We’ve been catching-up with Rebecca and Colin Field, the experienced recreational sailors that set off earlier this year on an eight-month sustainable sailing adventure. In March however, their much longed for trip had to be put on pause as lockdown commenced across the country. This has given the couple the opportunity to carry out additional boat maintenance and to get adjusted to life on-board Cariad, their 36 foot Westerly Corsair, before they are able to continue on their trip to the Baltics…
1.You are just coming out of lockdown on your yacht in Strangford Lough. During that time what were the greatest challenges and positives for you both?
Having raced out of the Bristol Channel and up the Irish Sea, lockdown forced us to ‘change gear’ and quickly adapt to being static, away from the support infrastructure of marinas and having to find different ways of keeping busy. As we spent longer on the island, we crossed off weeks from our sabbatical, shrunk the areas that we were intending to visit this year and had to email friends and family to tell them we wouldn’t be able to see them as planned. It could have caused us to become very impatient for lockdown to end so the greatest challenge was to relax and enjoy our luxury of time in the lough.
We felt so lucky to have reached Strangford Lough for lockdown as the local community gave us a wonderfully warm welcome and quickly made sure we had what we needed for the long haul. We could explore our surroundings with limitless time and enjoy local food including mussels, langoustines and quail. The luxury of time enabled us to have a ritual of daily exercise and, whenever the weather was poor, we worked on Cariad to get her in the best shape for the rest of the cruise.
2. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming eco-conscious? Why is sustainable boating important to you?
Our scientific backgrounds as an engineer and a biologist mean that we’ve always considered the effects of our actions on the environment and have always been improving how we run our home and our lives to minimise our impact wherever possible. It was natural to translate this to our new world on Cariad and, with Colin as skipper, the eco-planning gave Rebecca something else to lead on.
Sustainable boating is important to us because the opposite is unsustainable boating! We want to enjoy this sport for the rest of our lives and that won’t be possible if we cause harm to these habitats and wildlife or if boating becomes socially unacceptable due to the resources it consumes.
3. Do you have any sustainable living heroes? What inspires you? E.g. bloggers, celebrities, scientists, writers.
Although we’ve been making our own minds up about how to live and boat sustainably, we have some heroes to remind us that we’re on the right track. Helen Browning, CEO of The Soil Association, has been a huge influence on Rebecca’s life and career through her advocacy of sustainability in farming and food production. This led Rebecca to work for Pukka Herbs, which inspires her to consider how we can live the most sustainable life as a couple. One of Pukka’s key goals as a herbal tea and supplement company is to inspire people to live healthy lives through the power of plants and the natural world.
We won’t be a healthy society in the future if we continue to degrade the natural world, so what better impetus to protect and enhance it! Even just little things like getting a veg box every week from our local farm brings us a lot of joy and has a big impact – supporting local organic farming, local businesses and keeps us healthy.
The biggest sustainable boating hero for Colin is Dee Caffari, solo round the world sailor and skipper of ‘Turn The Tide On Plastic’, who has highlighted the contribution we all make to plastic pollution in the oceans – she shared her views on this for a podcast called ‘On The Wind Sailing’ which is a great place to start.
For more practical tips, Colin is a first mate for the sail training charity ‘Challenge Wales’ which won the Tall Ships Environmental Award and we follow sailing bloggers ‘Sailing SV Delos’ – both of which are rich sources for how to sail sustainably and self-sufficiently.
4. What birds and animals have you been lucky to witness so far in your journey?
We see lots of seabirds daily, our favourites being black guillemots, gannets and black headed gulls. In Strangford Lough there have been numerous starfish and moon jellyfish. The highlight of the trip so far has been seeing two male orcas in Strangford Lough harbour.
Can highly recommend the ‘Boating around Wildlife’ advice which we received from The Green Blue’s website. We have also used the Field Studies Council laminated wildlife guides, copies of ‘Cetaceans and Seals’ and ‘Summer Coastal Birds’ are kept in the cockpit on passage, with the binoculars not far away either.
5. So far, what do you feel has been one of the biggest challenges for you personally on the journey?
For Rebecca, it has been adapting to boat life and dealing with challenging sailing with just the two of us on board. Having completed my Day Skipper in 2018, a lot of the sailing techniques and passage planning we do is still new for me, which can mean being pushed out of my comfort zone a lot more than normal!
For Colin, it has been learning how to become a boat maintainer and also how to sail long passages and perform manoeuvres short-handed. I’ve had to do a lot of my own research and put it into practice as all my prior skippering has been with at least 4 people on a boat this size and hand it back to the boatswain at the end of a charter!
6. What are you looking forward to after lockdown restrictions have eased and you are able to set sail again?
We can’t wait to continue exploring and moving onto our next destinations during the summer and autumn. We both love hill walking and running and have been itching to visit the mountains in Scotland (our next stop). Later in the summer we are also looking forward to hosting guests on board again and visiting remote destinations with more challenging passages.
We’ll be catching up with Rebecca and Colin again soon, meanwhile you can find further information about sustainability and other topics covered in this interview on The Green Blue website.