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Our little journey through Good Practice goes on. Part one was about marinas, part two deals with boat maintenance.  Dozens of articles have been written on the subject, most of them very interesting and technically complete. Some of them can be read in this blog, and I recommend you to do it.

As said in part one, this trilogy has an unusual approach as it focuses on how our behaviour may affect the environment and on what can be done to develop a more green attitude towards the implementation of green practices.

So, today we’ll talk about boat maintenance performed in an eco-friendly spirit. We’ll consider our point of view as sailors and ship owners and focus on our habits and on what shipyard performances in terms of maintenance should be.

Here, as in the previous article, I only hope that my words can help in some way– without moralizing – to deepen these specific topics drawing from much more relevant sources than these few lines.

The underlying principle is very simple: control efficiency, scrupulous and eco-friendly boat maintenance and right products selection. Moreover, applying to a careful and reliable service makes the boat safer for the people on board and sustainable for the marine ecosystem. And this, regardless of anything else, is the right thing. No exceptions allowed.

No doubt a good shipowner cares as much for these issues as he does for the good condition of his boat.

In my opinion, the first tip that makes checks and maintenance more efficient is to keep a maintenance log to record all checks, carried out operations, performed procedures, products used, costs supported and people in charge (if maintenance is performed by a third party). Records can be taken on paper or on informatic support on a regular basis, updated and provided with pictures of the work performed and bar codes of the products used to allow to track the sequence and the procedure of every single maintenance operation as well as the performance date.

Keeping record of the works performed will help to keep an eye on maintenance trend and times. Maintenance scheduling is essential to prevent emergency actions or, even worse, repair works due to material breakage. Planned maintenance give you “time”, which is what you really need to choose the most suitable maintenance workshops and ecologically-responsible shipyards.

Monitoring the efficiency of all onboard systems and equipment is therefore absolutely necessary. Carefully and regularly check the engine, the propellers and on board generators to prevent leaks or excessive fuel or oil consumption. If the engine is due for replacement, why not to move towards the very latest engine technology, which means low-emission, good performances, low fuel consumption and easy maintenance required. Also to be taken into account – under certain conditions – is the idea to provide your tender with an electric outboard motor.

During maintenance operation and seasonal checks special attention shall be given to the distribution of loads on board as this ensures smoother sailing consistent with hull waterlines. As a result, unnecessary fuel consumption is prevented.

Very useful to implement a green attitude is the replacements of all the bulbs on board with ultra-low-power LED types. Dedicated switches shall be installed to separate power circuits. Normally, paying attention to the power consumption of installed equipment helps to manage the overall energy balance. Reduced power consumption of course results in less engine and generator use for battery recharge. Also the installation of solar panels and wind turbines can be taken into consideration, depending on the size of the boat. These, if properly dimensioned, will supply almost all the energy required by a boat provided with medium-level facilities

With regard to green-focused maintenance, the installation of waste water collection and sewage treatment systems in our boats should be promoted, even when not required by law.

As it is clear from these few considerations (further comments on the subject are welcome) our commitment and awareness may be of great help and vital importance. What we – directly or indirectly – choose, affects the marine eco-system. So, if it is true – and it is true – that we love the sea, we can do nothing but play our part.

Even the choice of maintenance operators, or people in charge with our boat repair works or refitting is important. And also the boatyard for winter storage or the maintenance workshop we choose, can play an important role in reducing the impact of boating on the environment.

Here, of course, every choice involves also other “actors”, but, once again, we must not give up playing our part. In this regard, gathering relevant information is essential to better understand to what extent shipyards have implemented environmentally-friendly measures and procedures.

Take care to check if the boatyard chosen for winter storage is provided with collection and treatment plants for dust and washing water used for under work cleaning. Be sure environmentally friendly cleaners are used (phosphorus and surfactant free or natural) bought without packaging, if possible.

Ask that only eco-friendly antifouling (free of heavy metals or zero-release) is applied. If you are going to apply the antifouling by yourself, read carefully the instructions for use so as to avoid waste of product. Check carefully product storage and disposal requirements.

It is very important to choose only boatyards and suppliers whose procedures strictly comply with international standards. When buying equipment and accessories make sure detailed technical information on energy savings and air-water emissions are given.

Finally, when planning your boat refitting, think about the whole boat lifecycle, from building to disposal, and use materials and products easy to be disposed of.

Generally speaking, the utmost attention shall be paid to the disposal of consumable and maintenance wastes of our beloved one. Pay attention used oil, filters and batteries are collected in the dedicated collection sites. Do not contaminate used oil with other chemicals (gasoline, diesel oil, solvents, degreasers).

A more environmentally sustainable boating starts from gaining, all together, awareness and knowledge. Only then we could boast of the title of green sailors, which is far from being obvious. We must learn how to manage waste materials typical of pleasure boating such as engine oil, hydraulic system oil, oil and fuel filters, smoothing residues, lubricant greases, organic solvents, two-component resins, paints, wood preservatives, unlocking spray, lubricants, lead, nickel-cadmium or alkaline batteries, zinc and magnesium anodes, medicines.

Acquire a little deeper information than basic notions on bulky waste disposal such as fiberglass elements, ropes and sails that should be ground for waste-to-energy purposes, buoys and fenders whose plastic parts can be recycled, compasses not to be disposed of as unsorted waste as they contain toxic phosphorescent materials, expired marine flares to be delivered to the harbour’s master office or to specialized shops.

Let’s reflect upon this, dear friends. Our Mediterranean Sea with its shores is a unique and irreplaceable ecosystem in the whole world. Any behaviour not environmentally friendly has a worse impact on sensitive and protected areas, where the last small unpolluted marine environments are still preserved.

Let’s reverse the trend! Let’s observe good practice and become sustainable yachtspeople.

The communication and promotion of virtuous behaviours make ourselves promoters of a new and better way to enjoy the sea. Let’s do our best to make all this become a common habit and a trend to follow.

Fair wind to everybody! You’ll read about me in the third part of Good Practice, which deals about sailing.

Renzo Crovo

Renzo Crovo