In 2019, Greta Thunberg made news headlines once again when she decided to travel from Southampton, UK to New York, USA by motor yacht. She made her return journey to Europe aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde. In fact, Thunberg’s move sparked a surge in demand for ‘sail-hitching’ experiences as more and more people become carbon conscious, but can a sailboat charter be truly sustainable in 2020?
If there’s a will, there’s a way! A green sailing holiday can easily be achieved by a combination of efforts to reduce your ‘sail-print’. For starters, sailing is inherently eco-friendly as it uses the wind as its main energy source. Nonetheless, there are still many ecologically unsound elements to the industry that can be improved on. With the following tips in hand, a sustainable sailing holiday no longer has to be a far-fetched dream.
CHOOSE A RESPONSIBLE VESSEL
Sailing on an older sailboat is just as bad as driving an old car when it comes to carbon emissions. Consciously opting for a newer boat will mean reduced emissions and, of course, a more modern sailing experience. If you’re not prepared to rely completely on the wind, enjoy the best of both worlds and request a hybrid boat when booking. The key here is to sail more and motor less!
LIMIT ELECTRICITY USAGE ON BOARD
If your sailboat doesn’t use renewable energy such as wind, sun or hydro to power itself, some extra measures will need to be taken to achieve a green charter. Apart from certain navigation devices, showers and air-conditioning systems are the major consumers of electricity on board. Showers are used intermittently and for short periods, but air-conditioning systems can easily be left running for days, often without real need. In fact, most skippers turn off ventilation systems at night as they can be quite noisy!
RESPECT THE SKY–SEA–SHORE ECOSYSTEM
Be travel smart: bring a reusable water bottle on board and avoid single-use plastics. Also, be sure to pack reef-safe sun protection, as many traditional formulas use ingredients that are toxic in marine waters. One of the best aspects of chartering a sailboat or yacht is that you have infinite mooring possibilities. Mooring is the preferred ‘parking’ mechanism for sustainable charters as dropping anchors can harm the seabed. Try to forge real connections with the local culture and people during your charter… it will pay dividends in the long run. A key pillar of ecotourism focuses on supporting local people and business, and often these people live on remote islands with few inhabitants. Your skipper can really help remedy this by offering you insider knowledge on the best places to eat or shop during your stopovers.
Of course, it’s not all plain sailing! Incorporating all these notes and tips into your next yacht charter will not mean you’ve managed to go completely carbon neutral. Flights and other transport to the marina or port will weigh heavy on the scales. However, you can still offset these buy purchasing carbon credits from not-for-profit organisations. These ‘credits’ are then invested in carbon-reducing projects. The takeaway is, with some forethought, sustainable sailing holidays are achievable and yacht charter providers are happy to accommodate your needs. Just be sure to specify these when booking.