6 mile wide channel. The Coast Pilot listed many reefs and hazards in this area. “Give the entire south-east corner of the Isla Natividad a wide berth of at least two miles. Hazards abound.”

san benito to turtle bay

An inhospitable boating environment… but the allure of waves was strong. A small, early season south swell was peaking.

Sailing and surfing.  They seem so compatible… yet… not always so.  Whereas sailors seek flat water, surfers seek the opposite: they seek swell magnets.

There IS one thing in common however: both sailors and surfers rejoice in offshore winds, which grooms the ocean like a Zen garden. This is what we found at Isla Natividad; although in radical proportions.


The sun peaked over the Vizcaino peninsula as we sailed into the corner of the island and dropped the hook in 35ft of water next to peeling right handers.  NW wind blew over the sandy point then blew spray over the waves in rainbows.

Exposed to the swell, the boat heaved and yawed slowly. A monohull would be rolling like a pendulum. Here is one area the trimaran shines — we  go to the wildest surf or dive spots without too much concern of our dishes falling off the counter.


Thanks to the offshore winds, it appears to be a smooth anchorage … but the edge of “Punta Arena” was exposed to the windswell from the NW and groundswell from the SW making for interesting oceanic wobbles.

Two days of waves satiated our surf lust. Using a cruising boat to hunt for waves is vastly more than just riding waves — we are riding the whole ocean. Wind and tides aren’t just important for the quality of the waves; it is an equation of safety. Our entire home exists in the 42ft sailboat that is sitting outside the lineup, vulnerable to the very waves we are indulging in. Skirting this edge beckons as much caution as it heralds excitement. Finding the right conditions brings a connection with wave-riding that is unique to the sailing/surfing combination.


As if surfing on the edge of this windswept island weren’t enough, team Shore-Landing (Ryan, Sabrina, and Matt) were so amped to get to the village they paddled SUPs a quarter mile in 20knot offshore winds to reach a small cove, scored a lobster dinner, and celebrated Matt’s last night traveling with us. This crew is no joke!


We re-grouped back at Aldebaran which was now tied to a ship’s mooring with incredibly thick lines, which was offered by the Patrol Boat of the Cooperativa given the otherwise shabby anchoring conditions.

Our next stop was idyllic Turtle Bay, 20nm south and halfway down the Baja peninsula, where we found momentary calm from the raw Pacific Ocean.



The Outpost Islands of San Benito


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.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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.

IMG_2812 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAensenada to san benito

When is warmer water not a good thing?

Isla Natividad at sunset

Isla Natividad at sunset 

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.

Isla Natividad has a very coveted, hard to get to wave.  We were the only ones out.

Isla Natividad has a very coveted, hard to get to wave. We were the only ones out.

After surfing the legendary wave of Isla Natividad, we went to shore and met researchers from COBIa Mexican non-profit working on the conservation of marine biodiversity and the establishment of sustainable fisheries by empowering local communities.

A wetsuit interview with researchers from COBI

A wetsuit interview with researchers from COBI

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.

Life thrives in the cool waters of Baja

Life thrives in the cool waters of Baja

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.

Anchoring Qualms at Todos Santos Island

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA compounding mistake.  My friend Kyber’s word echoed “Todos has some sketchy anchorages” as we pulled into Todos Santos Island, 8nm west of Ensenada, slightly after dark.

We checked our cruising guides (Charlies Charts and Rains’ Mexico Boating Guide) which had detailed info but were out of date — the abalone aquaculture farm had expanded its operations, from what we could see in the dismal light, and there was no longer space for anchoring in the north corner of the East island.  It was 150feet deep with buoys all around us, and a skiff taking up the interior cove.


Now we discovered the true incompetence of our fancy new electronic Garmin charts, which is a beautiful machine, but unfortunately indicated that we were on dry land multiple times… unless Aldebaran is a amphibious vehicle, which could possibly be its next evolution, I’m pretty sure the charts are completely useless for near-shore navigation.


The result: we scouted our way with trepidation in the pitch black to another cove with scary rocks just below the waters edge, and slept erratically through a night of shifty winds, but we were rewarded with an outstanding view in the morning: the jagged rocky ridges of Todos Santos Island bathed in sunrise light.


We had suspected that our anchor chain was snagged under a rock, and indeed this was the case… no amount of cajolling by our windlass and boat maneuvers pulled it free. Team SCUBA (Ryan and Sabrina, in this case) jumped in and we shocked to experience that the water had actually dropped 10 degrees to 58F !!


They freed the anchor in 40ft of water and we cruised around to the north island, which is separated by a very narrow, impassable channel, and spent the morning paddling SUPs, getting longboard waves, and diving the kelp beds, before sailing back to Ensenada at 7 knots with the freshening breeze.

DCIM105GOPROCruiser port Marina welcomed us, Henrique the assistant manager was super friendly, and drove us around to deal with paperwork.  Security was great in the marina and we had a productive 2 nights as we got our paperwork together for checking into the country.  All told it was a very civilized way to enter a country!


Where to from here? We originally had ambitions to visit Guadalupe Island… but permits required 10 days! Furthermore the best time of the year to see the monstrous great white sharks is fall/winter, so no dive operators would be out there. We look further south at the map… Isla San Benitos, just west of the big Cedros Island, had great reports of diving.


Distance: 200nm. We figured averaging 5 knots (our cruising speed is 5-8knots but sailboats like to zig-zag on tacks) so about 40hours. This would be our first big ocean crossing… 2 nights at sea.


The boat demanded some more elbow grease… securing the hinges on the hatches, fixing the radar backlight. Crew worked hard into the evening and we took off at noon on April 8th, beating into a smooth headwind to get around Punta Banda, and set south… free and clear.

Coronados: The Mexican frontier islands


Sailing is the best border crossing ever.

No traffic, no officials; only our cel phones bling bling indicated we had crossed into Mexico, sometime during the 3 hours passage from San Diego to the Coronado Islands. We basked in the relief of leaving the dock and its never ending projects!

We got a rebuilt alternator from an Iranian mechanic, new engine belts/ gauges with help from a Johnny Depp pirate look-alike, finished installing our watermaker, bought spare parts at four marine stores with discounts by local friends (thanks Eric!), new tools (thanks Robby!), shoved it all into the boat, and shoved off.

IMG_9287After one or two motorcycle breakdowns on Interstate 5, our friend and ship’s carpenter Matt managed to make it for this leg down from San Diego to Turtle Bay, halfway down the Baja peninsula. He joined Aldebaran’s four main crew members (Kristian, Sabrina, Ryan, Michael) who are onboard for the first 6 months of the voyage.


It was Matt’s first time snorkeling in a few years and he stepped up to the challenging open ocean conditions on the Coronados, which are basically 3 huge rocks. We dove through caves and noted the iconic Garibaldi, no longer protected as our California’s state fish. Poor orange fish, lacking any manner of self-defense, targeted for fish tacos now that we’re south of the “border”.


We awoke to chef MC’s amazing huevos rancheros a la Santa Barbara style, to celebrate our first day in foreign waters, and set sail heading south to Ensenada. By evening we were eating the freshest sashimi from a big 15lb Bonita that MC caught!! What a culinary beginning!

(I should add that 3 weeks into the voyage, we have eaten better than anytime else in our lives- and the standards don’t seem to be waning just yet)

About an hour before dark, the wind picking up, we decided to veer course towards Todos Santos island, which began our first unexpected adventure.