A green approach to voyaging is a worthy goal, but most voyagers are not ready to trade in their current vessel for a boat that uses wind and solar power alone. That type of radical action is not necessary to get started on a more green approach to voyaging. By implementing the following methods at the fingertips of every oceangoing yachtsperson, you can immediately join the green voyaging movement. Whether you’ve already embarked upon an epic ocean voyage, or are about to, it’s certain you have the time and ability to voyage “green.”
On board my boat Solstice we regularly practice green methods. The approach outlined below can both simplify yacht management and lower operational costs. And those are two more good incentives for instituting a green voyaging program.
Earth’s magnetism: Turn-off electronic navigation devices, create a deviation table for your ship’s compass, and pilot using knowledge of Earth’s magnetic variation.
Natural ventilation: Capture and redirect the wind’s flow through the cabin to make living-quarters comfortable — air-circulation keeps us cooler and prevents mold.
Shade: Sun-awnings positioned over the deck and cabin house will lower the interior’s temperature by many degrees.
Cleaning agents: Bicarbonate of soda and fresh water works brilliantly as an abrasive-cleaner; distilled white vinegar diluted in fresh water lifts dirt and grime — an amazing brightener for natural teak; rubbing alcohol disinfects and removes most smudges; and, the scrubby-side of a sponge combined with elbow-grease attacks tough dirt.
A bucket: Offers many green uses. Filled with fresh water for cleaning the interior; or fitted with a lanyard to fetch salt water for use topsides. Scrub dishes in a bucket of salt water, and rinse them with fresh.
Rainwater: Scrub decks when it rains, and capture rain for future cleaning. Salt-encrusted lines can also get a fresh-rain cleansing.
Salt water and green soap: Poured from overhead, salt water refreshes us on a hot day. A bucket shower of salt water and green soap (from vegetable oils of potassium hydroxide adjusted to retain glycerol) followed by a freshwater rinse spruces-up the grimiest sailor.
Demand less electricity: Electric-power harnessed from the sun and wind is green, but systems that consume less are greener.
Muscle power: Select and operate hand-powered mechanical devices, and save electricity for critical applications like bilge-pumps when away from the boat, or raising heavy anchors.
Paper charts and handheld GPS: Even if we have a chartplotter, it’s prudent to carry paper charts. You can save electricity by doing some hand-plotting of fixes from your AA-battery-powered GPS.
Gray-water tank: Waste from galley and head sinks should drain into an isolated tank for legal overboard discharge well offshore.
Solar-showers: A gallon-jug filled with water and set in the sun produces hot water.
Good ventilation negates air conditioning: Improved airflow through the cabin, combined with shade from sun-awnings can make just about any cabin comfortable. Force the wind below decks, keep cabin doors and port holes open and position cowl vents to the wind.
Multi-purposed bags: Use duffels, canvas totes, and sail bags for multiple tasks like provisioning, chandlery trips, laundry-runs, etc.
Full-batten mainsails: They consistently produce an efficient aerodynamic shape and prolong a sail’s life by two times or longer.
Waste disposal: No food, garbage or waste may be discharged within 12 nm of land. Beyond 12 nm on an extended voyage, non-plastic and non-floating waste may be discharged if storage space isn’t available.
Well-maintained engine: Shouldn’t leak oil or fuel, nor blow smoke.
Oil pan built-in: Beneath the engine, fit a permanent pan to keep leaking engine fluids separate from bilge water.
LED lights: Consume seven times less power than incandescent bulbs at similar illumination levels.
Human desire: To voyage green you must believe-in and act for the cause! If you consume less, use Earth’s sustainable resources respectfully, and minimize your impact, you’ll immediately find a simpler, less expensive, and healthier lifestyle — a good adjunct to your green efforts.
Sail more, motor less: The art of sailing requires patience, practice, and more skill than operating a yacht under motorized propulsion — the more you sail, the better your skills become. Your willingness to sail green is related to your sailing proficiency.
Row or sail the dinghy: Reduce engine use — rowing and sailing is healthy exercise!
Anchor in sand: Avoid areas of coral and sea-grass. Use chain rode to reduce scope and anchor-swing so more yachts can safely anchor in limited sandy spots.
Avoid sunscreen while swimming: Sunscreen is washed-away from our skin by salt water and forms a slick on the ocean’s surface, eventually settling and coating underwater habitat. Wear UV-protective rash-guards like surfers wear in place of lotion.
Drink water from personal cups: Store drinking water in large containers where crew drink from personal cups — wash less and avoid purchasing disposable water bottles.
Route planning: Working from paper charts and other references, we plan the details of each leg of our route, making a working document to which we’ll refer en-route. This prudent process de-emphasizes our reliance upon the electronic chartplotter, alleviating its electric consumption, and may heighten our appreciation for the immediate Earth we’ll voyage.
Captain Paul Exner is President of Modern Geographic Sailing Expeditions and takes aspiring voyagers on training cruises aboard his boat Solstice.