Clean Wake: Boaters Care For The Islands Of Maine

Clean Wake Connects With Influencers Across the U.S.

Boat Trader’s #CleanWake Instagram Challenge and awareness campaign invites all types of boaters to care for the environment while outdoors, in order to create a more responsible boating community. Help to keep our waters clean by getting outside and partaking in a dedicated clean up. All you need to do is head to your local waterway and pick up trash.

Boat Trader encourages any boater outside having an adventure to leave the environment in a better state than you found it. The long-term aim behind CleanWake is to contribute towards ocean conservation by mitigating damage caused by human pollution.

We have been talking to inspiring individuals who take accountability for their local areas by organising clean-ups and drastically reducing pollution levels in and around waterways. To keep it interesting- each story we have written is about a unique character from a different state.

Another organisation who is also banging the drum about local clean-ups is MITA (The Maine Island Trail Association). Boat Trader spoke to Jordi St John, Business Engagement Manager for MITA to find out more about the great work they are carrying out to protect the beauty of Maine’s wild coastal islands, inlets and bays.

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland, Maine. Image credit: Stormborn Photography

Maine Islands: Gems of the Sea

MITA organises local trash pick ups on a large scale. Last year, the organisation managed to remove 1500 bags of trash from islands of Maine helping to protect unique habitats and local wildlife. The islands are popular destinations for visitors who enjoy island picnics, beach-combing, walking, bird and wildlife watching, fishing, and camping.

Maine has 4,600 coastal islands, and if you stretched the land out, it’d be longer than the whole entire East Coast down to Florida. Access is not granted to all of the islands, which is where The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) steps in. MITA invites boaters to discover the quaint islands dotted with lighthouses, laden with dense forest, rocky shorelines.

The Maine Island Trail Association Blossoms

The Maine Island Trail is made up of over 240 islands and mainland sites along the Maine coast from Kittery to Cobscook Bay. The Trail is cared for and enjoyed by people along the coast of Maine. MITA relies on members, non members and the boating community in general to pick up trash.

“Each island is very unique and beautiful in its own way.” says Jordi. “MITA started back in 1988, the Trail was started by a small group of intrepid boaters, who wanted to make sure that this amazing recreational asset was cared for.” MITA has 8500 members on its books and is the largest boating recreational boating organisation in the state of Maine. Today, the organisation is the biggest they have ever been, their memberships were up 23% last year over the previous year. A large part of the nonprofits success is due to their reputation for caring for the environment. They have managed to achieve this through sharing knowledge, and promoting community engagement.

MITA has a handshake agreement with the island owners. Some islands are owned by the State of Maine or public islands and some are owned by private individuals. Other islands are owned by other organisations such as The Nature Conservancy.

MITA’s Boating Guides

MITA has an app which people can either download on their phone. They also have a guide book that’s printed annually and boaters can take it boating with them so they are aware which islands they can have access to. MITA provides information as to which islands are on the Trail, which ones are for day use and which ones can be used overnight.

Clean-ups On Skiffs: Skippers Volunteer

MITA has a fleet of seven 18 foot aluminium skiffs to pick up the trash which volunteers can use to run up and down the coast to clean-up. These are usually organised by MITA staff with the help of Monitor Skippers, who are vetted volunteers that captain the Lunds. Skippers will take a group on the boat to maximise the amount of trash collected.

“MITA is getting more and more island steward volunteers, because we are getting more access points. An increase in members means that we have more people getting involved with volunteer work. We refer to this as a SAM: Stewardship, Access and Membership.”

Maine Island Trail clean-ups often involve collecting usable buoys to return to fishermen in the area through MITA’s buoy return program.

Penobscot Bay Buoy Return

Image credit: Jordi St. John

A Call To Oars: The Boating Community

In the absence of MITA’s traditional island cleanup last year, MITA asked recreational boaters to pitch in with stewardship while they were out enjoying the islands. To encourage people to get involved MITA produced an online map where boaters can upload images of their trash and share their location. That way, the next boater planning their trip may be encouraged to emulate positive boating behaviors.

MITA intends to continue running the campaign this boating season while there is enough boat traffic and while the islands are at their busiest during summer months. They have raised awareness about their campaign through social media pushing the concept ‘leave no trace’, or even better leave it better than when you got there.

How Does A Call To Oars Work?

Boaters can find little QR codes on the island’s logbooks, then they can take a picture of the QR code, or type in the URL, then submit a photo online. MITA tracks the amount of trash that they bring off the islands. Last year MITA had 947 participants and 553 bags of trash were removed off of the islands.

Washed Up Trash: Spreading Awareness

Marine debris consists of single-use plastic bottles, beer cans, plastic bags and lots of other man-made products. Plastic bottles are the most common source of marine debris that takes 450 years to fully decompose.

Maine is renowned for its lobster and seafood, which means there is a large number of fishing vessels on the water; it is no surprise that fishing gear inadvertently blows onto the islands. MITA is engaging with the fishing community to work with them to address the issue.

Underserved Areas In Need Of A Little Clean Wake TLC

“Typically speaking we have more trash down east on the islands, close to the Canadian border because we have less volunteers there. It’s less densely populated and we don’t get as many boaters heading that way.” reports Jordi.

The Spirit of Stewardship: Jordi’s Story

Jordi was raised by parents who both have captain licenses. Jordi spent many Summers out playing on the water. It was only natural that he ended up following in his parents footsteps, becoming a captain for The Windjammers, based out of the Maine State Pier. Jordi navigated a 80 foot schooner (a sailing ship with two or more masts). Jordi then decided to do something completely different and worked for a software company where he remained for a further nine years. But it wasn’t enough to keep Jordi out of the water. At every free opportunity Jordi would escape his desk, choosing to spend his time growing oysters as a fun hobby at Merritt Island Oysters. Jordi also volunteered for MITA 15 years ago. Out of the blue an opportunity arose as a Business Engagement Manager, Jordi applied and now he gets to enjoy a role which he is very passionate about. Jordi has retained his hobby farming oysters. Surprisingly, oysters filter 50 gallons of water a day. They are good for the environment and Jordi would encourage anybody who is interested in oysters to get involved “It’s a hobby which is easy to pick up.” Jordi grows approx 50,000 oysters a year.

Twelve years ago Jordi and a buddy took a 38 foot boat down through the Caribbean and back up via Bermuda back to Maine “During that whole trip we literally would do small clean-ups on little islands wherever we stopped.”

Jordi teaches his own children the same values by getting them out on the water regularly with his wife who is a Biology Teacher. The whole family gets involved with cleaning up trash. Jordi teaches us all a lesson, the world is your oyster, but we can’t just suck it up- we need to preserve it too.

Jordi and his family relaxing in Maine

Jordi and his family. Image credit: Jordi St. John

Boat Trader Tips Clean Wake Tips

  • Plan to clean up areas where boaters and other people have been;
  • Picking up near a waterway is an excellent way of preventing rubbish from getting into the water before it’s too late;
  • Take a pair of puncture resistant gloves with you;
  • If you are going to count your trash, count as you go, to save you counting it out afterwards;
  • If you have a bad back, bring a stick or a grabber;
    Post of photo of you on your clean-up on Instagram and use #cleanwake
  • Nominate five friends to take part and tag them in your Instagram story;
  • Time for a well-deserved boating trip! Participate in a clean-up again the following week, or even the following month if you can! Try out a different location next to keep things interesting;

If you want to find out how to become more eco-friendly boater, you can find useful help and tips below:

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.

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