We are on a boat: Making sustainable boats

We recently caught up with Tiago Varandas, founder of We Are On A Boat, the world’s first Sustainable Boating platform. The platform is on a mission to promote eco-friendly boats, which includes electric, wind or solar-powered boats. It also aims to motivate people to share their boats while meeting like-minded people with a common objective of driving sustainability.

Read on as Tiago shares details of his project and explains what Sustainable boating is all about. And see how you could use this platform to opt for a green boat the next time you wish to explore a destination on water.



Sustainable boating

Sustainable boating is about having fun without harming the oceans. We do that with 100% green boats powered by clean and renewable energy such as sun & wind, without the use of a polluting motor boat.

Some of the options include sailing powered by wind, paddleboard powered by human energy, solar boats and electric boats. It’s about eliminating fuel costs, noise, smell and exhaust fumes. We are rooted in water, let’s keep it clean.

Sustainable boating is especially important in natural protected areas, because they are silent, and you don’t disturb the environment. So you can interact with the birds in a more natural way, also that harmony is good for our mental health. It is part of our mission to minimize the impact in this sensitive ecosystem. In order to reduce the aforementioned environmental impact we chose non polluting, silent vessels without CO2 emissions and powered entirely by sunlight.


Sustainable boating is one of the many Solutions in the Solar Punk movement. “Solarpunk is a movement in speculative fiction, art, fashion and activism that seeks to answer and embody the question “what does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” The aesthetics of solarpunk merge the practical with the beautiful, the well-designed with the green and wild, the bright and colorful with the earthy and solid. Solarpunk can be utopian, just optimistic, or concerned with the struggles en route to a better world — but never dystopian.

As our world roils with calamity, we need solutions, not warnings.

Solutions to live comfortably without fossil fuels, to equitably manage scarcity and share abundance, to be kinder to each other and to the planet we share. At once a vision of the future, a thoughtful provocation, and an achievable lifestyle.


How ‘We are on a boat’ came about

Four years ago we naively launched our boat sharing app to match people who would like to be on a boat with people who were willing to share their boat. Since then we have been building a community of boating enthusiasts. We have been relying on Social Captains that occasionally shared their boats in exchange of a simple smile, a draw, a hug, drinks and snacks, a good story, a new friend, a bottle of wine, etc.

It all started in Amsterdam, but the app is being used all over the world now, with more than 10,000 app downloads in 100 different countries. We’ve seen boats being shared in the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Japan and more. With the rise of the sharing economy it’s become easier than ever to get on a boat. Any boat.

On one hand it is great to see our canals, rivers and oceans full of boats. But at the same time, the more motor boats we have on the water, the more we pollute. Luckily, there are alternatives to motor boats but for some reason they do not receive the attention they deserve. We are hoping to put those alternatives in the spotlight.


What the platform aims to achieve

We are on a mission to exclusively promote the rental of eco-friendly boats and yachts with our new P2P platform. By eco-friendly, I mean electric, wind or solar-powered boats. Anyone with a solar boat can rent out on our platform, but we refuse the listings of motor boats. 

Calmness is what we all need. We are aiming to promote eco-tourism and friendly experiences such as bird and dolphin watching, plastic fishing, or simply wine tasting or healthy food on board. Triggered by the issue of global warming, we want to contribute towards a healthier and eco-friendly approach to our planet. We are aiming to motivate and empower people to convert their boats into electric ones and hope to educate people about sustainable tourism & travel through sustainable boating.

We believe we can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, more specifically to ensure clean water, affordable and clean energy, committing to helping life below water, sustainable cities and communities. We aim to make the solar boats contribute to the energy grid system of the cities.

Ultimately, closer home, we are hoping to make the canals of Amsterdam swimmable. And who knows, maybe some dolphins start to pop by….


The Airbnb of the oceans…….

What if Airbnb only accepted homes with clean energy providers, eco-friendly experiences and meatless dishes. What if Uber & Lyft only accepted electric cars. That’s the world we envisage.  At We are on a boat, we only accept sustainable boats.

Weareonaboat gives people access to a sustainable boating experience. It’s a shared economy of electrical and solar boats worldwide. It’s simple. Here’s how,

Private companies & people with eco boats list them

– Environmentally conscious boating enthusiasts rent through the platform

– It’s user friendly & easy to book in 3 simple steps:

             – Search by city

             – Filter by price, number of people, with or without captain, type of boat

             – Review listings & Book it!


The reception so far

There’s a new generation of conscious traveller’s which is why the response to the platform has been very positive. “Well Being” for many today is defined more in experiential and less in material terms. People are starting to actively look for more ecologically responsible brands, more adventure and soulfulness.

Most of the visits to the platform come from The Netherlands & U.S, followed by France, UK, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Canada, Sweden and Italy. We have eco boats listed across Europe & U.S, but also in Abu Dhabi.

The main city is obviously Amsterdam, where we are based. A city that breeds innovation and embraces sustainability initiatives.


What the industry needs more of

I would like to see more social responsibility and accountability from corporations. I would like to avoid elitisms. I would like to see empowerment from regulators to positive initiatives.

There’s a law from Waternet (The organisation responsible for the quality of the water in The Netherlands) that all the touristic boats should be electric by 2030. That is great. Although there are 14,000 small leisure boats, it is expensive for independent boat owners to convert their boats into electric ones. To accelerate and facilitate this process we would like to propose to Waternet, to give an incentive to these private boat owners. For example, if they convert their boat to electric they could rent their boat for one month per year, without an official Captain license. We believe this would empower and motivate them to take action.

Is also really nice to see a new generation of solar boat racers, experimenting with solar technology. It could be even better if they would allow other people to try their amazing solar boat creations.


A favourite travel destination and what there stands out in terms of Sustainability

I would say Portugal, which is progressing rapidly in terms of Sustainability. In 2016, the entire country ran on wind, solar, and hydropower for 4 straight days. And most recently Portugal generated more renewable energy than it needed in March, for the first time. Energy from renewable sources made up 103.6 per cent of mainland electricity consumption.

Solar boat builders and solar boat rental startups are popping up from north to south – from the Tejo river in Lisbon, to beaches in Algarve and other unexplored areas such Maranhão Lake in Avis, Portalegre or companies dedicated to Nature Tourism in Ria de Aveiro.


A place closer home which is a must see for people to explore and experience

I would definitely recommend to explore and delight yourself in the picturesque canals of Amsterdam on an eco-friendly boat especially around the beautiful neighbourhood of the Jordaan. To do so, you can choose from several eco boats and experiences at www.weareonaboat.com.


By the way, we are looking for collaborators and investors, because at the moment we have been on this mission with zero funding. Get in touch on ahoy@weareonaboat.com.

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