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EVER SINCE OUR FIRST TROGLODYTIC ancestor shoved off astride his trusty log, mariners have tried most every con- coction 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. Although environmental concerns have relegated the most
noxious mixtures of yesteryear to the dustbin of history, bottom paint still
remains a complex topic. Here’s a look at what bottom paint is, its application, and how to find the one that’s
right for you.
WHAT IS BOTTOM PAINT,
Bottom paint (aka antifouling paint) is a paint or
coating designed to discourage weeds, barnacles,
and other aquatic organisms from attaching themselves to (and in the case of wooden boats, eating) the
underwater portion of your boat’s hull. Bottom paints
have traditionally accomplished this by inclusion of a
biocide, with copper being the most commonly used today.
In general, the more copper or other biocide a paint contains,
the more effective (and costly) it is. Copper replaced tin, the previous biocide of choice for decades, now banned in most marine applications due to the
environmental damage it caused while leaching into the waters of the world. While copper may still be king, the latest generation of eco-labeled bottom paints utilize little or no
copper, a response to the increased scrutiny copper-based paints have received as potential
BOTTOM PAINT — WHO NEEDS IT?
If your boat stays in the water year round or during most or all of the boating season,
application of bottom paint is pretty much the rule. For boats left in
the water for short periods of time (that two-week summer vacation,
for example) or that are stored out of the water (trailer, lift, dry storage facility), a good coat of wax and regular cleaning are typically all
that’s needed to maintain a clean hull.
If your boat has never been bottom painted and you’re mulling
over the idea, make sure you understand that once bottom paint
is applied, the die is cast, and that periodic bottom-paint application, cleaning, and renewal become a permanent part of the vessel’s
routine maintenance schedule. Another consideration is that the
application of bottom paint in some cases (particularly on trailer-sized boats) may be viewed as a negative to potential buyers if you
decide to sell later on.
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