Cleaning your boat is an important part of ongoing boat maintenance. How you do that, however, has significant implications for the environment – and the Port’s on-going efforts to maintain the Permit that allows the Port to operate its facilities.

Runoff of cleaning solvents and dislodged hull paint and materials can be extremely toxic to the Puget Sound watershed. The Port has facilities, however, to ensure that you can take care of your boat in a safe manner.

Here is a quick rundown of what you need to know about cleaning your boat at any of the Port of Port Townsend marinas:

Topside Cleaning

When your boat is moored at the Port, you can clean the topside of your boat while it is still in the water, provided that you:

  • Wash with fresh water and spot clean to prevent dirt build up.
  • Do not allow soaps or detergents to enter into the water. Soaps add nutrients to the water that promote algae bloom. An increase in algae bloom can lead to a decrease in oxygen available to fish and other aquatic animals and can lead to suffocation.
  • Do not allow excess cleaning products to enter into the water. The most damaging pollutants are those that persist and tend to increase in concentration as they are transferred through the food chain.
  • Use less harmful cleaning products and methods, including baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, and good old-fashioned elbow grease.
  • Look for the words “phosphate-free and “biodegradable” on the cleaning products used onboard.

Remember to buy and use only what you need. The smaller the product size, the smaller the potential of an overboard spill.

Underwater Hull Cleaning

Cleaning of the underwater portion of your boat’s hull while in the water is strictly prohibited in accord with Department of Ecology regulations. The reason for this is that the soft, ablative bottom paints contain toxic materials such as copper, tin, mercury, chromium and lead that kill marine life. Studies of divers cleaning hulls coated with ablative paints have shown high concentrations of these toxins can travel as much as 100 meters from the hull for up to 2 hours post cleaning.

The Port invites you to utilize the facilities that we operate in the Boat Haven to safely wash marine growth from your boat’s underwater paint.  When your vessel is hauled out by one of our Travelifts your vessel will be placed on a cement pad where high-pressure wash water equipment can be used by you, Port staff or a marine trade person of your hire to remove marine growth and loose bottom paint.  The pollutants that are created by this type of bottom paint maintenance are then removed from the wash water so that the water can be safely returned to the marine environment that we all enjoy.

If you have any questions regarding cleaning your boat at the Port – please contact Environmental Compliance Officer Al Cairns at (360)301-2225.