I’ve just returned from 2 weeks sailing in the Aegean Sea with friends and my partner Lily – the person behind this blog. I’m her sidekick, assistant and part-time contributor (at least I try to be!)
Yes, I did see plastic waste, mostly floating around in ports and touristic centers and it was always a depressing and upsetting sight.
We spent ample time off the beaten track, in remote coves, far from the euro trash charter nightmares, surrounded by jaw dropping pristine waters – and were even fortunate enough to experience dolphins playing with the waves generated by our sailing boat. These places still exist and we need to take care of them.
The experience often made me think of plastic waste (and waste in general), resource management and (sustainable) energy.
1. Waste on a boat.
We generated a fair amount throughout the trip. 2 large bags every 3-4 days – most of which were plastic bottles, waxed carton packs, drink cans, bottles and plastic packaging. These were tightly packed and kept on board until arrival back to civilization, which generally occurred every 3 days.
Larger and busier islands/towns/ports were equipped with recycling points. The smaller and quieter ones, not.
Most of the biodegradable waste (food leftovers, number ones and number twos) were fed to the sea and consumed by fish.
No toilet paper or sanitary towels were flushed down the loo. These were deposited in the bathroom bins (and subsequently in port general waste bins).
2. Natural water, the most precious resource.
Given that we opted to navigate remote islands and avoid port overexposure, we needed to manage our resources wisely – water being the most important one of all, followed by food and fuel.
Sailing boats (and yachts, motor boats, etc) are equipped with water tanks. The sizes can vary. Ours had a capacity of 500 liters approximately. This is not drinking water. Instead it is primarily used for personal hygiene (e.g. showers) and cleaning (e.g. washing dishes, cutlery, pots and pans).
To manage this amount of water wisely, we had a nifty system of using salt water wherever possible.
Our recommended procedure for showers on a boat was: i) skinny dip plunge; ii) apply soap to you body; iii) second skinny dip plunge to remove the soap; iv) shower yourself with tank water to remove the salt (this usually took less than a minute).
We’d take a similar approach when washing the dishes, cutlery, pots and pans (though we frequently dropped rinsing with tank water altogether).
Given that water tanks aren’t drinking water, and as we did not have a desalting system on board (which would have been amazing), we inevitably needed to use bottled water.
We calculated at least 1.5 liters per person per day. We were 6 people onboard, so needed to store a minimum of 63 liters (42 units of 1.5L water bottles) for 1 week. On top of this, generous amounts of juices, soft drinks, beers and wines were also added to the mix. Naturally all of this then generated the waste I mentioned in the first point. On hindsight, much better to use 5L (XL size!) large water bottles ..fewer waste. We did have our metallic water flasks which we refilled (very useful to have onboard).
3. Energy for moving, cooking and googling.
We sailed about 200 nautical miles, using a combination of wind and Diesel. The engine was used during a total of 50 hours during two weeks and we consumed about 3/4 of the fuel tank.
Cooking was done through a gas stove – it took us through both weeks without problem.
The boat was equipped with a small solar panel for small electrical appliances (smartphones and portable loud speakers), but no other eco-friendly sustainable power source.