#CleanWake Challenge: How Eco-Friendly is Your Boat Cleaner?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re an avid water lover and have spent plenty of time on the waves. You may have noted, with some distress, that the amount of litter on our shores seems to be increasing. In fact, 13 million tons of plastic enter our oceans each year. In the wake of COVID-19, discarded single-use masks and gloves have introduced yet another new form of litter to our already heavily polluted waterways. They’ve become a common occurrence on our shores, prompting one pollution charity to remark that soon there could be ‘more masks than jellyfish’ in our oceans.

Yet we can still do something about it. Picking up litter is an important way for our oceans to regain their vitality. It has the distinct advantage of removing the immediate danger many types of trash pose to local sea-life. That’s why we’ve launched the #CleanWake campaign – an Instagram challenge which seeks to raise awareness of pollution while encouraging solidarity and building community.

All you have to do is go out, snap a photo of yourself litter-picking on your local shores, tag it with #CleanWake, and nominate five friends to go out and do the same by tagging them in your post. As well as getting some exercise, it is also the perfect socially distanced activity to do with friends or family – go out, get some fresh air, and give something back to the waters which offer you so much pleasure. Your local fish (or seagulls!) will thank you for it.

To inspire you, Boat Trader has decided to spotlight stories from boat-loving individuals and marine businesses who have decided to give something back to the environment.

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

You can also help the environment by carefully considering what you’re putting back into the ocean. Boat cleaning products inevitably end up back in the marine environment and can be stuffed full of chemicals harmful to aquatic life – chlorine, ammonia, potassium, to name but a few.We spoke to Noah Kaplowitch and Brian Coleman from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Despite being 18 years old, they have used their passion for boating passion for founding On The Water Boat Cleaning LLC, a successful boat-cleaning business with an environmentally-friendly mission. On The Water Boat Cleaning offers services include sweeping down the deck, washing down the console and electronics, scrubbing down  cushions, soaping down the deck, cleaning the windows, and waxing the boat. The companies demonstrates that you can clean a boat with non-toxic cleaning products and still manage to achieve outstanding results.

Noah and Brian: Born Water Lovers

Noah and Brian were childhood friends who grew up in similarly water-loving families in Marblehead, Massachusetts (which has the most boats per person than anywhere in the world!)

When Noah was 13, he received a “little Boston whaler” boat from his parents, as a birthday present. To kill time during the long summer months, Noah and Brian began offering to clean local people’s boats. To their surprise, their business took off, and they began to hire staff and expand their services, as they were cleaning hundreds of boats every week. Noah and Brian attribute the success of their business to the strength of the marine-loving community they grew up in: “We have a really gorgeous harbour, and we are so blessed to live here.”

Noah And Brian’s Eco-Friendly Cleaning Mission

Rob Howie, Commodore of the Corinthian yacht club in Marblehead presenting Brian (left) and Noah (right)  with a green-company certificate.

Rob Howie, Commodore of the Corinthian yacht club in Marblehead presenting Brian (left) and Noah (right)  with a green-company certificate. Image credit: Noah Kaplowitch and Brian Coleman

As Noah and Brian’s business progressed, they resolved that there was “no way they were going to profit at the expense of the environment.” They noted that not all the products used in boat cleaning were necessarily eco-friendly: “We’ve noticed that some products will say they’re eco-friendly when they’re not – like some bleaches claim to be ‘eco-friendly’, which isn’t true. How can bleach be eco-friendly?” Noah and Brian struck up a partnership with West Marine, their local boating supplies store, to become more discerning about the products their business used.

With West Marine’s support, Noah and Brian adopted a trial and error approach, testing out products to cut through the marketing jargon and find out what was genuinely environmentally-friendly. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the local community: last summer, Noah and Brian were awarded the Sailors for the Sea award, promoting green boating. It was the first time the award had ever been granted to a local business, rather than an individual.

Indeed, Noah and Brian have been pleasantly surprised by how receptive their customers have been to their eco-friendly mission: “At the beginning, some people didn’t think eco-friendly products would be as effective. I understand where they’re coming from – people care about their boats a lot! But we’ve never, ever had an issue with people not liking the products we use – and even if a customer is initially sceptical, taking five minutes to demonstrate the products we use and how good they are usually changing their mind!”

While the enthusiastic boating community in Marblehead keeps Noah and Brian busy, they’re already working on an expansion plan. They have recently picked up some contracts in Boston, through the same word-of-mouth marketing which made them such a success in their hometown: “We had a few customers from Marblehead who moved to Boston and basically insisted that we keep on cleaning for them, which was very flattering.”

Noah and Brian note that Boston, another avid boating community, recently saw its harbour go from one of the most polluted in the US, to one of the cleanest, after a rigorous 30 year clean-up campaign. As well as proving that change really is possible when it comes to clearing up our waterways, it also solidified Noah and Brian’s eco-friendly ambitions: “Seeing how Boston went from being one of the dirtiest harbours in the US to one of the cleanest was very inspiring – and made us even more determined that there’s no way we’re going to succeed at the expense of the environment.” Now, they have their sights set on expanding into Florida: “We’d love to work in Florida, there’s a really nice boating community there – and some really nice boats there, too!”

As previously mentioned, Noah and Brian are just 18 years old, and it’s incredibly commendable that they care so deeply about their local environment. They have actively set out to change their customer’s minds and habits. The #CleanWake challenge is the perfect incentive to take a closer look at the products you use to clean your boat. Are they filled with harsh chemicals that could harm our oceans? Does the manufacturer have an explicitly eco-friendly mission? If not, it might be time to replace them with one of Noah and Brian’s eco-friendly boat cleaning product recommendations:

Eco-Friendly Boat Cleaning Products

  • Roll Off Multi-Purpose Cleaner
  • Woody Wax Boat Soap (Ultra Pine)
  • Flitz Boat Polish
  • And if you’re in a tight spot – dish soap is surprisingly effective and eco-friendly.

Noah and Brian cleaning boats

Noah and Brian cleaning boats. Image credit: Noah Kaplowitch and Brian Coleman

More Eco Friendly Boaters Tips, Advice And Initiatives

If you want to find out how to become more eco-friendly boater, you may find the articles below useful:

An Eco-friendly Boating Guide

Eco-friendly anti-fouling paint

How to reduce your environmental footprint while boating

How yacht owners can participate in environmental schemes

Hybrid and electric boats

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.