“Boaters have always had a close relationship with the water,” said BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water assistant director of boating safety Ted Sensenbrenner. “We swim, fish and recreate in it, so clean water has always been important to us.” The BoatUS Foundation offers three marina or gas dock clean refueling tips that can prevent spills all summer long. “Every drop that makes it safely into the tank is better than a drop in the water,” added Sensenbrenner.

clean refueling
 Little things, like using an oil-sorbent pad when refueling, keep the drops out of the water that, over time, can add up. Photo courtesy of BoatUS

1. Use a disposable “oil-sorb” every time you fill up.

Fueling can sometimes be messy, so be prepared. As you pull up to the fuel dock, have an oil-sorbent nozzle “donut,” absorbent pump “bib,” or a few absorbent pads ready to go.

2. Prevent fuel backsplash from getting into the water.

When you fill up the boat at the gas dock, you’ll hear a distinct sound—a soft bubbling or gurgling noise exiting from the fuel deck fill. If you listen carefully, the sound will change as the tank fills. Experienced boaters can hear when the tank is nearly full, giving them opportunity to ease the dispense lever, stop fuel flow, and prevent a bubbling backsplash. Topping off a boat fuel tank is never recommended, as is using the dispensing handle’s hands-free (also known as “hold open”) clip. It’s recommended to leave a little room in the tank for potential fuel expansion on hot days.

3. Never use dish soap to disperse a spill at the fuel dock.

A bottle of dish soap sitting on top of the gas pump may have been a familiar site in grandad’s day, but it is no more. “People once thought it was a safe way to get rid of a sheen,” said Sensenbrenner. However, using dish soap to disperse a small fuel spill only spreads the oil farther into the water column and sediment. Instead, keep a small supply of absorbent pads aboard just in case. Once used, dispose of them in the right kind of container—ask your marina or fuel dock on how to dispose of as hazardous waste.
For more clean boating refueling tips, visit boatus.org.