One of the basic principles of good boating is ensuring that a vessel is seaworthy. An un-seaworthy vessel threatens passenger safety and also poses an environmental hazard. Neglected or unmaintained vessels are at greater risk of sinking and releasing fuel, oil, sewage and toxic chemicals into the water.
Proper vessel maintenance, repair and operation are critical components to keeping vessels shipshape. In the Good Mate program, vessel maintenance refers to surface cleaning, washing, waxing and other upkeep. Vessel repair is considered sanding, grinding, painting, repairing plastic and hull scrubbing.
Vessel maintenance includes keeping boats in good, safe operating condition, cleaning them regularly, replacing and properly recycling batteries, inspecting emergency flares yearly and regularly inspecting vessels for leaks. Sanding, cleaning, painting and degreasing boats can pose major threats to the water. Particles of dust and paint in the water can block life-giving sunlight and toxic substances from cleaners and anti-fouling compounds can sicken or kill marine life.
Boaters can ensure proper vessel maintenance and repair practices by following these tips:
- Use non-hazardous materials – if it’s hazardous to people, it’s hazardous to the environment.
- Properly dispose of items that contain toxic materials, such as old batteries and marine flares.
- When painting hulls, choose products that will provide anti-fouling performance while being kind to the environment.
Failure to properly maintain or repair a vessel can lead to vessel operation damage. Improper anchoring, operating in shallow waters, running aground in a sensitive area and operating without regard to wildlife are examples. Invasive species – non-native plants or animals that enter a new ecosystem – are also a serious concern.
Boaters have a responsibility to themselves, their passengers and the environment to properly and safely operate their vessels. Some of the steps boaters can take to reduce vessel operation damage include:
- Choose anchor sites carefully and use proper techniques to avoid damaging sensitive habitat.
- Avoid shallow water, where vessels can stir up sediments, disturb habitat and damage propellers, hulls and engines if they run aground.
- Know where to go slowly to prevent shore-damaging wakes.
Boaters can help prevent the spread of invasive species by removing hitchhiking plants and animals from their hulls, rinsing vessels with freshwater and NOT dumping unused bait or packaging into the water.
It is also important for boaters to understand that their vessels can harm marine wildlife. As a general rule, boaters should always slow their vessels when approaching wildlife and maintain a safe distance of 100 yards from marine mammals.
Adopting best boating practices that help ensure the proper maintenance, repair and operation of vessels is beneficial for those who love the water – as well as the species that live in it.
To learn more about vessel maintenance, repair and operation damage, refer to Chapters 4 and 7 in the Good Mate manual.