Floating on the current

It is difficult to avoid the endless promotion of electric cars — but when will we ever see a similar transformation of boats?

The idea of swapping out a smelly diesel engine, gear box and fuel tank for a small electric motor and a larger battery pack seems a fair idea — we could surely use the extra space and enjoy the relative silence. But the design considerations (not least weight distribution) might suggest that electric boats will more likely be entirely new designs rather than conversions.

Looking at full marinas, it seems we don’t actually go to sea very often and, from an ecological viewpoint, the other saving grace of cruising is that when we do, we aim to use the engine as little as possible. Of course, we constantly check the fume-filled cooling water to reassure ourselves that the engine is not overheating. Then we drive home — and probably wonder whether our next car will be fully electric.

Logically, when environmentalists prioritise emissions reduction, surely their first target would be cruise ships and cargo vessels running their generators day and night whilst in dock — wafting their pollutants across great cities already fuming about car fumes.

Ferries — particularly for Greek island hoppers — are another obvious target for technology ventures like Artemis who have vast experience of hull design, wind/electric hybrids and autonomous yachts. Next up, surely, green campaigners will demand that fishing fleets deploy solar panels and wind energy to keep their winches winding at sea.

Occasional cruisers pottering in the Solent would seem a relatively minor issue compared, say, to the amount of untreated sewage and galley waste that we sailors dump overboard. When did you last moor in a marina with a pump out facility?

The Solent, that South coast haven for yachties, holds a murky dirty secret — Nitrate pollution. Partly, pollutants are run-off from fertilised fields and urban housing and partly from untreated drain-water and sewage. Out on the water, most of us try not to fall overboard but a fair few of us curse weed-tangled propellers. Some water-sports enthusiasts delight in closer contact with waves but are disgusted by sampling our outputs — and that’s before we take account of the plastic dumped in our waters. UK coastal waters are, reportedly, second only to the USA in terms of plastic pollution.

Long before we get around to electric boat building, or the rewiring of pontoons for heavier current consumption, there’s surely much to be done cleaning up our maritime mess.

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