Sailing was once the only way to travel long-distance. Can you imagine that? No quick flights across countries, leaving your house in London in the morning and sipping a sangria in Spain by the afternoon. A plane ticket from London to Spain costs less than the train to Devon UK, which takes the same amount of time. This quick, cheap form of travel has regenerated communities, opened up the tourist industry and economy, and allowed people who just need a break to escape to a different place.
But, this high-flying method of transport (pun intended) has come at a price…
“Commercial aviation accounts for about 2% of global carbon emissions, and about 12% of all CO2 emissions from the transportation sector.”
That might not seem like a lot.
Perhaps it feels like those emissions are worth the week away with the kids and let’s be honest, 2020 and 2021 have not been easy. In fact, they’ve been incredibly hard on all of us in different ways (although, financially at least, 5.2 million people have certainly cashed in. Perhaps these people could lead the way on changing habits to reduce worldwide emissions… No? Anybody?).
So when you’ve been staring at the same four walls, coming in and out of COVID-19 restrictions and generally struggling to get out of your pajamas in the morning, sometimes you really do need to get away.
Choice is dependent on a wide range of factors: your financial security, family, work, friends… But if you have the choice to take your time over travel and to be able to spend a bit more money then, I would argue, the environment should impact your decision. Why? Well, as long as governments continue to be complacent about climate change, we should do something.
My question is would you go sailing? Either as a holiday, or to get from A to B?
Woah there! I can already hear the retching from imagined seasickness, see the images of a Titanic disaster flashing in your mind’s eye, feel the fear of not seeing land, claustrophobia, boredom and see you quickly shake your head as you imagine a long voyage ahead with your family.
When discussing sailing with those who haven’t ever been, these are things that come up often. But most of the time these circumstances can be mitigated. At the very least when you’re bored all you have to do is look out at the water, at the sails, at the sky, feel the wind on your skin, sun on your face, and let your mind drift off… Like you would on a plane, but outside. You even get a bit of turbulence.
Sometimes it feels like only those who have ever sailed before would “get it”. But that’s not the case. Let’s look at the three reasons why anyone can sail.
1. Ships of all shapes and sizes all over the world
Vessels come in all shapes and sizes. From the Dhows of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, the white yachts in the Med, the Dutch barges, to the tall ships of this world, most offer some sort of experience on them. And this is where you should start. Never been on a boat? Have a go! They can be spacious and luxurious or smaller and more like camping, but your version of sailing is out there.
You will also visit see the most remarkable places. There’s nothing quite like coming into Copenhagen from the sea, island hopping in the Caribbean, exploring little fishing villages in France and experiencing days passing at sea, with each sunrise and sunset different from the last.
2. Opportunities for all
One of the excellent things about sailing is that it truly does accommodate everyone, because anyone can sail no matter race, gender, ability or age. Some people don’t quite get this and there are some bad eggs out there unfortunately, but increasingly the industry is accommodating people from all backgrounds which is exciting and should be promoted.
There are tailored trips and vessels which are designed specifically for certain groups. There are ships built for disabled access including wheelchairs and the blind. There are all female crews, which are great for women to feel comfortable and safe around sailing. There are trainee positions available for younger people wanting to try it out. Or there are quiet coastal cruises with a stop in a port every night for the older generations.
These types of voyages are quite easy to find online. If you’re having trouble a good starting point is Classic Sailing.
When you sail you work with your environment; the wind, tide and waves. These things change all the time which means that as you sail you are consistently present. You become more aware of your body, of practical tasks and the weather. You might stagger onto deck one morning, with your waterproofs on, a mug of coffee in your hand, take one look at the rain clouds and scurry down below with a book and get back into your bunk for a day in bed. Or one night you help the crew with the sailing, asking about the different lights you can see, taking your turn at the helm and quietly share stories with the watch. Or you can just listen to music for the entire trip. It’s your holiday.
Sure, sailing isn’t for everyone. But if you have a choice, take a trip on a sailing ship. You won’t regret it and anyway, in the future there might be a few more around to travel on…