We love our boats. We love our Chesapeake Bay. Not to mention the many tributaries which provide endless opportunities for fun and leisure.
Yes, Marylanders are a lucky bunch.
Thankfully, many marinas and recreational boaters realize what a treasure our Bay is and already do their part to help preserve it.
“The boaters want good, clean water to boat in, that’s for sure, and the marina operators and boat dealers want to have clean water so they have the business of the owners, so it’s terribly important,” says Woody Jackson, president of Jackson Marine Sales at Shelter Cove Yacht Basin in North East.
After the implementation of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the federal government gave money to the states which, in turn, gave grants to marinas to put in pump-out stations.
At the stations, the boats have their holding tanks pumped out, then the marina’s tanks are pumped and taken to a wastewater treatment plant to be processed.
“It’s a wonderful program and it has cleaned up this river,” Jackson says, of the North East River where Jackson Marine Sales is located.
Prior to that, marine toilets were discharged into the water.
Most of today’s boats come with a closed system because it is now illegal to discharge into the Bay.
“The boats are manufactured with some sort of sanitation system, either a holding tank or an approved discharge system where the waste is treated to an acceptable level,” Jackson says.
Donna Morrow, Clean Marina program manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, says of the treat-and-release systems: “They are certainly sanitary, but we encourage boaters not to use those where swimmers are or near marine beds, and to be sure to maintain them properly.”
Morrow views fuel as another issue boaters need to be aware of.
“Fuel is toxic right off the bat — that kills anything. Small little drips at the fuel dock really add up.”
She says proper training of fuel-dock attendants is critical, so they understand the importance of using oil-absorbent pads and capture cups.
“We try to educate the boaters, too. ... There’s a lot more boats than there are marinas.”
As boaters prep their boats for the upcoming season, they also need to be careful what they use to clean their vessels.
“We also push that they don’t use household cleansers to wash their boats,” Morrow says. “Buy biodegradable soaps and nontoxic products, or don’t use any soap if you don’t need it.”
“You try to use as much of a green product as you can,” Jackson says. “The boaters are very, very aware and they want clean water.”
He said boat shows, which often hold workshops, can be a great source of information for those who want to stay on top of being a responsible boater.
Another way to educate yourself is to review the DNR’s Clean Boating Tip Sheets at dnr.maryland.gov/boating/Pages/cleanmarina/resources.aspx.
In addition, their General Clean Boating Tips, for use around marinas and while on the water anywhere, include best practices for containing trash, recycling, fueling cautiously, controlling oil in the bilge, properly disposing of oil-absorbent materials, cleaning gently and maintaining your vessel. There are also suggestions for disposing of sewage and fish waste, as well as protecting animal habitat.
One simple tip is to support marinas that are environmentally responsible.
Some participate in the Maryland Clean Marina Initiative, which was established under the Coastal Zone Management Act. They are listed online at dnr.maryland.gov/boating/Pages/cleanmarina/cleanmarinas.aspx.
Morrow said of about 600 marinas in the state, only about 25 percent are certified as Clean Marinas.
But not to worry if your favorite marina isn’t on the list.
“All marinas and boatyards have laws to follow. By being part of the program, they go along with everything legally required but also go above and beyond. It takes a fair amount of time and effort and paperwork and staff. Of course, we’d always welcome more.”
After a marina has successfully completed the steps to become certified, the DNR gives them a sign and a flag, and they are allowed to use the Clean Marina logo on their letterhead or website.
Every three years, the DNR returns to inspect the marina to verify it continues to meet Clean Marina Award criteria.
Morrow encourages boaters to seek out those marinas when possible.
While being a clean boater is a significant responsibility, it’s also of utmost importance to be careful on the water. Please review best safety practices, as well, before heading back out on that beautiful Bay.
Area boat shows
• Bay Bridge Boat Show April 21-23, Stevensville
• Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show April 28-30, City Dock, Annapolis
• 2017 Trawler Fest Sept. 26-30, Stevensville
• United States Sailboat Show Oct. 5-9, City Dock, Annapolis
• United States Powerboat Show Oct. 12-15, City Dock, Annapolis
Many marinas also hold their own boat shows. Contact your nearest marina for information.
More for boat lovers
A selection of other events related to boating and enjoying the water:
• Chesapeake Bay Log Canoe Racing, multiple dates and locations, visit www.chesapeakebaylogcanoes.com for information;
• Paddlefest, May 13, launch at Greensboro Public Boat Ramp;
• Cambridge Classic Powerboat Regatta, May 13-14, Great Marsh Park, Cambridge;
• Antique & Classic Boat Festival & the Arts at Navy Point, June 16-18, St. Michaels;
• Waterman’s Day, July 2, Rock Hall;
• Paddlepalooza, July 15, Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, Grasonville;
• Art, Food and Boating Festival, Aug. 5, McDaniel Yacht Basin, North East;
• Tilghman Day, Oct. 21, Tilghman Island;
• Downrigging Weekend, Oct. 27-30, Chestertown.