Now There’s No Excuse Not to Use Bilge Pads

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National Fishing and Boating Week ends this weekend and the first day of summer (summer solstice) is on my birthday this year. So, June 21 will be a day to celebrate and enjoy being on the water with your family and friends, or sometimes I venture out to solo to relax.

The indicators across the nation are showing that people will be on the water in force this summer, and one report showed that last year 80 million people went boating. The normal trend used by boating organizations is 68 to 72 million people go boating annually, but I am curious to see how many boats and people will flood Newport Harbor this July Fourth.

Many boat owners are unaware of Orange County’s Clean and Green Campaign for the “Free Bilge Pad Exchange Program” in Newport Harbor and our two neighboring harbors. The County of Orange wants to help boaters from accidentally discharging oily water from their bilges with the automatic bilge pumps.

Many boaters for years have used bilge pads to absorb the petroleum that may have dipped into the bilge and mixed with the water. The problem that boaters encountered is how to properly dispose of the oily pads so as not to throw them in a regular trash can.

That problem has been solved, as you can go the county’s website ( to find a location in Newport Harbor. Currently, there are three sites listed for collection and issuing new free pads at Hill’s Boat Service, Island Marine Fuel, and Newport Dunes Resort (launch ramp).

I want to commend this very worthwhile program as an easy solution that every boater can participate in, to help prevent the accidental, unwanted discharge of any oil into our waterways. At your next fuel stop in the harbor, you can ask the attendant how to get your free pads and the protocol for dropping off used pads. It is great to see the Newport Dunes is providing the service to the trailer boaters, as these boaters may not use the Harbor’s fuel docks, nor they may not know about the program as many weekend boaters are from out of town.

This is an easy free, no-headache way for boaters to dispose of their used bilge pads and pick up free new pads. So, there is no excuse for any boater to not have absorbent pads under your inboard engines and in your bilge at no cost

Tip of the week is that the summer boating season is rapidly approaching, and have you prepared for the unexpected? As a professional yacht Captain, I am constantly questioning myself about the “what ifs” and the “what would I do” scenarios especially when I am trying to fall asleep at night.

However, when I ask recreational boaters in casual conversation if they have recently reviewed any emergency producers, the typical comment is; “I have been boating for over 10 years, and I do not need to worry about that.” This brings numerous questions to my mind, one of which is, did you ever take a class in the beginning of your boating days? Also, how many times in a year do you get underway, only a few weekends out of the year?

Additionally, you can easily guess a person’s boating skill level by first just looking at the condition of their boat and then how they dock. If you see the skipper docking at a high rate of speed with no dock lines or fenders ready, and while the guests are sticking their legs and arms out to fend off dings, then this is a good indicator that person is lacking basic boating skills. How many times do you see a boat dock and then put the fenders down? However, if the boat approaches with lines and fenders in place, guests positioned, and a slow calculated approach into the dock then this is a proficient skipper.

If the skipper is experienced, what about the crew or guests (remember the term passenger is technical term referring to a paying passage)? If the skipper should fall overboard or become ill, could one of the guests stop the boat or know how to radio for help? Take the time before getting under way each trip to remind all guests of the safety procedures, where the safety equipment is stowed, and show someone the operating controls on that vessel. Follow a few easy steps in the beginning and the pleasures of boating become more enjoyable because the risks of the sea have been lessened and “Goofy Goes Sailing” can be avoided.

I hope to see you on the water with a smile on your face.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific. Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.” You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at or

Until next week, Safe Voyages!


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