The following story originally appeared online as part of the blog series for the Green Coconut Run, and is being re-purposed here, being only slightly modified.
“In four countries, every mechanic loved that solar light. It survived a year of salt spray on our dashboard. That was our field test,” says Kristian Beadle, captain of Aldebaran. After seeing its value for remote communities, the crew announced a partnership this month with Unite to Light, a non-profit from Santa Barbara, CA, to take the lights to fishing villages without electricity.
The Green Coconut Run, as this community-led voyage is called, has dozens of participants sailing to the tropics and “Cruising with a Cause”. The idea started when Captain Beadle and a group of young professionals from Santa Barbara fell in love with exploring the Channel Islands on a 42ft sailboat, Aldebaran, and were inspired to go further south.
The crew formed a cooperative to raise funds for the repairs and improvements necessary for the boat. The “sport” of cruising — i.e. exploring a coastline by sailboat, often internationally — is considered the realm of the rich or retired. This young group’s approach is bold and creative. Members fly down to meet the boat along the journey for legs ranging from 4 days to several months, and fund the voyage based on time aboard.
Within one year, the Aldebaran made it to Costa Rica, with 30 crew members having graced her decks. Along 6000 miles, the crew went to remote surf breaks, caught fish for food, and explored SCUBA spots with their on-board compressor. “We were living the dream,” said Michael Chiacos, an electric vehicle consultant who was aboard for 6 months. “I now feel re-energized to start the next phase of my career.”
Beginning next year, the Green Coconut Run crew will also make stops to bring solar lights to school kids in fishing villages. Unite to Light, the non profit that distributes these special lights, has sent more than 80,000 self-contained units throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
The organization’s Executive Director, Dawn O’Bar, commented: “We’re excited to partner with Green Coconut Run to bring our lights to sailboat-only locations, such as island atolls. This voyage also shows how perfect these lights are for outdoor enthusiasts — remembering that the more lights we sell, the more lights we can donate to those in need.” The solar lights, which include a model with USB charging station for cell phones and cameras, were designed by the Institute for Energy Efficiency at UCSB, the host of three Nobel Laureates awarded for breakthrough work in LED lighting technology.