One of the most common questions for boat owners everywhere is – “How do I keep fouling off my boat?”. Go to any marina and you will meet countless skippers who speak about nothing else. And rightly so. Fouling is one of the most prevalent issues for boat owners and costs a considerable amount of money to manage every year.
Thankfully, in today’s marine world, there are other options when it comes to boat paints, meaning antifouling is just one solution that’s open to you.
So what options are there other than antifouling?
Biocides – Traditional Antifouling Paints
This is probably the most common type of anti foul. It works by leaching chemicals that kill the fouling before it has time to adhere to the hull. Tributyltin was for many years a popular component. However, there were serious issues with it. Male fish were being turned into females for starters, not to mention other issues with the food chain in our oceans. While today, we see different materials being used, some argue that there is less impact on the environment, but they are still chemicals that kill.
Foul Release Paints – Eco Friendly
This type of paint works in a very clever way. It makes the surface of the hull super-shiny and smooth and actually prevents fouling from adhering to the hull completely. While it does need a bit of cleaning, studies have clearly shown that foul release paints do actually help to keep fouling under control, but they also save fuel and they’re better for the environment.
As antifouling paints go, all the major manufacturers offer foul release as an option alongside their traditional paints, possibly suggesting that they are a very reliable option.
Other positives regarding this option are that it can last five years or more (one coating) and can save you money on fuel.
Copper – New but not so new
In the earliest days of our marine history copper was used to protect boats from fouling. Hundreds of years ago it was copper sheets, nailed to a hull but today the onus is on paints that are copper-rich instead.
The copper is milled down to a fine powder and then suspended within the epoxy coating, which is then applied to the boat. As the copper oxidises and comes into contact with the sea water, it becomes hydrochloride. This substance is easily washed away as the hull moves through the water, but with it also goes the fouling. Needless to say it does also kill it.
There are familiar brands that long since been a mainstay of the antifouling choices that are out there. However, application is trickier but on the upside it can last for 10 years or more.
Silicone – A bit like foul release
These paints are very similar to foul release and they use silicone and a fluoro-polymer that’s similar to Teflon together. This means that fouling cannot properly adhere to the surface. Thus any build up can be scraped or wiped off. The down side to this option is that it often means there’s a three step process and that two coats will be needed in the first year.
Equally, if the boat is not in the water for a month or more then another coat needs to be applied – this may be a bit expensive for many boat owners.
Whether you’re new to boating or you’re a seasoned professional, there’s no doubt that sometimes it’s better to consider what’s new over what’s old. Why use antifouling of the traditional kind when you could save money and time with an alternative?