Sailing the globe ... fuelled by cooking oil

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  • Dutch sailor Martijn Dijkstra and his new crew member Laura Borys in the galley of the Prinses Mia (Photo by Akil Simmons)

    Dutch sailor Martijn Dijkstra and his new crew member Laura Borys in the galley of the Prinses Mia (Photo by Akil Simmons)

  • Martijn Dijkstra strains used cooking oil to use for fuel. He has to strain it to remove any debris that might clog the engine injectors or cause it to run sluggishly (Photo by Akil Simmons)

    Martijn Dijkstra strains used cooking oil to use for fuel. He has to strain it to remove any debris that might clog the engine injectors or cause it to run sluggishly (Photo by Akil Simmons)


Sailing around the world does not have to cost a fortune — even if the trip lasts a lifetime.

Dutch sailor Martijn Dijkstra has salvaged, recycled or built almost every part of his 52-foot steel sailboat, Prinses Mia, at little to no cost.

The engine even runs on used cooking oil, leaving him with few expenses other than food.

Mr Dijkstra, 40, has lived on sailboats for more than a decade, covering about 82,000 miles and making 1,436 stops.

“I always thought you needed an awful lot of money for this kind of lifestyle but I think it’s the other way around — I couldn’t live in a house,” he said. “I love the free and easy sailboat life.

“When you live on a boat, wherever you anchor is home.

“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and don’t know where I am.

“I would love to keep sailing around.

“It might be a simple life but why make it difficult if you don’t have to?”

Mr Dijkstra, a marine engineer, wants to prove that big boats do not have to cost big money and he has developed resourceful ways for outfitting the Prinses Mia.

Instead of buying the newest gadgets, he prefers to make do with what he can salvage and build himself, even if this means scouring the dumps — and he said he was amazed at what people threw away.

The blue paint in the sailboat’s interior was recovered from the dump in Bermuda, as were three new car radios, new batteries and half an engine for spare parts.

“Bermuda has the nicest dump in the world, because people are so wasteful,” Mr Dijkstra said.

But it is on fuel that the sailor really saves money.

Instead of buying diesel, Mr Dijkstra collects used cooking oil for free from restaurants and only runs the engine when absolutely necessary.

As he sailed from St Maarten in the Caribbean to Panama then on to Bermuda this winter, the engine ran for just 30 hours.

“I’m totally against using fuel — if there is no wind, we wait. It’s a sailboat that sails,” Mr Dijkstra said.

He stores the oil in the fuel tanks and refines it himself, filtering out water and debris that would clog the engine.

The appliances run on solar power and there is a small propane tank on board, as well as two generators for back-up power.

A wood-burning stove keeps out the cold, and Mr Dijkstra is hoping to build a steam room in the bathroom — teaching his new crew member how to weld in the process.

Laura Borys, 24, flew to Bermuda from San Francisco a few days ago to join Mr Dijkstra on the next leg of his journey.

Ms Borys, from Vermont, has been travelling since she became bored with her nine-to-five job.

She rode her motorcycle across America and wanted to keep going.

“You’re constantly learning but it’s a different type of education than sitting in a classroom,” Ms Borys said of her new life.

“I sailed when I was little with my dad but I don’t really know anything.

“I’m just so grateful Martijn is willing to teach me.”

Mr Dijkstra added: “I’m also learning every day, because of course I don’t want to hire anyone to fix anything — I’d be too proud.”

Before he bought the Prinses Mia in 2011 he lived on a smaller 30-foot sailboat, the Rotop, and Mr Dijkstra has been around boats all his life.

His father took him out on the water for the first time when he was three weeks old, and he worked on cargo ships and tug boats for 12 years.

He said: “I got a bit sick of all the rules and regulations, so I thought, ‘I’ll go sailing for a bit’. That was ten years ago now.”

Mr Dijkstra has been coming to Bermuda for seven years.

He arrived in December to visit his four-year-old daughter Mia, who lives on the Island with her mother. But Mr Dijkstra and Ms Borys will soon set sail again, heading south to Columbia and Cuba to find some warmer weather.

They are hoping to return to Bermuda for the America’s Cup.

“I can’t wait to see what they will throw away,” Mr Dijkstra said.

If you would like to know more about Mr Dijkstra and Ms Borys, they welcome anyone to get in touch with them by e-mail at martijn@towndock.net

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Published Jan 16, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 16, 2015 at 12:24 pm)

Sailing the globe ... fuelled by cooking oil

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