The Fellas

So who were the four dudes taking over Aldebaran, and would Sabrina survive the excess testosterone?

Thankfully, we have some experience with these lads… they are part of Green Coco’s origins with many trips together in the Channel Islands. In between jobs in the electric vehicle industry, Michael managed to sail with us for 7 months from California to Panama. Tiny home architect and inventor Alex explored northern Costa Rica’s gems with us, and marine data scientist Ben sailed with us to epic Isla del Coco and Galapagos. Johnny is a professional captain and craftsman who helped us skipper the boat in the early days, and build Aldebaran’s wooden ladder, compass binnacle, and net railing. These guys are all brothers to Sabrina and I.

Now we were in an adventure together in this tropical frontier archipelago– one of the most wild and challenging places to dive, fish, surf, and sail. I was glad to have this capable and stoked crew with us for this upcoming leg exploring the atolls of Tuamotos.

Hello Haul Out. Farewell Crew!

 

View from the boat about to be lifted into the air

 
The big day to haul out Aldebaran was upon us. We needed to pull our trimaran out of the water and repair the major fiberglass damage we had discovered (3 weeks prior near Fatu Hiva). This turns out to be a tricky proposition in the Marquesas islands.

Our crew from the last two weeks – Pierre, Lianna, and Chris – were there to witness the haul out. It was worth the price of admission… it was a bit of a scary and stressful spectacle.

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Spencer sails off to Tahiti

First he got a tattoo and was “missing in action” for 6 hours. Then he decided to jump on a sailboat going all the way to Tahiti! Spencer made a few impulsive (but good) decisions, in his last 24 hours with us.

It was time to go. Aldebaran was not sailing to the northern Marquesan Islands – yet – where Spencer’s return flight awaited him. The haul-out was scheduled for the end of the month, in Hiva Oa, the capital of the southern Marquesan islands. Spencer looked at his three gigantic duffel bags full of gear and souvenirs, which would cost a fortune on inter-island flights, and decided that sailing to Tahiti sounded like a darn good idea.

The new boat’s name was Dancia, a 39 foot Jeanneau captained by a solo Aussie sailor. The fellow was also giving a ride to a girl from Easter Island, who had hitched her way on another sailboat to Marquesas. The three of them would now be crew mates for the next 800 miles going west across the Tuamotos archipelago, all the way to Papeete.

Spencer had just finished sailing 4200 miles with us on Aldebaran over three months. Starting in Galapagos where he flew in to meet us, we sailed three weeks to Pitcairn, then Gambier, and ended in Marquesas – fulfilling many dreams together.

Spencer is a sailing instructor. After the first 1000 continuous miles of our Pacific crossing, he became eligible for an even higher level in his career: blue water sailing instruction. The Pirate King himself appeared and proclaimed him “Master Mariner Macrae” after the appropriate ceremonies were conducted.

“M-cubed”, as we affectionately call him, lived up to his title. Aldebaran’s reefing system was, frankly, a joke before this. Spencer spent several hours on deck while underway in our passage contemplating the running rigging; he made a system that we can now reliably and safely reduce the mainsail. This was a massive improvement in the boat’s operation.

Spence was a fantastic crew mate and we will miss his energy. He became giddy with excitement when asked to teach knot tying skills. He also shimmied in a happy dance during the few times Sabrina served flan for dessert. Even though the heat sometimes took its toll on Spence, he was a good sport and blasted Travis Tritt’s song “It’s a Good Day to be Alive” almost every morning on our stereo. Talk about a morale booster!

Fair winds Spence — we’ll see you again down the road! We are stoked you completed your journey to the South Seas with a sail to Tahiti… we can’t wait to hear all about it.

Photo: One of the apex moments of our journey, arriving in Fatu Hiva (watercolor rendition by Deena).

Ia Orana from California!

This is Deena, guest posting from San Francisco. Ia orana (pronounced like yoo-rana) means hello in Tahitian, and even though I’ve been back for a little more than a week, my heart is still in the islands. In addition to covering my bedroom in shell necklaces and tapa paintings and editing my 3000 (!) photos from the trip, I love looking through my tiny book of watercolor sketches to remember the insanely dramatic landscapes. I’m sad that my boat chapter is over, but excited to find out what adventures will happen next with my favorite crew.

“Naná, Deena”

After our relaxing cruise of Tahuata it was time to return to Hiva Oa and drop off Deena. She was flying back home. “Naná” means goodbye in Tahitian…

Before this voyage, Deena had been on three short sailboat trips, ranging from 2-5 days: Panama’s San Blas Islands with an Italian boat, then joining Aldebaran in the Channel Islands, and once again in Oaxaca, Mexico. This trip was in a whole different league… She was aboard for an entire month and sailed 900 nautical miles, with no land in sight for a several days!

This leg was special for the wildly different islands we saw. In a short seven days, we crossed nearly 14 degrees of latitude, heading almost due north. (We ended up in Marquesas at latitude 9 degrees south).

Not only was this a remarkable shift in climate, but we were able to see three distinctly unique archipelagos. First we began in the lagoon-enclosed Gambier Islands, a remote corner of French Polynesia; then went through Reao, an 18 mile ring of low lying coconut trees around a blue lagoon; and finally ended up in the fabled islands of Marquesas, with their sheer size and power.

(You can see the map of our passage on this post:
https://greencoconutrun.com/2017/06/06/map-of-marquesas-passage/ . Our core crew Spencer was also aboard, this being the final stage of his three months on the boat.)

Besides being an awesome crewmember (=staying positive+helping on the boat), Deena also brought unique gifts to the crew: a log of our travels in the form of watercolor paintings.

We will try to share some of her beautiful artwork with our limited internet bandwidth in the next few posts. It captures a subtle feeling that even the best photos struggle to convey.

Deena we will miss you! Big hugs and till next time… Naná, naná…

DEENA’S TIPS ON PAPEETE (AND VISITING FRENCH POLYNESIA IN GENERAL)

Deena flew from SF to Tahiti and spent a week in Moorea before joining us in our Gambier-Marquesas passage. She shares her experience in Papeete and how to deal with Air Tahiti inter-island flights, how to get internet access, and how to get cash in French Polynesia. Note: her Moorea tips are in another post, although the picture is from her horseback riding in Moorea..

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We’re crossing the Pacific!

Approximate wind pattern expected across the Pacific… we’ll be sailing south into the trade wind belt (E-SE winds) and crossing into the latitudes of Pitcairn and Gambier, where the winds are more variable, before heading back north towards Marquesas.Only 10 days to departure on our  biggest passage ever, across the Pacific Ocean, almost 2700 miles!  Follow us on our Blog by subscribing on this link.

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From Seahorses to Uprooted Lives: Cruising with a Cause

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

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

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

Crew Bios ’16

Subscribe to our blog here.   Alright!! Here’s the first round of fellow ocean explorers  joining us on our Season 2 (Nicaragua to Ecuador) for our continued experiment in  “community cruising”  on Green Coconut Run…

 Note: the Crew List with schedules is available in our Co-op page (password needed).

Erika at OlliesErika Lindemann

Long time supporter and hostess of Aldebaran Co-op meetings, Erika is joining us in Panama to revisit her old stomping grounds, Morro Negrito, and explore the little-known islands in that region. Last year, she scored perfect waves at Ollies with us, and she’s keen for more tropical stoke harvesting. Erika is a co-director of the Wilderness Youth Project in Santa Barbara, which connects kids with nature. She loves the spirit of the Aldebaran community, and is excited to spend a few weeks in connection with one another, and with the spectacular islands in the Chiriqui province of Panama.

Goodman familyAdam, Kendra, and Asher

This water-loving family is joining us in the Nicaragua to Costa Rica leg, the first of Season 2… including 8 year old Asher, who’s a little junior lifeguard!  Kendra is a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Santa Cruz, and Adam works in retrofits for energy efficiency, helping homeowners and businesses finance those improvements. Adam sailed in the original Tabula Raza with Capt K, the 29ft Columbia that preceded Aldebaran, always bringing some of Kendra’s famed apple crisp for crew morale.

Ben Best and turtleBen Best

A PhD in marine biology and conservation management is no small feat…  Ben is hoping to celebrate his doctorate by going to some of the Ocean’s most famous places. He’s joining us in the Equator crossing passage to Galapagos, going through Isla Cocos, which is famous for so many things – inspiring Jurassic Park, Jacques Cousteau claiming it the “most beautiful island in the world”, and the alleged site of a huge undiscovered treasure.  Isla Cocos is also considered a must-do for divers, and one of the best places in the whole world to SCUBA with large pelagic.  In his work, Ben has made great strides in cataloging the distribution of marine mammals in the world, and we’re excited he gets to see some of these special places in person.

Molly Hahn

The inspiring cartoonist of Buddha Doodles is jumping on board the Green Coconut Run this year!  Molly is doing a sketchbook-cruise with us in Costa Rica’s Osa peninsula and also the Enchanted Isles…. Galapagos.  Can’t wait to see the wonderful nuggets that blossom from these fauna & flora rich environments for this artist and ocean loving friend. Sign up for Molly’s Doodle of the Day and get a “whimsical dose of mindfulness” to brighten up your day 🙂

 

Jonathan in SBJonathan Bastian

Raised in Aspen, Jonathan now lives in Santa Barbara and works for KCRW (NPR affiliate) and hosts “Morning Edition” for Northern LA County and the Central Coast (tune in from 6 – 9am weekdays days at 88.7 FM). His new love affair with surfing is growing as the snow-capped peaks are far away. He hopes to refine his skills on the dreamy tropical pointbreaks of Bahia Drakes and Matapalo, in Costa Rica, joining us on Aldebaran for the first time.

Alex in San Clemente IslandAlex Wyndham

Our favorite architect & designer is back on the boat this season. Al ‘the gnome’ Wyndham, fits into little tubes and keeps us smiling at everything.  He’s aiming to join us in Panama for waves and tuna, and transit to Galapagos. The gnome was onboard last year in the Santa Rosa National Park and put together the stylish frame in the cockpit bimini, which gives us tall guys an extra 3” of headroom. No more slumping!  After all he’s famous for his nature-inspired Tiny Homes, making beautiful use of small spaces, as attests Sunset magazine.  Al, we’re excited to have you back.

Tim backpackingTim Griffin

 I have been an Alaska adventurer for the last 18 years whether it be mountaineering kayaking, pack rafting, skiing, biking or trekking. I have worked in outdoor education and in the role of PE teacher to Alaska’s disadvantaged youth during that time. Being a person of the north for so long has left a longing for a trip where I won’t freeze my ass off. The thought of warmth and fun in the sun is very enticing; learning what it means to harvest stoke; learn a bit about sailing; and what it means to live simply with fresh fish, good people, and freedom of space and time.

SophieeeeeeeSophie Littee

We’re going to have “family bonding time” this year!  Sophie is the cousin of Sabby, the ship’s nurse & dive master . She’ll be joining us – along with Tim – as core crew most of this Season 2.  Continuing the gastronomic tradition on Aldebaran, Sophie will bring cooking inspiration from her mom (who is from Brittany) and dad (who is from Martinique) to mix hearty French flavors with Caribbean flair.  Sophie spent many years as a river raft guide, with countless multi day trips in the western states and beyond. She has been a French and Spanish teacher at the high school level in Anchorage, Alaska, and is now keen to learn the language of the wind and ocean waves.  We’re grateful to have her bright spirit onboard, and continue la vie extraordinaire.

 

in kazakstan, we eat like thisRobby Seid

Two months a year catching salmon in Alaska isn’t enough boat time – so Robby will be joining us this year in southern Costa Rica. He’s a mountain & ocean explorer, all around handyman, and soul surfer, who’s spent many nights in the nets of Aldebaran in the Channel Islands.  “The pliers? They’re in Robby’s bag.” Although Robby didn’t join us in Season 1, his handy red bag of tools, donated as a farewell gift while we visited in San Diego, saw nearly daily use on Aldebaran.  We’re more than stoked that Robby is now joining us in person.

Boat sitting – and overland travel in Nicaragua

Text by Chris Colajezzi – Photos by Adam Jahnke

As introduction:  Aldebaran is moored in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua during our off-season (mid Nov to mid March ’16), as Capt K and Sabby work in California and recuperate from ear surgery. Chris spent almost two months in Nica, boat-sitting Aldebaran, along with Bob (Capt K’s dad) who is still on his marathon tour of duty.  Adam met them for three weeks and the duo traveled around. Chris is a guitarist and lifeguard from LA County and Adam is a photographer, drummer, and cyclist. Here’s an interview of their experience, and a collection of photos (more available on Adam’s portfolio)…

Pirate for a week

By Guest Crew: Angelica Almazan

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

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Land Ho!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My dear friend Samara, with her brother Captain Kristian.

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

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

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

My floating home for a week

My floating home for a week

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

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

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

Blissful freedom. Ryan leaps into the ocean to play.

Blissful freedom. Ryan leaps into the ocean to play.

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

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

Does it get any better than this!?

Does it get any better than this!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work hard to play harder!

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

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

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

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

A beautiful spotted eagle ray glided by us!

A beautiful spotted eagle ray glided by

This was a neat coral crevace with tons of fish around

This was a neat coral crevace with tons of fish around

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

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

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

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

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

Gracias a la vida.

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

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

Michael flying in the surf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabrina and Kristian are so happy together!

What a happy couple!

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

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

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

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

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This beautiful sunset lit up the sky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will never forget this dream....

I will never forget this dream….

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

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

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

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

One Big, Happy Family

By Guest Crew: Keri, Bryan, and Tessa Hope

One Big Happy Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

its all flippers and fun for Tessa!

Tessa trying out her aquatic footwear.

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

Warm tropical waters...what a treat!

Warm tropical waters…what a treat!

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

“we caught a mahi mahi!” exclaimed Tessa

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

leappad

oh how we all love the Leap Pad!

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

Bryan on the SUP, enjoying solitude and amazing scenery

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

Ladies party wave!!

Ladies party wave!! Loving the lighthouse spot!

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

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

Keri and Bryan tandem surfing at the lighthouse

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

Michael ripping it up and having fun!

Michael in the early morning light

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

Uncle Ry and Tessa just before retreating from the incoming squall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

goodbye group

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

Finding the Light: Punta Mita to Zihuatanejo, part 2

kid in coca cola

Finding inner bliss in a Coke cooler.

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Is this a painting? We actually lived in this dreamland for 3 days. Alas, the Light sometimes emerges only after Darkness falls.

by Guest Crew, Pierre Littée & Lianna Giancola

In no time we arrived at Isla de las Corales, between Chacala and Punta Mita, where we paddled to visit the only inhabitant on shore, a ranchero. We were told not to venture too far because of the snakes.  “Are they venomous?” we asked.  “There are snakes!” retorted the ranchero, emphatically. We stayed close to the beach.

Returning to the boat, Lianna stepped from her Stand Up Paddleboard which was attached port-side to Aldebarán. Despite being her first time on a SUP, she confidently boarded with adventure alive in her arteries.  My entrance onboard would be less graceful, and put an exclamatory cap to the first day at sea.

As I attempted to board, my legally impaired eyes were slightly distracted by the beauty and truth of the moment, and I lost my grip and footing. I sputtered and fell back overboard into the ocean, directly onto a stinging jellyfish– or so I thought.

bougainvilla

Aldebaran anchored off Isla Corales on Day 1, the location of Pierre’s injury.

“You might as well use the ladder!” said Sabrina.

“Holy Mackerel!  Jellies!!!” I called back in pain.

A little annoyed at learning about the ladder after-the-fact, I climbed onboard the ship, greeted by the shocked stare of the other crew members. I followed everyone’s gaze downward and saw that  the sting of pain wasn’t just a jellyfish: I was bleeding heavily from a very deep stab on my left shin. The sight of one’s own blood can make some people woozy, shocked, or curious; I was dumbfounded. The gash was down to the bone and would need stitches. What a fluke– I must have snagged my flesh on the edge of the lifeline hardware.

Would we have to go to the hospital, cancel the trip, or would I get sewn up with fishing line in this moment of desperation? Was I the sacrifice for the Great Bull in the Sky?

pierre cockpit

Shortly after ripping my leg open, I consider the Buddha’s eight fold path.

Leave it to my sister, Nurse Sabrina.  The moment she saw the severe nature of the injury, she descended into the galley, ripped off her rash guard, revealed her “Go with the Flo” nursing shirt, tied her RN cape tightly around her shoulders, and flew to my rescue with a suture kit attached to her utility belt. 

With great professionalism, Sabrina said: “Pierre, the bad news is that you’ll be at very high risk of infection and won’t be able to get into the ocean for at least a week, to reduce threat to loss of limb and life.”

“Well, what in Popeye’s name is the good news?!” 

“Don’t worry, I’ll stitch you up myself!” replied Sabrina.  I looked at her suspiciously and thought about all the terrible sibling pranks I had done to her during our upbringing: the time she got blamed for the alcohol I was stealing from our parents liquor cabinet… or how one time, they sent her to a therapist for allegedly lying because of contraband that I had placed in her sweatshirt pocket.  Uh-oh, now it was all going to bite me in the butt.

pierre cross

Unable to enter the water in the heat of the tropics? We all have a cross to bear.

“Don’t worry, my dear brother. I’ve done this hundreds of times,” Sabrina said with a twinkle in her eye.  As the sun set and the first constellations began to appear in the darkness above, the crew of the Green Coconut Run prepared the cockpit as an impromptu operating room.  Surgical equipment was sterilized by the lighter, Lianna held the flashlight,  Youtube videos were reviewed on the art of self-suture.

After applying local anesthesia, Sabrina did 4 stitches. Ryan offered to do 1 stitch. I said what the hell, and did 1 stitch as well. An hour of squeezing my flesh shut later, Sabrina laughed and said, “Ok you’re all stitched up! Oh, and I forgot to mention, you’re the first human I’ve ever done this on, bro!”

Realizing that I was officially dry docked, Kristian suggested we head to Punta Mita, where he had a friend with a beach house. This idea pleased all, who hadn’t seen fresh sheets, mattresses or a shower head with pressure in more than 50 days.

casa front view

Casa Selvatica, a for-rental beach home in Punta Mita, was very generously lent to us for a 3 day stay, an immense blessing for our rest & recuperation.

That night we each learned how to pilot the boat.  With the stars and the compass, our existence was tied to the whole history of the globe, as this little boat crossed the ocean’s expanse like so many before. The night sky enveloped me and my sorrows in a cushion of compassion.

lianna fishing

Lianna fulfilling a dream… catching and filleting her first tuna enroute to Punta Mita.

The morning began with the “zing-zing!” of the fishing line: to catch and prepare our own fresh fish. How exciting to reel in a silvery tuna! How amazing it feels to gut and fillet our fish, like age-old hunter-gatherers, finding in Nature our sustenance to carry us through the day!  The darkness of our injuries and memories faded in the exhilaration of that primal moment.

The delightful rollercoaster of life continued: before the end of that day, we were lodged in a most luxurious beach villa. Casa Selvatica was on the sand in front of the “Burros” surfbreak. A friend of Kristian’s was exceptionally generous and offered us wonderful headquarters for a few days. We spent a few delicious days recuperating and re-energizing ourselves on terra firma. Like a dreamscape, we felt the ebb of reality escape… Casa Selvatica isn’t something that happens in “real life”.  

SunsetSelvatica

The million dollar view from Casa Selvatica.

Crew Casa Selvatica

I was pleased to give the crew an excuse to have some mandatory shore leave.

I watched with envy the great waves being surfed straight out front.  Damn my clumsy mistake! I thought. The dismay I felt was like an ugly zit. However, the threat of depression was wrestled down by the intense gratitude for our fortune — the wonder we felt for Life in this exotic place was overwhelming my personal dramas.

That evening, the haze of adult libations masked the throb of my leg. We determined to depart the next day. In our relaxed state, Ryan and Michael revealed their deepest wishes; to surf a spot in a secret island, which was illegal to visit.  We nodded enthusiastically at the prospect of adventure — I wasn’t about to let me injury keep us from the glory of illicit discoveries!

In the soft glow of the bungalow coconut lights, a fantasy-filled gleam was taking form in the eyes of the crew. Maybe that island, clouded in its aura of mystique, would help me snap out of my funk. Or would we get in trouble, as the captain warned was possible?

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The captain’s grin was unmistakeable: this is what he lived for.

Days later we arrived at the secret island. We saw it in the horizon, and the federales were nowhere to be seen. As soon as we found the infamous wave, Michael jumped in and paddled into the surf zone. He turned and charged as the first wave came towards him. He took off, zipped across the face, and after the wave barreled he came out the end hollering with pure stoke, pumping his fists in the air.

“We have a double fist pump, ladies and gentlemen!!” exclaimed Kristian in a tone I had not heard before, and in a flash he was overboard, paddling towards the lineup.  Ryan was right behind him.

Two days of perfect waves on a secret island just with my friends. When the Light is found, it shines bright.

Two days of perfect waves on a secret island with just my friends. When the Light shines, it shines bright.

 “Are you going snorkeling?” I asked Lianna. At first she shook here head.  She felt scared to go into such a powerful ocean. Sabrina said she would accompany her with the boogie board as a flotation device… I offered encouragement: “We are here to experience new things, right?” Lianna consented after some deliberation.

As the ladies suited up, I went down below to the galley. With the smell of banana bread baking in the oven, hearing the crashing waves, the shouts of joy from the surfing crew, the girls digging in the dive locker for their gear, I suddenly felt… terribly alone.

The feeling of loneliness is the most common reason for depression. Through whatever means we have — business, gambling, religion, alcohol, sex, or sports — we try to forget that we are truly alone, truly fragile and mortal.  For me, surfing is the most healthy escape from that feeling. Ironically, the fear of infection was paralyzing me from overcoming my fear of loneliness. Fear begets fear, and morale crumbles.

I sat on the edge of my cot, and looked down at the cut on my leg, which was oozing and trying to heal through the collaborative stitching.  How could I keep it from being wet, and risk an infection that could compromise our trip? The hot humidity slapped me in the face, as I knew the best escape was the cool ocean outside, which I was unpermitted to enter.  I felt ashamed and distant.  Tears fell from my eyes… I cried while the men surfed.  I had given up and couldn’t bear the humiliation.

Did I have to hit rock bottom, so I might claw back up with wild, crazy determination? Was this the secret to finding the Light?  

The two women who I cared so much about appeared in the galley, and tried to comfort me as best they could.  But I was clawing out of a deep hole, irrational, insensible.  I didn’t care anymore.  I was willing to risk it.  I needed to go into the ocean, and put aside my Rationality.  I needed to break the vicious cycle that kept me in the dumps.

I grabbed duct tape to seal my leg. My sister stopped me immediately— I was out of mind, she said.  I looked at Sabrina, and seeing her standing there, surrounded by this incredible voyage that she had created, made me more proud of her than ever before.  Turning to Lianna, remembering the moment during our first date when she got the call informing she had just lost her only brother, made me bite my lip in the pain of love. I told them both that I loved them, and that I needed to do this. I was going in the water.

Here is our route from Punta Mita to Zihuatanejo, covering over 400 nautical miles. Click here for the Google Map link.

Here is our route from Punta Mita to Zihuatanejo, covering over 400 nautical miles. Click here for the Google Map link.

Here was the beginning of the happily ever after– the turn from cry of failure, to resurrection of rejoice. It is testimony to the healing power of the ocean, to the healing power of a loving community of friends, to the magic of opening ourselves to adventure, and to the mystery of the unknown, that we left Mexico as entirely different people than when we arrived.

I’ll let the photos below tell the story of what transpired. It was one of the most remarkable series of events that I have ever experienced in my life… not all easy, but all mind-blowing.  I forced myself to stay open, exhale stale air from my mind, and bring fresh air to my heart. The ocean worked its magic by purifying my deepest wounds, and inspiring a courage to be whole again. In the kaleidoscopic combination of those experiences, the whole strength of the Pacific Ocean returned in the palm of my hand, all the way back to “real life” in the Bay Area, California, from where I write these recollections.

The wounds healed well, thanks to the waterproof bandages onboard Aldebaran. The scar remains, but over time, as all things, it too shall pass.

Ryan, Sabrina, and Pierre marvel at our first yellowfin tuna

Just before arriving in Chamela Bay, as if to flood us with the majesty of the ocean, we caught this gorgeous yellowfin tuna. It occured in the most unusual of ways: using a squid which had flown onto our deck and hit Sabrina on the back of the neck while eating dinner! The next morning, we baited the line, and 20 minutes later, landed this fish. It fed us for days with Ahi sashimi and sushi rolls; it made us value the gifts of the ocean like never before. Read more about the experience in this post. 

Four Arrows

Talk about overcoming adversity. Four Arrows has an incredible story. He is battling a difficult form of cancer and moved to Mexico, in order to get plenty of sunshine, coconut water, organic food, and warm Pacific Ocean for daily exercise. That is his regimen for health: find the best possible sun, water, food, and exercise. Now, he is helping to “crowdfund” a marine reserve in his local waters, a true inspiration. 

shark rudder and fish

After leaving Chamela Bay, 30 miles offshore, in the blue-est water I’ve ever seen, we encountered the “magic log”. It was simply a log floating in the ocean, but it had created a home for thousands of fish, dozens of small sharks, and countless turtles.

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Lianna and I were scared to enter the water at the Magic Log because of the sharks, but the crew in the water kept yelling “This is AMAZING!” We jumped in, with 5000 ft of water below the keel of the boat. This photo shows Captain Beadle 30 feet deep.

Pair of Turtles

For hours we stayed in this ocean “playground”, watching the fish nibble at turtle barnacles. It was a scene right out of Animal Heaven, and it was our own personal catharsis. By embracing the attitude of Stoke that we found at the secret island, incredible moments kept happening.

CockpitPan

The crew aboard the Green Coconut Run are like the best family one could ever wish for: hugging each other every morning, listening, playing, laughing, and sharing with respect the cozy quarters of Aldebaran. Having a supportive community is one of the keys to healing.

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Arriving in Zihuatanejo, dolphins played in our bow. We sat on the nets and watched their dance. They were leading us home, as if to say, “It’s all going to be OK. Stop worrying. Come play!”

Finding the Light: Chacala, part 1

by Guest Crew, Pierre Littée & Lianna Giancola

Pierre and Lianna in Chacala

“Meet us at the little concrete pier in Chacala on 1pm”, wrote my sister Sabrina through email.  The plans for rendezvous had changed twice already, but in Mexico you go with the flow.  A wise surfer and friend once told me: “You can’t rush Mexico”.  The clocks keeping time in Grand Central Terminal in NY would have frozen with jealousy had they seen how impeccable the Green Coconut Run runs.  This photo was taken as the Aldebarán is anchoring, 13 hundred hours.

It’s quite remarkable being on a boat in the the Pacific with no clue or care.  It’s even more incredible that I was able to have Lianna join me on this adventure.  

So that the reader may understand who we are, please enjoy this little character background: 

Pierre: I am Sabrina’s older brother, though I often wonder if it’s not the other way around.  She had me join the Aldebaran Co-op upon my insistence on going beyond the horizon of Smallville, USA, to come lend a hand at sailing a leg or two of the Green Coconut Run.  I’d been tending a local bar for the last 5 years, barely keeping my head afloat while simultaneously trying to earn a teaching credential and assisting my mother in aiding my father’s medical conditions.  My life was nearly dreamless, practically predictable, routine and missing je ne sais quoi.  I had ended a long term relationship that was going nowhere, and was searching for meaning like others who look past the surface.  Soon I met Lianna, we started to date (I think), and before we knew it we were in Mexico aboard Aldebarán.

Lianna: I was born and raised in the Bay Area.  I moved all over Cali trying to find the perfect place.  A few years later moved back home.  Decided to go back to school. I attended Le Mélange Academy in the beautiful wine country (Napa). Shortly after getting my cosmetology license I was injured in an accident.  I started working in a couple of restaurants as a server and bartender.  Ended a relationship of 3 years and I met an incredible guy (Pierre).  One thing led to another…and then I lost my brother in a tragic car accident.  I became a lost soul and so confused about life. Pierre asked me to go to Mexico and 2 weeks later there we were in paradise.   

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You may be wondering… How did Pierre convince Lianna to go to Mexico on a sailing trip? Excellent question!

Perhaps this short skit will offer insight, see below.

{Begin Scene. Man is slightly awkward, but finds his stride quickly. Woman pretends to be non-chalant.}

Pierre: “Hey Lianna?”

Lianna: “Yessum?”

Pierre: “Will you go out with me?”

Lianna: “Yes.”

Pierre: “Cool!”

Lianna: “Where do you want to go for our date?”

Pierre: “How about Mexico?”

Lianna: “Sounds amazing.”

Pierre: (thinking to himself) KEEPER!!

Lianna: (thinking to herself) To be decided.

{Next Scene. One week later, Lianna is talking with her parents while packing her bag.}

Lianna: “Hey mom.  Hey dad.  I met this guy.  I don’t know much about him.  I kind of like him.  I’m going to go to Mexico with him. Yes, I said Mexico.  No, I don’t know where.  What are we going to do there?  Well, drink Coronas and hang out on the beach, for starters!  Sure, he easily could be taking me to Mexico to take advantage of me, for all I know! Just kidding…I hope.   Don’t worry…his sister is on a ship and started this new startup company with her boyfriend the captain.  It’s called the Pink Piña Colada I think.  It’s a sailboat… I think… surfing and fishing and stuff like that.  I know I’m afraid of the ocean!  Thanks for reminding me.  Rude!  Ciao!!  I mean Adios!!!”

{End of Act. Begin voyage on Green Coconut Run.}

———

Once upon a time…

in the realm of Astronomy, Aldebarán reigned high.  It was considered a royal star by the Persians, who believed the sky was divided into four districts, with each quarter of the sky guarded by a royal star. 

constellation_Taurus

Aldebarán was “the watcher in the East”. The others were Antares in the constellation Scorpio, the Western Royal Star; Fomalhaut in the constellation Pisces, the Southern Royal Star; and Regulus in the constellation Leo, the Northern Royal Star (see this Wikipedia link for background info)

The Jews called the star Aleph, meaning God’s Eye in Hebrew.  Aleph is also the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, associating this star with knowledge.  As Christianity was born, this Royal star became associated with the Archangel Michael.  In Buddhism, Aldebarán is considered the Eye of Illumination, or Buddha’s star.orion and aldebaran

The root and meaning of Aldebaran’s name is Arabic (“the follower”) because it rises near the Pleiades (Seven Sisters). 

As the thirteenth brightest star in the night sky, Aldebarán is a red giant star that lives in the constellation of Taurus.  It is the fiery eye of the bull, whose constellation is one of the oldest in recorded history.  Through the ages Taurus has been associated with divinity and divine power. 

orion_belt_to_aldebaran

Similar to the bullseye, Aldebarán is that Grand Prize, the Perfect Location, the most sought after goal, the Eye of Divinity and/or the Light in the Head.  Therefore, it couldn’t be more epic for my Lianna and I to be sitting comfortably in the quaint Mexican town of Chacala and see the mast of Aldebarán slowly enter the cove from the North while the sun was in transit through the constellation Taurus. 

Green Coconut crew for Nayarit, Mexico leg

Over-packed and under love’s spell from Mexico’s calming charm, we were about to come aboard the Green Coconut Run to search for the grand prize, to find “the Light” that shines freshness into our lives… what shape it would take, we didn’t yet know.

The moment we came aboard the beautiful trimaran we were greeted warmly by the crew, in the spirit of the co-op adventure that is the Green Coconut Run. I felt the mystique and magic of old-time maritime adventure envelope us like eagle’s wings.  The feeling of serendipity was a gentle hint to the incredible adventures that awaited us around the bend for the next 10 days. With stories and songs and tales to tell afterwards that even Peter Pan would find hard to conceive, we settled into the ship. 

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To appease Fate and Fortune, we came aboard bearing gifts.  Christmas came early for Aldebarán as we unloaded the duffel bag replete with new oil filters, o-rings, space bags, and tupperware.  For the crew we distributed dried fruit, Cajun spices, breakfast goodies, a bottle of tequila and one pound chocolate bars. 

The true “golden ticket” was Lianna herself.  The sailors hadn’t seen another woman aside from my sister since the last moon cycle and some, and therefore her presence was palpable to seeing a mermaid.  Smiling from ear to ear, Michael and Ryan flexed muscles and hoisted anchor.

Kristian set Aldebarán’s bow South, and as a Mother’s Day sun slowly made its journey over the Pacific, Sabrina steered us out of view from land.

….and so began our 12 day ocean adventure, where we went into a deep, dark tunnel before Finding the Light, and finally saying “this is absolutely awesome” more times than I ever had in my life. 

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

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Impressions from Matt, visiting crewmember

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

Skirting the Edge at Isla Natividad

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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The Outpost Islands of San Benito

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Shakedown cruise on the Spring Equinox!

Unbelievable, we actually made it off the dock! We were installing gear until the last minute — solar panel mounts, caulking the deck, building the outboard mount — and somehow we put it all together and left Ventura Boatyard at noon on Saturday March 21. This was exactly 4 months to the day since we arrived in Ventura…. WOW.

We went to Anacapa and dove at Frenchy’s Cove, then spent the night at Smuggler’s Cove. The next morning we motored to Little Scorpion anchorage and had a glorious breakfast, what a great feeling to be back out here! The SCUBA compressor ran perfectly and we did a second dive through underwater caves, super clear water.

Sailing back across the channel revealed the need for some rigging modifications, which we’ll work on during the next few days in Santa Barbara harbor. ‘Twas a successful shakedown cruise!

from anacapa

from anacapa

leaving ventura

leaving ventura