Hit the High Seas

A week aboard the Maine Schooner Mary Day can be pretty close to a carbon-neutral vacation
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A week aboard the Maine Schooner Mary Day can be pretty close to a carbon-neutral vacation

I am just back from a week on the Mary Day, a 125 foot Maine schooner that sails Penobscot Bay from Camden. I had the opportunity to be on board for the 33rd annual Great Schooner Race, and while I was there, I learned a ton from Captain Barry King about just how low carbon a schooner vacation is.

On an average 6 day cruise, the Mary Day and her 28 passengers and six crew consume about 700 gallons of water (according to an in-line water usage meter that is aboard). Chef Mary Barney bakes bread, simmers stews, and roasts meats on a wood-fired cookstove. Between the cookstove, which is also used to heat water for bathing, and the woodstove, which is used for heating the cabins on cold and foggy Maine evenings, the boat uses about 5 cords per season, or about a 1/4 cord per week.

The Mary Day uses electricity to power lights and pumps, as well as her navigational devices. The total per six day trip is around 75 amps hours at 120 volts, less than the amount of juice used by a 60-watt porch light left on at home while you are away on vacation. And that's one person's porch light. The Schooner typically has 34 people on board.

The Mary Day does not have an internal gas powered engine. She moves entirely on her own sail power (during my week at sea with Captain Barry, I did in fact personally witness him backing up the 90-ton schooner using the sails. There was also a short period during the race when crew and yours truly were rowing and towing her to help her through a period of particularly low winds). Occasionally Captain Barry uses the yaw boat, also used to shuttle passengers ashore, to push or turn the Mary Day. Overall, the Mary Day averages about 10 gallons of diesel fuel for 150 miles of sailing, which is about 5 hours of motoring time. At first glance that looks like 15 miles per gallon but when you multiply that times 30 people aboard last week that makes 450 people miles per gallon.

Add to that the fact that when those 34 guests and crew are aboard, they're not driving their cars, running their dishwasher or clothes dryer, or even in a hotel, where the amount of energy they would use is exponentially more than what they use on the schooner. Nothing is impact free, but as soft adventures go it is tough to beat a windjammer. Interestingly, in Maine there is a program that certifies resorts as green if they use recycled paper and biodegradable soap. The schooner doesn't qualify because they don't fit the parameters. As Captain Barry says, "seems like we need to look a little more broadly at how we define green. Does green include that quality of peace of mind someone has when they leave their chosen vacation. Does truly relaxing count as good for the planet? You bet. Especially if someone drives 5 miles an hour slower on the way home, or picks up there guitar to play a folk song because they were reminded of how nice it is to make ones own entertainment or takes a moment to smile and wave to another human being. It all adds up... one human being at a time... just like shingles on a house make a roof or rain drops fill ponds."

Click here to hear to see pictures of the Mary Day and learn more about her.