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From the Captain of the Port - Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

By Vincent Pica

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

District Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR) United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

This expression goes back to Biblical days, when there were fewer people and even fewer boats. If we want to hand over ourwaterways to our children and grandkids in the condition that we were entrusted them with, there are a few simple rules to follow.

How Many Fish Are There in the Sea?

When we were kids, we thought that question had no answer. Now we know that the biomass is going down and, with some species, faster than the bigger fish can make little fish. So, just take what you can eat that day. Use circle hooks to make it easier/safer (for the fish) to release those you throw back, and consider calling your local fisheries manager and joining their tag-and-release program. 

What To Do With “Doo-doo”

A lot of mariners justify off-loading human waste into our waters with the old saw, “Do you know what the fish are doing in these waters?” Admittedly, marinas are now charging for pump-out, but you can call 1-800-ASK-FISH and ask where pump-out stations are located in your area and their fees. And if you install a “user- friendly” head, you can probably get your better half to come out more often.

“Good to the Last Drop?” Why?

Have you ever squeezed off a few more ounces at the fuel dock, only to see half of it (or more) spill over the side? Forgetting Coast Guard regulations and fines, consider that you’re burning some number of gallons per hour. So, what does topping up the last few ounces represent…20 seconds of steaming? Fill your jerry cans on the hard, not on your boat. If someone throws even a small wake while filling the can in your boat, it’s better than even-money that fuel will end up in your boat and/or the water (where your bilge pump will send it before you can spell “big trouble!”) Keep some absorbent pads aboard.

Garbage In, Garbage Out…

If you brought it out, bring it in. Don’t throw anything over the side, even if it’s "bio-degradable." Treat your boat as a temple on God’s great sea and leave no mark behind.

Painting With Poison

Yes, most of us paint our boat bottoms with poison. Intentionally. We’re trying to kill barnacles, algae, slime and other stowaways who can clog our intake valves, foul our running gear and, as a consequence, actually create another bio-hazard as we have to apply more power (meaning burning more fuel and creating more exhaust) to move the boat at a given speed.

The history of the War of the Barnacles goes back to the Phoenicians. They used many substances – including lead and tar – to battle the speed-killing and weight-adding stowaways.  It wasn’t until the Romans realized that shields of battle work at sea, too – shielding their ships with copper sheathing – that the battle turned in favor of mariners. This technique lasted for millennia. Nelson had an inherent 20% speed advantage over the Spaniards at the Battle of Trafalgar because of copper sheathing.

Many dangerous things don’t reach the tipping point until there is a lot of something acting on the environment. By the 1950s, boating was popular enough that scientists started to notice that shellfish were being affected by these bottom paints. This started the process that, a half-century later, is yielding various alternatives.

A 30-foot boat, painted with copper-oxide antifouling paint, leaches two pounds of copper into waterways each year. States  and municipalities are taking action in two ways: prohibiting boat owners from using certain bottom paints and keeping marinaowners from draining wastewater into the sea. Connecticut banned marina owners from doing so last year, requiring them to collect the water and bring it to a treatment plant. Sounds expensive, which ends up in higher dockage fees, perhaps so high that boaters start to drop out.

But the regulators aren’t just throwing (your) money at the problem. They are sponsoring “bake-offs” where boat owners and paint companies can try different formulas to address the issue.  Not only are different chemicals effective, but also paints can be made more “slick” so stowaways can’t grab a toehold (or whatever they hold on with!). Paint companies haven’t sat on their hands and have developed a number of alternatives, but getting EPA approval to add a chemical to the equation takes considerable time.

Come Upons

If you come upon flotsam in the water, grab your boathook and bring it aboard and dispose of it as if you had dropped it over the side. Clean up, even if your neighbor won’t. Why? Well, as Cicero said 20 centuries ago, “Virtue has its own reward.” Be part of the solution.

If you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at JoinUSCGAux@aol.com or go direct to the D1SR HumanResources department, who are in charge of new members matters, at FSO-PS@emcg.us and we will help you “get in this thing.”

Captain Ed Cubanski is the Captain of the Port and Sector Commander for US Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. Captain Cubanski is responsible for all active-duty, reservist and auxiliary Coast Guard personnel within the Sector. Vin Pica, Commodore for the First District Southern Region in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, works closely with Captain Cubanski and his staff to promote boating safety in the waters between Connecticut, Long Island and 200 nautical miles offshore. Sector Long Island Sound Command Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 203-468-4401.


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