Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that defines my love for the ocean, but there are several factors that are undeniable. The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks as we sit in peaceful anchorages. The serenity of a day at sea in calm conditions. Every shade of blue.
All of these are treasures to me, but there is nothing that can rival the unexpected visits from marine life popping up out of the blue, quite literally.
From turtles right off the stern to dolphins playing on the bow to whales breaching in the distance, I’ve been lucky to witness so many moments that can barely be captured on a camera, let alone put into words.
As yacht crew, it’s clear that we have a love for the ocean and all things marine. The ocean is essentially our home. It keeps us afloat and carries us from destination to destination as we go about our daily work lives. It brings a smile to our faces and sings music to our ears. But, like everything, there is another, darker side.
I, for one, love being out on the open ocean. I love the feeling I get when I sit and stare into the vastness of the water – most of the time, with nothing in sight. On many passages and trips, however, I find myself reaching for binoculars fairly often, and it’s generally for the wrong reason. It’s not because I’ve seen a shark fin that I want a closer look at, or the outline of a killer whale just below the surface. It’s because I’ve seen something that doesn’t fit the description of any kind of underwater creature.
The floating polystyrene boxes in the middle of nowhere, the plastic bottles bobbing up and down, the pieces of debris that will never decompose – I’ve seen it everywhere. I’ve taken a pair of binoculars to look at fish jumping in the distance and noticed instead a piece of colored trash in my view. I’ve seen yellow jerrycan-style bottles floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and we’ve had fishing nets caught in our propeller a good few hundred miles offshore. Not to mention the plastic bags.
We’ve all heard about the plastic islands floating in the Pacific; we’ve all seen waves crashing ashore that bring with them copious amounts of trash. We’ve all seen photographs on social media of the polluted seas and the poor marine life getting tangled in or swallowing our trash. We’ve sat on beaches and seen colorful straws amid the sand, and been docked in marinas whose waters are collectors of junk.
In an industry full of money and means, it sometimes can be easy to be wasteful and mindless when it comes to this topic. We buy plastic containers, zip-lock bags and disposable drinking bottles for their convenience. We might not always have the available facilities to recycle our waste correctly. Sometimes storage is an issue, so we can’t stock up on huge refill containers that would help reduce our need for so many smaller plastic bottles. But there are still some things we can do.
Although we, as an industry, burn so much fuel for pleasure and leave a somewhat significant footprint, things are changing for the better. There is a rise of hybrid builds, and better product choices are becoming widely available for all departments.
There are so many international campaigns and companies trying to combat the issues we see, and it’s very clear that a lot of yachts are getting on board with making more environmentally friendly choices too. This goes all the way from being conscious of our plastic purchases right down to what products we use on board that travel through the tanks and eventually into the sea.
As great as it is that our boat soap is biodegradable and we aren’t pouring gallons of bleach into the sea, in the end it comes down to each of us as individuals, especially as yacht crew. There are so many choices we each can make every single day that will help. Every little bit counts, and the small actions we take will cause big changes.
Let’s each be mindful of our choices, not only away from work in our personal lives, but also when it comes to selecting what comes off the shelves and onto our yachts. It might be making changes to the way we use cling wrap in the galley, plastic cotton buds on the interior, disposable rubber gloves on deck, or simply ditching the plastic bottles we drink from.
Whatever it is, it matters.
Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.