midst of vigorously scrubbing our sailboat. The twenty-nine-year-old boat’s fiberglass is porous, quick to absorb the tiny specks of blue spider droppings and the malt-colored splats of bird poop. It is not the kind of filth easily erased by the expensive, environmentally friendly cleaners I use. Perhaps they work on newer boats. Rubin’s solution is to use tire spray, Soft Scrub® toilet bowl cleaner, and to mix bleach with commercial boat wash.
“You can’t use those! All that stuff goes straight into the lake!”
But I have no facts to influence change, just hunches. And hunches, in our family, don’t count for much. I suspect we boaters have a lot to do with the quality of water in our harbors based on how we paint the hulls, treat our gray water and bilges, and fuel and clean our boats. And yet, I don’t recall in the eleven years I’ve been studying the Great Lakes, seeing evidence-based recommendations on “best practices” that might influence the 4.3 million registered Great Lakes boaters.
Upstream, in the Macatawa Watershed, a team of farmers and scientists is working to implement and monitor best practices in farming. Their goal is to reduce the excess sediment, nutrients, and algae fouling Lake Macatawa. Why not start a team of interested boaters, marinas, and scientists to see what affect we might have on Lake Macatawa and the channel of water flowing into Lake Michigan? And if there are no effective “green” cleaning agents, why not tap the science and manufacturing expertise in Michigan to create some?
Never shy when it comes to restoring Lake Michigan, I key up my questions with Hope College scientists and Project Clarity leaders (whose focus is on remediating water quality issues in Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed). Their enthusiastic response is reaffirming! A research plan is currently under development that will involve Hope College students and professors, Project Clarity experts, and local boaters and marinas. If you are interested in being on the team, please contact me.
To learn more about the ongoing negotiations between the idealist (me), and the pragmatist (Rubin), read my story “Searching for Common Ground” in the August issue of Sail magazine.
Note: This month's title courtesy of Rubin and Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday.
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