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Sustainable Sailing Tips for Responsible Travelers

At home, most of us follow sustainable practices, but what happens to those practices when we catch the trade winds and set sail? Regardless of where we are in the ocean, we need to be aware of our decisions that can impact the environment. 

Yacht charters are growing ever more popular with sailing across gem-like waters over exotic islands and beautiful oceans like the Mediterranean and Caribbean. It’s crucial to be aware of our impact on the environment. 

Check out these plain sailing tips designed to help you be a responsible and sustainable traveller when sailing. They may seem glaringly obvious, but most bypass these simple, sustainable techniques.

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Be careful About Emptying Holding Tanks

Before docking in any country, make sure you check with the operator about where to empty your holding tanks, each country has different rules. Depending on where you moor, you may be able to use the pump station facilities at the marina. 

Keep in mind, holding tanks should not be emptied near beaches, in harbours, where there is a profusion of marine life or where people are swimming. 

Use Reusable Water Bottles And Cups

One of the easiest yet useful things to do on your trip is to take reusable cups and water bottles. 

A simple coffee cup is perfect when you are looking to warm up in the lounge, whether waiting for a flight or departing on a sailing trip. One of the world’s most sustainable cups is made from bamboo, the Ecoffee cup. It comes in hundreds of different designs and colours and is perfect as a travelling companion. 

Try to avoid buying plastic bottles and instead take your reusable water bottle if you want to get off and explore the shores. 

Apply Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

Many locations around the world offer beautiful majestic coral reefs, ideal for diving and snorkelling, such as Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand, and the British Virgin Islands. 

Coral reefs have some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. Most standard sunscreens include ingredients that can be harmful to coral reefs and other marine life. Using eco-friendly sunscreen is an environmentally friendly way of protecting marine life and its biodiversity. 

Use eco-friendly cosmetics and refuse microbeads. 

Drop Your Anchor Carefully

Be careful where and how you drop your anchor. Poor anchoring techniques can damage coral reefs and sensitive ecosystems. 

The Charity organisation Sailors for the Sea has put together a comprehensive guide on how to anchor responsibly, including these tips: 

  • Where possible, anchor in mud or sand to avoid damaging sensitive ecosystems
  •  If you are anchoring ashore, be mindful where you are placing your anchor. Avoid placing your rope around trees and avoid sand dunes.

Avoid Using Outboard Motors

Nowadays, most four-stroke outboard engines are environmentally friendly compared to other older engines with two-stroke motors. Besides equipping yourself with the latest motor you could be even more sustainable and use your paddles to row. Jokes aside it’s great fun, especially when you get the kids involved if it’s a family trip. 

Be Careful With Your Rubbish

Globally,  100,000 marine mammals die each year from pollution, whether it’s from eating litter or becoming tangled in it. 

You should play your part in picking up litter wherever you see fit and dispose of it correctly. At every point on your yacht charter, there should be a waste disposal area for people to make use of. Make sure you get rid of your waste responsibly. 

It seems logical, but in reality, litter is a growing concern. Take care when disposing of plastics or cigarette butts and always refuse plastic straws. 

Avoid Using Your Engine And Save Energy

Enjoy your boat for what it was designed for, set your sails with prevailing winds. Hoist the mainsail, unwind the jib and enjoy the panoramic views our beautiful oceans have to offer us. Nothing gets any better than the tranquillity of catching the power of the wind without the engine gurgling sound around you. 

One of the most heavenly things you can do on a sailing trip, besides swimming in the clear-blue open waters is finding a secluded bay. Once there, switch off everything and sit under the stars, listen to the sea lap against the boat – It’s absolutely magical. 

What’s the point of sailing if you’re not actually sailing? Ration your use of electricity, if the generator is not being used at night, switch it off. 

Enjoy Water Sports Responsibly

Most human beings love the sea and the sea life it offers, but some take advantage of the beauty of this underworld. 

If you are going to dive or snorkel, don’t touch the marine plants, animals or reefs. This interrupts sensitive ecosystems and can cause detrimental effects. 

Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Before selecting your choice of cleaning products for your vessel, you need to be aware of the different organisms you transport on your hull and carry to other parts of the world. If you accidentally introduce a different marine species to another area of the ocean, where it does not belong, there could be dire consequences. 

Consider the type of cleaning products you use to wipe down your boat. Choose eco-friendly cleaners that do not give off toxic chemicals causing runoff, chemical clouding or may harm sea life. 

Prevent Fuel And Oil Spills

Since sailing boats have motors, there is a substantial possibility that the engine could leak – spilling oil or fuel into the ocean. 

Spills from boats are difficult to clean up and can harm many types of marine fauna and flora. Be conscious of your fueling practices. Don’t overfill your tank. It would be best practice if you inspected your vessel often to repair any damages before setting sail for your next location.  

Be Sustainable And Responsible – Go Green

When boating, there are various ways to enjoy the oceans and at the same time protect it. By choosing eco-friendly sunscreen or certain cleaners, preventing oil spills, and choosing not to litter, you are contributing to a cleaner, healthier ocean. 

As a sailor or yachtie, we need to be aware of our actions on the environment regardless of our location. Whether you spend a week or a month or a year sailing glorious waters, it’s principal that you play a part in sustainable sailing. Make sure you navigate judiciously to reduce your negative impact on the environment. 

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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