Antifouling – Oh the joys…


With Christmas over and done with  most boat owners thoughts turn to the most hated of boat maintenance, Antifouling.  There’s something about antifouling that has boat owners shuddering in their flip-flops. Maybe it’s the eye-watering cost of the stuff or perhaps the less than favourite job of putting it on, no doubt on a breezy, cold day that sees any other person, boat or car to leeward getting generously spotted with International’s finest.

Marine Hitchhikers

Basically, the little critters of the marine world love nothing more than to hitch a ride on your boat. They don’t ask you to  give them a lift. Not so when it comes to barnacles, molluscs, tube worms, slime, the occasional gummi-bear etc, they just latch right on like they’re entitled. The little buggers slow down the performance of the boat adding to fuel costs, clog up seacocks, sensors and look unsightly. But fortunately being humans,   we’re bigger, smarter and  have access to credit cards and chandleries. So we water blast the blighters off regularly and then apply a couple of coats of seriously anti foul paint every year or two.

Marine Hitch Hikers

How foul is anti-foul?

Anything that requires a full bio suit, mask and gloves has to be somewhat toxic – right? Yes, its very toxic. While anti-foul paint looks and smells like regular paint and you put it on the same way, it actually behaves differently. It has “biocides” inside it which ooze (a technical term) out in a continuous and controlled manner. The paint is actually porous and lets water in so as to dissolve the biocides. It must make the boat taste bad or something because it inhibits the marine hitchhikers from clinging on to your boat. Take that you barnacles!
The type of anti-foul paint you choose depends where you sail your boat (i.e., what local nasties are prevalent) and any local regulation around copper biocides. Like many things in life, anti-foul is certainly not without its controversy. And when it comes to anti-foul paint, some people consider copper to be a bad guy. There are very few biocides that will work well. They either don’t react well to salt water or they’re too toxic to be handled safely. As a result copper biocides are now in vogue, however, there is now some question about their level of toxicity and impact on marine life. As a result, its use is now banned in certain areas.
So my takeaway is, marine creatures bad on your boat, but good in the water. Substances that keep marine creatures off your boat both good and bad. It is all too confusing. Fortunately, the marine industry is beavering away coming up with fabulous new non-toxic anti-foul products.