Some easy ways to green boating

There's no excuse!

In September 2006 at the Southampton Boat Show, three prominent figures from the boating world were asked to take up the Green Blue challenge by yachtsman Mike Golding.

Under the gaze of the media and assembled crowd, Rod Carr, Chief Executive of the RYA, Dick Durham, Features Editor of Yachting Monthly and Jon Eads, Managing Director of MDL Marinas, all pledged that they would ‘Green Up’ their boating activities.

Nearly a year down the line, in their own different ways, they’ve all made efforts to address the impacts their boating activities have on the world around them.

Rod Carr confessed to being guilty, in the past, of pumping contaminated bilge water straight out into the sea. As a result of the challenge he pledged to change his bilge-pumping ways and has put what he describes as ‘two big socks’ in the sump of his 38ft catamaran.

Rod explained: “The catamaran has two engines and in the sump, under the engines, we have put two bio socks. These are made of an absorbent material that only soaks up oil. Now, when we pump the bilge only harmless dirty water comes out instead of a polluting mixture.”

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Another simple change that Rod did was to throw out all the cleaning agents that used to be on board. The old washing up liquid, toilet cleaner and deck wash have been replaced with biodegradable versions so that when he discharges grey water the detergents break down without being harmful to the environment.

Rod’s still looking for ways to green up his boating and says the RYA gets quite a few letters from members regarding their concerns about the environment.

He added: “People are becoming more responsible in the way they do their boating and realise that even small compromises can make a real difference but there’s still a lot to be done. We’d like to recycle more but a lot of the places we go to don’t have the facilities to deal with it. You separate it out but in reality there is nowhere to dump it and some of it is too smelly to keep onboard for the whole of our trip – it’s got to be made easier for the sailing community.”

MDL’s Jon Eads also has concerns about recycling in relation to the boating and sailing community. As a sailor turned motor boater with a young family, he believes he should do his bit not only out on the water but also around Cobbs Quay in Poole Harbour where he is moored.

Jon said: “One of the key things that I have done is to take all the rubbish that collects when you’re boating and instead of just throwing it in the bin, I take it home to recycle. There aren’t the right facilities at the marina and I think that people who store it on board don’t segregate it so it all goes in one bin. We’re currently looking at expanding the recycling facilities at our marinas and the next stage is to ensure that all marinas and yacht clubs are equipped for recycling.”

Since taking up the challenge, Jon has become more aware of the need to responsibly take care of his engine. He has an oil safety sponge that sits underneath the bilge and now gets his engine serviced by an engineer who levies an extra charge of £5 to cover the cost of disposing of waste products in an environmentally friendly way.

Jon explained: “It’s important to use engineers who are taking a responsible attitude and it doesn’t cost that much more. An engine that is well serviced doesn’t lose oil so there’s no need to have water and oil slopping around in the bilge. Since taking up the Green Blue challenge I think more about the effects my actions have on the environment.”

Dick Durham’s first attempt to green up his boating habits was by fitting a bilge filter. He was once embarrassed by the effect pumping his bilge in a central London marina had as it resulted in the craft being surrounded by a circle of rainbow coloured oil and water. Unfortunately for him, the filter he tried to install was too fat to fit in the Contessa 32 bilge.

Dick said: “I’m a lot more careful now when pumping the bilge and I’m trying to find a filter that fits.”

Moored in Greys, in Essex, Dick and his seven year-old son Richard, are involved in regular clean up operations organised by Thurrock Yacht Club and the local council. They remove trolleys, bottles and general rubbish that had been thrown over the sea wall with another two day clean-up planned for July.

And this summer Dick and his son plan to sail the length of the Thames in a lugger to see for themselves if the river really is getting cleaner and to spread the word to their fellow sailors about responsible boating.

“I can’t believe there is anybody that isn’t aware of the need to be more environmentally friendly. But if there are then The Green Blue can help focus their minds on what they can do to help make a difference.”

Green Blue champion Mike Golding, regarded as one of the world’s best offshore racing sailors, thinks that more people should take part in this initiative that provides boaters with practical advice and information to help them think and act in an environmentally conscious way.

Mike said: “It’s encouraging to see that respected members of the community are doing their bit by taking up the Green Blue challenge. I’d encourage others out there to do the same because even if what you’re doing seems futile in the greater scheme of things, collectively we can change things for the better.”

To find out about simple changes you can join the sustainable recreational boating community visit 


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