This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Part one

Let’s just get this straight: this won’t be a handbook, nor a soap opera, nor, above all, a yachtsman’s decalogue of good manners. None of that! This trilogy is, much more humbly, a reflection on good practices for sailing i.e. some cues to make people more aware that – at sea- humans are simply the guests and not the absolute masters of the whole wide world.

As everybody had the opportunity to notice, during recent quarantine nature has been immediately ready to take back its space. Harbour waters were crystal clear again, plants and animals were starting to regain control of the land and the atmosphere was getting far cleaner.

We have all looked at these “phenomena” with some satisfaction and a genuine green attitude, maybe forgetting for a moment that they were caused by the sudden stop of human activity and by people confinement in their houses.

Well, now that emergency is almost over, it should be good not to forget too easily what we thought or set out to do in those days. Those days, so gloomy for us, were, paradoxically, peaceful for the environment.

So, good practice is intended as a little reminder of what we said and thought those days, before all is definitively diluted in the sea of a renewed brashness.

This first part concerns all what a marina should do, provide and make known so that the time people spend there is a conscious and pleasant experience. And, in addition to this, a quick “refresher” of how a proper yachtsman should behave, will be included.

A second and a third part on maintenance and sailing will follow shortly.


The pier of a sailing club or of a marina is not a free zone.

Here, too, a virtuous behaviour showing respect for the environment and the people must be held. This is of course easier if the marina is equipped so as to encourage a sustainable behaviour.

In my ideal world marinas – more than restaurants and pubs – should provide plenty of waste sorting containers for any materials, paint and toxic solvents included, as well as waste and bilge water and used oil collection at dock.

Moreover marinas should be equipped with grey water treatment plants to encourage re-use.

The utmost attention should be paid to sailing services with a focus on providing regular and updated weather forecast and marine flare disposal.

Care for environment should be a priority. The use of energy from renewable sources should be promoted both at dock and on the land. Great care should be taken in safeguarding the sea stretch. To this purpose, floating containment barriers and oil-absorbing materials should be available to be used in case of oil or fuel dispersion into the sea or oil spill from a ship.

Everyone must do their bit. When a boat is moored in a marina, no on board lavatories should be used, especially if the boat is not provided with a waste water tank. An ideal marina will have an adequate number of efficient and clean lavatories, plenty of showers and dedicated washing-up and laundry areas.

Of course, yachtspeople need to get around the marina for food-stocks and provisions. And this is why I fancy my ideal marina is able to provide sustainable mobility services such as bikes or electric vehicles. And, if the market could provide bulk commodities, food without packaging as well as a selection of locally sourced products, this would be perfect!

Yachtspeople must, in turn, show the highest respect for the people and the things around them. Not only the environment but also facilities, harbour equipment as well as other users deserve the highest attention. No damage or inconvenience must arise from misbehaviour during anyone’s stay.

This includes – among others – to avoid to waste water and preferably use natural or environmentally friendly cleaners, not to discharge sewage into the sea, but instead to collect it in special tanks in the boat. These shall be emptied manually or by means of intake systems of course available at dock.

There is much that can be done to reduce water usage and keep your boat clean: limit the use of home appliances, use seawater and environmentally friendly products to wash the hull, use fresh water only for the final rinse, provide the rubber hose with a stop valve. Environmental awareness is at stake when the topic is water supply. Do not abuse water, especially when mooring on an island and calculate the water supply actually required.

Also at the market the aim is to focus on sustainability.  Choose food without packaging, reduce the use of water in plastic bottles and disposable tableware. Buy biodegradable dishwashing detergents.

Choose an environmentally friendly diet and eat preferably locally sourced fish and vegetable i.e. local products. Absolutely refuse to buy protected species such as date mussels, and do not accept them if they are offered to you.

By the way, you don’t need to fill the fridge up to its maximum capacity. Fruits and vegetables can be stored for some days in a cool box or a net bag placed in a cool dry place.

When moored in a marina, pay attention to reduce noise pollution and emissions, show respect for other people and don’t harm marine fauna. Avoid switching on the engine or the electric generator. Also minimize light pollution being careful not to turn on all on board lights at the same time. The same for the lights below the waterline.

Refuelling is another delicate operation, when the utmost attention is required to avoid accidental spills. Be very careful to avoid any fuel spillage from the tank inlet or the overflow vent valve.

In the unlikely event of a spillage, react promptly and place special absorbing materials to be used in case of oil or fuel dispersion close to the tank intake. Do not make use of water or detergents as they increase fuel dispersion in the environment.

An environmental conscious approach towards sustainable pleasure boating is bringing significant changes in the services offered by marinas as well as in their infrastructures. Marinas are increasingly implementing good practice requirements and adopting shipyard technology aiming at avoiding negative impacts on the environment. The use of ecological and low-impact materials and the choice of brands offering innovative and eco-friendly products have risen sharply in marinas. The demand for electric mobility is highly affecting marinas as they must develop new services to match their customers’ more aware and mature needs.

Even education has its place in my ideal marina. A wide range of environmental education courses provided to yacht clubs will make yachtpeople more aware about the importance of good practice implementation and observance.  

In conclusion

At sea, it doesn’t matter where you are from, where you are heading, if you are a man or a woman, if you are a young sailor or an expert sea dog. At sea, some advice applies to everyone.

You don’t always have to follow it, although often inspired by existing rules. Only remember that a conscious behaviour is an added value to your yachtsmanship!

Clean water, non-degraded shores, plants and animal species living in the sea are not a never-changing scenery which remains unaltered over time by fate or by chance. It is the result of the commitment of everyone. Our wellbeing goes hand in hand with the care for the environment which we are part of.

Renzo Crovo

Renzo Crovo