Boat Life: Sustainability at Sea and in the Harbor?
Sailing is magical. When one is “sailing in the groove” their sails are balanced and steering is easy. The boat almost steers itself. Downwind, riding waves with the spinnaker up is exhilarating at the least as the risk of catching up with and crashing into the waves in front of you is very real. Offshore racing is about taking it to the limit in the pursuit of speed and knowing that too much could end in catastrophe — breaking the boat is never a good thing.
Sustainability. The art of survival. On a boat the concept has a more immediate demand for attention. As soon as I step on a boat my new purpose in life becomes to guide that boat safely to its destination, failure cannot work. Failure is punished.
Sustainability. For the planet it is a concept that is challenged by the fact that the effects of ecological disregard are very subtle, at least initially, and also punishing.
It is fortunate then that , I believe, an experience with sailing lends itself to well motivate us to pay better attention to sustainability when it comes to the planet. I wrote about this before when I talked about using 2 gallons at a time on the boat. One’s boat is one’s island. You are responsible for getting trash off it. Bringing supplies to it. Cooking, reading, and sleeping will happen on it, so too will coffee-drinking and laughing in the morning. And, experiencing the microcosm of the boat makes one better at naturally acting in a more sustainable way when on land. I feel this is largely because the concept of waste on one’s own boat is annoying at best, but also persistent. The solution, no doubt, is to minimize it.
I don’t use garbage bags anymore. I supplant them with some sort of packaging, and if none of that is around I simply carry the few items out I have and place them in a receptacle. This is of course not to say this solution is zero waste, but I believe an absolute step in the right direction because I aim to minimize waste and packaging excess when acquiring the things which are to be brought on my boat.
So why do I aim to raise the point that an experience with sailing lends itself well to us acting more sustainably — that sailing makes us better eco-citizens? Well, the truth is that all of the above is in fact true, but I think an even more powerful motivator that could help us all act better is finding a love for the natural world again. The purity within nature should absolutely be preserved because once it is gone it is gone forever.
For example, as a sailor I want to ensure that I can catch a fish and eat it, always. But, we threaten this ability each day. There are two main issues: making sure there are still fish to catch and making sure the fish do not contain plastic toxins from eating microplastics. Right now we can still prevent the worst consequences from these issues, truthfully rather easily. It will just take a slight bit of conscious effort to start making changes. We just have to begin. Refuse that straw next time at a restaurant. Bring your own grocery bag. Get a safety razor. Use a reusable water bottle. And, when mistakes happen, let them go, and improve.
Most importantly: experience nature. Try to sail. Take a hike through the woods. Have a magical moment in nature and then ask the question: What would life be like if ‘this’ weren’t here?