PS Advisor: 11/15/03


Boatyard Work Restrictions
For years I have done my own barrier coating and bottom painting myself with good results. Last season I was told by the owners of the marina at which I keep my boat that I can no longer do the work because of new Federal laws. According to the marina I can only work on my boat if I own the land on which the boat is stored. They said that pollution laws are being enforced. This means I must spend around three grand to have the work done by the marina. They are good people, I’m sure , but I could do the job myself for less than a third of their cost. Can you shed some light on this matter, because I’m sure thousands of other boatowners must be in the same predicament.

-Victor E. Mallia
Via e-mail

There are of course laws limiting the amount of pollutants that can be released into the water and air, and some of those pollutants are found in the run-off from bottom sanding and/or painting in a boatyard. In recent years, boatyards have become much more careful about managing these wastes-because they can be subject to severe fines and even shut-down if the pollution from their operations exceeds legal limits.

As far as we can tell, there are no federal laws that prohibit a boatowner from doing his or her own work in a private boatyard, as long as the boatyard allows it. However, many states have some form of voluntary “Clean Marina” program-marinas that strive to meet environmental standards (in large part hoping to defer proposed federal and state mandates). Among the guidelines of these programs are sanders designed not to release dust into the atmosphere-which is the greatest atmospheric boatyard-generated pollutant.

Most marinas (in Connecticut) we asked, that adhere to the program’s guidelines, allow customers to do their own bottoms as long as they use the proper equipment. Some will rent you that equipment, and some won’t give you the option, but insist on doing the work themselves.

There may be some state and local laws that prohibit an owner from working with bottom paint or other potential pollutants, but we suspect the laws in place mostly have the effect of prohibition, by putting such a heavy responsibility on the yard operator-the owner of the land under your boat-that to let you do your own work there, unsupervised, represents too much of a risk. This may have been what your yard owner meant.


Vinegar For Maintenance
Nick and Maryann found that vinegar and water was an excellent cleaner for their boat, inside and out. I am interested in finding out the ratio of water to vinegar for cleaning the interior of the boat-joinery, cabin sole, etc.I was told by someone else to use 10 parts water to 1 part white vinegar for cleaning Lexan windows. I have found that to be too watery.Before I do anything to our interior, I would like suggestions on the ratio.

-Sandy Donaldson
Via e-mail

We don’t have a specific ratio, but Maryann uses about 50-50 water and white vinegar for general wiping down of interior varnish. She says it’s important to follow up with a wipedown using a clean sponge dampened with water, and then buff dry using a clean, soft cloth. Old cotton T-shirts work well.

We have not used this mixture on Lexan, and cannot specifically recommend it. Polycarbonates are quite soft and sensitive to various chemicals, as we’ve found out the hard way. We just use dishwashing detergent and water to clean our polycarbonate deckhouse windows, rinsing with straight water and wiping dry with a clean soft cloth afterwards.

Incidentally, polycarbonate starts to haze after a few years. You can buff this out by hand with proprietary plastic cleaning/polishing systems, but read the label to make sure they are usable on polycarbonate. Polycarbonate (Lexan) and acrylic (Plexiglas) are not at all the same chemically, and you can’t necessarily use the same polishes on both. -Nick Nicholson

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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