Article by Guest Contributor: Colleen Marie Gibson

Determined to find an environmentally-friendly way to travel to the COP16/CMP6 Conference in Cancun, Mexico, Climatico sent three analysts sailing as crew for the Annual Baja Ha-Ha Regatta from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. This sailboat race is part of the annual migration of sailboats and sailors from the U.S. West Coast down to the South of Mexico and beyond for the winter season. With a sense of adventure, economic efficiency, and a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, the Climatico Team joined 199 sailboats in San Diego bound for Mexico on October 25, 2010.

Crewing on three different sailboats, including a continuation on from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Los Cabos and onto Mazatlan, Climatico sailed over 1000 nautical miles over the course of 3 weeks.

While Climatico’s team of analysts sought to maintain a green passage, Climatico unfortunately did not skipper its own boat, leaving the responsibility for sustainability up to the skipper in charge of the vessel.

The first boat of the journey was a 36’ Catalina which contained a wind turbine and solar panel. The majority of the travel on this boat was wind-powered and seemed like a promising opportunity for a green ride. Unfortunately, the captain also held little regard for the natural environment and his seemingly green practices ultimately stemmed from a sense of frugality. As soon as the boat traveled into Mexican waters, the captain began to toss all garbage except plastic over the side of the boat to reduce onboard waste as well as opened the pumps to release unfiltered sewage into the ocean.  While this sewage dumping falls within the limits of the law in the State of California (there, a ship legally has to be 3 miles offshore to dump its sewage directly into the ocean, according to the Independent), this practice was shocking to its green crew onboard the vessel.

Most of the ships sailing the Baja Ha-Ha have holding tanks and could safely hold the sewage on their vessel until they pull into a port where they could use a pump out station.  However, the dirty practice of waste-dumping is relatively common when permitted within the limits of the law due to convenience and the reduction of odor onboard. And, while glass, cardboard, and human waste ultimately break down in our oceans, high boat traffic (and worse, cruise ships) can lead to a toxic situation for the natural habitat and nearby communities as well as foul swimming conditions.

The second (53’ Amel Mango) and third (45’ Hallberg-Rassy) boats in the analysts’ adventure held much friendlier practices when it came to waste-management due to desalinating water makers on board and recycle-friendly captains. However, these much larger boats also motored more frequently than the 36’ Catalina and their water makers required increased power usage.

The Climatico team did not conduct an analysis of the carbon footprint of each sailboat in their adventure and they certainly objected to the dirty sailing practices. However, ultimately, without control of the boat, you have to live under the rules of the skipper or risk desertion.

Sailing purists will find that a sailboat can be an extremely green form of travel if you have the time to wait for the winds to come. And, even if forced to motor or motor-sail, solar panels and wind turbines can lengthen the battery life and reduce the need to recharge while away at sea for extended periods. Climatico’s analysts ultimately experienced each end of the spectrum in their travel, and, while their carbon footprint may not have been zero, this journey gave them a chance to better understand an enjoyable form of sustainable travel.

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