La Bella Verde solar catamarans: Ibiza boat charters’ new wave27th March 2023
La Bella Verde (LBV) is Ibiza’s only electric catamaran charter company. One afternoon, not so long ago, when he was preparing one of the boats for the launch of the season, Dutch founder and CEO Maarten Bernhart took time out to chat about LBV’s mission and his own story. As we spoke, I could hear the sound of water lapping against the hull of the boat on which he was working.
The idea that it’s possible for boating to be in harmony with nature rather than happen at her expense is the guiding principle of LBV .
Today, LBV builds boats using durable, sustainably sourced and fully recyclable material, converts end-of-life boats to solar-electric and operates its charter business with a positive footprint.
The La Bella Verde fleet
Named for the first boat in LBV’s fleet, La Bella Verde now operates four catamarans and one monohull.
Alongside the original La Bella Verde, clients can choose from Sara of the Seas, Dragonfly, Nalu Kai and Ninja Turtle. Sara of the Seas offers sleeping berths for overnight charters.
‘For us it’s hypocritical to use boats for fun at nature’s expense. We don’t want to f*ck nature for fun. All our boats are 100% solar and wind powered,’ Maarten told me, ‘in line with our ethos of creating a zero impact nautical experience. There’s no noise and no pollution. We only use the elements to sail.’
LBV is also taking orders for the LBV35, designed by the company for other charter operators to help in its mission to bring sustainability to the nautical leisure industry. This is the first in the fleet to be built at Innovation Yachts shipyard in France.
‘Innovation has helped us build the world’s first non-toxic composite 100% recyclable boat,’ Maarten said. ‘We invested considerably in development and R&D but it’s worth it. Not just because the boat has won awards. It’s a big leap forward for our mission.’
As devoted ocean lovers, the La Bella Verde team has set out on a mission to do good by protecting the sea and demonstrating fun and innovative ways to do so.
Maarten Bernhart: born to be on the water
Maarten’s grandfather had a boat, as did his parents and he has always sailed. Not especially keen on school, the water was his classroom. In 2012, when he was 18, Maarten came to Ibiza and stayed. ‘It was the best choice I ever made,’ he says now.
After a period of simply enjoying life on the island and intending to stay, Maarten had to figure out what to do. He went back to sailing, initially teaching sailing at Ses Salines Sailing Club. Then he became the captain of a catamaran being offered out for charters.
‘This was when I began to realise the negative impact of nautical tourism on Ibiza and Formentera,’ he told me. ‘I saw the amount of fuel and oil spillage from the boats and became convinced things could be done differently.’
Maarten attempted to persuade the catamaran’s owner to convert the catamaran to electric power. She wasn’t sure. Together with two friends, Maarten bought the catamaran and, in 2014, LBV was born.
In 2018, LBV attracted private investment from a Dutchman who’d moved to Ibiza and was determined to put money into something sustainable on the water. Over time the lives of the original three founders went in different directions. Now, LBV is Maarten, his team and the investor.
Still unique in Ibiza
Eight years ago, Maarten and his cofounders were pioneers. ‘We thought we’d have to move fast because we’d have competition but we’re still the only charter company in Ibiza that doesn’t contaminate nature,’ Maarten said.
‘I only wish it wasn’t so,’ he added.
According to him, the main reason LBV could be a pioneer in the first place is because it didn’t have a history of doing things conventionally and because sustainable sailing was the sole purpose of the company from the beginning.
‘There is a real push towards sustainability in the marine industry but it’s way too slow. Only now are the bigger brands going electric. This is because their business model is based on the old way, using toxic materials and so on. It’s also more expensive for them to shift to becoming sustainable. For us, sustainability was the start of everything. The green way is our thing.’
Now LBV is taking bigger steps to help fight pollution around the island. It built a catamaran that was purchased by the IBI Foundation which is committed to removing plastic from the ocean around Ibiza and the Balearic Islands. LBV maintains the boat and provides a captain.
As do all the boats LBV builds new, the IBI Foundation catamaran includes a tough, durable Ocean Cleaning System, a net that allows people to pick up plastic wherever they go, while having fun.
Looking ahead with La Bella Verde
Now in his early 30s, Maarten lives happily in the Ibiza countryside with his girlfriend, their dog and chickens.
When he’s not exploring the calas of his favourite north-west coast or hiking, he enjoys everything Ibiza has to offer, including an occasional night clubbing. His current favourite club is Akasha at Las Dalias.
As far as LBV is concerned, growing the business and spreading the word about its mission involves developing the franchise side of things. This began with the sale of a boat to an Australian living in Sydney.
‘He came to Ibiza on holiday,’ Maarten explains, ‘booked a charter with us, loved the experience and decided he wanted to bring the LBV mission to Sydney Harbour. We were delighted. Our boats fit in a container. We shipped one over and off he went.’
Now Maarten and his team are focusing on expansion through Franchises elsewhere, starting with the other Balearic islands and mainland Spain. ‘Anybody can open up an LBV Franchise in their location,’ Maarten says. ‘The only thing you need is a good heart and a green boat! A Malaga franchise is kicking off this summer.’