While death and taxes may be better known, there's a third certainty in life many boat owners face that's often viewed with just as much trepidation. Photo: Frank Lanier. Ever since our first troglodytic ancestor shoved off astride his trusty log, mariners have tried most every concoction imaginable to keep waterborne critters and growth at bay, from mixtures of tar, sulfur, and brimstone, to paints laced with tin, arsenic, pesticides, and even the occasional jar of chili powder.
The chances are that unless you have a small daysailer or dinghy that spends most of its time out of the water, your boat will have some form of antifouling paint below the waterline. Antifouling paint is poisonous to marine life and prevents it, as much as possible, from adhering to the bottom while the boat is in the water. Sailors early on recognized the importance of keeping the bottom of their craft free of fouling as a hull covered with barnacles and weeds loses significantly in terms of speed and performance.
Boats usually have a long lifespan and they are definitely less exigent than cars when it comes to maintenance and repairs. However, they also require care due to the tough weather conditions they have to bare. Fiberglass boats look great and their gelcoat is usually prone to be resistant.
As a boat owner, getting dragged to the depths of the ocean by a giant sea monster is probably not high on your list of concerns. But make no mistake, there are some very foul creatures lurking beneath the waves. What you will see—and want to prevent—is the ugly, dirty, slimy mess they make on the bottom of your hull that decreases your speed and increases your fuel bill because your engine has to work harder.
Protection from fouling such as barnacles, weeds and slime. Includes bottom paint antifouling products. Seals and protects bare substrates above and below the waterline.
Slime and growth are relatively easy to remove while the bottom is still wet, but let the stuff dry and you will have to chisel it off. Fortunately most boatyards pressure wash the bottom as soon as they haul the boat, and many will also knock off hard growth with a long-handled scraper. If bits of bottom paint flake off under the pressure of the washer nozzle, ask the yard worker to make another pass to remove as much loose paint as possible.
If you store your boat in the water at least part of the year, keeping the hull free of marine growth with one or more coats of quality antifouling paint is critical to keep it performing its best—and for reducing fuel costs. This preventative maintenance task should be at the top of your list. A clean hull is safe, fast and efficient—while a fouled bottom will reduce your boat's speed, maneuverability and cost you more at the fuel dock. Knowing which products to select and how to use them can save you hundreds of dollars over the cost of paying a yard to do the work.
The paint on your boat is an important line of defense against all these things. Repainting your topsides is a big project, but at least it will give you a palette of colors. Photo by Doug Logan.