Sailing is an activity that is closely connected to nature. Exploring the ocean, different cultures, and people as well as being one with the surrounding environment are all aspects of sailing. So, is it possible to sail in an environmentally friendly manner without spending a fortune? And, is sailing really environmentally friendly? There are many eco-friendly sailing actions that are simple to implement or are just excellent seamanship and boat maintenance in the first place and will help to safeguard your boat and keep it sailing properly. Some of these actions will be more expensive to implement than the less ecologically friendly option. But, they will often save you money in the long term. So, let’s dive deeper into the subject and see if sailing is environmentally friendly. Follow me!

The Connection Between Sailing and the Environment

Sailing is a wonderful, low-impact method to enjoy and explore the ocean. What good is a boat if there is no water? Boaters use the ocean for a variety of reasons, such as a home, a source of income and food, as well as relaxation and exploration. Boaters are, at their core, caretakers of the sea. Sailing’s primary influences are their motors, the amount of waste they produce (and how they dispose of it), and how they interact with wildlife. Electric engines and solar-powered boating are becoming increasingly popular, which is excellent.

Also, it’s important to note the impact that sailors have on the environment. For instance, sailors should never forget to leave their fishing nets and lines behind. All it takes is a little planning to eliminate single-use items and properly dispose of waste. Start storing every plastic bag, Ziploc, cup, and other disposable items you use for the next week to see how many you toss away.

The main problems that our oceans are facing today it’s a bit overwhelming, especially if you put it all together. Rising ocean temperatures which raises ocean acidity, diminished fisheries, plastic waste creeping up the food chain and killing species, toxic runoff from agriculture and industry… The list is really long. To retain a mental balance, every sailor has to do their part in order to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

Whenever you notice trash in the ocean, you have to always pick it up. Even when it’s tempting to connect with a sea creature, keeping a safe distance and not upsetting them is always a wise idea when it comes to wildlife. If you’re going fishing, be sure to gather all fishing lines and netting, as this is one of the ocean’s major polluters.

Sailing teaches people to pay attention to nature more than the normal boating experience. This is because a sailboat relies on the elements to get where it’s going, such as wind, currents, and weather patterns. Sailing as an educational means for connecting people to nature has a lot of potentials. A sailboat, in my opinion, is an ideal way for educating people about our interconnectedness with the ocean. It’s also a great way for demonstrating low-impact living: because of space constraints and limited access to resources, the boating lifestyle is intrinsically minimalist and resource-conservative.

Negative Impacts of Sailing to the Environment

Keep in mind that the most important thing on this subject is being conscious. When you begin to educate yourself about the negative impacts of sailing, you begin to act responsibly. You begin to pay attention to your conduct once you’ve recognized that link. And most people adapt in this manner, one step at a time. Can we all put our lives on hold and start growing our own food while avoiding all ocean-harming practices? Certainly not. However, we may all adopt the perspective that we can all perform better and develop as we gain experience. The most essential thing is that this has to become a continuing discussion. For instance, you should talk to other boaters, your friends, and your family about these concerns.

I also want to point out that sailboats are far from the only dangerous vessel on the water. There are lots of other boats that put our planet’s survival in jeopardy. But, just because sailboats aren’t the biggest offenders doesn’t absolve you of responsibility. Here are the negative impacts of sailing on the environment:

Engine Pollution

Modern sailboats have motors in case you can’t handle the sails. There’s also the issue that some marinas prohibit sailing, necessitating the use of a motor to enter these locations. You’ve probably heard of the term “carbon footprint.” You hear it more often with automobiles. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, these vehicles emit 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year on average (EPA). If your car travels more than 11,500 miles per year and has a fuel economy of more than 22.0 miles per gallon, your emissions could be significantly higher (MPG).

When you burn a gallon of gasoline, you already produce 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide. A reduction in fuel efficiency could result in even more CO2. All these refer to automobiles. Given that boats are frequently larger than the average automobile, you can only imagine the amount of carbon dioxide generated. Because carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas, it is possible that it is one of the factors contributing to the gradual increase in the earth’s temperature, generally known as global warming. So, how awful is it for the boats? When traveling at top speed, the British transatlantic ocean liner Queen Mary 2 has a fuel economy of 20.5 MPG, according to the Sierra Club. By the way, this is for each and every passenger. Even with eight passengers onboard, the fuel efficiency drops to 164 MPG, which is far less…

While sailboats use their engines less frequently than other boats (unless in some marinas), all engine use adds to CO2 output. Boats are still a better and more environmentally beneficial option than flying. According to the Sierra Club, a Boeing 737 Max8 has a fuel economy of 110 MPG per passenger. That would be 880 MPG with eight people onboard, which is even less efficient than the Queen Mary 2. Don’t be deceived by this, though. Boats, too, contribute to our environmental concerns, but to a lesser extent.

Use of Chemicals

All of these undesired products and chemicals in the water are harmful not only to the animals but also to the body of water. The quality of the water begins to deteriorate, and the chemistry of the water begins to change. The addition of copper, zinc and other chemicals causes this. The water becomes more acidic, which means it has a lower pH. It can also go the other way and become alkaline, or basic, on the scale, which is higher. When the pH of the water falls too close to either of these two extremes, marine life is severely damaged.

Moreover, in areas where there are many boats algae grows more persistently and often. When paired with sediment, this results in a reduction in both water quality and clarity, as the sun cannot penetrate. It is also important to note the impacts of antifouling coatings. These are for keeping marine organisms from settling on your boat’s underwater areas. The coating is classified as a biocide, which is a material that is hazardous to aquatic life.

You could be leaving debris in your wake every time you sail if you employ Zinc Pyrithione, Irgarol 1051, Diuron, Sea-Nine 211, Dichlofluanid, Chlorothalonil, or Tributyltin. Fish, algae, invertebrates, crustaceans, and marine life, in general, receive all of the impacts. If you absolutely must have an antifouling coating on your boat, opt for ultrasonic antifouling. To inhibit the formation of barnacles and algae, this coating-free alternative uses electrical sound pulses. You can also use environmentally friendly antifouling coatings which are far better in comparison with typical paintings.

Damages to Marine Life

The environmental impacts of sailing are diverse and include physical, chemical, and biological elements that, while predominantly affecting aquatic biomes, also have an impact on the atmosphere and terrestrial zones. While anthropogenic pressures have a lower impact on oceanic regions, they are having a greater impact on coastal environments. While much of this is due to land-based activities, significant impacts are attributed to the operation and presence of boating and shipping operations and activities through physical disturbances or the release of pollutants. Antifouling agents, sewage, hydrocarbons, waste, and greenhouse gases are examples of notable pollutants.

Physical impacts include habitat and vegetation degradation caused by anchor damage, vessel groundings, and fauna behavior alteration caused by vessel noise emissions and movements. All these affect negatively aquatic mammals, roosting birds, and fish. However, in systems with many activities and/or various anthropogenic inputs, identifying impacts to individual vessel-related activities may be challenging. Physical disturbance from indiscriminate anchoring and mooring activities is an example of a localized impact. But, non-localized and scattered impacts are also possible. For instance, garbage dispersing, or toxicants seeping and dispersing from antifoulant applications.

In addition, animals such as dolphins, seals, whales, manatees, among others are seriously affected by sailing activities. Any slower-moving marine species that can’t get out of the way of a boat is also affected. It’s practically impossible to avoid disturbing wildlife in the water, even if you take extreme care. Some species are small and hence difficult to spot, while others lurk deep in the water, where visibility is reduced.

There’s also the issue of chemical use and its impact on animals. Where do you believe the chemicals that you use to get your sailboat going or clean it goes when you use them? The majority of the time, they end up in the water. The pollutants will be ingested by the animals that reside in those same waters, causing disease if not death. Aside from such pollutants, putting metals, batteries, petroleum, paints, and detergents into the water, whether purposefully or unintentionally, has the potential to seriously harm aquatic animals. They’re now at risk of developing mutations, cancer, and death.

Is Sailing Eco-Friendly

Eco-Friendly Sailing Tips

Fortunately, there are a lot of things that we can do in order to minimize our sailing impact on the environment. There is a wealth of information available right now about the state of our oceans. Following marine conservation organizations on social media is a fantastic way to stay up to date and start acting. There are also a number of books and videos regarding the ocean and environmental issues. Almost every coastal community has a nonprofit or government group dedicated to environmental protection. I strongly encourage you to get involved, start acting and become responsible sailors. So, let’s see some eco-friendly tips and practices that you can do!

Minimize your Carbon Footprint

Firstly, it’s important to make use of your sails. The wind is a cost-effective and powerful renewable energy source. So, make use of it! In most cases, you don’t even need to use the engine. Moreover, sailcloth is entirely synthetic, however, there are more environmentally friendly alternatives. Composite polyethylene sails are lighter than regular Dacron sails and hence have a lower carbon footprint. Also, there are companies that have developed a totally recyclable sail, with pieces that may be recycled into laminate sails rather than converted into beach bags.
In addition, try to consume less fuel. There’s a lot you can do to cut down on fuel use. Balancing the weight on the boat, keeping a steady speed, and mostly using your sails.

Energy Efficiency

Firstly, avoid operating your boat to charge your batteries by investing in solar or wind generators. This is a tried-and-true method of generating quantities of power to have onboard. Marine units are often rated at 300-400W, however, they can only produce that much power in wind conditions that you don’t want to be sailing in. They operate as well at anchor or in the marina. But, they can be noisy, so choose wisely and choose a good regulator that can both trickle charge and pump in power. Panels that are both fixed and flexible are now equally effective (12-18 percent). The question is how and where to place them to get the most out of them. For anything more than a few dozen watts, invest in a top-quality maximum tracker. During the day, a modest panel may gently trickle-charge the battery, while bigger arrays can pump out 10-20A or more.

You can also use an electric outboard or perhaps an inboard motor. Remember to buy locally made groceries when you’re shopping. Keep your hull clean, your engine functioning smoothly, and trim your engine so as to reduce fuel usage. Recycle as much rubbish as possible on board, and instead of tossing it away, recycle your used gear, sails, etc. Also, prefer to use LED lights onboard.

Antifouling Considerations

You have to choose the best antifoul for your boat and for the environment. Consider using eco-friendly boat paints and non-biocidal coatings like silicone, vinyl, or ultrasonic technology. Make use of a washdown system that catches antifouling residue. Note that scrapings, old brushes, trays, and empty tins should all be disposed of in a hazardous waste bin. Remove any apparent animal or plant waste and wash the anchor and chain before leaving an anchorage. Use a sponge or soft brush, remove biofouling from the hull on a regular basis. Keep in mind that water should be drained from all parts and equipment that can hold water. If at all possible, avoid sailing through water plants and vegetation.

Engine Considerations

If your sailboat requires an engine, the very least you can do is make sure it’s in good working order. This prevents you from wasting unnecessary fuel or energy, which is beneficial for your money and the environment. If the engine on your sailboat is more than a few years old, see if you can upgrade it at a boating supply store. The less energy-efficient an engine is, the older it is. As a result, each time you sail, you produce more unneeded pollutants. If at all possible, avoid operating the engine at full power unless absolutely necessary.

If you intend to halt your sailboat for a while, turn off the engine. You’re simply wasting fuel. Rather than focusing on getting your engine to run at maximum power, make sure your engine is performing at its optimum. This will enable you to go further and contribute more to the environment. Respect sensitive and protected locations, such as beaches and other bodies of water, when sailing. These waters are safeguarded for a purpose. Perhaps sand dune degradation has happened, or local wildlife species are endangered. In either case, go at a slower speed to reduce turbulence on the water and to make your engine quieter.

Anchoring Considerations

Metal anchors are the most common type of boating anchor. While metal is a long-lasting substance, it can leach nickel, chromium, iron, and other metals into the water. This could shorten the lives of aquatic species, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to get rid of your metal anchors. Instead, look for eco-friendly anchors made of materials that are less harmful to the world and its inhabitants. Aside from the sort of anchor you use, it’s time to pay more attention to how and where you anchor your sailboat. Please refrain from settling in regions other than sandy bottoms. Your anchor has the potential to disturb wildlife on the water’s surface.

Eco-Friendly Practices

  • Visit blue flag beaches: These environmentally friendly beaches may be found all over the world and are known for conforming to strict environmental regulations.
  • Limit noise pollution: You don’t want an unnecessarily loud engine to disturb marine life.
  • Fill tanks with caution: The last thing you want to do while refueling is accidently leak oil or petrol into the ocean, so don’t overfill your tanks.
  • When your sailboat has the adequate weight, it performs better. You won’t distrurb wildlife and maybe put it in danger when you heel less on the water. You don’t want stagnant water on your boat, but you also don’t want to restrict passengers. If you don’t dump the bilge when it’s full, it will fill up and cause problems with the sailboat’s operation. Keep an eye on your gear, too, and make sure it’s evenly distributed around the boat.
  • Sustainable fishing entails steps such as avoiding overexploited species, opting for catch-and-release, and returning undersized fish to the water.
  • Use environmentally friendly items and equipment: Shampoo, dish soap, and sunscreen include chemicals that can run off into the water (known as grey water) and harm wildlife. Check the labels and choose products that are biodegradable.
  • Keep a respectful distance from wildlife: Getting too close to a creature can unintentionally damage its environment and cause stress. Also, be aware of recognized breeding locations and avoid them.
  • Avoid single-use items: There are many fantastic reusable eco-friendly alternatives to disposable paper and plastic products, which unfortunately end up in the ocean far too frequently.
  • Research your destination’s recycling policies and retain all recyclable goods onboard until you can dispose of them in the proper bins.
  • When possible, use the marina or beachside facilities. Install and use a holding tank, especially in estuaries and anchorages. On board, use ecologically friendly toilet cleansers. Only use recycled toilet paper because it degrades faster than conventional paper.
  • When cleaning your boat on the water, only use fresh water. Use as little soap and detergent as possible in aboard sinks and showers. Wax your hull to keep it fuel efficient and cut down on cleaning products throughout the season.
  • Discharge black water where it belongs. Dumping untreated sewage within three miles of the shore is actually forbidden, as it should be. It is also prohibited in all sensitive marine areas.
  • If waste is unavoidable, make sure none of it floats away while you’re on the water. Waste disposal is available in marinas (including for fuel like engine oil and black water).
  • Stay at least 100 meters away from marine animals in the ocean and 50 meters away from marine wildlife on cliffs and rocks. Rather than approaching closer, use a nice set of marine binoculars to get a better view. Maintain a constant speed if marine wildlife arrives alongside your boat. Don’t follow them after they depart. Avoid colliding with rafts of birds on the water. Seals and other mammals, for example, should not be separated from their mothers. To avoid dragging or scouring, use existing mooring buoys or anchor properly.

Is Sailing Eco-Friendly? – The Bottom Line

Sailing isn’t the most environmentally friendly option, even if it is more environmentally friendly than flying or even driving. Boats disrupt marine life, cause algae to grow, wildlife to extinguish and pollute the seas. No one wants to swim in a sea filled with the trash of a distant civilization or snorkel over bleached reefs. Fortunately, sailors can do a lot to help maintain the oceans cleaner and healthier. Consider implementing some of the below-mentioned tips to your boat and to your life in general. There are numerous ways to be more environmentally mindful while sailing. You’ll know you’re doing your best for the planet if you act responsibly. So, yes sailing can be environmentally friendly if you are responsible and do your best for the environment. Everything depends on how you act, what you do, and to which extent you minimize your impact.

I believe that you will be the kind of sailor that helps and acts responsibly rather than destroying. I wish you safe and eco-friendly voyages!