Fresh Water : Probably the most precious and scarce cargo we carry around. Once underway, we are forced to reduce and limit our consumption as much as possible. Overconsumption at sea is therefore most likely not the biggest issue. But once we reach the marina, we sailors tend to go wild; spraying and scrubbing the deck, using all kinds of detergents/shampoos/conditioners and oils until the harbour turns into a nice bubble bath. Luckily, most sailors are better than this and marinas often prohibit using fresh water for deck cleaning. So why the fuss then? Well sometimes you still want a clean and salt-free boat – so here’s a few suggestions to achieving that, while limiting your impact:
- Rinse and scrub with salt water, and don’t use any detergents if not absolutely necessary. Do the rinsing before entering dirtier harbour waters.
- Rinsing teak just by salt water makes wonders, prevents algae grow and the salt gives back a bit of a brighter colour. Avoid scrubbing however, it will just reduce the thickness of the teak.
- If necessary give a quick rinse with fresh water to the necessary parts- spray hood etc. or just wait for the rain.
Keep in mind that most popular sailing destinations face or will face severe water problems, either due to location/climate or high demand and of course climate change. So be extra mindful. Tourism and high water demand is already forcing some Mediterranean islands to import or desalinate salt water for their basic needs. Thereby using insane amounts of energy, driving up greenhouse emissions and prices, making life for locals even harder. Salt water pollution of the coastal aquifer (the natural water reservoir) is a severe threat to most islands and coastal areas. It can happen suddenly and with long lasting effects, destroying in the long term the natural water storage, read more here.
*Does that also affect those well deserved long showers in the marina after a long passage? Depends, in some Scandinavian marinas you actually pay for a limited amount of water, which can be super annoying, but so great for the environment. Although they don’t exactly have water scarcity.
Wastewater or grey water : is a topic we often tend to ignore, obviously because of guilt, but also because of the challenge and inconvenience it might bring. Having lived on a boat for 2-3 years we have really no leg to stand on. But let’s face it – what comes in the boat must come out, mostly unfiltered and directly into the ocean – so simple, so dirty. Not every boat has holding tanks for all exits (kitchen, bathroom, toilet) so often there are very limited options, which are also not too convenient. But even for holding tank options the struggle of finding a port to empty them can be a real deal breaker. So let’s discover some options to mitigate impact (this will be updated as we go):
- Avoid soap as much as possible and use an eco friendly one if needed, having hot water can greatly reduce the need for soap.
- Avoid doing dishes or toilet visits in harbours or shallow crowded anchorages. Keep dishes or the soap water in a bucket for later, and use the septic tank for your needs. * Soaps and other organic waste can quickly cause rapid algae growth, disturbing fine balances in enclosed bays (harbours etc.) , eventually causing local ecosystems to collapse (more here at some point).
- Consider filter systems for your outlets, there are some existing systems, certainly helpful but also at a cost.
- Avoid staying too long at one place, especially if you are dirty(no holding tanks etc. ). This will ensure that not too much of your bi-products gets accumulated in one place – Sweden’s national marine park “Kosterhavet” actually have a 2 day stay limit per anchor spot.
- Use available facilities wherever able – walk the extra mile.
- If you use a lot of oil for cooking/frying consider storing it for later and proper discharge, most ecosystems struggle with braking oils, and rinsing it down the sink will certainly not make a good impression on a busy harbour or anchorage.
- Some harbours (mostly in Scandinavia) offer kitchen areas, so you can actually cook and do your dishes there – great way to socialise in non-pandemic times.
- Use less: use the pot twice, eat out of it and show more socially unacceptable behaviour that will save water, soap and struggle – be disgusting
For more information see Sailorsforsea.
Cool tip: Leo’s dad actually used to throw the dishes overboard on clear anchorages and have little Leo dive them out the next morning. It kinda worked and he definitely learned diving, but we were also missing some spoons and forks.
Black water, aka our Poop and Pee: Well certainly nobody wants to talk about that. Well we do, maybe a bit too much – our friend Lea says she never leaves our place without being at least one poop story richer. So yeah we’re are those kinds of people. But living on a sailboat makes any sense of “mystery” fade away pretty fast. And Kai makes sure to add “content” to that conversation as well. TMI? Oh well, here’s a bit more.
There are strict regulations that nobody follows, and we admittedly do not we have a strong leg to stand on ourselves. But we strive to:
- Use your holding tank and discharge offshore or in harbour facilities, following regulations, if unable seek deeper, well circulated waters.
- Some use compo-stable toilets, which is probably the best option.
- Here a link to more sophisticate info from Sailorsforsea.
It is important to think about these things from a more communal perspective, in the sense that our individual discharges may not have a particularly great impact – but what if everyone disregard the impact of their discharges? Will you still feel like swimming around a lovely anchorage of 30-50 boats, after a morning shit party?