By Andy Gregory, Boating Programs Coordinator

Marina at SunsetAs the days slowly start to get longer and we begin to crawl out of the wet, gray hole that is a Northwest winter, we start thinking about the impending spring, summer and opportunities to get outside to explore the Puget Sound.  For many of us this includes boating, and springtime is the perfect opportunity to get your boat ship-shape for the season.

For the 750+ boaters that Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Washington Sea Grant talked to at the 2013 Seattle boat show, clean boating is a top priority.  Boating provides great opportunities to experience the Puget Sound up close and personally, but unless it’s done with care and caution that time on the water can also be an unintentional source of pollution.

Responsible boaters know that a few simple steps taken before the season starts and every time a captain gets underway can prevent nearly 100% of boater-generated pollution.  Here are a few simple steps to make sure your vessel is ship-shape and you are enjoying time at sea without being part of the pollution problem:

Spring Maintenance:

  • Keep a clean bilge.  Oily bilge discharge is not only illegal, but can be an inadvertent source of pollution at the dock or underway.  Be sure to check your engine and other onboard systems for leaks and use oil-absorbent pads to line your bilge.
  • Switch to a Copper-Free bottom paint.  The copper bottom paint phase-out is on its way and by 2020 no bottom paint containing more than 0.5% copper will be sold in Washington State.  There are several copper-free alternatives currently available and many boaters have used them with great success.  Ask your marine service provider or local chandlery about options.
  • Conduct any major maintenance projects in your local boatyard.  It is very important to catch and contain all paint scrapings, varnish dust, or other waste products from your spring projects.  Working at a permitted boatyard with tents and a dust control system is the best way to ensure that these waste products do not end up in the water.  A list of “Clean Boatyards” can be found here.
  • Stock your boat with environmentally friendly products.  Spring is a great time to open your lockers and cabinets and take inventory of your stores.  It’s also a great opportunity to replace old or expired toxic cleaners and chemicals with environmentally friendly options.  Several alternatives can be found here.

In Port and Underway:

Clean Marina•    Choose a certified “Clean Marina” to berth your boat. Soundkeeper works closely with the Clean Marina Washington program and the 65 certified marinas around Washington State to ensure that boaters have clean, reliable, pollution-free options.  Through compliance with laws and regulations, best management practices, and communication with the boating public, the Clean Marina Flag assures you are docking your boat where environmental protection is a top priority.  A list of certified marinas can be found here.
•    Always use a pumpout!  It is illegal to discharge sewage within three miles of land, which includes nearly all the navigable waters of the Puget Sound.  Fortunately, pumpouts are readily available and nearly free.  For a list of pumpout locations and an opportunity to try a new hands-free pumpout adaptor, click here.
•    Wash your boat using a “no suds” standard.  Several alternatives exist to using traditional boat soaps which contain phosphates and detergents and are detrimental to water quality.  Fresh water, baking soda and a bit of elbow grease works just as well!

By following these simple steps, and referring to the 2013-14 Sound Information: A Boater’s Guide for further questions, you can ensure a clean and enjoyable boating season!