Inside Passage Decarbonization Project 2018 Awareness & Education Voyage

We left Ama Natura’s Olympia moorage for this year’s Inside Passage Decarbonizing Project (IPDP) voyage in late May.  With lively anticipation and loaded with 170 gallons of fresh B100 Used Cooking Oil-sourced biodiesel and newly refreshed Renewable Lubricants bio-synthetic motor and transmission oils, we pulled in our lines and headed North for our 2nd IPDP decarbonizing voyage.  I always love it when things are going north.  

We first docked in Burrard Inlet in downtown Vancouver, BC.  There I participated on behalf of the IPDP with both a poster and a proffered tour of AMA at GreenTech Marine’s annual global green cargo shipper conference.  The presentations and participants were both fascinating with valuable information about what big shipping is doing to get ready for the elimination of high sulfur (bunker) fuel from most cargo ships by 2020 per a big IMO agreements (although this hugely positive fuel transformation could be delayed a few years).  

I was the president of Columbia Riverkeeper for four terms and saw how the close relationships and collaboration between Riverkeeper and Native American leaders in the Columbia Basin was both highly enlightening and effective.  So I wanted to focus this year’s decarbonizing voyage on deepening our incipient relationships with First Nation leaders in BC.  

We were fortunate to have many casual conversations, meetings, meals and opportunities to play music with First Nation band members this year, some of them on Ama Natura.  Besides Xais Xais band member, friend and colleague, Chantal Pronteau, who is on the “Start Decarb’ing Now” page of the website (, the First Nation individuals we talked with came from the Heiltsuk, Namgis, Kwagiulth, Kitasoo, and Git-Ga’at bands. 

One of the most rewarding experiences with First Nations this year was arriving at the crowded dock in Hartley Bay, one of our favorite places to visit and home of the Git-Ga’at band, on the evening before Indigenous Peoples Day.  The  Git-Ga’at could not have been more welcoming or inclusive as we joined with them in the festivities and games, and several band members with whom we talked had great questions and expressed interest in the 20-year vision of the IPDP.  

We listened and learned much from First Nation leaders, artists, musicians and fishermen with whom we spent time, and who repeatedly encouraged us to continue and broaden our IPDP work.  We received informal invitations to talk more, possibly speaking at a school in Klemtu and meeting with band councils in Bella Bella and Klemtu.

The Inside Passage’s always-extraordinary community of wildlife was exceptional once again on this voyage, especially one special hour observing a mama grizzly and her three very young cubs from the water.  We saw countless Bald eagles – mostly paired, geometric-swimming Marbled murrelets, dark-eared Red-necked grebes, more curious Harbor seals than we had seen in a decade – six playing together in Rescue Bay, expressive whales, and even a few colorful sea stars.  These have all but-disappeared over the last 10 years from wasting disease, but are apparently making a tentative comeback.    

The  the nearly endless number of unique bays, harbors, inlets and islands continues to amaze and delight us.  A new and special bay where we anchored is Beales Bay, off Gunboat Passage and just a few miles east of Shearwater and Bella Bell.  It is a difficult to place bay, and offers entry to a mostly hidden series of six landlocked lagoons - but only at high tide.  We waited - holding onto cedar branches near shore, listening for the tidal rapids to quiet, then pushing slowly ahead in our small inflatable dinghy with its nearly silent Torqeedo 3hp battery electric outboard.  Each lagoon had its own ecology and we encountered eagles and seabirds, shellfish, seals and other wildlife, with unique tidal rapids drawing us in further to the next lagoon.  

Entry to Beales Bay at near low tide

Entry to Beales Bay at near low tide

What really stopped me was contemplating the settlement remains found less than 15 nautical miles from Beales, which archeologists had recently carbon-dated at 18,000 years old!  That’s 4,000 years older than the previously oldest settlement remains found in North America and almost five times older than the great pyramids.  That means something like 100,000 generations of First Nations people – some who must have travelled, fished, and lived in the same lagoons off the well-defended bay that we found ourselves in.  The overwhelming sense of timeless connectedness is one I do not expect to ever forget.  For me, this profoundly reinforces why it is so urgent to eliminate the toxic and unnecessary dangerous liquids that we routinely use in our vessels, and routinely discharge their toxic waste products into the water and air.   We now have - just not locally on the shelf -  the ability to protect these waters for the next 100,000 generations..  It is past time to begin; next generations can use our help now.

New 100 watt PV panel that folds down over adjacent panel when working with mainsail

New 100 watt PV panel that folds down over adjacent panel when working with mainsail

We are thriving on Ama Natura’s recently augmented solar PV capacity and the seemingly endless electrical supply of our four new Firely carbon foam “house” batteries.  We also encountered a lot of terrific decarbonizing by others.  One of my favorites was accomplished by the owner of a fairly common 36’ trawler yacht at the dock with us at Shoal Bay.  Tired of and embarrassed by the noise and obvious emissions from his genset when anchored, plus worn out by the extra maintenance and costs, the owner, Phillip, took matters in his own hands this spring. He mounted around 600 watts of solar PV onto the dodgers over his flying bridge and cockpit, and added two large lithium ion phosphate house batteries, and has never loved boating more.  Now he can go – like us - all season without needing to tie up and recharge with shorepower, or drown out his quiet neighbors in an anchorage running an inefficient genset.  

We spoke with elected port counselors whom we had visited before and found some conferring more with others in their area about decarbonizing strategies.  We heard some new questions about the steps to do this, some we could answer and others we will research. We learned from one of AMA’s many impromptu visitors, an engineer working with a renewable energy producer on Vancouver Island, about two ports where measurements show that these are already supplying 100% renewable shorepower to their customers (as well as to all utility power users in their local areas).  One hundred percent renewable shorepower is one of the IPDP’s key goals for all ports and marinas in the Inside Passage.  It appears that the staffs of the two ports do not know yet that they are already providing this clean, dramatically low in carbon, energy to visiting boaters.  Other Vancouver Island and Inside Passage marinas - and many boaters - will know about it this Spring when we present the IPDP’s first 100% renewable shorepower awards at our 2nd Annual IPDP Solutions Summit in Port Hardy.  Many know that Ama Natura was purposely built to be a green technology demonstration vessel designed to help others learn about some of the good ideas and products that can be used simply and effectively to dramatically lower carbon and toxicity..

Two other decarbonizing efforts that we observed this summer were right in Ama Natura’s homeport marina in Olympia, WA.  Our website already includes the story and photos of Jeff Hogan’s replacement of his sailboat’s small diesel with electric propulsion and four Firefly batteries. His example is spreading, with two other sailboaters in the same marina doing almost exactly the same retrofits.  Copycats rule!  We would love to get your stories and photos too!

What’s upcoming for the IPDP?  I will again be leading a workshop on decarbonizing the Northwest maritime system at the Port Townsend Woodenboat Festival on Saturday Sept. 8th.  We will be traveling to Vancouver Island and further north for First Nation presentations and port meetings this fall and winter.  A little later we will be announcing the date of the 2nd Annual IPDP Solutions Summit in Port Hardy, BC next spring.  

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions or requests for help at  Things are definitely going north!

First Mate Bridget and Captain Peter

First Mate Bridget and Captain Peter