Environmental solutions

Want to make your boat more environmentally sustainable? Read about some of the many technologies I’ve been pioneering on Gaiasdream and other vessels.


As a boat builder, my main focus has been has been to find sustainable solutions for yachts. Though many of the technologies I’ve used and developed have applications for cars as well.

Wind and solar are very old solutions to providing energy. Solar panels in particular have been very reliable for a long time. Don’t forget most satellites rely on them as their power source. Wind generators, especially for yachts, have been around for a long time too but until recently were a little on the noisy side.

10 years a go I converted my Nissan Navara to run on 100% veggie oil. Since it was the first time I’d tried such a thing it took a bit of research and experimenting. But eventually I had an easy and reliable solution. Veggie oil is of course a little harder to come by than diesel or petrol so to get around that I installed a 200 litre stainless tank in the tray. We could do well over 2500 kilometres on one tank!

This car served me very well over the years. Though my son was miffed that we now visited petrol stations so rarely, where he used to like to get lollies on long trips. Unfortunately this car was lost during the floods while I was building Gaiasdream.



It’s just as easy to convert a boat to run on veggie oil as it is a car.

In 2007 I refitted and modified the sailing yacht 2041, a 67foot former Global Challenge yacht to be fully fossil fuel free. It got a new suit of sails made from recycled plastic bottles. They work just as well as normal sails but are a bit heavier. We completed the Sydney to Hobart on 2041 with these sails and I later delivered her from Melbourne to San Diego.

The main engine on 2041 was converted the same way as my car, just on a larger scale and with some more refinements. Even once converted to veggie oil, it would normally be necessary to run an engine on diesel for a few minutes before switching over. The engine must be warm before the veggie oil will combust. For 2041, we managed to use biodiesel for start up, making her truly fossil fuel free. We could also use biodiesel to heat the boat using a sigma diesel heater.

For hot water, we could use either the main engine or a heating coil in the chimney of the sigma. For electricity she has a 900watt solar array and two wind generators of different types to cover a large range in wind speeds.

The stove is an off the shelf origo ethanol stove with oven. It runs on 98% grain alcohol. It works well, though with a slightly lower heat output than other stoves. 2041 also has a water maker, making fresh water from sea water and electricity.

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