How quarantining is like sailing across the Atlantic?

We aren’t on a boat now in the middle of the Atlantic. But many of us in quarantine because of COVID 19 are experiencing aspects of what it’s like to sail across an ocean. You may not realize , but you’re training your seamanship skills!

One of the things that draw me most out to sea is the disconnection from everything but nature. Some of the feelings I’m having now are similar to what I’ve had out sailing across the Atlantic. It reminds me of the rewards of sailing an ocean. So I thought I would be nice to shine a positive light on the crisis we’re experiencing now. There are some good things to take away from it!

How is quarenting similar to sailing across the Atlantic? And what can you take-away from it?

Surrender and adaptation

It is what it is and we have to deal with it. While a sailing passage is a choice, covid 19 lockdown and social isolation isn’t. This is not about you, it’s for the common good. We can either resist and loose energy doing that or we can accept that the sails are set, go with it and make the best out of it. We need to be inventive, creative, adaptable, and flexible. And we got this. We are resourceful by nature. We take on roles we may not usually take on from cooking, to teaching, and to fixing things. Personalities are coming together 24/7 in one small space. The tiniest habits and behaviours can become an annoyance. We simply have to adapt.

Take-away: Can’t change it? Accept it! It is what is is. You’ll have more energy to focus on what matters. See the problems as challenges and celebrate the little wins. And you are saving lives in the process of doing all this!

Stuck in a small space with others

We’re stuck in a small space with limitations on moving, either by rule or by space. On a boat there are simply only so many meters you can walk. And for us in lockdown we’re not allowed to go anywhere unless it’s essential. If you’re alone it can be very alone. And if you’re with fellow crew or in lockdown with family, loves, friends, or kids it may be very challenging to keep the peace, and peace of mind.

Take-away: We may not be able to move far or run away but what CAN we do? You can create a little spcace for yourself, set certain hours for yourself, put up the headphones. At sea we do watches. This could work on lockdown too. I wouldn’t want to suggest to do 3 hours on 3 hours off day and night but you can rotate roles and rooms to get some privacy. And in the movement department. What CAN you do? Yoga, dance, lift things, jump, jump, jump. On earth you have the luxury of a floor that doesn’t move. Look at what you do have.

Who cares what you look like

No one cares what we look like. We go days without seeing or wearing our shoes. I’m practically wearing the same thing everyday.

Take-away: What a timesaver. A little thing to be grateful for. And also a realization that we really don’t need all those clothes. Take this time to do a little clean up. Give away the clothes you don’t wear and need. Someone else will be happy with it.

Thoughtful provisioning

We provision like our lives depend on it. Because it does! We stock up for weeks because we don’t know when is the next time we can stock up again. We choose what we’re going to eat based on what needs to be eaten, not based on what we want to eat. And we’re managing pretty well, don’t we? Our creativity kicks in! As well as our gratefulness for when we do have fresh fruit in the fruit bowl again and some greens to superpower ourselves.

Take-away: You don’t need to go shopping that often. Be creative with what you have. And be proud of what you’re able to do with what you have.

What day is it?

We lose the sense of time. Our agendas are on hold. We don’t have jobs, appointments and meetings to go do. On offshore passage we still have routine with watch schedules. For many of us in lockdown the whole schedule disappeared.

Take-away: Keep some sort of routine to keep you healthy and sane. Start the days by working out, or tidying up. Keep the mornings for working and the afternoons for playing and digitally socializing. Some sort of structure will help to keep us sane. But keep some space for losing the time. We finally start pursuing those hobbies we always wanted to or we now finally get that creative juice flowing because we have the space in our heads. Keep that space for when we are in the new up running world.


Did you know that an average person makes 2,800 choices in a day? Whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but I believe we’re close to that. 

Just stroll through the supermarket, and you’re already 100 decisions further. Isn’t that IN-SANE? Realise how much of our energy that takes. Now our choices have been cut down and we have extra energy for being, enjoying, living and to just simply let the mind wander. We’re back from human doings to human beings. We have the same view day in day out. Have a closer look to what really is happening around you. We’ll start to look at our lives differently.

Take away: Use this time to simply let the mind wander. And to question things. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Perhaps it’s time to adjust the course in some areas of your life

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

— MARCEL PROUST (French Novelist)

We are Inventive

We can’t just hire someone to fix something. We have to be inventive as situations arise. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. There is no shop or google on the middle of the Atlantic. And with many of us in strict lockdown, there is no handyman or shop at hand.

Take-away: You’re way more capable than you think yourself capable of. Learn by doing. Go fix those things that have been broken since forever and now you have no ecuses to not go about it . At least try. And Next time that thing is broken, try to fix it yourself first before calling in for help. You got this!

We’re learning

We’re able to finish a couple of books, podcasts, courses movies and arrive a wiser man or woman. When else do we take the time to observe, read and learn? Socially, mentally and physically, we grow.
Take-away: This is your time to expand your knowledge, skills and hobbies. Read that book. Learn the guitar. Take that course. (Udemy and Skillshare have mega discounted their offer this month). But be highly selective on what you consume. There is so much good stuff out there but also so much fear manifesting noise. Choose wisely. And share the wisdom. 


Both at sea and now in social isolation, we’re disconnected from society. It may have taken us a few days of restlessness to adjust to the new status quo. But the social pressure is off and we’re re-connecting with ourselves.

Take-away: Disconnect more often. Set social boundaries. Ditch the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and welcome the JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) . Live with intention. Focus on the purpose driven experiences and adventures that help you grow as a person. Not the experiences to simply pass the time. What you focus on expands. Do connect with your people every day. Share the love. At sea we don’t always have that luxury but when we do, it’s priceless.

We don’t spend money

We’re not going to the shop. We look around and realize what we actually already have. Take-away: Be happy with what you have. It’s more than enough.


We don’t know when we arrive. Days, weeks, maybe months lay ahead of us. Who knows. We don’t know what the weather will do and we have to adjust the sails along the way. We’ve planned and prepared, and it doesn’t go as planned. We’re in an adventurous state of mind. It’s a new situation that we are in and there are situations to tackle we haven’t tackled before. We’re becoming more self-reliant and expand on our skills and abilities. 

Take-away: Now is the time. The adventure is all around. The adventure is here. The adventure is now. Focus on the day you’re in. Enjoy it. We don’t know what’s next.

Fresh air

There’s no traffic, no production, no pollution, no airplane stripes. We breath fresh air. What a luxury! On the ocean we get away from the busyness of life. Now in lockdown the life is coming to us. Dolphins show up in marina’s, pumas walk the streets, the birds are singing, pollution is decreasing, nature is recovering.

Take-away: Breath! Go outside if and when you can. And breath deep. Concious breathing is possibly the most important action we can take for our health. If you like to learn more about that, have a look at the freedive section of my blog where I write more about that.

Lack of Movement

Where usually the great outdoors is our playground we’re now stuck on a small space. This is may find the most challenging thing of offshore sailing. And now in strict lockdown it’s getting challenging too. I’m only allowed to go for food or walk the doggy 150 meters of my ‘house.’ So no epic hikes or surfing for now but still, a lot of space to do something. Whetever it is.

Take-away: Don’t just use the autopilot. Stretch, dance, breath, lift things, move, move, move. Use what you got!


No social events. No sports. No gatherings. Now what? At sea and now in lockdown our average day now looks something like this: 5% cleaning, 5 % navigating through the day, 5% fixing something, 10% autopilot, 30% sleeping, 10% fun in the kitchen, 5% action, 3% eating, and 30% chillaxing. Exciting moments are those when you see another human, aren’t they? It’s easy to let boredom kick in. But boredom is a mindset!  

Take-away: Be proactive in your thinking and actions and selections on what to do, how to be, and with who to connect. Don’t wait passively for something to show up. Because these days not much is showing up, is there? You can either wait and react or be curious, learn, observe, and select on what to act.


 What used to be normal is not so normal anymore. We are experiencing the preciousness of our resources, such as water, fresh air, power, and fresh vegetables. Social contact with friends and family. All the things we take for granted become priceless when we experience life without them.

“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much. — ROBIN GRAHAM (Sailor & Writer)

Take-away: Remind yourself of the little things to be grateful for. In reality those are the big things!

Hang in there! You got this. Stay healthy and kind and we all come out stronger from this than ever. I’d love to hear from you how the quarantining is reminding you of your adventure travels! Let me know in the comments.

Next step: quarantining at sea

Here you are preparing for an ocean adventure! Now take the media and wifi away and put the great outdoors in return. An ocean passage allows to disconnect from everything but nature. The only way to experience that magic is to go for it. Is crossing an ocean on your bucketlist?
Ocean Nomad will get you started!

How to prepare, assess safety and minimize risk as crew before sailing an ocean?

Even in this era of satellite phones, safety and rescue technology, and communication systems, the nearest help on an offshore sailing passage can still be hundreds of miles away when sailing across an ocean. What can happen on an ocean crossing? A lot! You can get sick, fall overboard, hit something, lose the rig, have a fire, get water in the boat, rip the sails, break a leg, or in the worst-case scenario, sink. Airplanes crash. Cars crash. So do boats. To be blunt, shit happens. The Atlantic has no reefs or rocks in the middle, so the risk factor of hitting something is extremely low. Still, you could hit another boat, a whale or a floating container. These are rare scenarios, but it could happen. You need to rely on yourself. That’s why it’s so important that the boat is as safe and as prepared as it can be. And so are you as offshore sailing crew! To be ready to expect the unexpected, careful investigation and preparation is essential. 

Offshore sailing crew

sailing across the atlantic as crew

How can you minimise risk and negative consequences as a crew member? What to be alert for as ocean sailing crew? What to consider for safety sailing gear for crew? What can you do as crew to prepare?

Here is an offshore sailing safety checklist for crew

Check the state of the boat

Your life depends on the condition of the boat. Check (or have someone to check) the hull, rig, sails, pumps, engine, and sails. Have new installations been tested? Are there spares and kit for repairs? Is there enough carrying capacity for fuel and water and back up water? 

Check safety equipment on board

Make sure that the boat you hop on has the essential and preferably recommended (serviced) sailing safety gear and measures, like communication technology (VHF, Satellite phone), radar, radar reflector, foghorn, a liferaft, man over board equipment flares, fire fighting equipment, EPIRB, a manual bildgepump, a bucket, extra lines, a storm sail, storm anchor, spares, spares, and spares. (Find explanations and checklists in Ocean Nomad).

Check and prepare personal offshore sailing safety gear

What to bear in mind in terms of sailing safety gear for crew? What needs to be in your offshore sailing kit? Be sure that you as crew have a life jacket and safety line. An ocean- worthy offshore life jacket is different from the one they have for you on the ferry or below your airplane seat. Captains often provide these but certainly not always. Be sure there is one for you on board. The most comfortable one will be one that is your own. Consider investing in one yourself. You will wear it for dozens of hours during the ocean crossing. They come in all sorts and sizes. Life jackets are graded by flotation capacity. A 150N (N stands for Newton and refers to how buoyant they are) jacket is the minimum recommended standard for offshore sailing. Life jackets should at least have a light, reflector and spray hood. Also, harnesses should be on board, so you will able to clip yourself. Life jackets carry gas cylinders to inflate them (check if they are serviced). If you are planning to fly with a life jacket, contact the airline in advance to receive approval to carry one.

Reduce risk especially if you’re planning to join sailing regattas and races and get yourself a pair of gloves. Fingers don’t like to be caught in winches. 

A pocket knife/ yacht knife can be a useful item in the safety sailing gear kit for rigging, fixing, cutting, measuring, chopping. Boats have tools too; it’s not a must. But who knows, it may save your life in an emergency! If you pack a knife, pack one with a blade that can cut a rope. 

Be water proof. You can have all sorts of weather: from freezing cold and wet to tropical heat. Most likely you will have some chilly days and squalls. The northern route requires more warm clothes than the southern route, and wet weather gear is a must. The answer: bring layers! You’ll thank yourself for having a good waterproof jacket and for having a dry set of clothes. It would be more comfortable to have foul weather sailors’ jacket and pants, but you don’t need advanced sailing gear just for the crossing. 


Find an offshore sailing gear checklist in book Ocean Nomad. Here I wrote a blog with a summer sailing packing list from which you could take away some tips too.

Assess competence on board

To a large extent, the state of the boat is also a reflection of the captain’s personality and capabilities. Do your research on the background of the boat, captain and fellow crew. The people you share the adventure with either make or break the experience. Realise that anyone can buy a boat without experience or license. It is vital that you get along with the people on board, trust in the captain’s abilities, and feel safe. Learn as much as you can about the captain, crew and boat to figure out the state of preparation. Meet up beforehand, fix things together and go for a sail. This will give you an insight into the captain’s personality, values, competencies and problem-solving skills. And it works vice versa of course. Make sure you get an offshore sailing crew safety briefing. Find the checklists in book Ocean Nomad.

Be insured | Offshore sailing crew insurance

  1. Be sure that the ship has proper offshore sailing insurance and that you are not financially liable in the event of major damage or even worse, a sunken boat. 
  2. Make sure that you have good travel and liability sailing crew insurance. I recommend TopSail for offshore  sailing crew insurance. For medical travel insurance for nomads SafetyWing can be a good solution. It works with many nationalities and can be obtained on the way. Last time I checked it has also offshore sailing insurance.


Have a backup plan

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. Should the trip not go as planned, have a backup plan, including an emergency budget to sustain yourself or to book a flight, should the trip not go as planned. 

Check the drinking water situation

Calculate if there’s enough water on board, and if a backup system is in place (such as a water maker, or two tanks, with one closed). Think about:

    • The number of crew, length of the passage, capacity of the water tank, estimated days of sailing + extra emergency days. Each person needs at least three liters of water for drinking only.
    • Make sure there’s a backup plan for contaminated tank water. If there’s only one water tank, you need to have backup water, just in case the tank gets contaminated or salty.
    • Bring a filter water bottle for yourself so you can filter water at all times.

Develop seamanship skills

Know the bearings. Work on your offshore sailing skills. Learn about the passage, seasons, distance, destinations, weather, costs, and tasks involved

atlantic sailing routes and seasons

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

Learn the basics of how to use the radio. Note that only those with a VHF certificate or with the assistance of a certificate holder you are allowed to use the radio. It’s not a toy. If there’s one thing you learn about radio, learn how and when to do a Mayday call. 

Learn the essential knowledge regarding the Rules with other vessels. NauticEd has a free course on navigation rules.

Learn how to read the weather, on charts as well as from changing weather patterns when looking around. This can literally be a lifesaver! Being up-to-date on the weather is the most sensible prevention measure you can take to reduce risk. Study the weather patterns on your planned route, and learn how to read grib files, simplified low data weather data charts. Learn about weather patterns and reading

Learn about sea survival, maintenance of safety gear, life rafts, storm sailing, firefighting, search and rescue procedures, seasickness, and communication at sea. If you have the budget for a course, consider obtaining the STCW10 certificate. This is a basic safety certificate where you learn about personal safety and survival, firefighting, first aid/CPR, and personal safety and social responsibility.

Be prepared for first aid

Have someone (or a good book) on board with first aid knowledge.

Make sure there is a well-equipped medical kit on board, including prescription drugs and pain relief.

If no one on board has specific First Aid knowledge, is there a specialist contact you can call with the satellite phone in the event of an emergency?

Prepare for seasickness

Most people, including captains and professional crew, get seasick, some more severely than others. It’s quite normal, especially during the first few days of an ocean passage. How to prepare for seasickness?

  • Have seasickness medicine, ginger candy, biscuits and mineral electrolyte solution as part of your kit. Test seasickness medicine before to see how your body reacts. 
  • The day before:
    • Eat super healthy and light.
    • Be well hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Don’t drink alcohol, coffee or black tea. That dehydrates.
  • A few hours before sailing out:
    • Take seasickness medication.
    • Have your clothes, head torch, sunscreen, water bottle, sickness bag, and all you need for watch and sleeping, ready to grab. You’ll be okay doing watch, and you’ll be fine lying on your back in bed with your eyes closed. It’s just the areas between bed and cockpit that are the challenging zones to navigate when you’re seasick.
  • Have some crackers ready to nibble on.

I usually get seasick first day at sea. But I know how to deal with it and remain a competent crew. I prefer seasickness over the side effects of seasickness medication. It makes me a more useful crew member. More on dealing with seasickness.

Take care of your health and comfort

We can only be our best if we feel our best. As offshore sailing crew you are on board to help everything run smoothly, so better stay healthy onboard. Be and stay fit, so you can deal with any situation that crops up. Besides seasickness, a few of the biggest health risks on board are sunburn, dehydration, food poisoning, insect bites, wounds, contaminated water, and just general well-being. How can you personally prepare to stay on top of your health on an ocean crossing?

  • Be well rested before the crossing. 
  • Rest well when you are not on watch. Is your boat bed rocking-proof? Do you have a lee cloth? If not, make one. You won’t be the first being thrown out of bed.
  • Do you have a specific diet, allergy or medical condition? Prepare for that yourself and inform fellow crew in advance.
  • Any tooth problems? Have it checked before you go! There’s no dentist on the ocean.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle and have it with you to remind yourself to drink enough.
  • Also, include a filter water bottle as part of your kit, so you have clean drinking water at all times and can drink straight from the tank in case the boat doesn’t have a water filtration system (yet!).
  • Start fit and stay fit. See the health kit in Ocean Nomad for more suggestions on what to bring. Also, provisioning makes a huge difference to how you will feel for the weeks at sea.
  • Wear a cap, sunglasses, and mineral-based sunscreen.
offshore sailing crew

About the set sail for the fourth Atlantic Crossing

Be able to communicate

Is there a satellite phone on board? Or another device to send/receive data at sea for weather info and/or emergencies? The most important is that there is a way to check the weather. 

  • Make sure the communication equipment onboard has been tested.
  • Save emergency numbers in the satellite phone and write them down and put them in a visible spot.

Have a Personal GPS tracker. A personal tracking GPS device is a cost-effective possibility that allows text communication, location tracking, and emergency alerts in the unlikely event that you get lost at sea, or anywhere. A personal GPS tracker device may be welcome to have if you’re doing solo watches or plan to explore foreign lands on your own after the sailing adventure. Above all, don’t fall overboard. Ever. I only got a personal GPS tracker this year and wished I got it from my very first offshore sailing passage. Since last Atlantic crossing with 50 knots of wind and solo watches, I’m not compromising on this safety device. After a serious investigation of personals locator beacons the best personal GPS tracker I found is the  Garmin Inreach Mini. Still affordable, as small and light as it can get and with 2-way communication possibilities.  

Know the boat

Learn how the boat works as soon as possible. Walk all the lines. Observe, learn and memorise. Learn how the different systems on board work. Know where all safety equipment is located (Grab bag, flares, life jackets, fire extinguishers, life raft, MOB gear, first aid kit). If something happens to the skipper and/or other capable offshore sailing crew, someone’s got to be able to take over.

Don’t forget to tell mum

Make sure someone knows where you are. Give the home base contact details, such as the satellite phone number, captain’s number, and details of crew members and their family. 

Show your family/friends how to use If the boat you are on has an AIS transponder, you are traceable in the VHF radio zone. Tell them that the boat can disappear from the radar when you’re out of the radio zone (+/– 50 miles from coast). You don’t want them to call Search & Rescue because your boat has disappeared from the map! Mums have done this before and it can turn out to be a costly call.

Nearly all boats making an ocean crossing will have satellite phone and/or SSB radio on board. Both systems can send and receive text and email when you’re out of the coastal radio zone. They are expensive to use, so don’t expect to be able to call home except in an emergency. Family and friends can often send messages to the phone for free though, so that’s cool! 

Some boats may have a tracking device that sends out a GPS signal every hour or so your family and friends can trace you. The Garmin Inreach I have also does that.

Fair winds!

On every offshore sailing passage things will happen. It’s all part of the adventure. Hop on board with an ‘it can be done’ attitude, be inventive, alert and well-prepared, and you can tackle whatever situation comes up.

All you really need is water, food, a compass, and a (paper) chart of the Atlantic. The rest is a bonus, safety measure, or an extra headache. Equipment can make the ride more comfortable and safe but also more complicated. Every addition costs maintenance and money. Every boat has its problems. Boat works are ongoing. Stuff breaks and has to be repaired all the time, so don’t freak out. This is perfectly normal. And you actually learn most on boats where things break. It just makes it extra important to figure out if the captain and crew are well prepared, competent and positively vibed. If something is nagging inside of you, don’t do it. Follow your instinct. Opportunities come along all the time. 

There will always be a risk. But what’s life without it?

There is a lot more to say about offshore sailing crew preperations and safety. That’s why I wrote a book :) Learn more about finding and assessing rides across the Atlantic in Ocean Nomad: the Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – Catch a Sailboat Ride & Contribute to a healthier ocean. Grab your copy to be well prepared and sure about your offshore sailing crew ride! 

Download the E-Book here

Or grab a print edition in a bookstore near you, at or Amazon.

Do you have more questions? Write in the comments, contact me for a virtual coconut or join me and a bunch of other Ocean Nomads (of which several sailing across the Atlantic) on our next sailing and sustainability adventure sail in Croatia.

pure sunset on the ocean
sailing the atlantic as crew
Tips on Seasickness
Tips on seasickness Most people, including captains and professional crew, get seasick, some more severely

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?