The terms ‘superyacht’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ are rarely synonymous, yet that’s not to say there aren’t ways in which superyachts can do their bit for the environment upon which they so often rely. In 2013, 42m The Big Blue underwent a year-long refit at Florida’s Derecktor shipyard, included in which was the installation of water refill systems, following the captain’s request to make the boat as environmentally friendly as possible. Here, The Big Blue’s captain, Gareth Sheppard, reveals the intricacies of the new system and why it’s been a game changer for the yacht’s owners and crew.

I have always disliked the amount of trash from cans and bottles produced by yachts, so from the start of The Big Blue’s refit I wanted to make the boat, which can hold 12 guests and eight crew, as environmentally friendly, in that respect, as possible. I aimed to enable the boat to remain remote for extended periods, and not to rely on shipments of provisions, including soda and drinking water. The owners were all for it and saw the benefit after just a quick explanation on what we can do to help the cause.

Firstly, we installed new water makers to keep up with the demand and produce 4,000 litres per day, but to allow the water to be consumable meant basting and recoating the four allocated water tanks and converting the two grey water and two ballast tanks to fresh, to give us eight tanks all dedicated to completely fresh water. This took the fresh water capacity from 7m3 to 12m3. The two ballast tanks, which were salt-water fed, were plumbed to receive fresh water through a one-way valve so there was no back-feeding into the domestic supply tanks. The tanks, which also supply deck wash to the sundeck, were then linked and a submersible lift pump was installed and connected to the new Jacuzzi, which meant we could fill and drain the Jacuzzi using the same water instead of draining it overboard if it was unused and still clean. We also added a filtration system to the day tanks, which enabled the water to be cleansed for drinking; UV sterilisation, five and 10 micron filters and a silver ioniser were included to add valuable nutrients back into desalinated water, which meant owners, guests and crew could receive good drinking water from any outlet, most of which also have carbon filters.

The crew see there is a benefit to the system for both the environment and their own job efficiency.

One of the yacht’s recent trips post-refit was up the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. As we were unable to produce clean water while going up the river, and we were to spend five days cruising, we stocked up on plastic drinking bottles – the first time we had done so since leaving Florida in October last year. With this in mind, I asked the owners’ kids to do a presentation to all crew and guests on ways to conserve water and to calculate our allowed usage per person, per day, based on the capacity. Thanks to the kids’ presentation, and with some awareness among us, we only consumed 800 litres on average per day. Now, with boats being able to make their own water, consumption is not such a big deal, but what we did notice was the massive increase in garbage we had created. Up the Sepik River, the local villagers wanted empty plastic bottles for their own refilling, so they were gladly handed over and are probably still being used now. But once we left the Sepik, had the plastic bottles continued to be used, we would have easily tripled the amount of garbage we had to dispose.

This brought to light the true benefit of having drinkable fresh water, decreasing the quantities of cans and bottles to carry on board, all of which have a large carbon footprint. The crew see there is a benefit to the system for both the environment and their own job efficiency. We don’t have to deal with sourcing cases of soft drinks in remote areas, loading them on board and trying to store them all and constantly restocking fridges and all that malarkey. Crew don’t have to try to separate and store nearly as much waste and then offload it at every stop, to some poor country or small island where there is no waste refuse and it’s either burned or dumped on the shores. Just go to the nicest beach you can, and you will find there will be a plastic bottle there somewhere. This system is one way to keep us from worsening an already detrimental problem in the world.

Find the full article in issue 71 of The Crew Report. Click here to download issue 71.