Ship rigging
Image by Hannah Hurford

EcoClipper: The power of sailing

This week we hear from guest blogger, Hannah Hurford. The chief communications officer for EcoClipper tells us why she is passionate about being on the open seas and why the life she has chosen is having an impact.

Having started sailing at the tender age of 19, we reckon she has an interesting perspective on sailing, life and adventure.

Hannah Hurford from EcoClipper sailed the Indian Ocean aged 19

“The future predicated by statisticians is not written in stone, and what I want to propose… is that you have the power to shape it.” – Lily Cole, Who Cares Wins, 2020

Must make impact!

I think there’s a huge pressure for young people to have a career and live a life that has an impact on a global scale. We are bombarded with images that represent the social and environmental effects of climate change. Our governments and policymakers aren’t doing much, so we must take up the mantle. We must make changes for future generations. This is a daunting task.

I am chief communications officer for EcoClipper, a sustainable shipping company. EcoClipper will join an already thriving industry of sail cargo ships that predominantly use the wind to transport cargo. EcoClipper focuses on traditional sailing rigs and aims to deliver trainee opportunities and passenger travel. In this way, EcoClipper is providing a solution to decarbonise shipping.

So, I do have a job that creates “impact”. Although currently, the market is very particular, it will widen as more people become used to this ‘slow’ way of shipping and travel. An EcoClipper500 produces 80% fewer emissions than a standard container ship. By doing my job, I’m encouraging people to get involved in this fantastic, innovative community of passionate people and use vessels that are better for the planet and for those onboard.

I think it’s important to look at this from a different perspective. On social media and in the news, everything is devastating and global – which is true. But I’ve learned that it’s the smaller communities, experiences and conversations which make you realise what is really happening and how you can truly make an impact.

Sailing changes lives

When I was just 19, I had the idea to do a long sailing trip. My aim was to make the journey from A to B part of the adventure, rather than just the prequel to it. I read Jack Kerouac, I wanted to live a life with “nothing behind me, everything ahead of me”, an epic trip, an odyssey. So, I booked a trip from Mauritius to Australia on a huge topsail schooner which was doing a circumnavigation of the world. The result? I spent over a month at sea, crossing the Indian Ocean, to land in Perth, Australia.

This experience changed my life. What a cliché.

I realised how you can live a different life from what you’re told in school. You can watch the stars instead, or the luminescence of the phosphorescence in the sea. And you can meet people who are travelling for their own reasons. You realise the power of a hot meal in a storm. And you throw yourself into bed, exhausted, desperate for sleep, just to awaken to a different day with completely different weather and wind. You feel rejuvenated after a breakfast of freshly made bread.

On a sailing ship, you quickly get used to the pace of life. I wouldn’t say it’s slower… It’s just more present. You’re aware of the wind, sun, rain, sea, tide, all because it’s there. You’re not forcing anything to happen. You set the sails and go with it. You get on with your day. This attitude is so rare to find, everyone should be able to experience it – regardless of who they are.

The ship on which Hannah sailed to Australia

Small impact is good impact

I’m able to do my job well because I believe that the power of sailing can change lives, as it did mine. I have sailed on numerous ships, worked in maritime museums and on static ships. I have been on watch in the middle of the night, worked up the rigging, down in the hold and in the galley. I’ve sewn torn sails, derigged a boat for winter, spliced rope and bent on a new sail. And I’ve talked to women in the industry, brainstormed how to encourage a diverse group of people involved in maritime heritage, always looking at how to develop the sail cargo network so it runs smoothly.

So sometimes it feels like I’m not making huge, global change. But I believe I will make an impact regardless of how “small” it is. All I can say is – find those experiences and be open for adventure.