Green Boating Tips for Spring

By Jennifer Brett

Spring is here, the weather is heating up, and it’s time to go sailing! With boat launch dates quickly approaching, now is a good time to finish your spring prep work. Here are some Green Boating tips to help you start this sailing season off right.

Bottom Paint

No doubt that you will need to pay some attention to your boat’s bottom before it goes in the water. If you are planning to put on some fresh antifouling, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the environmental impact.

When removing the old bottom paint, place a tarp or filter cloth under the boat to catch paint and scraping chips. It is dangerous to remove any large areas of antifouling by dry sanding, both to the operator and environment. If possible, place a tent over your boat to contain airborne particles and choose a still, windless day to sand. Try to wet sand or use a vacuum sander to remove old paint. When you have finished, collect any waste for safe disposal in a hazardous waste receptacle. If your boat is in a boatyard, check to see what rules they have regarding disposal.

Traditionally, antifouling paints have relied on metals—either tributyltin (TBT) or copper—as the active biocide ingredient. Due to extreme toxicity and its ability to persist in the marine environment, use of TBT in bottom paints has been banned in the US since 2008, leaving copper as the leading biocide. The problem with using copper in antifouling paint is that it also leaches into the marine environment and can accumulate in filter feeders such as clams and mussels, and damage the larval stages of aquatic invertebrates and some fish species. Marinas and protected anchorages with little current or tidal movement are particularly vulnerable, as the buildup of copper can reach toxic levels. This has led to a number of coastal communities banning the use of copper-based bottom paints.

Fortunately, paint technology has come a long way! Whether or not you live in a community where copper-based antifouling is regulated, consider looking into more environmentally friendly options for antifouling such as formulas containing metal-free biocides, or even better—no biocides. The Port of San Diego has this helpful guide for choosing alternative bottom paints.

Shrink Wrap

If you keep your boat under a protective shrink-wrap cover during the winter months, removing the cover is a wonderful feeling. But what do you do with it now? In some instances, you can use it again next year! Reusing shrink wrap takes a little planning ahead of time, both when setting up the cover in the fall and removing it in the spring, but a recent study by Clean Ocean Access found that reusing the cover greatly lessens its environmental impact. Recycling the wrap is also an option. Check with your marina or boatyard to see if they participate in a collection program, or visit Clean Ocean Access’ Shrink Wrap Recycling information page to find a collection site near you.

Sail and Boat Cleaning

Spring is a perfect time to give your boat and sails a good cleaning. When choosing what products to use, look for formulas that are gentle on the environment, or even make your own!

Many commercially available cleaners are not meant to be released directly into the water, even if they are labeled “green” or “eco friendly.”  Ingredients in certain cleaners can damage fish tissues or persist in the environment and enter the food chain. BoatU.S. Foundation recently conducted a study measuring the effectiveness and toxicity of various boat cleaners with “green” claims. The results of the study can be found here.

Regardless if you use a homemade or store-bought cleaner, be sure to measure and dilute according to directions. If possible, rinse off your boat after each use with fresh water. This will go a long way to keeping the boat clean and will reduce the need for cleaning products.

To learn more about what boaters can do to protect our oceans and waterways, join Sailors for the Sea today and we will send you a free, downloadable copy of our Green Boating Guide.