Summertime is nigh upon us, and whether it’s cold and breezy (after all, it’s still spring), boat owners are taking their vessels out on the water no matter what the weather conditions. Environmental concerns and green living don’t end when you hoist the sails, untie the moorings and leave the shore behind. Federal law states it’s illegal for boats to discharge plastics into the water, according to the American Boating Association. Depending on the region or state, other restrictions may apply too. In other words, don’t litter, or as mariners like to say “stow it, don’t throw it.” Sure, it’s a good start, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to green tips for summer boating.
The Marine Environment
A clean boat is not only a happy boat but creates a happy marine environment. Every state has different environmental laws when it comes to boating. Both Virginia and California stress the fact that nuisance aquatic species can spread quickly and damage water resources and native ecosystems. In other waters, before leaving a body of water, you need to examine and clean your boat and equipment, scrubbing off any mud, plants and invasive marine species. So if you’re boating at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and a harbor master catches sight of you leaving a body of water without cleaning your gear, your Virginia boating license can be revoked. With over a quarter of a million motorboats in California, the spreading of invasive species is something the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries takes seriously.
Sailboat on Chesapeake Bay by Jeff Marks via Flickr
Prevent Fuel and Oil Leaks
Whether you have an older model boat or a modern skiff, you need to inspect the engine and keep it well tuned in order to prevent leaks. The bilge should be kept clean and dry as well, and an oil absorbent should be placed under the engine and in the bilge to catch any leaks. These absorbents can be disposed of at the hazardous water center at the marina. Any fuel or oils spills need to be reported immediately.
The Sewage Situation
When it comes to managing sewage, use dump stations, sewage pumpouts or mobile-pumpout services. Whether you’re sailing in a lake, river, reservoir or coastal waters, it’s illegal to discharge untreated sewage within a three-mile territorial limit of shore. In other words, this isn’t really a green tip, it’s the law. Boaters need to plan ahead as to how they’re going to properly manage waste.
Boat Cleaning and Maintenance
Boaters take pride in their vessels. Even if you’re cruising the waters off of Cape Cod in an old dingy, when you return to the marina, you’re going to wash and scrub the boat until it’s as shiny as a super yacht in the French Riviera. Be sure to use boat cleaners that are water-based, phosphate-free and biodegradable. If you’re cleaning or doing maintenance on your boat around the water, use tarps to collect any drips or debris. However, it’s better to avoid doing any maintenance on the dock and save all repairs for the boatyard.