Pairing yachts with purposeful projects
The Pelorus Foundation is on a mission to protect, preserve and promote at-risk environments – and superyachts are a huge part of the process
When Jimmy Carroll and Geordie Mackay-Lewis launched travel and adventure company Pelorus three years ago, the idea for a supporting charitable conservation foundation was already brewing. “It was always the way that we would encourage our clients to get involved with certain projects,” says Lewis. “If we were taking someone to Greenland on a yacht, for example, we’d point out any amazing environmental initiatives in the area.”
Many yachting clients recognised the value of such initiatives straight away – realising they could get involved with tagging whales or other experiences that they wouldn’t normally have access to. But the pair were convinced that there were still gaps that could be plugged by an official foundation. “We’d sometimes be going to places that nobody was going to visit again for a long time,” explains Lewis. “We thought it would be good to have a pot of cash so that we could make the most of every opportunity when it came up.” The Pelorus Foundation was born, officially launched as a standalone charity late last year.
Aware that there were many other environmental charities out there, the initial challenge was ensuring theirs would have true meaning and purpose, rather than competing against others, many of which, such as Ocean Bottle and World Land Trust, they already supported. “We found these black holes around the world that were not being supported by anyone,” says Lewis. “We thought our vehicle could focus on these areas, we knew could do a lot of good and carry out really valuable work.”
The pair established a heatmap of certain areas that needed lots of work, including the Mozambique Channel, parts of Antarctica and South America. Then, they’d start projects from scratch if there was nobody there at all, or they’d partner with people already working in those areas. Take WIORI, a West Indian Ocean research initiative. “They focus on the Mozambique channel and they recognise that there is a lack of baseline data. Over the last few years, they’ve realised the benefits of marine projects and the like,” says Lewis. Today, helped by The Pelorus Foundation, they are setting up reserves and carrying out valuable research.
“They’ve got a catamaran that they own which spends a minimum of six weeks with scientists on board, conducting research. On top of that, we help them to generate charters where clients can take part in research,” explains Lewis. Guests have the chance to dive and snorkel on a variety of reefs, microlight over the coastline and drive through the private game and marine reserve.
Other yacht conservation projects in the pipeline include shark nursery research in the Galapagos, an Antarctic whale research programme and a research initiative in the Red Sea, looking at the general condition of the ecosystem.
These sorts of activities are now commonplace for Pelorus yacht expeditions. “When we started, it was gentle nudges, now it’s almost mandatory for a Pelorus yacht expedition going to an interesting part of the world to take part in something,” says Lewis. “And because we have the foundation, even if the client says no, we can fund it ourselves.”
More often than not though, the clients like the fact they can leave a bit of a legacy. An upcoming project in Antarctica, where clients can help to tag minke whales, is a case in point. “Clients like things like that because they can put their name to it and the project can be named after them or their yacht,” says Lewis. Another client, inspired by David Attenborough, approached Pelorus specifically asking to be a part of a scientific project. “That’s the first time someone has come to us having never done something like that before. They just knew that the result would be an incredible experience with their family.”
The foundation is hopeful that their efforts will have a knock-on effect in an industry which is already making progress in conservation initiatives. Lewis cites Arksen as an example of a company making the right kind of moves in this space. “What Arksen are doing is great – if you’re an owner of one of their vessels then 10% of the time of that vessel has to go towards scientific research, which is amazing. If that could spread among the larger yards, the impact would be enormous. It’s really positive to hear of companies trying to do their bit to move the needle.” And Pelorus is certainly setting a fine example.