The Sailors for Sustainability set out on a sustainable journey of discovery

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Lucipara2 sailing boat

Sailing around the world… After years of preparation, we’re finally beginning our journey this month. Early on we both agreed that sustainability should play an important role. Not only did we hope to discover unspoilt nature, exciting cities and different cultures, but we also wanted to explore and raise awareness of successful solutions to sustainability issues along the way. That’s how the idea behind Sailors for Sustainability was born.

Our project had started to look like a never-ending money pit, but our dreams kept us afloat. Ivar Smits Ivar Smits Skipper

Sailing (almost) anywhere

“Sydney? Why don’t we sail there!” When I mentioned I’d like to visit my sister in Australia, Ivar got excited and said that sailing there was perfectly doable. But then what would you expect from a guy who grew up sailing and has lived on a ship for years? Ivar believes sailing is the very best way to get anywhere. Besides, why would you fly when you can sail?

But I personally needed some time to get used to the idea. Ivar tried to convince me by listing off all the positives: when you sail, you visit all the best spots, take your own house with you and use wind energy to make the journey. Finally, after getting a sailing course as a birthday present, I thought that as soon as my sailing skills were up to snuff, I, too, would see the world from a sailing ship. We finally took the plunge. But our departure date was still a long way off. After all, preparing for a journey of this scope involves a lot more than just a sailing course.

A classic beauty gets a makeover

When Ivar bought her back in 2004, the Lucipara2 was forty years old and in desperate need of restoration. If he wanted to make her sustainable and even remotely comfortable, he had his work cut out. In fact, nearly everything except the hull and the masts needed to be replaced. He’d come a long way when we met up eight years later. But it was at this point that the restoration work became most intense. Every weekend we would travel to the northern province of Friesland to visit the shipyard.

We scrapped the teak deck to keep the steel underneath it from rusting away any more than it already had. Then we replaced the entire cabin structure and interior, and installed a wind generator, solar panels and a watermaker. Not surprisingly, our sprawling project started to look like a never-ending money pit, but our dream of experiencing all those incredible destinations kept us afloat. After spending over ten years in the jetty, our old Lucipara2 has been given a new, sustainable lease of life. With her modern makeover, she’s now fit for purpose for at least another fifty years.

Survival at sea

At sea, help is often very far away. So if something goes wrong, we’re basically on our own. That’s why our main focus over the last six months has been self-reliance. We’ve practised how to download and interpret weather charts in the middle of the ocean. We’ve simulated having to abandon ship and scramble on to a life raft. Plus we’ve learned how to put a dislocated shoulder back in place and how to recognise the signs of hypothermia.

Our friends have shared their knowledge with us as well. Sailmaker Feitze gave us sewing lessons so we can repair sails ourselves. Pauline, a former colleague, gave us tips on photography, and Mirjam showed us how to prepare fresh fish, which we hope to catch on board the ship. That should help save on groceries and keep our stomachs – and the cash box – full.

Destination: sustainability

Being in a foreign country opens your eyes to all sorts of things. Although lots of things may be the same, certain countries may be more forward-thinking than others. And it’s here that we see opportunities: if we can bring together all these innovations, carefully examine and share them with as many people as possible, we can accelerate sustainability everywhere, which is so urgently needed. The daily news headlines are all the proof you need – first there was the economic crisis, not to mention societal problems and climate change.

But at the same time, we’re also seeing sustainable initiatives being developed everywhere, such as renewable energy generation and storage, alternative monetary systems, new ways to recycle, systems for sourcing food locally and community-based sharing platforms. It’s sustainable solutions like these that we’ll be identifying, exploring and sharing. We want to raise awareness about sustainable change and inspire people: from those following us online to the initiators we meet on our trip. That’s why we’re looking forward to blogging regularly for ABN AMRO starting this month – we look forward to sharing the sustainable solutions we discover with a large readership.

Travelling on wind and water

Obviously, we’ll be trying to travel as sustainably as possible. To start with, we’ll be using our sails as often as we possibly can, and the motor only when there’s no alternative, so our daily progress will largely be determined by the weather. We’ve also significantly extended the life of Lucipara2 with the renovation, which has saved on all the raw materials and energy that would have gone into building a new ship from scratch. To make sure we use as little energy as possible on colder days, we’ve thoroughly insulated the ship. Most of the energy we’ll be using – including that used to power our dinghy’s outboard motor – will be produced by the wind generator and solar panels.

Turn left at Rio

Our sailing trip around the world will take about five years. After setting out from Amsterdam on 13 June 2016, we’ll be charting a course for Scandinavia, where we’re looking forward to discovering good examples of renewable energy and electric transport, which we’ll be blogging about over the coming months. From the coast of Western Europe, we’ll then be sailing to the Mediterranean, where solar energy is converted to electricity using a variety of techniques. We plan to make the big crossing to Brazil in 2018. Via Uruguay and Argentina, we’ll then be sailing southwards around Latin America towards the Pacific Ocean. The route we’ll take from there is difficult to plan, but we’ll probably sail back to Europe via New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Which means we’ll definitely be stopping off at Sydney!

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