Introducing Mr. Green
BY TAKING THE TOXINS OUT OF
THE BOATBUILDING PROCESS, THE
INDUSTRY IS CLEANING THE AIR,
CAPTURING ESCAPING CHEMICALS,
AND IMPROVING THE WAY BOATS ARE
LAYED UP AND PAINTED
Abyproduct of boatbuilding is the release of Volatile Organic Compounds, better known as VOCs. These organic compounds easily evaporate into the air (hence
they’re “volatile”) and are regulated at many bureaucratic levels, including federal air-quality standards and indoor air standards. If you grew up using oil-based paints in your house and
remember when water-based latex paints began to be used, you
were witnessing a move away from solvents and the VOCs they
contained. There are many sources of VOCs in industrial applications, but you’re probably very familiar with the resins used to
make fiberglass boats and the paint and finishes used on boats.
Bottom paint in particular is going through a revolution right
now, with the introduction of water-based paints.
Solving The Solvent Issue
Chances are you remember, with some distaste, the last time
you painted your boat’s bottom. It’s a messy, uncomfortable
process for many of us, but with new, water-based anti-fouling
paints, such as Hydrocoat from Pettit and Micron Optima from
Interlux, you’ve gone from a paint that could eat through a
roller to ones that clean up with soap and water. These low-odor
paints feature dramatically lower VOCs, often a reduction of
more than 50 percent, compared with paints with traditional
solvents, so you can even paint indoors in some circumstances.
It should be noted these are still multi-season ablative paints.
Once dried, they are no different than traditional paints. In fact,
you can apply them right over your old paint.
By switching to using water as a solvent, instead of harsher
(and regulated) solvents, bottom-paint manufacturers are preserving your ability to continue to paint your own hull.
Closed Molding Is The New Black
In the not-so-distant future, closed-molding techniques, like vac-
uum bagging, will be the standard across the boatbuilding indus-
try, at least for builders of any significant volume. Some VOCs
cause smog and other serious problems. Therefore they are
regulated at the federal level. But poor air quality isn’t equally
distributed across the country. If you live in the Northeast, your
air is already subject to strict scrutiny.
Ditto California, or in parts of Texas. But
eventually, the gradual tightening of
regulations regarding toxins will impact
the whole country.
“There will come a day where every
drop of resin a builder brings into the
plant will need to be accounted for,
whether it goes into a boat or is spilled
on the floor,” says Peter Frederiksen of
Viking Yachts. The New Jersey-based
builder of sportfish yachts vacuum-bags
just about every hull already, even their
92-footer (left). And while the prep for
vacuum bagging — the time required
to lay up the materials that will go into
the hull, seal the mold under plastic,
run the hoses, hook up the manifolds,
and attach vacuum pumps — seems
quite involved, there are a lot of benefits. First, the plant has less odor and
harmful chemicals in the air. Second,
the precise metering of resin means the
right amount is always used throughout.
Not too much, which adds unnecessary
weight, nor too little, which can make
the hull brittle. And the vacuum pressure
virtually eliminates voids, those hidden
places where no resin flows into the
fiberglass. These things mean a better
boat. Plus, of course, allowing the resin
to set under seal prevents those
VOCs from escaping.
— MICHAEL VATALARO
Notice the absence
of respirators on this
Viking work crew?
The modern vacuum-bagging (sealed) process means no harsh
into the air. Note, too,
the red arteries of
resin flowing directly
to dozens of entry
points in the hull.