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What can you do? The 7 R’s: Rethink-Refuse-Reduce-Re-choose-Repair-Reuse-Recycle

Rethink—Refuse—Reduce—Re-choose—Repair-Reuse-Recycle

Rethink

“We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic

of short-term thinking.” — Jacques Yves Cousteau

People often say ‘you are what you eat.’ I can certainly resonate with that. But it’s not just that. You are also what you buy, use, put, wrap, and present yourself with. Making a difference and living sustainably is not just about having solar panels on the boat or roof (although that is a great investment to reduce reliance on fossil fuel!). Responsible living is about how you think, buy, plan and prepare, and where. Whether you go around the world or to the market around the corner, thinking ahead helps. Start questioning where things come from, how it has been made, and by who? Where do things go after we throw it ‘away’? By making a shift in our thinking, and putting our inspector hat on, we can better engineer our lives to reduce our environmental impact. The most fun and effective way to make a change is by finding out yourself. Sailing will give you that pause, to think, reflect, and plan for the way forward. Here is some food for thought.

Rethink shopping

Who do you give your money to? Do you help Mr. Supermarket CEO finance his second boat or are you bringing benefits directly to a family by shopping locally? Help to shorten the supply chain, which reduces transportation energy cost, use of packaging, and increases nutritional value, and benefits for those down at the bottom. Support the small entrepreneurs and go against mass consumerism. We live in a demand-driven society. Help the good brands, those without lobbying power and big advertisement budgets, to climb the ladder. Support the local coconut art and straw hats in the Caribbean. This is art that doesn’t harm the environment. As opposed to jewelry made from turtles, corals or sharks. Besides, do you need to go shopping at all? If so, do you need to buy new clothes, gadgets and gear? Take over second-hand, borrow from the neighbour, save resources and things from the trash pile.

Rethink food

“We live on a planet where pigs eat more fish than sharks and where the domestic house cat eats more fish than all of the seal in the North Atlantic Ocean.”

— Captain Paul Watson

Where does your food come from? Do you know its source? The source is not the supermarket. It’s the soil and the water that determines the quality of the food. Rethink food recommendations. Who sponsors the food advice you’re reading? Is there maybe a financial gain involved? Do you know what’s in your processed food? Would your grandma say it’s food? Consider and explore alternatives for the sake of your own and the planet’s health.

Rethink waste

How much waste do you generate each week? What is it? Food, packaging, paper? How much of that could you refuse, reduce, reuse or recycle? We all still use plastic bags, but not because we want them. We know it’s not the way to go by now. We simply forget to bring reusable bags in the first place. Before you purchase something packaged in plastic, consider if you need it. If there’s a different option, choose the one where you can reuse the packaging and don’t have to toss it away. For example, take a toothbrush. With let’s say eight toothbrushes per year, in a life of 30 years brushing my teeth I have thrown ‘away’ 240 toothbrushes (as well as the plastic wrappers they are packed in)! And that’s just me! I can circle an ocean-worthy boat with that! Be creative and inventive. See what you can reuse, borrow, swap, buy second-hand or make yourself. Every piece of plastic ever made is still out there in some form. If you throw plastic away, there is no ‘away.’ We all have a desire for convenience. We organise a BBQ and can just throw the dishes away. It may save a few minutes of your time. But the effects of it cost us greatly. We do take-away but what do we do with the (often styrofoam) box it’s delivered in? We order online and have another plastic taped box. We opt for one-time usage products like tampons, diapers, straws, bags and bottles because it’s convenient, or the advertisement has made us believe it’s convenient. We don’t even know what’s the alternative because we accept things as they come. Our system makes it difficult to make sustainable choices because money drives our society. Think about the journey things make before it arrives into your hands. What choices can you make to reduce the number and impact of those journeys? Not only plastic items make their impact. Glass, metals, wood, coal are also resources used to produce things. What can you do to reduce energy demands?

just wash the spoon

Credits: Adbusters

Another big waste is food. In the western world, an estimated one-third of the food we buy, we throw away. What a waste. How can we plan smarter than that? Here’s something fun to try: Aim to continue seeing the bottom of the garbage bin (put the organics separately if you don’t do so yet). How long can you manage?

Toogoodtogo is a cool app where you can pick up food at the end of the day before they throw it away.

Rethink the past

Before the 1960s the world was doing fine without plastics. There simply was no such thing as a plastic bag, diaper or shoe. Since then, it has found its way into every corner of our society. We have to think about alternatives that work. And support those accordingly. Think, what would your grandmother do?

Rethink advertising

‘Eco,’ ‘sustainable’, ‘organic’ or ‘green’ have become fashion words. In most countries, anyone can put that on there, and it can legitimately be sold. Question advertising messages. These messages are created for the purpose of selling, not saving the planet. Certifications are a step in the right direction but don’t just take certified products for granted either. When a brand is a certified B-Corporation, it’s using business as a force for social, environmental, and economic good, which is a positive step forward. Nevertheless, read labels, read stories, and ask questions. Advertisers are smart, and they know how to find you at the right spot.

Rethink the investment

Sometimes organic is more expensive. Realise that it’s only expensive in the short term. In the long run, it will be healthier for you, our children, and the planet because the soil is preserved and not damaged with harmful pesticides, herbicides and insecticides for the sake of volume and price. As much as you and I may live on a budget, cheaper is not always better. By supporting organic producers, we keep them in business, enabling them to bring more purity to the consumer and keep our soils healthy for the future. Also fun, invest in some seeds and basic materials and start growing food and making cosmetics yourself!

Rethink on what matters

For whom are you doing what you’re doing? And why? What are the consequences of what you eat/drink/buy/do/plan for/work for, for the next ten minutes, ten months, ten years and 100 years? What impact do those actions make on yourself, our children, and the world as a whole? Instead of spending money, time and effort in keeping consumerism going, what can you do at the core? Work harder to earn more money so that you can buy organic (which unfortunately is often more expensive)? Or instead, use your time creating solutions and advocate to ban harmful practices, subsidize organic farmers to make it less expensive? Money, fun and ‘owning’ stuff are all temporary. Our impact will last beyond our lifetimes, so we better make it a good one!

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with

which we created them. — Albert Einstein

Thoughts become actions. What can you do?

Refuse

An easy action we can take is to refuse single-use plastic. This is plastic that is used one time only. The most troublesome part of the plastic challenge is the magnitude of plastics we only use for a few minutes to eat, carry stuff, and take away. These single-use items have an average life span of 15 minutes and then are thrown ‘away.’ Only there is no such thing as ‘away.’ Where’s away? Eventually the ocean. 50% of the plastic problem in the ocean is disposable plastic like plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway containers, cups and straws. This is a relatively easy problem to tackle. We don’t need single-use plastic. Pro-actively say NO. With your drink order, ask for no straw. Show up with your reusable straw. Refuse to accept a plastic or paper cup at the coffee machine or water cooler. With your shopping, say no to the plastic bag. Stay, don’t take away; have your coffee or lunch on the spot. You can save a plastic item and have a nice chat! Refusal is easier in some countries than others—especially in developing countries you need to be equipped to be able to refuse. Be prepared and bring your reusable items.

Refuse to buy cosmetics with plastic ingredients. Common ingredients are polyethene and polypropylene, polyethene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), and nylon (PA)—and dozens more complicated plastic names are out there. These words are impossible to remember. Thankfully there is a great app to help. Use “Beat the Microbead”, to check if your mascara, shower gel, toothpaste or sunscreen use plastic ingredients. Learn more at BeattheMicrobead.com.

Refuse to accept that ‘it’s just the way it is’—it may used to be. Now we know more, have developed more, it doesn’t have to be.

Refuse to eat fish that are overexploited or endangered and explain why to the vendor or restaurant owner. Shark, whale, and bluefin tuna are still commonly found on the menu. 

Re-choose

Our greatest and most exciting individual power: the power of choice! To a large degree, we can choose what to eat, drink, wear, believe, say, do, create, and buy. We can choose with whom to play, talk, sail, date, marry. Each choice comes with its consequences, good or bad. With an abundance of options in everything these days it’s sometimes hard to choose, isn’t it? Do your best with whatever choice you make it’s a good one for you and the ocean! Not sure what the best option is? Explore, discover, learn, and then choose.

Repair

Fix things. Develop your handyman skills and try to fix whatever it is that broke. Or if it’s out of your league look for a handy man near you. Join the fixing process so next time you can do it yourself. Lots of spare parts available on the second-hand market places.

Reduce

To be 100% is super tough (for now!), but we can drastically reduce our usage. A few ideas to get you started:

Reduce plastic use

Choose products made from natural fibres and materials. Immense amounts of crude oil and chemicals are used to produce plastic, polyester, nylon and other synthetic materials for your backpack, clothes, and technical gadgets. Not to mention the amount of waste generated. . . . All sorts of plastics with complicated names exist: polyethylene terephthalate (PET) (bottles are made from this), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (the garden hose, vinyl plates, pipes and fake ‘leather’ shoes are made from this), polystyrene (Tupperware is made from this), polymethyl methacrylate (windows are made from this), nylon (our clothes), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE/Teflon—the famous non-sticky pans)—they are all plastic!

Place a filter in your washing machine. Did you know that with every wash of a synthetic cloth item, thousands of fibres end up in our waterways? I’m not even talking about the chemical colouring techniques (and labour efforts) used to produce our clothing. Synthetic (read: plastic) fibres act as a sponge for metals and chemicals. Fish see this as plankton, and the toxin-loaded fibre stays in the fish for months. Alternatives can include (organic!) cotton, hemp, bamboo, or eucalyptus. Learn more about this challenge on Life-Mermaids.eu.

Particularly in the cosmetics department, we can reduce a lot on plastic waste. Almost all toiletries, like shampoo, toothpaste, or sunscreen, come in plastic packaging and are thrown ‘away’ once finished. Save yourself and the ocean from toxins and plastic pollution. Buy natural shampoo in bulk bottles, get a block of soap instead of the liquid stuff. Or even better, make your own toothpaste, shampoo, moisturiser, facial cleaner or mosquito spray. Choose a hairbrush, hair ties, toothbrush and razor all made from other materials than plastic.

Bring your own toothpicks. In many restaurants, toothpicks are individually wrapped in plastic. Be prepared and bring your own. Pine needles work great too:)

Source food from places that use less packaging, like the local market or even better, grow your own.

Filter water (with a filter on your tap or with a reusable water bottle)

Bring your own bag, spoon, cup, and bottle, and keep saying no!

If you order online, kindly request the sender to use as little packaging as possible, and without plastic tape. Demand minimal or better no packaging in general wherever you go. Buy from sellers located close to you to avoid a package going from a plane to a ship, to a ferry, to a truck, around the world.

Reduce resources use

Cut down on power. Reduce your own carbon footprint by sourcing locally. Walk, bike, hike, share rides, take public transport, turn off the lights when not in use, switch to more efficient light bulbs, reduce airplane trips, reduce meat and fish intake, and waste less food. And hitch-sail the Atlantic Ocean where you must be very conservative with the resources you have on board. After this journey, you’ll treat every drop of water like gold.

Reduce the amount of paper you consume. Read online newspapers, brochures, blogs, e-books. Say no to the receipt at the ATM. Do you need a receipt for everything you buy? The paper is often bleached, and the ink is plastic. Paper often ends up with organics further polluting the soil. Save a tree so more carbon can be absorbed; keep it digital.

A significant impact we can make is to reduce the number of babies we’re making. Researchers calculated a reduction of 58 tons of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life, as compared to 2.4 tons by living car free, 0.21 through recycling, and 1.60 for a roundtrip Atlantic flight (37). This study is based on people living in the Western world, consuming as an average westerner.

Reduce buying new things. Our resources are finite.

Simplicity

Reduce the chemicals

Cleaning products, cosmetic products and plastic products are often loaded with toxins, harmful for the ocean, and yourself. Why use them?

Sunscreen

The average sunscreen has lots of chemicals affecting corals, fish, and your own health. Some tourism destinations (for example Bonito in Brazil, and Palau in the Pacific) even prohibit sunscreen to protect nature since this product has already negatively affected the natural state of the destination. It’s that destructive! Using biodegradable sunscreen is not only better for the environment, but it’s also much better for you. Ingredients that are found to be biggest hormone disruptors are oxybenzone and octinoxate, and homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene) (38). So, what to do? Do everything else right before applying sunscreen in the first place. Protect yourself from the sun with a cap, and clothing. Use sunscreen only when you have to. More and more biodegradable sunscreens are available on the market. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are working ingredients that are more ocean and human-friendly alternative. Finding one that does not come in plastic is the biggest challenge! Or just make your own.

Shampoo, soaps, and lotions

How many words do you see on the back of your shampoo that you can’t even pronounce? Google them and educate yourself. All the fragrances, chemicals and other stuff the big corporations put into our shampoo, shower gel, makeup, and mosquito spray may smell great but are loaded with harmful toxins that end up in our waterways and bodies. We often assume that if it’s on the shelves or if it says ‘natural’, it should be okay, right? It’s not. The cosmetic industry is shockingly little regulated. Luckily there are many real natural cosmetics out there. They are only not penetrated into the big supply chains. You could get a block of soap instead of the liquid stuff. Or even better, make your own toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen, facial cleaner or mosquito spray.

Cleaning products

What about aggressive cleaning products? They work so well! Aside from the residue that stays on the floor where you walk or on the galley counter where you put your food, we just wash it down. Where does it go then? The ocean! With a combination of vinegar, baking soda and cold pressed plant oils, we can clean almost anything!

Outdoor gear

Many outdoor brands produce clothing with PFCs, a highly toxic chemical which has now been found in the highest snow peaks, waterways and ocean. Check detox-outdoor.org to learn how green or pollutive your favourite outdoor brand is.

Reduce the trash pile

Our world is filling up with trash at an exponential rate. I can’t even be sure if that water bottle floating around the ocean wasn’t formerly used by me! Either way, the planet is everyones. Everyone should take care. Reduce plastic in the ocean by helping clean up. The ocean is downhill from everything. Wind and water ways bring it in. If you see it on the ground, take the opportunity to pick it up, preventing it from ending up in the oceans.

A few initiatives to make cleaning up more fun, easy and impactful:

  • Take3forthesea. Collect three trash pieces every day you go out and play. Tim Silverwood sailed through the great Pacific garbage patch and realised something had to be done! He founded #Take3fortheSea with a simple message: take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway, or . . . anywhere. If you do this every day, you can save thousands of pieces of trash from ending up at sea. Simple but impactful. Imagine what we can accomplish if everyone does this. Learn more at Take3.org.
  • Join a beach clean-up or organise one! Check #CleanSwell on social media for inspiration.
  • Document what and where you find.
  • Become a Trash Hero (TrashHero.org)
  • Order your ‘Trash Hunter Kit’ and help to identify where it comes from in the first place. Who are the producers and who are the polluters? Learn more at TrashHunters.org.
  • Join the Ocean Nomads crew. Lot’s of initiatives already going and more to come!

Reuse

As we have already learned, the problem with plastic waste is that it doesn’t go away. Before you toss something away at all, perhaps the item can serve another purpose?

Packaging is a big waster. Reuse packaging when you can. Reuse the peanut box, pill jar, spice pots, or zip-lock cereal bags to store other items. Old pill jars are especially useful when travelling. Reuse plastic bags as garbage bags.

To be able to refuse plastic, you should be equipped with something you can reuse. We can all make a huge difference by being prepared with reusables. Going to a friend’s BBQ party where ‘throw away’ is usually the norm’? Bring your own cutlery, plate, cup and straw. You will surely make an entrance, and it’s a great conversation starter. Make it a habit of bringing your reusables items wherever you go. By being well-prepared, you can avoid ‘having’ to accept hundreds of plastic items. Hit the road with a spoon, fork, knife (or spork), straw, bag, cup, a storage container for takeaway, refillable bottle and filtered bottle.

Reusable lifesavers

Bottles

Access to drinkable tap water might be normal at home, but in many countries buying plastic bottled water has become the norm. It already makes a great difference to have a reusable drinking bottle with you all the time. At home, at your office, and especially during your travels. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, put a filter on it. This might be the best investment for your health too. In addition to a refillable bottle, a filter- jug, -bottle or -straw can be a lifesaver. Especially on boats on during travels where portable refill options are rare. With a filtered water bottle, I can scoop water from the dirtiest river and drink it. I can drink water from any tap or source (except for salty water). Using a filter bottle has saved me from adding hundreds of plastic bottles to the trash pile, in just one month! The market has plenty of different filter bottles, jugs and straws available. Here’s a blogpost on different travelfirendly water filtration solutions.

Bags

In many western countries, you now have to pay 10 cents for a plastic bag. In the developing world, you have to say NO 10 times to avoid them. Bring a bag or two whenever you go shopping. If you do end up with a plastic bag in your hands, re-use it, for as long as you can.

Straws

The plastic straw is in the top six of single use plastics found in the ocean. It’s a routine add-on in most of the world. By proactively showing up with your reusable straw you can say no to many plastic ones. This is especially great when you are in a coconut or cocktail country! Many options are out there: stainless steel, bamboo, glass and silicon. Heck, you can even use the branch of a papaya tree as a straw. Using my stainless steel straw has saved me hundreds of plastic ones. And have given me dozens of awareness raising conversations! Make it a habit. Here is a blog on reusable straws.

Bottom units

For the parents

An average baby uses seven diapers a day. Assuming the little one is potty-trained by age two—that’s over 5,000 diapers! After newspapers and packaging, diapers are the largest disposable item in our trash pile. Did you know that disposable diapers also have plastic in them? Every single disposable diaper ever used is still out there. The poo may be organic, but most diapers are not. Get some cool shark, dolphin, star or coconut printed cloth diapers, saving money, energy, toxins and waste. And your kid will look super cool in his unique outfit.

For the girls

Women use an estimated 11,000 tampons or sanitary pads in a lifetime. The average pad contains as much plastic as four carrier bags. Most tampons contain plastic. Most tampons are bleached. We don’t consciously eat plastic or bleach. Why would we want to put it in our bodies? And waterways? We can reduce plastic and chemicals in our ocean, and save a lot of money by choosing alternatives. What’s a better solution? A reusable menstruation cup or pad. You can insert it like a tampon, you can still climb masts and dance-like with a tampon—but you only need one. You can reuse it, over and over again. Try it! Please ditch the tampon—and if you really can’t, at least use the organic tampons.

Blog & Video: What’s in my zero waste travel kit?

Recycle

Even if you dispose of your waste correctly, you never know where it will end up, so recycle where you can even before generating the waste. Compared to making a new plastic product, recycling uses less water, fossil fuel and resource extraction. But don’t forget, plastic can only be down-cycled. 

I’m talking a lot about plastic here, but another type of product with huge environmental impact is tech gear. It’s called e-waste. Bring your old tech stuff to dealers that can use the parts. Or sell it. Apple has a recycling program, as well as most other tech brands. Please don’t just throw it ‘away.’ 

Products made from recycled-something are often better than new. It helps to create awareness, but, it’s not the solution! Eventually, it will still add to the trash pile. 

Rethink, refuse, reuse, reduce, rechoose, repair recycle . . . 

Above all, make it fun!

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. – Zero Waste Chef

 

From ocean adventure comes awareness. From that, comes caring. From caring comes action and leadership. We can only do good if we first hand experience the magic of the seas as well as the realities that the oceans are facing in the first place. Ocean adventure can spark new insights and give one a new set of eyes. It makes us more conscious as consumers. It makes us stronger, more confident, resilient. It makes new leaders. Maybe Ocean leaders!

This blogpost is an excerpt from book Ocean Nomad: the hitchhike guide to the oceans. Jump on an ocean adventure and experience the magic and challenges for yourself.


 

Top 10 tips for Sailing Across the Atlantic as Crew

Travelling an Atlantic Crossing on someone else’s sailing boat is not a straightforward endeavour and an adventure to be taken lightly. Finding a boat is one thing, finding the right boat, crew and captain match is what makes all the difference. There are some things to be mindful of. I’ve met too many people that thought to ‘just’ hop on a boat do an Atlantic Crossing. Unsurprisingly many of them did not succeed in having a pleasant experience. On the Atlantic ocean, you live, work, eat, leisure together for weeks. Non-stop. It’s like camping in the wild with a bunch of strangers. Only you can’t walk away… Inform yourself, research and prepare. It’s part of the fun! 

Four times I have now sailed as crew across the Atlantic. Another time I left a boat before setting sail. So many lessons learned. Here are a few.

My ten tips for crew looking to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.

atlantic crossing

  1. Have your WHY clear

Do you want to gain sailing experience? Learn as much as you can? Go from A to B? Just be away from all of it? Or simply chillax on anchor in pretty bays? Search accordingly.

  1. Be Confident or Start small

    Be confident you’re ready for an ocean passage.  You owe it to yourself, captain, and fellow crew. If you’re not sure about the full Atlantic Crossing, start with a trip near shore or a short passage to figure out if an ocean passage is for you.

  2. Know the bearings

To be ready to expect the unexpected, careful investigation and preparation is essential. Learn about the passage, seasons, distance, destinations, weather, costs, and tasks involved. This will help you find a ride at the right time and place. NauticEd is a good place to start learning online. Click here to get two courses for free.

Map of Atlantic Crossing Sailing Routes. Originally published in Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide

  1. Be flexible with time, place and money

Sailboats deal with seasons, routes, weather, breakage, and all sorts of variables. By thinking about scenarios in advance makes it easy to peacefully change course and comply with Captains’ calls.

  1. Be 100% happy and confident on with whom you’re jumping on board

Research the boat, captain, and crew carefully. The people you share the adventure with either make or break the experience. Realise that anyone can buy a boat without experience or license. Exchange loads of messages, ask questions, and talk to each other on the phone, preferably with video. Meet-up, fix things together and go for a test sail. Don’t let your eagerness to make a trip override your instinct and judgment. Be 100% sure. Find a safety and happiness assessment checklist and questions list in Ocean Nomad.

  1. Always talk to the captain

    When assessing the options and figuring out if a boat is a good match, talk to the captain. Not (only) the owner, another crewmember, relative, manager or passenger. The captain is the decision maker and the one that knows the boat best so you want to know about him/her and his/her plan.

  2. Be clear on intentions, expectations, and agreements.

Know what the captain is expecting from you. What are you expecting from the captain and the Atlantic crossing? It makes it easier for you to prepare, anticipate, and avoid misunderstandings. Talk about budget and agree in advance about which costs are shared.

  1. Pack light and thoughtful

You don’t need much at sea. As a general rule, if you can live without it, leave it at home. Storage space is worth gold on board. If you have already committed to a boat (and are sure about it!) before leaving your home base, ask what’s already on board, so you don’t have to bring it. Less is more; less is more; less is more! Find an ocean packing checklist and considerations in Ocean Nomad.

  1. Provision carefully

Captains usually have their hands full preparing the boat, so it’s likely that as crew you will be part of the provisioning team. A well-fed crew is a happy crew, so properly organise, plan and execute provisions for the boat. Your health and happiness for the next few weeks depends on it. A big part of your contribution (or destruction!) to a healthy ocean starts with the packing and provisioning preparation. I dedicated a full chapter to this in Ocean Nomad.

The veggies provisioned for the Atlantic Crossing. Shop Local.

  1. Make it meaningful

As users of the ocean, it’s our responsibility to become part of the solution, not the problem. When we plan, prepare and make conscious decisions, we can minimise our negative footprint and maximise the benefits for the place we visit and for the planet as a whole. Find out what you can do as crew to contribute to a healthier ocean.

Taking microplastic water samples on the Atlantic Crossing

  1. Bonus tip! Don’t book a return ticket 😉

An Atlantic Crossing goes hardly as planned. Avoid stressing the captain because you have a plane to catch. Above all, chances are you’ll be hooked and you want to keep going. 

At the end it’s common sense, follow your instinct and one big adventure! But being well informed and prepared is key for a happy, safe, and meaningful experience. That’s why I wrote Ocean Nomad, to connect more of you to the ocean, happy, safe and meaningfully! Enjoy & Ahoy!

 


“A highly organized and helpful book with routes, ports, websites, and even some of the bars you should hang-out or go dockwalking to find your ride. Clear thinking and attention to details make Ocean Nomad useful to any captain or crew for an ocean passage. Her passion for conservation and sustainability offers insight into a ‘vagabond’ lifestyle that is also socially responsible.” – YachtingWorld

This content has originally been published in YachtingWorld.

 

Download a copy or colour print version of Ocean Nomad here The Complete Atlantic Crew Guide: Catch a Sailboat Ride & Contribute to a Healthier Ocean.

 All proceeds of Ocean Nomad go into ocean conservation projects.

Have you sailed across the Atlantic? I’d love to hear about your experience! Take part in the big Atlantic Ocean Crew & Captain Survey.

Have you read Ocean Nomad? I would LOVE to hear how the book has helped you to make the dream happen and if it has left you with any questions, let me know so I can incorporate answers for the next edition! Thanks for leaving a review on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, or Bol.com

Do you have specific questions for me? Or would you like me to help you decide if it’s a good match or not?
Have a Virtual Coconut with me, come sailing with me, or become a VIPatreon and I’ll support you to the best I can.


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Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean: What’s it like?

What’s it like sailing across the Atlantic

What’s it like? Here’s a snapshot from one of my 4 Atlantic Ocean sailing experiences:

“Someone is pinching me. ‘Suzanne Suzanne’ Watch time! Wow, I come out of a deep sleep. It takes me some moments to realise where I am and what’s happening. I’m going from left to right in my bed. It’s night, and I hear water sounds. Right, I’m in the middle of the Atlantic, and at 3 AM I’m next on watch. I have 15 minutes to get ready. And I have not finished sleeping. I’m exploring the bed with my hands to find where the head-torch has ended up this snoozing session. I perform acrobatic skills to get over Kerstin who is crashed between me and the bed exit. Oh yeah! I manage not to put my feet in her face this time. I step on the floor and get thrown against the wall by the rocking of the boat. Shit, I hope I didn’t wake up Sam and Steve who are attempting sleep in the next cabin.

I put the red light on of my torch and make a bathroom stop. With one foot in one corner, and the other one in the opposite, and while leaning against the wall, I smash three drops of water in my face to wake up. I wipe my face with the towel that is in use now for a week and has been more on the floor than on the hook. I can’t be bothered. All right, one step closer to being ready for watch. Before I went for my snooze, I had put my wet weather gear ready on the hook so I wouldn’t wake my fellow crewmember up. The hook is empty; the floor is full. I get down on my knees and try to collect my gear. I explore the floor for my pants, sweater, jacket, socks, hat and life jacket. I think I have all the items. Next challenge: put it all on without waking up others and getting too many new bruises. With my oversized foul weather gear, three-kilo life jacket on my shoulders, and torch on my forehead I feel ready to go to the moon. The previous watch boiled water in the kettle. I make some tea. 15 minutes and six new bruises later, I arrive in the cockpit.

‘Wind is around 15 knots. There is one boat at three o’clock. Clear skies. Many shooting stars. That’s it.’ The previous watch briefed and they’re off to bed. I make another tea because the one I made fell over.

This is the start of the watch.

The Atlantic Ocean sailing experience is not only sunshine, dolphins next to the bow and happy days. If you sail across (as crew), you should be ready to adapt and work. Sailing across the Atlantic is not a holiday. There is always work to do, especially while preparing, and as a crew member you share the responsibility to keep the boat going safely.

That said, within the challenge, there will be days that come close to perfection! Sunrises, sunsets, pods of dolphins around the boat, gazing far into the galaxies, having deep conversations, and getting closer to yourself and nature for an extended period of time. It’s a ticket to paradise with the adventure of a lifetime. It’s an experience you will never forget, and a great story to tell your grandkids. Here’s a video impression 🙂

 

My favourite experiences while crossing the Atlantic

It’s hard to pick a favourite moment out of all the memorable experiences I have had on the Atlantic crossings.

  1. The moment we set sail out of Las Palmas. New friends were making noise and waving goodbye. After weeks of dreaming, searching, preparing, it’s finally happening!
  2. The moment we saw lights when we were approaching Cape Verde after six days on the open sea. It was the first time I ever sailed into a country.
  3. Shooting stars, fluorescent plankton discos in the waves, the sound of breathing dolphins followed by the splash from a jump.
  4. Jumping into the middle of the ocean
    Being on watch, just me, a pod of dolphins, and the sunrise.
  5. Celebrating my birthday in the middle of the Atlantic. My fellow crew even arranged jumping dolphins on the horizon… And chocolate cake!
  6. The moment I set foot in Tobago, found a fresh coconut, and ate fresh vegetables!
  7. The moments behind the wheel with 18 knots of wind, no autopilot, all sails up, feeling the boat and just steering course by that bright star I picked from the sky.
  8. The moment I woke up with the smell of pine trees, after days and days of only ocean breeze. Land Ahoy!
  9. Both times I crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a spectacular passage, seeing where and how the different seas and continents come together.
  10. The moment I woke up on land and realised that I had disembarked “The Bounty,” just before sailing out for the Atlantic. What a life-saver.

Would you be up for an Atlantic Ocean Sailing Experience?

Read the full stories about what’s it like to sail across the Atlantic and how (and how not!) you can sail across the Atlantic too, as crew in “OCEAN NOMAD: the Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – Catch a Ride & Make a Difference to a Healthier Ocean.” I wrote the book I wish was out there when I wanted to get into sailing a few years ago but had no idea where to start. Enjoy and ahoy!

Atlantic Ocean Sailing Experience


Yachting World

“A highly organized and helpful book with routes, ports, websites, and even some of the bars you should hang-out or go duckwalking to find your ride. Clear thinking and attention to details make Ocean Nomad useful to any captain or crew for an ocean passage. Her passion for conservation and sustainability offers insight into a ‘vagabond’ lifestyle that is also socially responsible.”

Edwin Butter Captain & Boat Owner S/V Grace for Ocean Conservation

“It is part of my ship’s articles: I want every crew member to read it before they step on board! Not just because it is packed with tips for both captain and crew, but also because it gives a clear insight in the minds of hitch sailors. This is more than a ‘if-you-can-dream-it-you-can-do-it/-if-you-just-put-your-mind-to-it-it-will-happen”

Paulina from Paulina on the Road

“I loved reading about the boat hitch hiking adventures and how Suzanne does sensitization work about our oceans. So much that she inspired me to try the boat hitchhiking thing as well. From the first moment I read her writing, I knew that I wanted to do the same! I just loved reading with how much passion she realizes her dream step by step. When we were full of doubts if it was the right thing to do, I returned to what she wrote and re-convinced myself that it was all for the best. And it worked out! We sailed from Canary Islands to Cape Verde. There we spent one month looking for a boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean. We finally found one and went from Cape Verde to Barbados. Suzanne has been a major source of inspiration and information!”


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What can you throw over board when sailing the ocean? Part 2. On the Ocean

The discussion comes up on every boat setting sail for the ocean. How are we going to deal with waste?  Is it better to throw glass and tin in the ocean or dump it on a little island? What is actually recyclable? How to dispose waste on the other side? Are there recycling facilities in the Caribbean?

I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean 3 times now. I learned a lot on how and how not to do things! I especially saw and learned about the importance and decline of the ocean! Here’s what I learned in the waste department. Surely the intentions of the sailors and yachtsmen are to take best care of the environment. We all love the ocean. And we like to keep it healthy so we can keep exploring this beauty forever! We also love visiting the islands and waste management facilities may be non-existent.

How to deal with waste when sailing across the ocean?

In Part 1. On Shore, I discussed ideas to minimize your footprint as a sailor while still on shore. With conscious provisioning you already reduced your negative impact bigtime.

Now you’re out there. What to do with the waste that you are creating? Here’s Part 2, for once you’re sailing out there.

What can you throw overboard?

  • Organics (food). This can go overboard 12 miles out of the coast. Make sure you do this well ahead before arrival to the Caribbean. Food can bring unwanted bacteria and insects to an island and change the whole ecosystem. Fruit peels can float around for years since it doesn’t get biodegraded at sea on how it does on land.
  • Nothing else but coconut shells goes overboard. The ocean is not a dumping ground. Things might sink and go deep. It won’t be gone. So no glass, no cans, no cardboard, no cigarettes and no paper should go overboard. And definitely no plastic. Never throw anything overboard that doesn’t decompose quickly in water.

Can you throw glass overboard in open sea? NO. It sinks, but never ever disappears.  Yes, it’s made of sand but glass as for what we have created it would never appear in nature like it. We add things for functionality and colour. 50% – 80% of glass is recycled. This is great because it saves a lot of resources and raw materials to make glass from scratch. Leave your glass for recycling.

Can you throw cans overboard in open sea? NO. it sinks, but cans often have a plastic coating. Also, this is a welcome material to be recycled. It does not take many resources to process aluminium into new cans, containers, or maybe even a boat! It does take a lot of resources to extract new raw materials from the earth.

I took my mermaid fins and explored the bottom of the sea. This is what it discovered:


Plastic? No. no. NO! Never ever disappears.

Cigarettes? No! Loaded with chemicals.

Chewing gum? No Chewing gum is plastic.

Cardboard and paper towels? If it’s untreated paper, then it’s ok to throw overboard. If it’s white or has any sort of ink on it, it’s not ok! Almost all paper and cardboard is treated (with ink, UV coating, foils, glues, polymers). White paper towels are treated with chlorine which is a dangerous toxic for your own and the ocean’s health. It should not go overboard. Cardboard usually has ink on it, which is a kind of plastic. This includes the label of a teabag, which is full of ink.

Tea bags? No. They have plastic in it.

Can you throw cans over board when sailng? Nope!

Many pilots, guide books, articles and sailor forums say that tins and glass jars can go overboard in deep seas. After all, they sink and are made from natural materials, right? Accordingly, many sailors do this. However, these articles are usually written from a practical perspective, not from an environmental one. Re-using and recycling can be very practical on board too! Bottles and tins have been found in the deepest trenches ocean trenches with the brand names and logos still readable.

Considering the critical state the ocean is in, every item that does not come from the sea should not be tossed in. Glass and tins are much more valuable on land than at the bottom of the sea. Recycling uses fewer resources than extracting new materials from the ground. These materials simply do not belong in the ocean. The ocean is not a dumping ground. If you wouldn’t eat it or put it on your skin, why should the living organisms in the sea have to deal with it? Your waste might sink into the deep, but it won’t be gone.

No glass, no cans, no cardboard, no cigarettes and no paper should go overboard. And definitely no plastic! Never throw anything overboard that doesn’t decompose quickly in water. Even fruit peels can take years to biodegrade at sea. They are valuable to land as compost. Do the best you can to close the loop and contribute to the circular economy.

 So how to process the waste on board when sailing?

Here are some ideas:

  • 3 buckets/ containers in the galley:
    • One for organic waste. Several times a day you can throw it overboard (Be wind aware;)!)
    • A bag or basket for recyclables
    • If you do well the waste bucket is the last that gets full!
  • Rinse waste with saltwater to avoid smells and the introduction of invasive species when disposing of in a new destination. Especially meat, cheese and dairy packaging should be rinsed well.
  • Once full get it out of the galley and into a storage container. It helps to separate plastic, tins, cardboard, and glass right away into different bags. Unfortunately, cans, bottles, and jars are not being reused but at least recycled. So far cans and bottles are preferred crushed (Greening the Caribbean).
  • Make an ashtray (you can simply tape a bottle to the boat). Cigarette buts can be tossed in there.
  • Reuse tin cans and glass containers where you can. If you plan to go to remote islands, don’t crush them and you can make someone happy with it. In the Caribbean, it’s preferred to be delivered crushed.
  • In the galley:
    • Cut non recycle plastic (film, bags and thin wrappers) into small pieces to reduce the volume. But in general, if you have place to get it on board, you have place to store it until you can dispose of it properly.
    • Have all organics dumped overboard 12 miles before arriving at the island. You don’t want to bring anything invasive into an island.

Read more about Contributing to a Healthier Ocean in Ocean Nomad, the adventure travel guide to the ocean, for the ocean.

Have you sailed across the Atlantic? Then I’d love to hear from you! I’m now updating the big Atlantic Sailing survey. Your experience will help the next passage makers for a safe and conscious passage. Check it out here.

What are your ideas on processing waste on board on a sailing vessel?


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How to sail across the Atlantic Ocean As Crew? Tips! | Ocean Nomad

No boat, no much budget and no real sailing experience but a dream to make a big sailing trip!
Here’s a few waypoints that already help you tackle an Atlantic Ocean Crossing – as Crew.

Read more