11th Hour Racing Ambassador Dave Rearick spent the summer sailing on the Great Lakes, and encouraging his fellow sailors to embrace more sustainable practices. Here is a great letter that he sent with a recap of the summer’s adventures.
Friends, Sailors and Stewards of our natural, water world,
As an ambassador for 11th Hour Racing, I made an effort this summer to inspire sailors on the Great Lakes to consider using fewer disposable water bottles and I’m happy to share with you the results of our efforts.
Before sailing the Chicago to Mackinac Race on Lake Michigan, I traveled to the east coast to participate in the Marblehead to Halifax race onboard Gryphon Solo II with Joe Harris. Joe and I have forged a friendship over our years competing on Class 40 sailing boats. Joe and I both come from the same disciplines and use no disposable water bottles, instead, carrying refillable bottles as part of our personal kit.
Joe and I spent seven days together sailing Gryphon Solo II from Marblehead to Halifax and back to Portland, Maine. Over those seven days, I calculate we saved four bottles each per day, 56 bottles in total. Though only 56 bottles, which is probably a fraction of the bottles discarded every minute worldwide, it’s an example of our commitment to the sea which for both Joe and I, holds a special place in our lives. The unfortunate truth though is during the sail to Halifax and back, we saw no less than 11 empty, plastic water bottles floating in the sea. I can’t know if these came from racing boats, other craft or were blown off a pier in some harbor, but none the less, they are now part of the sea until they are washed upon some distant shore— hopefully collected by a conscientious beachcomber and recycled properly.
Next I sailed the Chicago Mac Race, a race I’ve participated in and enjoyed since 1981. Not long before the Mac Race, an old friend stopped by for a visit and left a copy of a newspaper article from 1980 along with a photo of a much younger Dave Rearick starting a once a month recycling pick up in a local grocery store parking lot! I guess I’ve been promoting good practices for 35 years now!
I sailed the Mac on Geronimo, an SR 33 owned by Herb Philbrick and crewed by a great group of sailors, the core of which have sailed together since 1990. I try hard to remember how far back it was we stopped taking disposable water bottles onboard….I know it was before Geronimo on the previous boat, Stars and Stripes, when I brought onboard a camping filter and we pulled water from Lake Michigan, filtered it and stored it in gallon jugs until needed. This trick eliminated the need to carry enough water for an 8 person crew on a four day race—something in the neighborhood of 35 gallons of water at 8 pounds a gallon! 280 pounds–essentially, the weight of another crew member!
On Geronimo, we continue to use the same system and have shared our expertise with many boats over the years. This year, our friends on Turning Point, a Beneteau 40.7 sailed by Dave Hardy and crew–top tier competitors in their class, fully implemented a similar situation. Dave explained this year; they got rid of all the disposable water bottles and installed a PuR water filter on the tap in the galley. Crew members filled their bottles as necessary from the onboard tanks. Dave makes sure these tanks are sanitized and cared for properly to assure the water is drinkable. The filter on the tap eliminates any bad taste and chemicals.
Turning Point was proud to do their own math on water bottles saved. Ten crew, four bottles a day, four days….160 bottles saved! Dave tells me this isn’t the whole story. They’re race schedule includes 24 race days a year. In addition to saving water bottles, Dave, laughing, tells me they have cut unnecessary communication in the cockpit by a significant amount. No longer do you hear the question of “Who’s half empty water bottle is this?” Congrats to Turning Point and Dave Hardy for saving something in the neighborhood of 800 water bottles this year!
I received a number of verbal reports of bottles saved on a number of other boats, both big and small. And most promising were reports of skeptical boaters who snuck cases of water onboard and removed the majority of them, unused, after the finish, and have now converted to reusable bottles.
The simple math is 300 boats in the Chicago Mac. I suspect 40 percent of them use refillable bottles which calculates to near 20,000 water bottles saved during the Mac Race alone. Add in another 10 racing days during the summer plus practices and likely we’re saving over 50,000 water bottles a year. That’s Cool! I hope the number of boats participating is even greater than this.
However, there is still reality, and always those still using disposable water bottles. We’re thankful Mackinac Island has a strict recycling program for their island garbage and very few of the used water bottles end up in the land fill. At the foot of the docks, the recycling station is manned by concerned citizens to help those dropping off garbage to properly separate and recycle. And, as you can see by the attached photo, there are still an awful lot of water bottle users we need to convince. And too, I saw a number of bottles floating along the Rhumb Line of the race, a very sad sight on these amazing inland seas.
I sailed on a few other boats this summer and encouraged them to consider using disposable water bottles. I found all of them receptive and ready to do something stricter with their recycling.
I know ideas like these take time to consider, implement and become every day practice, hence my anecdote about the picture of me from 1980—35 years ago starting a recycling program and now days you see a recycling bin at every home.
The confirmation our efforts are taking solid hold came this past weekend when sailing with my friend Harry Barrows, a 15 year old Laser sailor from the Chicago Yacht Club. After the sail, as sometimes happens, our only option for drinking water was a disposable water bottle. Harry could hardly put his hand on the bottle explaining, “We just don’t use those Uncle Dave.” We packed the empty bottle into our sea bag to make sure it received a proper disposal. Folks, thanks! The efforts of all of us are taking hold!
I hope you had a great summer of sailing and have given the waters of our lives every chance to be the beautiful places they are. If you or your boat wants help figuring out how to do more with your water situation, don’t hesitate to ask around your docks or look us up at 11th Hour Racing.
Ambassador, 11th Hour Racing