With Earth Day as the annual reminder (it was 4/22!), we recall this expression that goes back to Biblical days – when there were fewer people and even fewer boats. If each generation wants to hand over these waterways to their children and grandkids in the condition that we were entrusted them with, there are a few simple rules, rubrics and guidelines to follow, even if your neighbor doesn’t. And every storm ups the challenge as storm drains spew debris and God-knows-what-else, reminding us that even bubble gum wrappers thrown in rain culverts can end up in our creeks, coves and bays.

How Many Fish Are There in the Sea, Mr. Answer-Man? When we were kids, we thought that question had no answer. Now we know that the biomass is going down and, with some specific species, faster than the bigger fish can make little fishes… 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… consider calling local fisheries managers (I bet the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut or the Riverhead Aquarium on Long Island are good places to start) and offering to join their tag-and-release program – help with the long-term data collection process. Be part of the solution.

What to do with “Doo-Doo”

Many mariners, half seriously and half in jest, justify off-loading human waste into our waters based on the old saw, “Do you know what the fish are doing in these waters?” Admittedly, marinas are now charging for pump-outs, but come on, Bunky, you can call 1-800-ASK-FISH and ask where there are pump-out stations in your area and what they charge. And if you put a “user-friendly” head on your boat, you can probably get your better half to come out with you more often.

“Good to the Last Drop?” Why???

Have you ever squeezed off a few more ounces at the fuel dock – just to see half of it (or more) spill over the side? Forgetting Coast Guard regulations and fines, think about this: You’re burning some number of gallons an hour and you’re trying to top up the last few ounces? What does that represent…20 seconds of steaming? Fill your jerry cans on the hard, not on your boat. If someone throws even a small wake while fueling the can in your boat, it’s better than even-money that gasoline is going to 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 excess anything over the side, even if it’s “biodegradable.” Treat your boat as a temple on God’s great sea and leave no mark behind that you were there.

Painting with Poison

Yes, we paint the bottoms of our boats 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, create another biohazard as we have to apply more power (burning more fuel and creating more exhaust) to move the boat at a given speed. So, our intentions are not necessarily ignoble – but if we start to address some of the collateral damage, we can make them noble.

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. They shielded their ships with copper sheathing, which began to turn the battle in favor of the mariners. This technique lasted for millennia. History tells us that Nelson had a 20% speed advantage over the Spaniards at the Battle of Trafalgar because of copper sheathing.

A lot of dangerous things don’t reach the tipping point until there’s a lot of something acting on the environment. By the 1950s, boating had become popular enough that scientists started to notice that shellfish were being affected by these bottom paints.

Two Pounds a Year

A 30-foot boat, painted with copper-oxide anti-fouling paint leaches two pounds of copper into the waterways. Now, before you dry-dock your boat, scientists note that natureleaches 250,000 tons of copper into the sea each year – compared to the estimated 15,000 tons that seagoing vessels add. But the ocean is one thing – a marina with a hundred closely packed boats is another.

States and municipalities are starting to notice and taking action in two ways – restricting boat owners from using certain bottom paint mixtures and keeping marina owners from draining their wastewater into the sea. Connecticut banned marina owners from doing so several years back, requiring them to collect the water and bring it to a treatment plant. Sounds expensive, which just ends up in dockage fees so high that boaters start to drop out. Eventually, the Feds will bring a suit under the Clean Water Act and then the game is afoot. But the regulators aren’t just throwing (your) money at the problem. They’re sponsoring “bake-offs” where boat owners and paint companies can try different formulas to address the issue.

The paint companies have developed a number of alternatives – but getting approval from the EPA to add a chemical to the equation takes considerable time. Will the solutions cost more? They already do and they will continue too. Not sure there’s any way around that one…

A Primer of Sorts

There’s a lot of material out there and you can always discuss it with your dockmaster, who is certainly interested in the health of our waterways. The largest anti-fouling paint company, InterLux, has lots of material online at yachtpaint.com.

For the scientifically inclined, stowaways aren’t attaching to our boats for a ride. They attach to eat. When you put anything in water, tiny electrical charges develop. This was discovered by Johannes van der Waals in 1873. Via the “van der Waals” force, free-floating objects are attracted to the surface of that object. In waterways, these objects are decaying matter – a very attractive food source to our stowaways.

Come Upons

If you come upon flotsam in the water, grab your boat hook and bring it aboard. 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 twenty 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 directly to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary “Flotilla Finder” at  cgaux.org/units.php and we will help you “get in this thing . . .” ■

The Captain of the Port and Sector Commander for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound is Captain Elisa Garrity. CAPT Garrity is responsible for all active-duty, reservist, civilian and auxiliary Coast Guard personnel within the Sector. As a Commodore in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary First District, Southern Region, Vin Pica works closely with CAPT Garrity and her 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.

Editor’s note: Weekly updates for the waters from Eastport, ME to Shrewsbury, NJ including discrepancies in Aids to Navigation, chart corrections and waterway projects are listed in the USCG Local Notice to Mariners. Log onto navcen.uscg.gov, scroll to “Current Operational/Safety Information,” click on “Local Notice to Mariners” then “LNMs by CG District,” and click on “First District.”

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