Every cruise, every sail, every evening spent dockside with friends, family, and a beautiful sunset is another reminder of how blessed we are with this wondrous ocean resource and of our responsibility to preserve it with environmentally sound boating practices. So here, as we weigh anchor on another glorious boating season, are seven tips for eco-friendly boating.
Eco-Friendly Dockside Best Practices
Inspect tanks and fuel lines for erosion and chafing: Gasoline is, of course, corrosive, but plastic fuel lines and tanks are also susceptible to degradation from exposure to ultraviolet light. Inspect all plastic fuel tanks, hoses, lines, and jerry cans for cracks and leaks, and check hoses for chafing, particularly if they run through bulkheads.
Don’t overfill tanks and jerry cans: Fuel expands as it absorbs heat, forcing leaks from any cracks, weak points, or openings. Never fill fuel tanks to the brim, and fill any jerry cans only to “safe fill level” indicators.
Establish a protocol for containing accidental spills: Keep fuel and oil-absorbent cloths on board and easily accessible, especially when refueling. Train any crew in the containment plans you’ve made, and avoid refueling in heavy weather. Never throw oily rags overboard; dispose of any containment materials in approved, on-shore facilities.
Running clean and efficient engines
Tune-up and spot check: Follow all manufacturer recommendations for scheduled maintenance procedures to ensure a safe trip and to save money by burning fuel more efficiently. This is also a great opportunity to check tanks and fuel lines as mentioned above.
Dispose of used oil and filters properly: Some ports of call may lack dedicated disposal facilities, so check with local gas stations to see if they’ll accept used oil. Even less-traveled areas may lack that option, so be prepared to safely carry used oil and materials until you reach a better-equipped facility.
Never pump the bilge in sensitive marine environments: Few things are uglier than floating oil or fuel slicks, so keep your bilge as free of chemicals and pollutants as possible. To avoid contaminating delicate waterways, use designated pumping areas whenever available and, of course, wherever mandated.
Protecting the Marine Environment and its Wildlife While Underway
Observe all no-wake zones: Not just disruptive to other boaters — and not to mention just plain rude — leaving a high-speed wave also threatens shorelines with erosion and disturbs their aquatic plants and animals. Coastal breeding grounds and coral gardens are among the entities easily damaged, so go slow navigating confined channels and near beaches, coves, and mangroves. The same goes for leaving the dock and moving through anchorages.
Trim up outboards in shallow waters: Dragging propellers can, in addition to literally muddying the waters by kicking up sediment, injure marine animals and damage plants like seagrass. Turtles, manatees, and other species depend on seagrass for sustenance, while many fish breed and seek shelter from predators there. Propeller-scarred seagrass is also more susceptible to subsequent storm damage.
Anchor carefully: Avoid dropping anchor directly on coral beds and sea plants or dragging your chain over coral beds, damaging both the beds and your gear. Instead, anchor in patches of sand or in chart-designated anchor zones, and never throw your pick in marked marine preserves and protected areas.
Observe wildlife from a safe distance: It’s tempting to get up close and personal with aquatic wildlife, but chasing them only increases their stress and puts them at risk of inadvertent propeller injury.
Everyday Environmental Consciousness
Utilize reusables: Just swapping out paper towels for washable dishcloths, paper plates for wooden and plastic wrap for beeswax wrap goes a long way towards a greener world, as does bringing a reusable mug when you go out for that caffeine fix.
Keep your favorite beach stop clean: Next time you cruise to your favorite beach stop, take some time to leave it cleaner than you found it. Maybe even make a community-based, eco-friendly event of it by organizing a beach clean-up day at your preferred anchorage.
Outfit with eco-friendly gadgets and gear: Environmentally conscious boaters can go even greener by adopting solar-powered onboard gadgets, switching over to energy-efficient LED bulbs and lights, replacing electric appliances with manually powered units and buying secondhand gear online or at swap meets.
For more info on eco-friendly boating and all things nautical, visit the Harbortown Marina-Canaveral Captain’s Blog.