Beginners Guide

Boating Best Practices And The Environment

Owning a boat or yacht comes with great responsibility, especially in protecting and preserving the environment. The oceans, like roads on land, should be treated with utmost respect.

There are several key areas that sailors should always incorporate best practices in, including:

1. Noise


Noise pollution is one of the most common complaints against boat owners. Because of this, laws were created in different countries and states all over the world about how to categorize offensive noise.

Basically, regulations covering disturbing sounds are based on a “reasonable” person’s reaction to it. However, there are certain factors that can help law enforcers objectively identify whether noise is offensive or not, including:

  • the quality of noise
  • the noise’s character
  • the level of the noise
  • the noise’s effect on human activities
  • the time when the noise was made
  • and the use of the land adjacent to the waters.

Aside from its effects on humans, it is also important to consider making as little noise as possible even in uninhabited places as it tends to disturb wildlife as well.

2. Fishing

Although Mother Nature has been providing nourishment for humans in the form of fish and other sea creatures, there are certain species and sizes of aquatic animals that should be left alone in the sea. With that said, it is imperative that boat owners only take what they need for food and follow all regulations related to fishing as mandated by the local laws.

3. Waste Management

Aside from noise pollution, waste management is another key area in performing responsible boating. It is no secret that the sea has become a dumping area for many kinds of waste, which is why it is important to understand how to keep it at the lowest level possible when taking out your boat to the water.

a. Trash

Solid trash like plastics and other non-biodegradable materials should never be thrown into the water. Some substances used to make these durable materials can cause fish and other sea creatures to get sick. Sea turtles, for example, often mistake blown away plastic bag as jellyfish. Since jellyfishes are one of their main source of nourishment, sea turtles tend to swallow anything that looks like it.

Because of this, it is imperative to keep plastics securely stowed in your boat until you return to shore. It is also wise to take note of information like the registration details, time, date, other pertinent information when witnessing other boaters throwing plastics into the water.

b. Sewage

Boat sewage also causes water pollution if not handled properly. In fact, boats that dump raw sewage directly onto the bodies of water may face on-the-spot penalties. Because of this, houseboats and commercial vessels are obligated to have holding tanks for raw sewage.

Watercraft used for recreational purposes have various options for sewage management. Those with toilets should be fitted with a holding tank while smaller boats that don’t have one should have portable toilets handy. Never dump holding tank and portable toilets’ contents into the water.

Although they aren’t technically considered sewage, soaps used in onboard sinks tend to be discharged into the water and may pollute it as well. The same is true for detergents used to clean the vessel. Because of this, remember to use soaps that have been tagged to have low or zero phosphate content. You may also look for “eco-friendly” ones. Make sure to wipe off food remnants from plates before washing them.

4. Refueling and Engine Maintenance


Engine maintenance guarantees that your boat doesn’t emit any pollutant. As for refueling, make sure to follow best practices to avoid oil spills that cause water pollution. Below are several recommendations for boat owners to consider:

  • Make sure that the dispensing point has the appropriate fire-fighting equipment.
  • Direct all passengers to shore before refueling. Ensure that all equipment used for refueling are tucked away securely.
  • Switch off the main electric power, onboard lights, and gas refrigerators before proceeding.
  • Seal all openings and hatches to avoid fume ingress to the bilge and hull of the vessel.
  • Require all crew members and passengers to turn off their mobile phones.
  • Place a discharge bucket or drip pan under the overflow or air pipe.
  • Make sure to avoid overfilling by closely monitoring the refueling rate.
  • Check for escaping air from the vent using your hand. Once the tank is almost full, you will feel a distinct change characterized by an increase in airflow. When this happens, stop filling your boat’s fuel tank.
  • Prepare a cloth handy for any spills. If there are any, make sure to wipe them off thoroughly.
  • Elevate the filter hose to get rid of any residual fuel.
  • Check for fuel fumes along the lower extremities of the vessel such as the bilges and hull. If you find spilled fuel along the bilges, you need to pump it out manually and leave the boat open to allow the fumes to be vented out for about 30 minutes.

5. Sensitive Areas


There are certain places considered as “sensitive areas” due to its wildlife and ecosystem. Often, creatures that live there are considered rare or endangered. Every boat owner should know whether the place they are sailing in is categorized as such. This way, they can avoid shallow anchoring and the use of the boat’s propellers to prevent damage to seagrasses and coral reefs.

6. Boat Ramp Etiquette

Boat ramp etiquette is something that is based on taking other ramp users’ needs into consideration. This means it is imperative that you know the quickest way to launch your boat and retrieving the ramp as smoothly as possible to avoid longer use of the ramp as well as any inconvenience to other people.

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