by JESSICA WURZBACHER, MSC
A boater’s least favorite time of year is approaching…the weekend when you give up your aquatic existence and haul your boat out of the water, resigning to several land-locked months ahead.
The forgotten bottom…probably the last thing on your mind as you enjoyed cocktails on a warm summer evening. Once your boat is hauled, cleaning is going to be one of your first
tasks. Try to use natural cleaners, e.g. lime juice, borax or baking soda. If these don’t work try biodegradable soaps, but use them sparingly. If you’ll be pressure washing, find a designated “wash pad” or place a tarp under your boat to catch debris.
Perform a visual check of your hull and remove any clinging plant life or debris. If you plan to move your boat to different waters, these hitchhikers can threaten the natural environment and cause significant economic damage. Serious offenders in the Northeast include zebra mussels, “quagga” mussels, Eurasian water milfoil, and Japanese shore crabs.
As water freezes it expands, and this expansion can cause parts to crack. It’s therefore important to run anti-freeze through your engine before the temperatures drop. For the best protection, drain as much water as possible and use safe non-toxic marine engine antifreeze that contains propylene glycol. It’s usually pink, but can come in other colors (purple, orange, blue) that offer increased freeze protection. Never use automotive anti-freeze (ethylene glycol), which is toxic. Do not dilute the anti-freeze. You should also add non-toxic anti-freeze to heads and holding tanks. Never use engine anti-freeze in a freshwater system. You may also need to add some eco-friendly anti-freeze to your bilge water. To winterize your fuel and avoid excess condensation, top off your tank(s) and add a eco- friendly winter stabilization additive.
Winterizing your engine will create quarts of waste oil. Never dump down a storm drain. Most storm drains go directly to our waterways, where oil can kill fish, birds and other wildlife. Take the used oil to a designated waste oil collection tank at your marina or gas station. Remember to have a supply of absorbent materials to catch any drips.
Boats that spend considerable time in the water are susceptible to “fouling” as marine organisms colonize their hulls. Antifouling paints are therefore essential to maintain your boat’s performance. These paints commonly contain copper, a toxin, designed to leach slowly into the marine environment, preventing any organism adhering to the surface. However, copper’s harmful effects can also be felt further afield than a boats’ hull, and other unconnected marine life can suffer from passive leaching and abrasive hull cleaning.
Copper is toxic to aquatic organisms, such as filter feeders (e.g. mussels) and damages larval stages of aquatic invertebrates and fish species. Luckily, there are eco-friendly marine bottom paints on the market. These include zinc formulations such as ePaint’s Ecominder, organic formulations like Pettit’s Ultima Eco (contains Econea and Zinc Omadine) and non-biocide coatings such as epoxy and silicone formulations.
ePaint’s Ecominder is a water-based, zero-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), copper-free bottom paint designed for fresh and low fouling salt water environments. It’s compatible over most existing bottom paints and is easy to apply. Ecominder relies on sunlight to create hydrogen peroxide to deter the settling of hard shell growth on the hull.
You can also help reduce toxin levels in the water by using non-abrasive hull cleaning techniques to prevent excessive paint discharge and removal of the bottom paint.
Shrink-wrap provides a strong outer layer of protection, keeping moisture, pests and strong winds from damaging your boat. This polyethylene plastic shrinks tightly around an object and contains UV protection and ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) to keep it supple in freezing temperatures. But what do you do with it once the warm spring weekends beckon? Shrink-wrap can be recycled. It should be separated from other trash, and ropes, tie-downs, zippers or plastic vents should be removed. Another alternative is to have a reusable canvas cover made. This also allows you to work on your boat over the winter and excess moisture and mildew is less of a problem due to better ventilation from the material.
BoatUS has created a list of certified “Clean Marinas” that follow established environmentally friendly practices to help them minimize their environmental impacts to make it easier to protect the environment. This can mean more grassy areas, convenient pump-out stations, plenty of trash cans and recycling bins, and many other amenities that help keep waterways clean. Green winterizing becomes easier when you use a certified Clean Marina, and you’ll be supporting a business that has voluntarily adopted environmentally friendly practices.
Jessica Wurzbacher is the Director of Marine Education for Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island in Newport, RI. This article was originally published as a Sailors For the Sea Ocean Watch Essay and is reprinted with permission. Visit sailorsforthesea.org for more information.