Whether by sail or motor, boating is one of the best ways to experience the magic of our waters, waters that hold an abundance of life and are incredibly important to the balance of our global ecosystems.
Now, whilst boating appears to be a relatively low-impact adventure, there are several ways in which it does affect the health of our waters and therefore the health of many species, including ourselves…
Let’s take a look at why clean sailing is so important and how to borrow a boat AND help to protect our seas!
Our planet is blue
Covering ~70% of our planet, our ocean supplies food, oxygen and a climate temperate enough to sustain life on our planet – it literally provides all we need to breath and stay alive.
Our ocean governs the health and abundance of every species on Earth – it drives our climate and weather systems, provides the main source of protein for over a third of the total world population and is itself home to millions of species including much of our planetary food chain.
Did you know that as well as producing oxygen, our oceans capture carbon dioxide and can store about 50 x more carbon dioxide that can be stored by the atmosphere itself? Phenomenal!
Basically, it keeps this place we call home ticking over and with each breath we take being powered by our mighty ocean, it’s important that we play our part in protecting it!
When boating we are sitting right in this awesome ecosystem
When boating, we are crossing many habitats, home to thousands of different creatures – we aren’t just observing nature from afar, we are sitting right in the middle of it!
Being on the water we get to experience many amazing elements our natural world – you may be lucky enough to come across species including seabirds, seals, jellyfish, and dolphins, plus studies have clearly shown that being near, on or in the water drastically improves our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Water makes us calmer, more positive and better connected to the world around us – very clear reasons to love and protect our seas!
But unlike being on land, when sailing we are just centimetres away from the very waters that support the health of our global ecosystem.
What we do when out on the water, matters. Given our proximity to this awesome ecosystem when out on our boats, our impact is much more immediate than on land, and at times, more damaging.
Some things we need to remember:
1- What we use onboard often heads straight into the water
There are several ways that our boating impacts the seas we sail – think about the soap and cleaning products we use onboard, emissions from our engines and even the sunscreen on our skin. Whatever we use on our boats frequently ends up in our waters.
Our washing up liquids, hand-soaps, shampoos, conditioners, make-up and loo cleaners, are mostly made of chemicals, microplastics and other unnatural ingredients which get washed down our drains and out into the sea in our bilge water. These chemicals and microplastics, particularly in calmer, shallower and sheltered waters, can lead to real and immediate damage to life below the waterline. These chemicals remove oxygen from our waters, increasing algae and ‘sea snot’ blooms, all of which contribute to a reduction in nutrients for sea creatures, has been shown to alter their hormone structures, ability to breed and for coral and seagrasses, their ability to capture rays of UV from the sun, a precious resource they need to stay healthy.
When boating and even at home, make the switch to ocean-friendly, low-toxicity products that are safer for the oceans, waters and life within them, particularly washing up liquids, soaps and personal washes.
Using natural shampoo and soap bars also helps to keep our waters clean, as well as avoiding the use of plastic bottles AND with fewer chemicals, can be better for our hair and skin too – major wins for us and our seas!
2- Plastic isn’t always fantastic
There is an insane amount of plastic heading into our ocean every year – about 8 million tonnes in fact. Nearly all of this comes from our activities and routines on land.
A great way to help keep our oceans clean is to cut down on plastic, particularly single-use stuff like coffee cups, plastic bottles, plastic bags, cutlery and straws, it is doing no good for our seas or wider environment. Even if plastic items are recyclable, only 9% of them actually get recycled, so where possible, let’s quit the single-use stuff, for good!
Remember your reusable water bottles and cups when onboard and avoid buying plastic bottles and take away cups as far as possible Reusable bags and totes are great for loading up your shopping and trips to the beach and marina showers. Reusables also help limit waste and rubbish building up during your trip – space is tight on a boat!
3- Using the engine and topping up on fuel
Nearly all boats have an engine – they are both helpful and important for obvious reasons, especially for getting in and out of marinas and tricky situations quickly and safely.
99% of boat engines run on diesel, which, just like our cars, release emissions into our air and our waters.
Use the engine when necessary and at a moderate, appropriate speed (particularly when in ports, harbours and marinas, stick to the speed limits!). Keeping fuel consumption and emissions low all helps to keep the air we breathe cleaner and water pollution down.
Top up your tank with care – 92% of fuel spills in our ocean is actually from every day activities, not the major disasters we see in the news and re-fuelling is one of the key areas on a boat where we can cause damage.
Spilling fuel into our waters can be catastrophic for many species, so make sure it’s done slowly and with care, keeping every drop in the tank.
If you spot a leaky engine, whether oil or fuel, alert the Skipper! It’s really important that we look after our engines and keep any oil and fuel away from our waters.
It’s few habits to adopt and as little as the gesture might be considered individually, scaled to the boating community, it will have a great impact on helping protect our oceans. For more top tips on clean sailing, see Clean Sailors.com !
Fair winds Captains,