Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

Last month I began to relate my adventures aboard Mirage, the mother ship for Kayak Voyagers. This month, I focus on the parallels between life on a small boat and existence on a small planet.

We view our world as a big place and seldom consider how everything comes from the Earth. Once we regarded her resources as limitless. We Americans are especially guilty, originally gifted with a sparsely populated continent, virtually unfarmed, uncut, un-mined, immense. Over the past half century, we have become painfully aware that all this land, water, forest, and wildlife are finite after all. If we want to continue to enjoy them, we must be careful.

A planetary disk of white cloud formations, brown and green land masses, and dark blue oceans against a black background. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disk, while Antarctica is at the bottom.

To prepare for the trip, Elke had sent me a “What to Bring” list. The first words were, “Pack light”. How do you pack “light” for a week with no opportunity to do laundry? I usually travel in my Road Trek which has the capacity for a complete wardrobe. In my defense, driving from Florida to points North, I must pack for more than one climate, but I tend to plan for every contingency, forgetting I’m in a civilized country with access to stores and washing machines. But Mirage was cruising in wilderness areas with no stores or laundromats. Storage space on a boat is limited, so packing lightly is imperative. I had to be more resourceful, making do with less.

Technically, Mirage is a catamaran, seventy feet long and twenty six feet wide, but little of this is living space. Her main hull (the vaka) is only eight feet wide. Three passenger cabins and two for crew are nestled in the vaka. My cabin, accessed by a hatch on the deck, could sleep three, but I had the luxury of being the only occupant. Like my pioneer ancestors, I could to spread out my things without bumping elbows with anyone. I suppose Mirage could sleep a dozen, but the open-air dining area accommodates only eight. With just four of us on board, we were comfortable.

Technically, Earth is a satellite of the star we call the Sun. Her circumference is about 25,000 miles, equal to about a dozen round trips between Disney World and New York City. Like Mirage, Earth is unique. She is the mother world for our species and millions of others. Compared to the few other planets we know, she is a paradise. We have nowhere else to live. Over seventy percent of Earth’s surface is water, so we air breathers are confined to less than a third of our planet’s area. Earth’s population is increasing astronomically. We do not yet know how many she can accommodate.

On Sunday, Elke hauled a car load of groceries out to Mirage. She had to plan meals carefully. The food must be not only tasty and nutritious, but adequate for the week. Additional trips to the store would have been inconvenient and wasteful. Another consideration was food storage. The Mirage has only two small refrigerators, one gas and one electric, a cooler for frozen foods, and only a few shelves for non perishables. Careful planning is important.

Earth has no stores floating around in outer space to replenish our supplies. We are restricted by what we have here and what we can make from it.

In preparation for the voyage, Keith emptied the holding tank and filled the fresh water reservoir. This water is for washing and had to last the week. An almost inexhaustible supply of sea water is available to flush toilets, with a caveat – the capacity of the holding tank is finite, with no opportunity to empty it during the voyage. Storage space for trash is also limited. Once, people just dumped their garbage and waste in the ocean. Now we understand we need to keep our only home clean, so we generated as little waste as possible on our Blue Boat Home.

Each of us had a water bottle labeled with our names. Elke had bought several gallons of drinking water to refill our bottles as needed, nothing wasted. Despite the quantity of water on Earth, we are learning how precious clean drinking water is and struggle to conserve it.

Mirage is propelled by two large outboard motors. Again, the fuel supply is finite and has to last a week. Electricity on board is at a premium despite the solar panels and limited to 12 volts unless the generator is running or the boat driving, both which require fuel. Besides the refrigerator and lights, laptops, cell phones, and camera batteries require daily charging. Running the motors charges the storage batteries, but only when driving to a new location.

Earth’s supply of fossil fuel is also limited, but she does have a virtually infinite source of solar energy. Like the solar panels on the ship, we need better ways to harness it for our use.

Of course we were not confined to the Mirage the entire week. Every day we paddled out to the mangroves for birding or to the beach for shelling. We visited a lagoon occupied by manatees. Every day Keith would move Mirage to a new location. Twice we lunched at shore side restaurants. But for our daily living, our resources were confined to what we had on board. All this may sound like a hardship, but it was not. We only had to stay mindful.

How often in our busy lives do we stop and think about the consequences of our actions? Of carelessness? Perhaps we could all benefit from a voyage like this, an opportunity to leave behind all the extraneous fluff and focus on true needs. More than the sea shells and photographs, as much as the memories, I cherish the lessons in ecology and sustainability I brought home from my voyage.

 Standing on these mountains and plains
Far away from the rolling ocean
Still my dry land heart can say
I’ve been sailing all my life now
Never harbor or port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the earth is my blue boat home
(Peter Mayer)


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