itting at my desk in the
BoatU.S. Foundation, I
think about clean boating on a daily basis.
Using pumpout stations, recycling soda
cans, and bringing your
own tote bags can be
simple at your own
marina on your own
boat, but what about
chartering in a destination you don’t know?
I set off to test my own clean boating habits
and see how well they worked when chartering in the British Virgin Islands (BVI)
with a group of friends. We attempted to
“green” our charter vacation in any way we
could, hoping to show others it’s doable.
Here are 10 ways I found worked well for a
“green” charter vacation.
1. Choose a charter company committed
to protecting the environment.
Select a company with a track record
of environmental stewardship and look
for hybrid-powered boats or boats that
offer renewable energy. I’d heard about
all the environmentally friendly features
of the new Moorings base in Tortola. It’s
important to me to support businesses that
are taking care of the environment so we
Moorings base in Road Town. While the
rest of the crew looked around, I received a
guided tour of the base and all that makes
The infrastructure for charter opera-
tions on small islands often has more
impact on the environment than the actual
boats and boaters themselves. Recognizing
this, The Moorings took several steps in
their recent base expansion. Their rede-
signed breakwater increases water flow in
the marina, and an innovative pumping
system along each pier encourages circula-
tion in the harbor resulting in a complete
water exchange in the basin every five
days. The harbor quickly saw an increase
in marine life. The new base also features
a desalinization plant, rainwater catch-
ment features, and waterless urinals to
reduce their water use. The Moorings also
uses products such as recycled wall tiles,
and biodegradable cleaning products, and
installed energy-efficient air conditioning
2. Pay attention in the briefings.
After my tour, it was time to get down
to business, the business of getting ready to
leave on our charter, that is. We attended
a thorough chart briefing Friday evening
followed by our boat briefing Saturday
can have a big impact on the environment.
Knowing the entrances to anchorages and
the location of potential trouble spots gave
us increased confidence navigating. The
Moorings staff also covered important top-
ics such as sewage handling, waste man-
agement, and snorkeling and diving tips.
3. Minimize the packaging you bring
aboard; when possible, buy local.
Next up was provisioning. As anyone
who’s chartered knows, provisioning is
one of the major tasks before heading out.
Many companies offer a range of provisioning packages, but being self-professed
“foodies,” we wanted to check out the
local produce. My aim was to use as many
local ingredients as possible to limit the
distance the food had traveled to reach
us. Since Tortola is a small mountainous
island, local produce was limited. Also
knowing Tortola lacks recycling, we limited
the amount of packaging in our purchases
to minimize waste, leaving as much packaging ashore as possible. For example, we
purchased water in gallon jugs and took
our own reusable water bottles instead of
buying cases of individual-sized bottles. We
also made a rule that nothing was thrown
overboard, even apple cores and coffee
grounds (it’s illegal to throw any garbage
overboard within three miles of shore).
Eco-tourism is all the rage these days, and most people assume charter sailing is about as “green” a vacation as you can get
4. Use biodegradable soap and detergent.
When taking a shower or doing dishes
at home, the water runs down the drain
to the local wastewater treatment plant.
When cleaning up on a boat, the water and
any soap go straight into the water. When
possible, look for biodegradable and nontoxic dish soaps, shampoos, and cleansers
to use onboard. Knowing that the selection
in the BVI would be slim, we brought these
items from home and checked them in our
luggage. Using the transom shower most
of the time helped remind us that any soap
was going right into the water; we used
it sparingly. We also conserved water by
using the fresh water only to rinse.
The boat anchored at The Indians, the authors favorite snorkeling site, near Norman Island.
booked with The Moorings for the chance
to see for ourselves. After a harrowing flight
on an eight-seater Cessna from San Juan
and a taxi ride that rivaled the best roller
coasters at Six Flags, we arrived at The
morning. The importance of these brief-
ings cannot be overstated. The Moorings
staff went over every boat system and every
anchorage. Running aground and having
system problems are two areas where you
5. Use your Y-valve.
When boating at home, dealing with
the holding tanks is fairly simple — we
know where the closest pumpout station
is and we use it. Unfortunately, in the BVI,
pumpout stations are virtually nonexistent.
But keep in mind that land-based wastewater treatment facilities on many Caribbean
islands are also lacking, so whether using a
boat’s head or a hotel’s toilet, your waste
will end up in the same place. But cruisers can do something to help. Our boat