Friday, January 19, 2018

Boaters, Make a Difference

July 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

boaters makes a difference 1

As boaters likely reap the most pleasure from our local waters, we should protect the marine environment. Protecting pristine waters, clean beaches, and a viable marine habitat is something we owe ourselves and future generations.

I’ve witnessed the destruction caused by careless ways — a gull’s wing fouled by a plastic bag, a sea turtle’s mouth bound by a six-pack holder, and a fish with line wrapped around its fins. The appalling array of garbage on the beach, much of it from cans and bottles, is both distressing and avoidable.

One simple rule applies on my vessel: If it was on the boat when we left, it’s on the boat upon our return. This is non-negotiable — the sea is not a dumping ground. We collect all the garbage generated during our outing and dispose of it in the marina’s dumpster

Look around at the cleaners, lubricants, coolants, and other fluids we use before, during, and after boating. How quickly these can go from being necessary to being pollutants! I always use biodegradable cleaners for general cleaning (the citrus-based products work well and actually smell good) and find simple dish detergent to be effective for washing down my boat. I use my saltwater wash down hose to soap the boat and use fresh water only for rinsing.

I collect waste coolant and engine oil in appropriate containers when doing maintenance and dispose of them safely; many marinas and service stations accept these products for recycling at no or low charge.

Along with being illegal, it’s a dirty practice to dump oily discharge from the bilge and/or to have a vessel’s head discharge into our waterways. Install a drip pan and practice routine maintenance to prevent leaks. Pumpout boats and stations are more accessible than ever to empty the head’s holding tank.

lifebuoys floating on waves

Just as we strive to limit our consumption of fossil fuels in our cars, boaters should consume fuel more efficiently and plan trips accordingly. Start with the good practice of distributing weight evenly about the boat so it is neither stern heavy nor bow heavy.

All inboard, outboard, and inboard/outboard engines exhaust carbon dioxide directly into the water and the air. Two-stroke outboard engines also discharge unburned fuel. If you are considering the purchase of an outboard engine, bear in mind that four-stroke engines, though heavier and more expensive, are more efficient and less polluting than two-stroke engines.

Most engines have an ideal range of revolutions per minute at which they are most efficient. You usually find this cruising speed range in your owner’s manual. Powerboats are most fuel-efficient when up on plane. You can tell when the boat is on plane as it goes from “squatting” up onto a perceptible angled plane — you can feel the boat accelerate and the ride smooth out. Push the throttle briskly forward to achieve plane.

Skippers with trim tabs on their vessels notice that it’s possible to increase knots per hour when underway by adjusting the tabs and keeping revolutions per minute constant. After I make a tab adjustment, I wait a minute or two to allow the boat to respond (and for the speedometer on my GPS to cycle). It takes a little practice, but you can squeeze out a few more knots of speed with well-adjusted tabs. The same is true with engine trim, but to a lesser degree. You can push out a few more knots per hour by using the power trim.

When possible, I will stop and retrieve floating garbage and bring it back to the dock for disposal. A pet peeve of mine is the shrink-wrap used in covering boats — if not disposed of properly, it often tears from boats and blows into the water.

Lines of any kind, including fishing line, dock lines, and anchor lines, pose danger to aquatic life. Here’s another of my simple rules: If I must cut an anchor line or fishing line that is hung up on the bottom, and I cannot safely retrieve it, I first tie an eco-neutral weight to the bitter end before releasing it. This allows the line to lay flat on the bottom and poses less danger to marine life.

By Paul Knieste


is an R.N. in psychiatry and a professional photographer. He is an avid boater and fisherman in the waters of East Rockaway Inlet and Montauk Point, and loves cooking. Contact him at

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