Events & Media

Cruising with a Cause
A Bren graduate finds a novel way to address the health of the ocean — by sailing across one

By Lily Tsukayama

Beadle snorkeling at what the crew called "the magic log" in Mexico during the first season.

In 2009 Bren alumnus Kristian Beadle (MESM 2009) bought a 42-foot trimaran sailboat, named it the Aldebaran, and began offering co-operative sailing experiences around the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. Ocean-lovers could hop on board as crew members in exchange for a unique multi-day travel experience.

Three years later, Beadle launched the Green Coconut Run with the goal of sailing Aldebaran and a rotating group of co-op shipmates to the South Seas. The Green Coconut Run is loosely based on the Coconut Milk Run, a popular sailing route across the Pacific.

Beadle captained the Aldebaran into its first season in 2015, leaving Santa Barbara and sailing along Central America to Costa Rica. In its second season, which began in early March, Aldebaran is heading from Nicaragua to destinations in Central and South America, including Isla Cocos and Galápagos. The plan is to reach French Polynesia in the third season.

The crew are chasing great surfing, diving, fishing, photography, and good times, but the experience, described on the Green Coconut Run website as a “community sailing adventure,” adds something extra: this is cruising with a cause. The Aldebaran crew is creating routes that connect marine protected areas and, they hope, others will follow. They are also supporting communities, supporting scientific research, and promoting ocean health along the way.

Season 2 will lead Aldebaran along the coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, then to the Galápagos and the Ecuadoran mainland.

During the first expedition, they partnered with Santa Barbara nonprofit Unite to Light to bring solar-powered lights to remote fishing villages that lack electricity. Since then, the Green Coconut Run crew has also partnered with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) to collect water samples along their route to bolster global micro-plastic research. That initiative, which provides water samples from remote locations not monitored by scientists, was led by Ryan Smith (MESM 2011), the Green Coconut Run’s development director, and was featured in National Geographic’s Explorers Journal.

The expeditions are collaborations of the crew and an evolving community of people who are interested in supporting the project or spending time at sea. Crew members meet up with Aldebaran at ports throughout its journey and are then aboard anywhere from four days to several months, assisting with boat maintenance, cooking, cleaning, and navigating. The Green Coconut Run also crowd-funded to cover some of the costs of preparing Aldebaran for its first expedition. They continue to employ a video campaign to promote the Unite to Light and ASC partnerships, generate funds, and spread what they refer to as their “adventure-preneur” spirit to connect sailing and exploration with conservation.

With their home anchored nearby, Aldebaran crewmembers enjoy a dream surf session.