Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cleaner and Greener Spring Prep

April 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cleaner and Greener Spring Prep

In winter, you try to keep the elements out of your boat. In spring, you want to keep toxins out of our waterways.

If you’re a DIY boater, be mindful that spring prep may unleash harmful substances into waterways directly via leaching bottoms, parking lot overflow, and storm drains, and indirectly via landfills. There are simple steps you can take to become a greener boater even while on land.

Did your vessel wear shrink wrap all winter? Recycle it through your marina or boatyard, or check with the sanitation or environmental department of your town or village.  If there’s no local option, Dr. Shrink sells a kit to recycle the shrink wrap (call 800-968-5147 to see if they are having a “recycling run” in your area). Before recycling, be sure to remove accessories such as strapping, buckles, vents, snaps, and zippers.

Once you spot the goo, grunge, and grime that’s accumulated over the off-season, the temptation is to douse the boat in the strongest cleaner and turn the hose on it. Don’t! Chemical-laden water will soak into the ground and run off into sewers or directly into nearby waters, potentially doing a lot of harm. Instead, lay a waterproof or absorbent ground covering under your boat before starting, and attack the dirt with the safest products and most efficient removal methods.

Boat from leavesDon’t pick cleansers just because they are labeled as green, natural, or eco-friendly. Read the ingredients, and avoid ammonia, lye, phosphates, bleach, petroleum distillates, methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, wouldn’t use it in your home, and/or there’s a skull and crossbones symbol, don’t buy it! I also keep away from products that come with cautions about application, figuring that if I need a warning to apply it, what happens to the marine life who might take a bath in it?

Opt for simple cleaning products that can be applied directly to the area to be cleaned and not sprayed in a wider area than necessary. Ask fellow boaters and trusted tradespeople for recommendations for products and services because tossing bottle after bottle of useless products into landfills isn’t eco-friendly and is a waste of money. 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 whenever possible).

Simple isn’t always the best solution, however. When it comes to a problem like mold, go-to green cleaning products such as soap, vinegar, or bleach may not be enough to eradicate the problem. Turn to a pro or a product that is applied sparingly and carefully.

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 away outdated flares as they can still go off and harm someone handling the trash. 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.

A boat’s bottom often tops the pollution list. Don’t scrub it while floating or you’ll release bottom paint into the marine environment. Have it hauled if necessary and washed responsibly before applying the least-toxic, most eco-kind bottom paint. Discuss green paint options with your retailer, marina, or boatyard.

If you’ll be painting the bottom yourself, the application process must also be green (that’s part of why most marinas and boatyards prohibit DIY’ers from scraping off old paint and reapplying new on premises).  Be extra careful — don’t do this kind of work when it’s windy and be conscientious about the collection and disposal of your wash water and paint residue.

Before you get under way for the season, install a bilge sock to keep fuel out of the water and stock up on environmentally kind disinfectants and rapid-dissolving marine toilet paper designed for sanitation devices. This way you ensure that no matter what color you painted your bottom, your boat will be green on the inside.

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A pro’s advice on spring prep

Sean Gilligan, service writer for Brewer Yacht Yards in Greenport, offers these spring prep tips:

Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule:  Whether it is your boat’s engine, an electric winch motor, or fishing reel, it should be maintained.  Check your owner’s manuals for annual service recommendations and follow them.  Regular quality maintenance is the surest way of preventing breakdowns.

Consider bottom paint:  In recent years it has become more evident than ever that the decisions we make can have an enormous impact on our environment.  Traditional bottom paints are poisonous to our water, the air, and the people applying them.  All of us who use coastal waterways for pleasure or business have a responsibility to protect and preserve them.  One of the simplest ways to reduce your negative environmental impact is to choose a copper-free and or low VOC antifouling.  There are a number of water based/copper-free bottom paints on the market that are not only affordable but extremely effective.  These paints will not drop poisonous heavy metals into the water or release dangerous and harmful chemicals into the atmosphere and usually outperform the paints of the past.  Talk with your boatyard about what paints work best.

Schedule an early launch:  Nothing can spoil your spring like not having your boat in the water when the weather gets warm.  As we all know boatyards can become backlogged with boats to launch and commissioning to complete.  Scheduling an early launch date will get you in ahead of the madness so you can be using your boat while others are struggling to get theirs ready. This means more boating and better return on your investment.

Hold off on filling those water tanks:  When water is left in tanks in the heat of the spring and summer it is doing nothing but providing a habitat for any number of fungi and algae.  The best plan of action is to fill your tanks the day before you intend on using your water and drain them when your trip is over.  This will not only keep your tanks clean longer but will also have a flushing effect on the freshwater lines.

Fuel: The difference between a good running engine and a series of breakdowns can come down to your choice of fuel.  It is important to only use quality marine diesel and gasoline in your boat.  Marine fuel contains an additive designed to promote fuel stability and long life in the marine environment that highway fuels do not.  Be careful! Not all waterfront fuel docks are selling marine fuels. When in doubt, do some research. Also, it is dangerous and can be illegal to transfer fuel from a portable container into a boat’s tank while the boat is in the water.  Think before you act — the pennies saved by buying gas station fuel are nothing when compared with the penalties associated with being responsible for a fuel spill.    

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