In the Caribbean, a world away from ATi… or is it really? Carbon footprint reduced! Or are we kidding ourselves?
When we first thought about retirement and sailing the azure waters of the Caribbean we didn’t really think that a 5 day working week would become a 7 day working week. A vigil of permanent maintenance, with routine inspections throughout the boat, is required as the marine environment can be harsh on ones floating abode.
Yes it is a beautiful life that we have, but it’s only at times like this that you really understand or get to grips with the fact of how many things we take for granted. When you are working and have a home ,how many times do you think about switching a light or turning a tap off, or doing the laundry without concern, where the water or electricity comes from, or fuelling up to go shopping and what that takes to produce?
Well, a light doesn’t cost much if it’s on a wee while longer and does it matter that much if the tap runs a bit longer before we turn it off, because it’s always raining, isn’t it? Or if the shower runs a bit before we get in does it matter? We’re saving water by having a shower aren’t we, because a bath takes so much? But, it’s only a bit of electric and a bit of water, isn’t it? These things that we have are all commonplace in our lives in Britain and the USA, as well as many countries in the world. The thing is that on a boat you have to generate your own electricity and water as, many a time, you can be far from land where these utilities are not readily available.
On board our yacht, ‘C-Drifters’, we have become very aware of the usage of our utilities and we conserve as much as we can. This doesn’t mean that we are living poorly and are not enjoying our new lifestyle, far from it, it is that we now appreciate what we had before and what we have now. Our electricity is supplied via a bank of batteries that is kept charged via wind and solar power. We have enough energy to keep up with our refrigeration, lighting and general power for TV, Internet and Watermaker. This makes us fairly self-sufficient, as long as the wind blows and the skies are blue not grey.
Laundry is a laborious job while at sea, but anchored in a lot of harbours means that we get a day out to the local laundry, what a treat hey?! Another treat is a day out to the local shops or street traders for our victuals. No Tesco, Walmart or Sainsbury’s here. Yes both of these are full days out, some a bus ride away.
The thing we most like about doing these sorts of things is that we get to meet some wonderful people who, on the face of it, are less well off than by our former standards, but who are still neighbourly and look out for each other and are keen to lime with visitors especially over a beer or glass of rum.
Water is a finite resource, so to be able to make water means that you are not a drain on a resource that is often unsustainable in a majority of the islands. Where we currently are in Trinidad and Tobago is a bit different than a most of the Caribbean islands; in fact Trinidad is not considered to be in the Caribbean. Trinidad, especially with its rain forest and close proximity to Venezuela and the South American continent, has a lot of rainfall during the wet season and, thanks to the Victorians, are able to retain plenty of it. Tobago and Grenada, closest islands north east and north, respectively, have small rain forest areas, but like many islands north to the Bahamas, have a yearly struggle maintaining enough of a water cache for their annual consumption. Consequently, on these beautiful Caribbean islands, water is an expensive commodity that all have to pay for.
When I think back to the work that ATi does in producing and supplying monitors for the water industries throughout many countries, so that they can monitor the quality of said water, it makes me feel good about the time I spent with the company. ATi’s products are very good in the way of consistency and of accuracy, low in maintenance and also affordable. In these days of austerity, this last point may probably be a key fact to its future success. But as with any product, it is only as good as the service it gives to its customers and quality should not be sacrificed for cost.
Our Watermaker is a small reverse osmosis system that fits into a small locker in the boat. It takes raw sea water at low pressure, first through a screen filter to an intensifying high pressure pump, which forces the sea water against a membrane that will only let pure water through and will reject the remainder. The pressure it takes to separate pure potable water from the sea water is around 700/800 psi and to make 1 litre of water requires 10 litres of raw sea water. So, as you can see, it requires a lot of energy to produce potable water to sustain our lives both here and at home.
As with lots of things about being retired and living on a boat, you have to be able to fix just about everything’s that breaks and low and behold there’s no B&Q or Home Depot to go to to get a quick fix. Being self sufficient, as much as you can be, requires a lot of skills and the ability to store spare parts in lockers around the boat for that ‘what if’ moment.
When we think about our ‘carbon footprint’ we can be a little fooled into thinking we’re doing alright. But when it all comes down to it, the boat had to be built and it is nothing if not a huge by product of the petroleum industry that is our civilisations runaway train. We may live differently now out here on the beautiful year round summer of the Caribbean, but without glass fibre and many other man made products, we could not be here at all.
So when we next set sail, we will use about a gallon of diesel to get us out of the anchorage here at the Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association (TTSA), before setting our man made Dacron sails, hauled up by our man made polyester halyards, switch on our electricity supply that is powered by our nice not so ‘green’ bank of lead acid batteries, and give a passing thought to our ‘carbon footprint’, because we think we are environmentally friendly.
In a way we are better than we used to be on an ongoing basis, but it will take some considerable time to negate the effect of our floating abode and its ancillary equipment.
Next time it’s ATi’s caps before the ‘Mount Gay Rum’ caps of the Grenada and Antigua sailing weeks.