A boater’s winter goal is keeping the elements out of the vessel. In spring, it’s preventing toxins from entering our waterways.
DIY boaters need to keep harmful substances from leaching into waterways directly from toxic bottom paint, parking lot overflow, and storm drains. Noxious elements also eventually enter our air and waterways from landfills.
If your boat’s winter coat was shrink wrap, prevent that petroleum-based, low-density polyethylene material from ending up in landfills, emitting harmful greenhouse gas. Ask your marina or boatyard if they do on-site bulk shrink wrap recycling. If not, check with the sanitation or environmental department of your town or village. Before recycling, remove accessories such as strapping, buckles, vents, snaps, and zippers.
It’s tempting to douse your boat in a strong cleanser and turn the hose on all the accumulated goo, grunge, and grime, but resist the urge. Chemical-laden water soaks into the ground and runs off into sewers or directly into nearby waters.
Before heading to the store, ask fellow boaters and trusted tradespeople for recommendations. Tossing bottle after bottle of useless products into landfills isn’t eco-friendly and is also a waste of time and money.
When it comes to cleaning products, avoid those with ammonia, lye, phosphates, bleach, petroleum distillates, methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene. Don’t toss cleansers into your cart merely because they proclaim they are green, natural, or eco-friendly. Read the ingredients — if you can’t pronounce it, wouldn’t use it in your home, and/or there’s a skull and crossbones symbol, don’t buy it! Additionally, reject products with cautions about application: If you need a warning to apply it, what happens to the marine life who bathe in it?
Purchase phosphate-free, biodegradable soaps wrapped in simple materials, not extraneous plastic packaging (it’s also enviro-friendly to buy a product made locally rather than shipped from afar). Opt for simple cleaning products you can apply directly to sections instead of spraying in a wide area.
Simple isn’t always the best solution. When it comes to a problem like mold, green cleaning products such as soap, vinegar, or bleach may not be enough to eradicate the problem. Turn to a pro or knowledgeable retailer for a proven product and then apply sparingly.
When cleaning, lay a waterproof or absorbent ground covering under your boat, and be mindful of how you dispose of it. Never scrub your boat’s bottom while floating — a short haul is best to clean it responsibly and to reapply eco-kind bottom paint.
Boat-related materials and substances such as batteries, oil, oil filters, and antifreeze can’t be tossed into the trash — they need special handling and careful disposal. Put them back in their original packaging when possible and keep these items separate to prevent cross-contamination. Consult with your marina manager, municipality, or a local service station about proper collection and recycling.
Don’t toss outdated flares — they can still go off and harm refuse collectors. Check with the police or fire department for disposal, or contact the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons® to see if they need expired flares for training.
Install a bilge sock to keep fuel out of the water. Stock up on environmentally kind disinfectants designed for sanitation devices and rapid-dissolving marine toilet paper. Doing so ensures that whatever color is on your boat’s outside, it will be green on the inside!