Her Sea Story - Ocean Nomads

Her Sea Story - Ocean Nomads

Oceanpreneur and Ocean Nomads founder Suzanne Van der Veeken, arrives in the Canaries from Holland on a beautiful classic schooner, with tips and advice for marinas looking to offer better services to more eco-considerate boaters.

Now a rapidly expanding international community, Suzanne created Ocean Nomads after years of travelling as crew on sailing boats, connecting with hundreds of people across the globe who shared her passion for the ocean and sustainable living. This resource and knowledge-exchange network enables similarly minded boat-owners and prospective crew to find each other.

From time to time, Suzanne works together with boat owners to create custom trips, carefully curating the new group via individual interviews, to make sure that each person is a good fit. Interacting as a cooperative and respectful team of strangers with very living limited space, miles from the shore, requires a certain level of preparation.

Beyond simply passage-making, Suzanne looks for relevant skills and attitudes to contribute to a meaningful and productive dynamic.

I want to offer people that chance to disconnect from everything but nature. There, surrounded by the ocean, living a different rhythm, we can be honest, open, and hopefully create the right conditions for transformational experience. I’m looking to encourage conscious living and to inspire people to be mindful about their impacts, but finally, of course, it’s the people themselves that make the trip.

Accessibility is important; gender-balanced and international, Twister’s eldest passenger was 73 and the youngest only 20. Where possible, costs are subsidised for those who most need it. Catering on board is fully participatory and either vegetarian or vegan. Team Ocean Nomads provide plenty of information prior to the trip to make the voyage as ocean-friendly and meaningful as possible, with important steps taken at the preparation stage. One example is the use of ocean-friendly cleaning and personal hygiene products; participants can then experience for themselves simple solutions to minimise negative impact.

Provisioning is carried out as far as possible using local products, (even when this means travelling a little further to find it) and minimal packaging, to encourage personal accountability in terms of waste generation. “I hope to sow seeds in terms of positive behavioural changes and encourage people towards making more healthy and informed lifestyle choices.”

The vessel also plays a very important role, explains Suzanne:

Twister is over a hundred years old and actively sailed by her very committed owners. She represents seafaring tradition and oceangoing fortitude and has been the perfect ship for our tiny floating village. During the trip we develop seafaring skills, exchange ideas, and take part in citizen science projects, such as documenting marine fauna observations or collecting samples.

The crew members hug Suzanne as they leave the group. They are friendly, relaxed and above all, grateful.


Tips for marinas from Ocean Nomads

Suzanne made various interesting points during our conversation:

  • Marinas may be the first contact a boater has as a visitor to a new culture. With experiences like these, a special type of awareness is developed on board amongst the group, raising levels of sensitivity and expectation.  If the host venue doesn’t attempt to recognise the interests of more eco-considerate travellers, then this can have a profound impact on morale and negatively affect the perception of a destination.
  • When sailing, all waste is separated on board for recycling and carefully tallied to ensure that passengers are aware of the bulk of waste generated during the trip, despite all efforts made. It’s then particularly important that ports offer reciprocal reception services, including the composting of organic waste (ideally locally). Moreover, if this is clearly detailed by marinas on their websites, etc. (and easy to find upon arrival), vessels know what to separate and what not during their trip.
  •  It was surprisingly difficult for us to access information on anchoring permissions, clearing in, etc. We sourced various conflicting advice and ended up wasting a lot of time and energy. We were also charged an unexpectedly large sum for landing some crew and delivering domestic rubbish from our anchorage.  Ensuring that these rules, regulations, and payable services are clear and available online would be really helpful.
  • When we arrive in a new destination, for both the local community as well as crew on board, positive impact can be achieved by making a meaningful connection. Above all, we want to give back to the places we visit. We’d be happy to share stories, skills and knowledge with some orientation on how we can best contribute locally. This can take a great variety of forms, from simply knowing where and when the local market takes place (as opposed to the big supermarket chain), and being able to identify local conservation organisations, sociocultural volunteer programmes, projects in need of support, or schools welcoming stories from the sea, etc. Ports and marinas aren’t obliged to offer this themselves, but could take steps to facilitate information on local groups and activities for visiting boaters.

The next adventure impact sailing voyage is on the horizon. With Expedition ON Atlantic, ocean minded travellers, will sail around the Atlantic on a classic 36m schooner originally built in 1902. In 13 legs, ocean nomads travel +10.000 nautical miles: a hands-on ocean adventure. Ocean Nomads will stop in Madeira, Tenerife, and Sao Vicente, Cabo Verde, and welcoming local people and organisations to reach out and team-up for positive change.

Learn more and join adventure impact sailing voyages, or team-up with Ocean Nomads: www.oceannomads.co

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