A biodiesel sailboat, which runs exclusively on waste cooking oils, stopped over in Port Hardy during its annual trip through the Inside Passage.
The sailboat is named Ama Natura, which means ‘she loves nature’ in Latin, and was built as a tool for studying and advancing green technology in boating.
The boat is owned by Captain Peter Wilcox and his wife Bridget Bayer, who are green boating advocates from Portland, Oregon.
They are currently promoting their “Inside Passage Decarbonization Project” which hopes to see marine users in Washington, British Columbia, and South East Alaska switch to waste-source bio-based and renewable fuels.
“80 to 90 per cent of carbon ends up in the oceans and that means global warming is really the warming and acidification of the oceans,” said Wilcox.
“Biodiesel is made from waste vegetable oil – if you start with a waste product you have already lowered your carbon footprint.”
He founded the Oregon based company SeQuential Biofuels, which makes eight million gallons of waste-sourced biodiesel each year.
Their petrol-free boat, which was finished in 2008, was actually built as a student project.
“We fell into this lucky situation where the North West School of Wooden Boat Building had 22 students who signed up for a large boat building class, and they had no project,” said Wilcox.
After the 45 students spent 20,000 hours building the boat, Wilcox installed various green technologies like solar and bio diesel systems in order to make the boat have the lowest possible impact on the environment.
“It’s natural to me, it’s my whole life’s work,” said Wilcox, whose father was actually a geologist in the petroleum industry, but discouraged his son from working in the same industry.
Wilcox then decided to devote his life to solar architecture and green technologies after taking an ecology course during his first year of university, which “opened my eyes to a whole biological world that I didn’t know existed.”
Now Wilcox and Bayer, aboard the Ama Natura, are focused on making it easy for boaters who wish to voyage petroleum-free in the Inside Passage.
“There is no easy way to get biodiesel on the Inside Passage – there is not one single marine bio diesel pump,” he said, noting they have to carry their own biodiesel to refuel.
“It’s just not available at the pump,” added Bayer.
Last year the couple took a nine week trip to Alaska and was forced to use regular diesel in order to make the return journey as they had no place to refuel.Wilcox and Bayer are planning to hold a conference next year for their decarbonization project, possibly in Port Hardy, and they also want to create pennants that boaters can fly if their boats are petroleum-free. “There’s a little bit of investment in the stuff, but it totally pays off,” said Bayer. To learn more about the project visit their website at www.decarbthepassage.net.