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Green Boating: Making Sure Your Boat is Environmentally Sound

Spending the day out on the water can be a great experience, especially when you make sure there’s no environmental mess floating behind you. With just a few simple steps, you can make sure your boating adventures are safe, clean, and environmentally sound.

Heading out onto the water comes with responsibilities. To make sure you’re not trailing trash and chemicals in your wake, start by actively taking care of your garbage and your engine. And be sure you’re not transporting any invasive species with you from one body of water to the next.

Stash Your Trash

Plastic can harm marine wildlife, and can even damage other boats if it gets caught up in the engines. Even something as small as discarded fishing line can harm wildlife and damage other boats. No matter how inconvenient, a responsible boater never tosses anything into the water that didn’t come from it. And it’s illegal, so you could face fines if you’re caught dumping garbage into U.S. waters.

Keep It Clean

Many boat-cleaning products’ ingredients include chlorine, phosphates, and ammonia. These chemicals can be harmful to aquatic life, so consider rinsing your boat with fresh water after each use to lessen the need for cleansers. Another option is cleaning your craft with more environmentally friendly ingredients, including vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and good old elbow grease.

If You’re Grounded, Don’t Stir up Trouble

If your boat becomes grounded, don’t try to motor your way out of the problem. Gunning it and hoping for the best can damage your engine—as well as the sea floor and local marine life. If you’re stuck on grass or coral, it’s best to wait for tides or get a professional tower to help you move on.

Invasive Species Are Very Unwelcome Hitchhikers

Keeping your boat free of invasive species is an important way to maintain the environmental health of lakes and rivers. Just a few common-sense steps help ensure your boat doesn’t transport invasive species from one body of water to another.

  • Once it’s out of the water, visually inspect your boat for attached plants and animals.
  • Remove any mud, plants, fish, or marine animals before leaving the access site.
  • Drain your boat before you leave, including water in the live-wells, bilge, and transom wells.
  • Use high-pressure water and/or  hot water to clean anything that came in contact with the body of water.
  • Dry and inspect your boat thoroughly after washing it.
  • Soak items that were in or held water—things like buckets and anchors—in vinegar for 20 minutes to kill aquatic hitchhikers.

Recycle Oil and More

You can recycle a lot more than just your empty aluminum cans. To maximize recycling opportunities, look for a harbor that helps you recycle your used oil, oil filters, antifreeze, and batteries.

Keep Things in Tune

A well-tuned engine burns fuel more efficiently, creating fewer emissions into the air and water. Click here for information that can help you maintain a boat that’s ready for wherever you want to take it.

Don’t Overfill Your Fuel

When you fuel up, take care not to overfill your tank. Remember that gas expands as it gets warm, and excess fuel may escape into the water through the vent line.

If you do overfill your tank, wipe up the spill—never hose it into the water. If a large spill ends up in the water or if the spill discolors the water, you must report it to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

Never Flush Your Waste

Federal law requires that boats with an installed toilet have a Marine Sanitation Device, which either treats or holds sewage. If you use a portable on-board toilet, never dump its contents in the water. Take it back to shore and empty it at a dumping station.

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