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Ocean Safety 2023 - New Identity - LEADERBOARD

Lessons from s/v Novara's expedition

by Veronica Lysaght and Nigel Jollands, s/v Novara 2 Oct 14:36 UTC

s/v Novara's expedition sought to support Scottish Highlands and Islands climate action.

Tom Lusink strides along the pontoon to greet us as we arrive at Raasay Island. Raasay is an island off an island, off an island, nestled between Skye and the Scottish mainland. It is a dramatic landscape - rugged coastline, trees struggling to take hold, wind funneling over narrow straits - with welcoming and resourceful residents. Tom, as the local coordinator for Carbon Neutral Islands (CNI), knows only too well that Raasay is on the front line of climate change adaptation.

The CNI project has been under way for around 12 months when we visited many of the Scottish Islands participating in the project. We sailed from Shetland to Orkney, Outer Hebrides, and zig-zagged across The Minch on our expedition sailing vessel Novara, privileged to visit many of the carbon-neutral islands. As we presented at the Poole AGM in April this year, our mission on Novara is to connect coastal communities to the impacts of climate change. Arriving by sailing vessel, having braved the elements to get there, gave us a unique credibility to engage with the coastal communities, all of which live by the rhythms of the sea. The opportunity to visit and work with the communities allowed us to learn about their efforts firsthand and to offer tailored support where needed.

As a result of our time in Scotland, we contributed to two climate events (Lerwick and Barra), had more than 100 people tour Novara and engage in climate adaptation discussions, met many climate action coordinators, and gave feedback on several climate action plans. In addition, we've left the following ongoing connections/support in place:


  • We connected The Food for Survival work of Martin Gerrish to people in New Zealand who are now looking to replicate this in NZ schools.
  • We Connected the community council to an EV charging company to support their work on charging infrastructure in the area.
  • We linked Lerwick council climate team to Prof Bruce Glavovic, Novara Advisor and an expert on holding difficult conversations with communities around climate adaptation decisions
  • We also connected them to an experienced coach to learn how to enhance community connection
  • We provided feedback on their climate action plan (key points were the need to strengthen their consideration of insurance issues and finance in their plan)
  • We linked the climate coordinators on the island to a climate finance expert who has agreed to mentor them through the next months regarding the deployment of grant funding
Hoy & Walls, Barra & Vatersay and Islay:
  • We facilitated individual coaching for the climate coordinators and offered wider assistance to those impacted by climate change events.
  • We are in the process of linking the Islay representative with a US renewables expert to assist with the procurement of solar PV panels.
While in Scotland, we were also able to look through many of the climate action/adaptation plans. We were impressed with the depth of dedication of the teams working in the field, and in awe at the huge task ahead of them. However, many of the plans had gaps, which the Novara team is working to assist the island climate champions to address.

The last few months at sea have reinforced Veronica's conviction that 'This is not a hero's journey'. We are not doing this on our own, and the more people that engage on this topic, the more effective we'll be. In fact, as we asked in April, what if other OCC members could start conversations about adapting to climate change with the coastal communities they encounter on their journeys?

If you're interested in learning how you could join this network of sailors doing their bit for climate change adaptation, please contact Veronica, Nigel and Steve at for more information. We've got lots of resources that can help you learn about the climate issues facing coastal communities and primers to get you started with your own community engagement.

As Novara was leaving Raasay, we remember Tom standing on the dock. He gazes out to sea - maybe dreaming of a future where Raasay's climate challenges are addressed and his family and community are climate-safe.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of the Ocean Cruising Club.

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