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Smooth Sailing: The Environmental Benefits Of Boating Vacations

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As boat sales reach their highest peak in over a decade, could this swell of popularity be good news for the environment too? Sailing can be a really eco-friendly way to take a vacation, since it can require very little fuel burning, and if done carefully, can cause minimal disruption to marine life. It also celebrates resourcefulness and the practical skills which are essential for future generations in order to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. So whether you’re island hopping your way to Croatia, or exploring the stunning sights of Vancouver Island, taking to the blue may provide your the greenest vacation yet. 

The eco-benefits of boating

One of the main advantages of sailing is that (aside from an assistance motor for boats over 16ft), you can harness wind power and enjoy the thrill of traveling via sustainable, green energy. Sailboats are also designed to cause minimal disturbance to underwater marine life. However, powerboats which are regularly serviced and carefully captained can also be more eco-friendly than cruising or flying. Those concerned about their carbon footprint may be interested in the Ocean Foundation’s Seagrass Grow. This is the first carbon offset program to plant seagrass meadows to allow sailors to compensate for any impact on the sea environment.

Back to basics

Sailing is an activity which really celebrates resourcefulness and practical thinking; skills which future generations will need in order to recycle and reuse items that are currently destined for landfill. The latest data from the EPA shows that while recycling rates have improved over time, there is still more waste generated per person. Sailing calls for traditional practical skills such as repairing sails, maintaining the assistance motor and practicing tying knots competently, to keep your vessel safe and sea worthy. Millennials do have one advantage here; the prevalence of online tutorials means that while these skills may currently be lacking, it’s always possible to learn them.

Keeping your sailing safe

In order to ensure that your sailing holiday causes minimal impact to the environment, it’s best to observe the ISAF code of environmentally friendly behavior. Give wildlife a decent berth (50m is the suggested distance) and take binoculars to observe them without disturbance. You should also be vigilant as to potential leaks from your vessel; regular servicing should keep your assistance motor in good order, but cleaning products containing chlorine or bleach can also be harmful if they enter the water system.  Sailors are also advised to keep anchors away from reefs, and avoid beaching since this can damage the seabed and habitat.

As travelers continue to seek out experiences which are as Instagram worthy as they are environmentally friendly, sailing vacations can deliver both. From using natural energy to celebrating resourcefulness, they’re a great opportunity for future generations to see the world without damaging it. Destinations which recognize and encourage this, could gain the benefits of tourism without the cost to their local environment; a true win for ecotourism.

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