Do Your Part

Good Mate For Boaters

Tips to help boaters keep our ocean clean and healthy while on the water and at the dock.

Green Boating For Boaters - A boat rests in front of the lighthouse in Prospect Harbor, Maine. Photo by Flickr User Justin Russell, used under a creative commons license.

Best boating practices help boaters look beyond the bow and make a difference for clean, healthy water.

Boating goes hand-in-hand with wildlife watching, swimming, fishing, snorkeling and diving—and each of these experiences is enhanced by the clean water needed for a healthy ocean.

Unfortunately, mishandling a boat can harm ecosystems, wildlife and water quality. Improper handling, irresponsible or neglectful vessel maintenance, and poor refueling, repair and storage habits all present environmental risks. Reducing these risks not only helps preserve clean water and protect the animals that live in it, but also keeps boaters and their families safe – and could even save them money.

Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate program outlines best boating practices— practical steps you can use today. Click on the following links to learn more about how boaters can develop and incorporate environmentally friendly management strategies in six key areas:

The Good Mate Manual covers these topics in greater detail and also provides boaters with many informative and useful tips to be leaders in water protection. Electronic copies are available for download here.

Learn about the five easy ways that boaters can protect our ocean and waterways here.

It’s time to look beyond the bow and realize you can make a tremendous difference in preserving the health of the ocean and waterways.

 Oil and fuel

Diesel fuel and motor oil are not only toxic to people, plants and wildlife. They can also block life-giving sunlight in the water. Most oil pollution results from accidents and/or carelessness.

  • Refueling is when most spills happen. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends filling the tank only 90 percent to capacity to reduce the chance of spills from overfilling.
  • Even small oil spills spell trouble for water quality; bilge pumps can often discharge oil directly into the water. Use oil absorbent pads in the bilges of all boats with inboard engines. 
  • Inspect thru-hull fittings often. A sinking boat is not only a safety risk for passengers, but also leaks dangerous fuel, oil and chemicals into the water. 
  • DO NOT use soaps to disperse spills – it is ILLEGAL.

 Sewage pollution

Think one boat doesn’t make a difference? A single overboard discharge of human waste in a shallow enclosed area like a bay can be detected across one square mile. Excess nutrients disrupt natural cycles and pose a human health hazard.

  • Install and use a marine sanitation device as required by law.
  • Sewage and chemicals from holding tanks readily contaminate water; patronize marinas that offer pump-out services. 
  • Bring portable toilets ashore for proper disposal.

 Vessel and maintenance repair

Sanding, cleaning, painting and degreasing boats can pose major threats to our waters. Particles of dust and paint in the water can block life-giving sunlight, and toxic substances from cleaners and antifouling compounds can sicken or kill marine life.

  • Use nonhazardous materials—if it’s hazardous to you, it’s hazardous to the environment.
  • Old batteries can leach dangerous lead or cadmium, and expired marine flares contain toxic materials, too, so dispose of them properly. 
  • When you paint your hull, choose products that are less dangerous to the environment than others.

 Marine debris

Trash in the water isn’t just an eyesore; it damages boats and threatens the well-being of marine wildlife. It also undermines tourism and economic activities that create jobs. But there’s good news. Litter in the water is entirely preventable.

  • Bring your food containers, cigarette butts and other trash back to shore and recycle when possible.
  • Let your marina know if it can provide better waste collection facilities. 
  • Boaters are known for being good stewards and routinely picking up trash. For greater impact, raise awareness and collect data on what’s out there by participating in Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

 Stormwater runoff

At marinas, storm drains can carry pollutants – including toxic metals from boat hull scraping and sanding, oil and grease, detergents, litter, and hazardous bilge waste – directly into the water.

  • Use nontoxic cleaning products.
  • Discard worn motor parts carefully so oil doesn’t wash from them into storm drains. 
  • Dispose of trash properly in onshore bins.

 Vessel operation

Marinas and individual boaters must play a role in reducing vessel operation damage. Vessel operation damage occurs whenever improper handling, irresponsible use or neglect of a vessel results in damages to the environment. The effects can be costly.

  • Anchors aweigh: Choose anchor sites carefully and use proper techniques to avoid damaging sensitive habitat.
  • Avoid boating in shallow water, where you can stir up sediments and disturb underwater habitat—not to mention damage your propeller, hull and engine if you run aground. 
  • Know where to go slow to prevent shore-damaging wakes.

Join the Fight for a Healthy Ocean

Help keep the ocean healthy for sea turtles, polar bears, whales and people like you.

Features

Good Mate

Ocean and waterway conservation for boaters and marina operators.

Good Mate for Marinas

When you take the steps to green your marina, everyone wins: clean water is good for boating and for business.

Ocean Conservancy makes careful use of your support, and holds high ratings from charity watchdogs.
BBB Accredited Charity Charity Navigator - your guide to intelligent giving