George and Sinead, otherwise known as the Electric Vagabonds, live aboard an Oyster 35 Mariner, named Muhuhu. The two sailors try to live with sustainability at the forefront of their minds, and as such, have re-fitted their boat with an electric engine, powered by wind and sun.
In part two of our Q&A with the Electric Vagabonds, we learn what their recommendations are for boaters looking to lower their environmental impact, and how they remain so positive amongst the negative environmental news and data.
What do you feel is perceived as the biggest barrier for other boaters introducing sustainable habits?
Convenience. Changing habits or your way of life to lower impact living, is generally thought of as time consuming difficult and even expensive. But it can be the opposite if done right.
Accessibility also, many boat maintenance practices are hard to do in an environmentally conscious way, even for professionals, with the current available products or the way they are sold. Try painting without creating waste! Or sanding GRP for example. Literally clouds of microplastics, and even with the best extraction systems, lots can escape. To make boating truly sustainable, we need to tackle the vast impact of the manufacturer, maintenance, and end of life of GRP hulls too.
We’re particularly interested in green composites, using organic fibres and eco resin. And also aluminium hulls.
What are your top 3 sustainable actions that you would recommend to a recreational boater looking to lower their impact?
Hoist your sails! If you have them, avoid using your engine. Adding even a few small solar panels, can mean you don’t have to run your engine for days, keeping those batteries topped up without diesel.
This is more than just reducing emissions. It’s introducing a slower way of life. We all need to slow down. Take your time, enjoy the adventure. From how fast we drive our cars, to how often we commute, to how much we consume. Just slowing down, can have huge positive impact on our ecosystems. We’ll all end up consuming less, and, maybe even enjoying life more. This is our main principal behind sailing electric. Yes, sometimes we take a long time to get there, but the things we see along the way are amazing, and many times we’ve had amazing experiences, which we wouldn’t have seen if we were motoring!
Use less plastic. It’s actually a big challenge, and we need to demand system change from the top. Refuse to buy it! Be wary of leaving rubbish unattended, the smallest breath of wind can carry an almost empty drinks can overboard.
Eat more veg, and make it local, and plastic free if possible. Changing the way you eat, and what you eat, is one of the biggest single changes you can make to reduce our impact on ecosystems.
Are there any new sustainable hacks or tips that you wish you’d known before?
Swivelling solar panels to face the sun throughout the day can double their yeild! Not always possible, but well worth looking into.
Make hay while the sun shines! When you’re batteries are full, and it’s still sunny, charge everything else, make the most of the sunshine on the panels. Charge phones, laptops, torches, drones. Put the hot water on. Cook an evening meal in advance. Do some washing in the morning, dry it with the sun over the afternoon. It uses the energy while it’s available from the sun, and doesn’t eat into your batteries as much in the evenings.
Keep the hull clean! A fluffy hull is very slow. We notice a huge difference in the efficiency of our propulsion system when the hull has slime on it. This is the same with electric propulsion or diesel, only with diesel, you’re literally burning extra money, we just use more solar power and the boat is slower. We can easily wipe off the green slime with a soft brush or cloth, thanks to our coppercoat antifoul. This takes an hour or two, and is done by freediving under the boat at anchor. No antifoul comes off during this process, just the green slime. Dive weights help massively! There are many new and wonderful antifoul systems out there that are better for the oceans than the old blue toxic stuff.
We’ve discovered these issues and solutions along the way. Sailing electric is easy enough, but it’s different. It’s a whole new adventure, and has changed the way we sail. Going as far as possible using just the power of the wind and sun is more fun!
With so many negative statistics about the environment in the news, how do you remain positive and motivated about sustainability?
Its hard to stay positive. Sometimes it feels like we’re fighting a loosing battle. The wealthiest 1% create up to 50% of lifestyle consumption emissions, apparently. And just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to the carbon majors report. The last few IPCC reports have been very upsetting to read. And many media outlets ignore the seriousness of the climate crisis altogether.
But, there’s lots of positive news too. People are taking action and demanding system change. Small stories like ours are inspiring people to help divert the course of humanity from a very hot uncomfortable and deadly future, towards one where we may be able to live completely sustainably.
The more people we meet, and talk to, the more we realise that most folks are completely onboard with changing their livestyle and the system enough to live in harmony with nature. And tech can help us get there too! Circular economies, hydrogen fuel cells, recyclable lithium batteries, solar power, can all fuel our future. But this needs to be combined with a complete change of pace, massively reduced consumption, a vast reduction in intensive farming methods, and sustainability at the core of everything as a priority, not profit.
We’ll get there! And we reckon that we can do it while we enjoy the ride!
Missed Part 1 of Conversations with… the Electric Vagabonds? Read it here.
You can follow the Electric Vagabonds’ adventures on their Instagram page @electricvagabonds.
If you would like to learn more about electric engines, visit the Sail Electric website.