It’s summertime, and that means everyone is heading out on the water to enjoy the warm summer weather. It also means unwary boaters could be contributing to waterway pollution without even realizing it.
If you’re heading out on the water this summer, here are six tips to help you be an eco-friendly boater and ensure you’re not damaging the waterways you’re enjoying.
#1 Go Green
You might use green, eco-friendly cleaning products in your home, so why wouldn’t you use these same eco-friendly products to clean your boat — especially if you’re cleaning it in the marina where the rinsed away cleaning products will end up in the water.
You have plenty of cleaners to pick from, so make sure to choose ones that are biodegradable and non-toxic to keep your boat clean without damaging the environment.
#2 Bag your trash
We all end up taking plenty of disposable items out on the water — water bottles, sandwich baggies, snack packages and even sunscreen bottles can end up in the water, and there’s too much plastic in the oceans as it is.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up primarily of plastic and is larger than the state of Texas. We should do everything we can to prevent more trash from getting into the oceans or our nation’s waterways.
Bag your trash and keep it on your boat to dispose of when you get back to port. Retrieve anything that gets into the water — and if you see anything floating by your boat that might not necessarily be yours, you should pick that up, too!
#3 Repaint your boat
If you’ve got an older boat, chances are the paint is peeling or starting to flake off in places. This is normal — your boat is exposed to harsh elements, including salt water, UV rays, barnacles, sand and more. After a while, the paint starts to fail. These paint chips aren’t good for the water, and having an exposed surface isn’t good for your boat. If you start noticing paint flakes, it might be a good time to plan on repainting your boat.
You’ll want to do this in dry dock — somewhere away from the water, so no extra paint ends up in the waterways. You’ll also want to remove the original paint by scraping or sanding before priming the surface. Keep in mind that upwards of 75 percent of a successful paint job is reliant on good preparation, so by taking the time to obtain all your supplies and prepare your surfaces can ensure your paint job is successful — and that won’t have to redo it in a couple of years.
#4 Upgrade your motor
If your motor runs well, you might not have considered upgrading it no matter how old it is. However, if you want to be more environmentally conscientious, this should be your next upgrade. Older engines may leak fuel or oil and create more exhaust that is released into the atmosphere. Old two-stroke engines can release as much as 30 percent of its unburned fuel or fuel and oil mixture directly into the water.
Consider upgrading to a four-stroke marine engine. Similar to the one in your car, these engines use alternating intake and exhaust valves to prevent unburned fuel from leaking out of the engine. If you don’t have the funds to upgrade to a modern marine engine, make sure you keep yours in decent shape — a well-maintained engine, even a two-stroke, can prevent it from leaking fuel and contaminating the waterways you’re enjoying.
#5 Gas up in port
If you run out of gas out in the water, fueling up out there isn’t something you can avoid. If you can, always try to fill up before you get into the water. This prevents accidental fuel spills that can damage the aquatic ecosystem.
You should also make sure you have enough fuel in your tank for your planned trip. Harbor patrol or the coast guard can come to the rescue if you run out of fuel, but that can be expensive. If there isn’t a legitimate emergency, you may end up footing the entire bill.
#6 Mind your waste
If your boat or ship has a restroom, running water or a kitchen, chances are it’s also equipped with wastewater and gray water storage tanks. It might not seem like a problem to dump these tanks out in the ocean, but if you’re within three miles of shore, it can cause a problem with local ecosystems. Human waste is high in nitrates and phosphorus, which can encourage algae blooms. Gray water can also contain soaps that can cause damage to fish and ocean plants.
Use shore-side facilities or pump out stations to dispose of your waste and gray water to ensure you’re not inadvertently damaging the environment.
We don’t want to discourage you from taking your boat out on the water this summer — it’s a great way to spend the warmer months. Just be smart with your choices and keep up with your boat’s maintenance to ensure that you’re not leaking oil or fuel into the water.
It’s up to us to protect the waters of this world, and the best way that we can do that is not to avoid them, but to pay attention to what we take with us when we’re enjoying them. Don’t leave anything behind when you head out onto the water this summer — no plastic, no fuel, no oil and no litter.
This is a guest post written by Megan Ray Nichols.