We have been fortunate enough to see a lot of America’s varied and diverse beauty as we travel around the country on our road trips, and some of the most stunning sights we have seen have been along the country’s coastline, rivers and lakes. There is something about the water’s edge that puts into perspective just how fragile our marine ecosystems are and how directly we can affect them.
Travelling by sea/water has traditionally been somewhat of a grey area environmentally, with images of oil slicks, and rubbish being dumped overboard by the industry. With this in mind we thought it a good time to look at the improvements that are being made within the boating industry to improve its green credentials. Before we choose to travel by boat we want to know that our mode of transport is not damaging America’s coastline.
Cruise the high seas
America’s coastlines are absolutely stunning. Ranging from windswept dramatic cliffs, to sun drenched beaches, the 84,000 miles that makes up our coastline are all individual and worthy of a visit. A great way of visiting a number of locations in one trip is to join a cruise. Cruising has picked up a bad reputation over the past few decades as an environmentally unfriendly form of travel. However, the industry has gone to great lengths over the past few years to clean up its act, quite literally! In fact the various cruise companies now seem to have entered into a race to see who can become the greenest fastest, which is good news for the planet.
Many people are now choosing which cruise line they travel with based on their green credentials. With environmentally responsible measures being put in place such as; emission reduction technology being used in exhaust stacks, reclaiming water from condensation in air conditioning units to use to clean the decks, serving seafood ranked as ‘best’ on the Marine Conservation International Sustainability scale, using heat generated by ships engines to power evaporators used to turn seawater into potable water, reducing fuel consumption by using paint on the hull which reduces friction in the water, recirculation of heat and more efficient air conditioning, twilight sensors which turn deck lights off at dawn and on at dusk. Carnival Cruise Line has even installed devices on their ships on behalf of International SeaKeepers Society. These devices, located on the ship’s bows, track water temperature, salinity, pH and oxygen levels. The data is then transmitted to environmental groups, government agencies and universities to help assess ocean pollution.
Over the past 10 years the cruise industry as a whole has reduced its overall waste by 50%. This is an incredible feat when you consider that during the same time period it has increased its passenger capacity by 7.6% a year. Cruising is well on its way to being considered a green holiday choice, and is a great way of exploring large expanses of America’s beautiful coastline. Do your research on the cruise lines green credentials before you book for an environmentally guilt-free holiday.
Let the wind take you
If you would prefer a more peaceful and intimate way of seeing our fantastic coastline, rivers or lakes, then why not hop aboard a sailing boat. The feeling of being powered by the wind and generating zero emissions is one that is hard to beat. As the sails fill with wind and you feel the boat lurch into action below your feet you truly appreciate the power of nature.
In the past few years there have been vast improvements in the production of green yachts.
Whereas many cruising yachts previously relied on the engines being run when at anchor to power their fridges, fans, instruments etc, the majority are now being fitted with solar panels which keep the batteries topped up, meaning the engines don’t need to be run unnecessarily. The saves on fuel consumption and cuts down on noise in peaceful anchorages.
The manufacturer Berret Racoupeau Yachts has created the Code [e] Yacht, a catamaran whose engine uses electricity and uses it very economically. The yacht makes the most of the environment while at the same time protecting it. It uses the wind as its main source of propulsion, as well as harnessing its power through telescopic wind generators, producing electricity. The solar panels provide additional electricity, and are also used to heat water. An innovative water collection system gathers rainfall and filters it. Under sail the water drives two hydro generators. The hybrid propulsion system doesn’t emit any toxic gases. It has an independent running time of 15 minutes so can be used to enter ports or anchorages. For long distance motoring fossil fuels are still needed.
The peacefulness and tranquility of sailing has to be experienced to be believed. Sailing is one of the most natural ways of exploring our shorelines. With no loud engines, or rotating propellers you will find that wildlife will be happy to approach you, with curiosity getting the better of them. Whether it be dolphins playing alongside your bow, birds hitching a ride on your mast, whales casting you a wise glance as they cruise by, or flying fish diving in and out of your wake. It is a great way to get up close to wildlife while safe in the knowledge that you are causing them no harm.
Innovative approaches to engine design mean that many of today’s motor cruisers are minimizing their levels of fuel consumption. The development of hybrid engines means that boats can achieve high speeds with zero gas emissions. Not only are the emissions brought down to zero, but the boats are also incredibly quiet, meaning the noise pollution is brought right down as well.
Similar to the use of solar panels on sailing yachts, they have also been introduced on motor cruisers. The DSe Hybrid uses solar, electric and diesel engine combination. This means the fuel consumption is massively reduced while still allowing the boat to reach impressive speeds of 13 knots.
Independence Green Yachts uses green materials as well as green technologies. Aluminum which can easily be recycled is used for the hull and superstructure, so at the end of the vessels life the environmental impact is minimal. The company also claims that all of the other materials it uses in the production of the yachts are either a renewable resource or recycled materials.
Protecting our shorelines
We are blessed to have such diverse and beautiful shorelines in America. Exploring America from the water gives you a new perspective on the country and how lucky we are to have access to the water and the freedom to explore it. Our waterways and oceans are fragile so it is vital that we choose responsible ways of exploring them. It is reassuring to know that the boating industry is doing its bit to protect our shores.