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May 31st 2018. By Tim Claxton.

5 Steps to Greener Yachting

Follow these tips for more responsible yachting, and give back to the waters you love.

Yachting isn’t always an eco-friendly activity, but as we learned in New Yachts Promise Green Cruising, people are now taking the environment into account even when it comes to 300’ and larger mega-yachts. Most of us have an inkling of the responsibility and opportunity we have, as boaters, to protect the waters we use. Yet too often the oceans are seen as so vast and deep that it’s hard to grasp the impact. Only offshore ocean sailors experience the devastation of garbage islands and ocean wasteland deserts. But the facts are shocking: 85 percent of the petroleum that enters North American waters each year is a result of human activities—and that includes recreational yachting. Petroleum product pollution is suffocating fish, killing over one million seabirds every year, and has created an island of garbage twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean.

To help boaters and the environment, our friends at Sailors for the Sea recently published a comprehensive Green Boating Guide with tips and resources to help us practice environmentally-conscious boating. Image courtesy of Sailors For The Sea. To help boaters and the environment, our friends at Sailors for the Sea recently published a comprehensive Green Boating Guide with tips and resources to help us practice environmentally-conscious boating. Image courtesy of Sailors For The Sea.

To help boaters and the environment, our friends at Sailors for the Sea recently published a comprehensive Green Boating Guide with tips and resources to help us practice environmentally-conscious boating. Image courtesy of Sailors For The Sea.

As you jump onto your boat this summer, here are five straightforward steps from the Green Boating Guide that you can take to care for the fragile ocean ecosystem around us.

1. Don’t Spill

Just a pint of oil released into the water can spread into a one acre slick. Preventative measures you can take to ensure your boat isn’t contributing to the mess include:

  • Place an absorbent cloth or collar around the fuel intake to catch drips or any overflow when refueling.
  • Fill up small outboard tanks on the dock, where spills are less likely to occur
  • Fill the tank slowly and listen for a change in tone indicating you’re nearly full. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends filling inboard tanks to 90-percent capacity to allow for expansion, due to heat.
  • If you do spill, notify the fuel dock operator, wipe up any accidental spills ASAP and dispose of fuel-soaked rags properly.

 

2. Go Greener (and Faster)

There are many ways to increase your fuel efficiency and reduce your carbon footprint—and which often result in cost savings or improved performance, too.

  • Be aware of your impact. You can estimate your carbon footprint with a simple calculation using this guide.
  • Upgrade your outboard. The State of California Air Resources Board (1998) found that old-technology carbureted two-stroke engines can discharge as much as one-third of the oil/petrol mixture unburned into the water. Upgrade old engines to four-stroke or new-generation two-stroke outboards and your fuel efficiency will soar. Or consider alternative fuel engine choices, ranging from natural gas to propane, electric, and solar diesel-electric boats.
  • Think about adding a renewable energy source for your boat’s systems, such as a wind generator, solar panels, or even solar sails.
  • Maintain the bottom of your vessel. Growth on your hull will increase friction, slowing you down and increasing fuel consumption.

 

3. Use Eco-Friendly Marine Products

Many cleaning products are harmful to aquatic life, water quality, and the overall ecosystem. Some chemicals damage fish tissues, while others create nutrient imbalances leading to algae blooms. Whether you clean your boat on land or in the water, the choice of product that you use is very important. In San Diego Bay, for example, 72 percent of the copper entering the water is due to discharges from antifouling paint and in-water hull cleaning.

  • Use non-toxic cleaning products such as Thetford marine boat wash.
  • Use an alternative to copper bottom paint. Copper leaches into the water and can accumulate in filter feeders such as clams and mussels. There are some good alternatives, such as Hempel X3.
  • If you’re removing bottom paint, scrub your hull on land during a haul-out and use a wet sander or vacuum sander, rather than dry-sanding.

 

4. Avoid Single-Use Plastic

An average of eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean from land each year. As boaters, there are many ways we can keep plastics and other debris from getting into the water.

  • Bring reusable containers and utensils.
  • Remove packaging from products before you carry them onto your boat.
  • Cut six-pack rings so that they do not become a noose for wildlife, and stow them where they cannot be accidently lost overboard.
  • Bring back what you take—but better yet, pick up items you find on beaches or in the water if possible. If you have kids aboard your yacht, bring a long-handled dip-net. When you’re slowly cruising along, make a game out of scooping up plastic you see floating on the water’s surface.
Letting plastic refuse find its way overboard is one of the worst ways yachters can impact the ocean. Image courtesy of Sailors For The Sea.

Letting plastic refuse find its way overboard is one of the worst ways yachters can impact the ocean. Image courtesy of Sailors For The Sea.

5. Protect the Wildlife

For anglers and sailors, one of the great joys of boating is being in and around marine wildlife. However, encounters with boats can be deadly for some creatures, or hazardous for you.

  • If you’re anchoring, keep to sand or mud areas to avoid sensitive ecosystems. Use mooring buoys if they are available.
  • Remain at least 100 yards away from all marine wildlife.
  • Never chase an animal. If they approach you, then reduce speed and shift into neutral until they move away.
  • For catch and release fishing, remember to keep your hands clean and wet when handling a fish. This protects their mucous and scales, which prevents the fish from infection. Also consider using barbless hooks and/or circle hooks, which tend to do less harm to the fish.
  • Recycle microfilament fishing line. It’s not biodegradable and takes over 600 years to decompose, according to the U.S. National Park Service. Marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and birds can be injured or killed by entanglement or ingestion.

Shelley Brown, the author of the guide, has a message for all of us: “While enjoying what they love, boaters can play a vital role in protecting their waterways. With the proper knowledge and resources, each one of us can easily take steps to become stewards of a healthier ocean.”

Editor’s Note: This article originally published in June 2016 and was updated in May 2018.



Tim Claxton
Tim Claxton is a product marketing consultant, passionate sailor and periodically writes articles on boating trends and technology.