Ecology Tips For Sailors

By: Environmental

An ASA sailing education has always allowed you to get out on the water safely and confidently. However, sailing and becoming a sailor also comes with responsibility, to be a steward for the oceans. Today, our waters face many challenges including vast plastic pollution, oil spills, runoff, storms, and depleted fisheries. Sailors have a unique obligation to be stewards of our oceans and waterways by minimizing our impact upon the environment both offshore and on, thereby preserving our waters for recreation and livelihood. 

Your ASA sailing education will reinforce the idea of being a mindful sailor.

Ecological Conservation Tips:

  • Be aware that, if mishandled, spilled fuel, toxic cleaners and paints, improper handling of black water waste tank disposal, and plastics dropped or blown into the water are all common polluters in the maritime world.
  • Global sailing has also contributed to the transfer of invasive species all over the world. Proper boat maintenance and cleaning help to mitigate the transfer of harmful species among states and/or countries.
  • All boats should have nets onboard and other means of safely removing floating plastic debris from the water as well as a spill kit for any spills or leaks. Sailors can embrace this responsibility if we return to shore with more plastic than we take.

Within Your ASA Coursework You Should Learn To:

  1. Discuss the harmful effects of plastic pollution on the marine environment and how to remove plastic from the water.
  2. Discuss the most harmful and unrecyclable types of plastic and describe reusable alternatives.
  3. Discuss wildlife and habitat considerations in your area.
  4. Discuss the use of personal hygiene and body products, their toxicity to the marine environment, and alternatives.

In order to assist you in being a mindful sailor, ASA has developed a series of checklists to make Ecological Awareness automatic in your sailing routine and planning.

Water-Friendly Sailing Checklist – Preparation/Provisioning

  • Bring reusable products on board for storing and serving food and beverages and for hygiene.
  • Do not bring plastic aboard, but if you do, remove it later.
  • Avoid having plastics, balloons, Styrofoam, and other items onboard that can easily blow away.
  • Use a large jug of water instead of personal plastic bottles.
  • Research wildlife and habitat considerations for your area.
  • Have an oil spill kit onboard and install a fuel overflow attachment to the fuel tank.
  • Make access to pump out stations part of your cruise planning.
  • Provision with sustainable foods like legumes, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and plant-based protein rather than meats or seafood. Check resources like Seafood Watch for tips.

Water-Friendly Sailing Checklist – At the Dock

  • Practice slow, spill-safe refueling, have spill materials onboard, and check fuel lines for signs of damage or cracks.
  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products and low-VOC paint.
  • Perform regular maintenance on the bilge and engine and recycle batteries and worn parts at appropriate facilities.
  • Change your oil regularly and recycle used oil and oil filters.
  • Weatherize your boat when the seasons change.
  • Remove all vegetation from the boat and flush the waste tank to prevent invasive species transport.

Water-Friendly Sailing Checklist – Underway

  • Run the boat’s engine as little as possible to conserve fuel.
  • Save electricity by switching off unused lights and appliances.
  • Keep a safe distance from wildlife to avoid collision.
  • Practice the removal of plastic floating on the surface of the water by using proper crew-overboard procedures.
  • Look out for water quality hazards, invasive species notices, and fishing restrictions in areas where you sail.
  • To prevent habitat destruction while anchoring, always check for available moorings first.
  • Before anchoring, perform a wildlife habitat assessment.
  • Use ocean-safe sunscreen, especially when swimming.
  • Use eco-friendly soap, shampoo, and other body products.
  • Sort all waste and recyclables for proper disposal on shore.
  • Put nothing into the head except biodegradable toilet paper.
  • If there is no pump out facility, empty the waste tank at least 3 miles off the coast and never on the Great Lakes, inland lakes, or rivers.