Good boating practices: “Sailing”
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Now here is part three of this excursus through Good Boating Practices. After pondering on how to develop a sustainable behaviour when moored in a marina and how to implement green boat maintenance, it is now time to set sail showing an eco-sailing approach.
As sailors we do not consume thousands of litres of fuel every season, which do us credit. However, there is still a long way for us to go to deserve to be called eco-friendly sailors. And precisely on this topic I would like to share some comments with you today.
A summer cruise is no doubt an opportunity to relax and enjoy people and nature in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. However, do not forget you are sailing in an ecosystem highly vulnerable that we need to take care of and protect. So, when sailing, maintain a vigilant attitude and check both on board activities and also the sailing area to signal vessels in distress or obstacles at sea you may encounter or local accidental pollution or even marine animals in need.
Sail responsibly and reduce speed when approaching a roadstead or a marina: 3 knots are recommended as no near-shore damaging waves are caused and noise level is limited to avoid disturbance of the marine fauna and of other yachtspeople.
Be careful not to throw leftovers overboard: fish feeds underwater and does not need our food. Neither use on board lavatories nor discharge bilge waters by bathing sites, marinas, or buoy mooring areas. As for toilets, it would be good to make a habit of using eco-friendly toilet paper that, in addition, does not damage marine toilet macerators. As an alternative, you can collect a properly dispose common toilet paper.
The collection of waste will be characterized in the maximum attention to the differentiation (food plastic packages, paper and glass). As regard to the latter, the bad habit of breaking bottles into pieces by using the winch handle still exists, thinking that glass shards will soon become an integral part of the seabed: nothing could be more wrong. The seabed does not need our Prosecco bottle silica (label included) and we would be better to dispose of glass bottles and jars in the dedicated container even the least-equipped dock or marina should provide.
Make sure your daily life on board aims to reduce your negative impact on the environment. Implement a green attitude starting from small things: use seawater or pasta or rice cooking water to wash up in order to reduce fresh water needs, buy biodegradable dishwashing detergents, use water in the tanks also for food purposes to buy less bottled drinking water. For your daily trips provide reusable flasks to be filled with tap water (of excellent quality in almost all Italy) and forget once for all about plastic half a litre bottles that are destined for the waste bin.
Of course troubles cannot be avoided, however they can be handled in the most rapid and effective way. Think about a special emergency on board procedure to follow to prevent more serious problems: seal tanks and peaks properly to avoid fuel and other polluting substances dispersion in the sea. Provide all that you need to quick react and put the procedure into practice to solve the problems in a few minutes.
When sailing you may have the chance (if you are lucky enough) to encounter sea creatures (remind that at sea humans are just “floating” guests). It goes without saying that you must behave cautiously, carefully and showing the utmost respect not to cause them harm. If you catch sight of marine mammals (dolphins or whales) try to moderate your excitement. Do not try to approach them or to feed them, respect the way they move in water and stay at a distance of at least 100 metres. Slow the engine down and switch the echo sounder off. Keep the numbers of the harbour master’s office and of the nearest Marine Protected Area handy and call in case you see injured or stranded cetaceans, marine reptiles, or local environmental pollution.
Sailing in marine reserves or protected area deserves a separate chapter. Here the general rule is simple: to adopt a special behaviour for special areas. The legislation that regulates Marine Protected Areas is in fact much more restrictive, aiming at protecting fragile and unique ecosystems. I would even say that the recommended attitude towards these areas should be more severe than required by dedicated regulations as “Good Practice” doesn’t just mean to comply with rules, it means to believe in an eco-sailing approach.
Before reaching protected areas take all necessary information, check updated nautical charts and contact Marine Protected Areas information points in order to know in advance detailed information about boundaries and rules. Observe restrictions, which are different according to the level of protection (A, B, C). Marine Protected Area boundaries are marked by yellow buoys and beacons, in some cases blinking. Make sure you know exactly their position and plan your course accordingly.
Keep in mind that any damage caused to a Marine Protected Area is a very serious offense as stated by law in many Mediterranean countries, since it defaces the cultural heritage. However, as mentioned above, sailors don’t behave properly just to comply with the law, at least not only: we will add that something more that witnesses our absolute respect and our belief that these behaviours benefit the environment and us in the short, medium and long term. It is the right thing to do and it must be done, period.
We will show our green approach also (I would say above all) during stops in roadstead: we will go in and leave on tiptoe and we will always carefully evaluate the type of holding ground to anchor with the utmost attention. Avoid anchoring on a rocky ground, especially if near the sea surface, in order not to harm the multitude of invertebrate animals that inhabit the shoreline. Moreover, remember that a rocky ground is a bad holding ground.
Likewise, do not drop anchor on sandy grounds covered by oceanic Posidonia or other underwater seagrasses beds that can be easily damaged. This plant grows rather slowly and our carelessness can cause serious damage. Moreover, anchoring on a ground covered by seagrass is not safe: once seagrasses have been uprooted, what is left is a bad holding ground.
Pay the utmost attention also when heaving up the anchor. Before setting sail, we will take the anchor at a-peak so as to prevent the chain and anchor itself herring the bottom, tearing vegetation off and harming its “inhabitants”.
As mentioned above, a cruise is par-excellence an opportunity to relax and have fun, that we will try to live with attention and awareness. During your stop in the harbour, you may want to play sports and fun activities, maybe using all the “toys” you carry around but always in a light way. Always remember that we all are guests of the environment.
Activities such as swimming, snorkelling, diving, riding inflatable crafts or watercrafts shall be carried out responsibly and without exposing yourself or other people to danger or jeopardizing the environment.
You can dive, of course, but do not remove or break anything during your underwater explorations. You can collect the shell of a dead organism to watch it, but then put it back in its place as fragments of animals’ skeletons form golden sandy beaches.
We must always bear in minds that keeping animals such as starfishes, sea urchins, seahorses, jellyfishes and crabs dry under sunbeams is just cruel, and only my politeness prevents me from using tough-talking.
Fishing has its rules too, dictated by regulations and – above all- common sense. Fishing is fully compatible with the environment, as long as one observes sustainability principles. Remember that we can fish using the tools allowed to the amateur and not those for professionals. The golden rule is: take only enough fish to feed yourself. Fish only if you are going to eat the fish and not to waste it. If you do not have enough room in the fridge to store the fish you are not going to eat for lunch or dinner, stop fishing.
Speaking of diving and bathing, a good rule is to swim at a distance of not more than some tens of metres from your boat. Snorkelling normally does not harm the environment. You can snorkel on the surface with your personal diving equipment (mask, fins and snorkel, of course), or scuba dive, which requires special technical skills and signalling buoy at some metres from the diver will signal his position.
Now let’s come to the sore point. I’ll try to be impartial and hide my total and complete abhorrence of those small, noisy, smelly vehicles riding at breakneck speed humans anxious to go I don’t know where in the least possible time….how are they called? Ah, yes, water scooters!
First, never forget that only adults with a sailing licence can drive them and that the allowed speed near landing places is lower than 3 knots to limit unnecessary noise and violent waves.
These are the basics. After which I really wished those riding a water scooter would remind, just for a sec, the reason why they are at sea. Maybe – like most of us – they need to leave their city lifestyle behind and resume “the others themselves”, buried under meetings, ties and suits and used to driving in town noisy and polluting vehicles. Well, consider just for a moment (I will deal with this in a coming article) that dragging with us this lifestyle of ours at sea just replacing our city scooter with a water scooter will neither let us run away from our everyday life, nor be deeply aware of what going to sea means. To pay the sea the same respect we have read or listened about a long time and that has fascinated us and ignited the spark.
Well, now that the lecture is over, here you are some technical tips. In a roadstead the tender is often used. Remind that you must be older than 16 to drive a motor tender as well as experienced in sailing. Proper equipment is required to sail within a mile, which is the maximum distance allowed from the tender to the shore or the main boat.
Last but not least: sea rescue. Never hesitate! Sea rescue is an obligation under national and international law, whose boundaries are clearly described in dedicated protocols. In addition to this, a sailor will never abstain from rescuing his boat mates or people from other boats. Sailors will render assistance at sea showing that spirit which is the basis of any human coexistence worthy of the name. Assistance at sea is essential. Neglected assistance may turn simple situations in serious events.
Dear friends, this trilogy ends here. I hope I did not give the impression that I would like to take up the chair. It surely was not a lesson, just some tips about a number of issues useful to train a sort of “modern sailor” worth of a place among those who follow environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.
Let us not miss the opportunity to play our part in changing things. Each one of us can make a difference. It does not cost us much and is the right thing to do.
Fair wind to everybody. See you at sea.
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