alt“If you work hard at keeping your marina clean, green and safe, your boaters will too. There is absolutely nothing to match the effect of leading by example” according to Hub Steenbakkers, the proprietor of Collins Bay Marina in Kingston, Ontario. “It is more than setting or enforcing rules, it is all about educating boaters in the critical role they play in maintaining the environment and setting expectations that become the social norm for behaviour.”

At Collins Bay Marina, caring for the environment is an essential part of their business.

OK, it’s good for the environment, but is it good for business? Hub and his wife Michèle certainly think so. From their early work in helping start the Clean Marine Program at the Ontario Marine Operators Association, through multiple ecology awards, to the marina’s achieving the top Eco-Rating status of Five Green Anchors, they have focussed a great deal of time and energy on the issue.

“We find our customers supportive of the efforts at education and leadership rather than concerned about the burdens of regulation” said Michèle. “More importantly, they see it as a sign of a well-managed, professional business. We have had new customers tell us that our attitude towards the ecology was an important factor in their choosing to keep their boats with us.”

A good deal of the marina’s attraction lies in geography – its location is in a sheltered bay on Lake Ontario near the beautiful cruising grounds of the Thousand Islands. The marina is full every year, except for a few of the smallest docks. But Hub points out that “Boaters are a discerning group; their boats are well kept and they expect as much from their marina. Meeting these expectations is a critical part of retaining customers and fostering an atmosphere of working with them towards a common goal; the preservation of the beautiful waters on which we sail. Red Green’s philosophy has it exactly right – We’re all in this together.”

The Critical Ingredient: Every Boater’s Involvement

Michèle framed the situation well. “It takes more than marinas working at keeping the waters clean. Without the active support of boaters, it would be next to impossible to make any headway. After seeing to our own responsibilities, the first task is clearly boater education. Primarily we carry it out through our Clean Marine Pledge and program, making customers aware of issues, problems and solutions. The second part of the task is tougher – setting expectations – not just at the marina but in the entire boating community. When you do, it pays off. For example, by the time a fuel leak is reported to the marina, we find that there are already a number of our boaters actively checking the docks to find the source. People are involved and they carry the message to everyone who enters the marina.”

A call to Action

When boaters ask what a single individual can do to contribute, the answers are simple: be knowledgeable, make responsible personal decisions and encourage others to follow your lead. We strive for continuous learning in our own operation and have often shared our knowledge and experience with other marine operators to help spread the word. We encourage our customers to follow the same pattern of learning and teaching, politely pointing them to alternatives when we know of a better way to accomplish their tasks.

If there is a single secret to success, it lies in fostering a caring boating community that is informed, understands that it has a stake in the result and expects its friends and neighbours to join in the effort. Come to think about it – that seems to be a pretty good prescription for solving a lot of issues that require cooperation and wide public support. Perhaps the boaters of the world can lead by example!

By Michèle and Hub Steenbakker

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