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Sailors Keep Our Waters Blue by Learning to Boat Green
Published: April 4, 2012
Want five things you can do today to make boating greener? Interested in learning more about switching to electric on your boat. See what Greg Martin has to say. Here is a sailor who is walking the talk, or in his case sailing the sail and motoring the auxiliary on electric.
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By Greg Martin

Photo Credit: Greg Martin

Featured in the American Sailing Journal, Summer 2011

Intrepid motoring clean and quiet under electric power
            Is it safe to say that we became boaters because we love being out on the water? We don’t have to be reminded about how wonderful it is to go sailing, fishing or diving from our boats in a healthy marine environment, or how sad it is to see trash on the beach or oil on the water. The idea of Green Boating stems from our natural instinct to protect what we cherish. It is not a new fad, but an attitude that translates into behaviors that reflect our values.

            Green Boating doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. In fact, what I’ve discovered on my boat is that going green has made my overall boating experience safer, more comfortable and immeasurably more rewarding. We all know there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. But even more interesting, I’ve also learned on my boat that there is a right way and a better way of doing things. Early on I learned that you have to sand the hull before applying bottom paint. But after a few times I realized that the job is a lot less messy (and less unhealthy) if you use a dustless sander. The job gets done, your work clothes are less soiled and you notice the birds aren’t scared away for as long. Same thing with cleaning supplies, you could get that nasty stain off quickly with acetone, but then you notice that it also eats the paint and burns your skin. An appropriate amount of non toxic cleaner (brand name withheld- but it comes in a green package) will do the job just as well with a little bit of elbow grease- and it smells better, too! These are just a few of the many basic things that we come to learn as boaters that make practical sense and are also easier on the environment.
            Out on the water I also learned that the best and safest way also tends to be the most environmentally conscious way. Nobody wants to go swimming in a toilet. That’s why we’ve established NDZs (No Discharge Zones) to keep our waters clean of sewage. Some locales have gone as far as limiting the discharge of gray water by establishing ZLDs (Zero Liquid Discharge zones) because not everyone cleans their boat with the stuff that comes in the green package. Anchoring is another thing to consider. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of losing an anchor on a reef, you know that it can be a scary and expensive mistake. Not to mention, if you’re a diver you know that the damage isn’t only to the boat’s gear inventory. Green boating also considers such things as this.
Think about the environment when doing boat work
            There are many more basic everyday things we can all do out on the water and at the dock to make our boating lives easier and more comfortable while at the same time protecting the environment that we are there to enjoy. Some of these things are easy and you can do them right now without a significant change to your lifestyle. However, there are also other steps you can take that might be considered a step beyond the basics, but if you’re willing to make the leap of faith, I think you’ll understand what I mean when I say green boating is immeasurably more rewarding.
            A few years ago I got tired of the sound and smell of the diesel engine aboard my boat, Intrepid and replaced it with an electric propulsion system. At the time it seemed like a crazy idea, but I can honestly say it was the best thing I ever did. The advantages of an electric propulsion system are: 1.) they are cleaner, with no exhaust fumes to make you seasick, 2.) quieter, allowing for a more tranquil experience on the water, 3.) reliable, since electric motors are simpler than a conventional combustion/ diesel engine they are easier to maintain and fix yourself if necessary 4.) higher torque at low RPMs makes docking much easier, 5.) don’t use fossil fuels. However, these selling points don’t fully express the true advantage of “going electric” with your sailboat.
Crystal clear waters of Tokashiki jima worth protecting
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            The one major drawback to having an electric propulsion system is the reduced range under power. This one drawback is undoubtedly the major reason why electric propulsion hasn’t been universally accepted by sailors yet. However, I have learned that this drawback, believe it or not is actually one of the biggest benefits of going electric on a sailboat. Intrepid’s electric propulsion system can push the boat along at hull speed at full throttle for a short period of time and at slower speed

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