CAPTAINS LOG | NOVEMBER 2011

GO GREEN, GO SAILING • As anyone who has ever sailed knows, a boat under sail has no carbon footprint. Sure, running a diesel will create carbon emissions, and we all run our engines at times. But, in the raw, there is no other mode of transportation out there that allows you to travel all about the planet using only natural power. To make our cruising boats truly self-sufficient, many of us add solar panels and wind generators. Modern solar panels of 100 watts or so will give you hours of trickle charging to keep the battery bank topped up. The panels can be mounted out of the way, on a bimini or on the cabintop of a catamaran, and will create juice whenever sunlight falls on them.

Wind generators are the real workhorses of onboard energy generation. The modern units are fairly compact, and much quieter and more efficient than earlier models. The ability to generate up to 400 or 500 watts in 12 or more knots of breeze all day and night can make you completely self-sufficient and able to live without running the diesel engine or genset to top up the battery bank. 

There are further steps you can take to reduce your onboard energy needs. LED lights are now available in colors that truly give the warmth and appeal of incandescent bulbs. Running lights, cockpit lights and even flashlights can be had with LED bulbs. Although LEDs seem expensive, the initial cost is quickly amortized as you save on energy and extend bulb life.

Air conditioning has become popular on cruising boats, but running AC units requires a lot of power, so you either have to be plugged into shore outlets or run a generator. A greener solution is to use awnings to create shade, wind scoops to direct breeze below decks and low-energy fans to cool your bunks.

You can reduce your carbon footprint afloat significantly if you opt to sail instead of motor to your next destination. Using good light wind sails such as a spinnaker, MPS, reacher or code zero will give you horsepower to maintain good headway even in light airs. Swapping out your fixed blade prop for a folding one will add up to a knot of speed under sail. You may discover that you prefer sailing to motoring anyway.

Reducing the consumption of fossil fuels will help decrease your carbon footprint. But we also want to work toward using products aboard that do not emit toxins into the environment. Copper-based antifouling paint is the main toxin sailors put into the water. But you can go green. ePaint, for example, produces a non-polluting antifouling coating that uses UV technology to defeat slime and barnacles.

There is much we can do to reduce the carbon and other toxins we put into the environment while cruising. For more on hybrid electric power conversion, check out Pip Wick’s article “Power Play” on page 44. And for a look at non-polluting composting toilets for boats, read Pete Dubler’s “No Jokers on This Boat” on page 48.

Most sailors are born nature lovers, so it is no big thing for us to think about going green when we think about going sailing. We just have to do it.

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