Introduction: SlickSack - How to Clean Up an Oil Spill

The crew of R/V Magnet was beyond bummed when we got to the boat today and found bunker fuel from Cosco Busan was all around the marina. We were out on the San Francisco Bay Thursday and saw the big slicks. Had containment been put in place quickly, cleanup would have been well suited to large machines like the 11 skimmers currently working the bay. I won't go into the story of why containment was delayed, or why the coastguard wasted time escorting us away from the Bay Bridge at gunpoint, but I will say this - It turns out that a major oil spill, given a little time, soon becomes a whole bunch of little oil spills. Today we designed low cost tools to clean small spills. The other design we like is the TarBallTrap, also an instructable.

Step 1: Sack Up...

First thing to do is get yourself a nice cloth sack. We used the the complimentary "Boat Clean and Green" bag they give out for free in the marina office. The bag comes with lots of printed material telling you where to pump out your head tank, and a nice free bilge pad. Throw your nice free bilge pad in your bilge in case you have any drips from your fuel system (which you should fix after you finish cleaning up the oil spill) and then...

Step 2: ...spread Your Sack

Get something to reinforce the rim. We used a piece of air hose from a 50' airline that we keep cutting out sections of that is now probably 35' long. Now invoke the spirit of the wide mouth bass you caught, filleted, and pan fried back when you were 9. Get some zip ties and knife, cut tiny holes around the rim of the bag, and manifest the wide mouth bag.

Step 3: Dive and Drive.

Tie on a line and toss the SlickSack into the water. Now drive around scooping up tar balls, just like a little red wagon - only it's the little blue SlickSack. Children should be supervised, as bunker fuel is toxic. Wear gloves.

Step 4: Dump the Clump

Using your gloved hand empty your sack into a bucket. We think we've collected about a gallon of oil and oil covered debris from our slip and the slips around ours. Once we're finished collecting oily mess we'll take it to the San Francisco Household Hazerdous Waste Facility. We've taken waste oil to them before. Just put it in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid on it. They're nice. You can learn more about them at

Step 5: Hang It All!!

The other method we like is to hang the SlickSack from the bowsprit, and go around with a bucket scooping up oily water and dumping it in the sack. Not everyone has a bowsprit, so you need to find something else to hang it from, or you can just drag it. Dragging works, but hanging is faster.

So build yourself a SlickSack and try your hand at cleaning up an oil spill.

Or take on a more ambitious project and build a TarBallTrap - also on instructables.

Sack up!!

The Crew
R/V Magnet