Whether for relaxation or competition, getting on the water means interacting with the ever-changing natural environment and working with wind, tide and waves.
The early habits you pick up as a new boater in respect of safety and navigation will stay with you for life, as will good habits you choose to adopt now to minimize the impact of your boating activity on the environment and ensure that our waters stay in good shape now and for generations to come.
Much of this is about common sense, but there might be one or two tips in the top ten listed below that are new to you, so take a look and do what you can while still enjoying your time on the water...
1. Did you know that a plastic bag takes 500 years to break down in the sea; a drinks can takes 100 years and even orange peel takes 2 years? Secure loose items on board to stop them going in the water from a gust of wind or a capsize.
2. It is illegal to let oil enter the water – check the bilge before pumping, install a filter or a bilge sock to catch spills.
3. If you accidentally spill oil or fuel in the water, do not reach for the washing up liquid. It might disperse the oil but it does more harm to aquatic life. Use an absorbent pad or spill kit to collect as much of the spill as possible and dispose of the collection in a hazardous waste unit.
4. Help to keep a clean and tidy boat park, marina or harbour – use available bins and recycle as much as possible.
5. Wash down boats (and trailers if you are travelling to different venues) to minimise the risk of spreading non native invasive species. Turn off taps and hoses; try not to leave water running unnecessarily.
6. Use phosphate free (or low phosphate) environmentally sensitive cleaning products for boat maintenance and cleaning on board – check out www.sailingnetworks.com/green for a range of environmentally sensitive products.
7. If you buy a boat, you will have to embark on the regular task of scrubbing and antifouling. Make sure that any run off or scrapings are collected, and along with used tins and brushes are disposed of safely in hazardous waste units.
8. If you are lucky enough to spot marine wildlife when on the water, navigate carefully, keep your distance and keep wash to a minimum.
9. Use shore based toilets where possible and use pump out stations in marinas and harbours, otherwise only pump the heads when more than 3 miles offshore. Keep raw sewage out of the water you sail in!
10. Check to see if the area is protected by law before you drop the anchor. There are many vulnerable seabed species so take care.
For specific tips on different types of boats and craft take a look at The Green Blue’s checklists www.thegreenblue.org.uk
You can find a list of environmentally-friendly boat cleaners on the Green Blue website, which is packed with practical advice and information to help you think and act in an environmentally conscious way.
You can also download their leaflet, How to...guide to inland boating. By taking a few simple steps, you can help protect the rivers and the environment and keep your costs down too!