Green Boating: Best Practices April 13, 2021

Going green….sustainable boating…environmental impact.  These are all the buzzwords floating around.  

But the central question is: Can we operate our boats in a responsible way that protects our waterways, keeps our passengers safe, maintains the value of our boats and ensures that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy boating in the same way for generations to come?

Those are weighty questions to which the answers will likely change over time. But the simple answer is that we should all do everything we can to enjoy our boating pastime in the most responsible manner, especially when it comes to operating in areas that affect the environment around us.

Here are some helpful hints for the best way to do that.

1. Oil and water don’t mix

Most of our boats require gasoline and motor oil to run efficiently (or at all!).  As a boat owner, Job One is to keep that gas and oil out of our lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and oceans.  That means using oil-absorbent pads in the bilge or under your engine mount to capture spills and drips. Check and change those pads regularly and dispose of them carefully, as if they were toxic waste, which, in a way, they are. 

Use care and attention when refilling your boat’s fuel tanks. There are pads designed to use with gas nozzles, but a good rag will do the trick.  The Coast Guard recommends filling your tank to 90% capacity to allow the fuel to expand in the heat, so don’t fill the tank to the top. And remember most marine gas nozzles do not have the same automatic cut-off pressure system an automobile gas station nozzle does. 

Finally, keep your marine engine tuned and properly maintained. This is not only for efficiency, but also so that you or your mechanic can regularly check the fuel lines for leaks or drips.

2. Clean but not Toxic

Your boat gets dirty in normal use. Part of every boat owner’s life is the occasional need to get out the soap and sponge and wash down the deck, the hull, the upholstery…whatever needs it. 

But sometimes the soap that restores the bright shine of your boat contains toxins that aren’t good for the water quality of the lake, or the critters that live there.  There are lots of products on the market that advertise themselves as “biodegradable” or  “environmentally friendly.”  Are they?

BoatUS has done several surveys and tests of boat cleaning products. The most recent, from 2019, found that the clear leader in the non-toxic category was MK Super Suds from MaryKate.  Others that ranked “good” included 303 Multi-Surface Cleaner by Gold Eagle, Boat Zoap by Sudbury, Hybrid Wash and Wax by Chemical Guys and Citrus Boat Soap from West Marine. 

Products that did best in cleaning included Z Cleaner Ready to Use by Z Tuff, Power Pine by Star brite, Booyah Clean by Booyah Clean, and the 303 Multi-Surface and MK Super Suds (see above). 

For the full BoatUS report, see here

3. Bottom Paints

There are two main categories of bottom paints which are applied to boats mainly to keep algae and other water-based plants from taking up residence on your hull, which slows down your boat and reduces its performance.  Hard-boat bottom paints have a higher concentration of biocides that form a tough coating that resists wearing away during use. These paints are best for boats that remain in the water year-round or for lengthy periods of time. Ablative bottom paints have layers that wear away over time, revealing new biocides and reducing oxidation.  These paints are best for seasonal boats and those which are trailered.  (There are also bottom paints designed for aluminum hulls, a separate category).

Some of the best ablative paints include Interlux Micron CSC, Pettit Hydrocoat and the Aquaguard Waterbase Bottom Paint. 

Ask at our service desk for recommendations. Our technicians have used these and others over the years and can tell you what has worked well in our waters.

4. Trailer time

Often overlooked, your boat trailer can be one of the leading suspects in environmental problems, especially if you trailer your boat in and out of several different lakes and ponds during a season.  Backing your trailer into the water means it can pick up invasive or toxic species which will transfer to a new water source next time you launch your boat there.

It’s always good practice to hose down your trailer after every use and make sure you check for stray algae or other critters. Inspect, clean and let your boat and trailer dry out for several days between uses…that will help reduce cross-water pollution effects.

Going green is really just common sense boat operation to avoid spills and drips and runoff that can affect our beautiful lakes and ponds. It doesn’t take too much extra effort to ensure that you’re doing what you can to preserve our waterways for years to come.

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