With $5-a-gallon gas looming at the fuel dock, many owners are looking at their engines and running gear to be sure their boats are operating at peak efficiency. Some are also looking at the gear they carry aboard to determine whether all of it is necessary. Less stuff means less weight, which could mean decreased fuel consumption.What about your boat’s bottom? We all know that the correct paint, properly applied, keeps barnacles from attaching and slime from growing. But the right bottom paint also can help your boat move through the water with less friction, and that helps optimize fuel efficiency. Of course, the paint must be put on correctly, which might mean having a professional do the work, especially if it’s a two-part epoxy. You also have choices between traditional copper-based paint and newer ecologically friendly products.
In addition to applying antifouling to the bottom, giving your boat fresh topside paint — hull sides, pilothouse and superstructure — can enhance its value for future resale and make it appealing enough to keep for another season or two.
The most popular type of bottom paint is the ablative style, which releases a biocide over time. The newest paints from Interlux Yacht Paint (www.yachtpaint.com), of Union, N.J., and Pettit Paint (www.pettitpaint.com), of Rockaway, N.J., use an ingredient called Econea. It’s a biocide developed by Janssen Pharmaceutica that is now registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a safe alternative to copper.
Copper is one of the most effective ingredients against marine growth. However, copper-based bottom paints are a hot-button environmental issue. Washington last year became the first state to ban the use of copper-based bottom paints because of their accumulation in the water column. San Diego banned their use in 2010 and the California legislature is looking at similar restrictions.
Like copper-based ablatives, Econea paints work on a timed-release formula. The paint wears off over time, releasing fresh biocide to keep barnacles and slime from attaching to the hull. Interlux’s Pacifica Plus is one of the most popular Econea-based bottom paints. A dual-biocide product, it has 3.9 percent Econea, plus Interlux’s Biolux anti-slime ingredient to combat barnacles and slime growth. “[Marinas and boatyards] are getting the performance and happy customers with clean bottoms while reducing the amount of copper,” says Elenor Ekman, marketing manager for Interlux.
She says that a second benefit of going copper-free is that the boats don’t discolor at the waterline the way they would with a copper-based paint. You can find Pacifica Plus in a variety of colors and it sells for $199.99 a gallon at West Marine. Usually two coats will suffice for most boats and a gallon covers 400 square feet.
Pettit introduced its Ultima Eco bottom paint in 2011. It contains 6 percent Econea and is a multiseason ablative. “When we went to make an Econea-based paint, we wanted to make a paint that works and works very well,” says Don Zabransky, vice president of sales and marketing for Kop-Coat Marine Group, Pettit’s parent company.
Sea Hawk Paints (www.seahawkpaints.com), a division of New Nautical Coatings of Clearwater, Fla., also has a metal-free antifouling paint called Smart Solution. The company says Smart Solution controls barnacles, algae and other marine growth as well as traditional antifoulants. The coating reacts with water to create a slick film that encapsulates the hull and enhances performance. It is approved for use in California by the Department of Pesticide Regulation. “This is significant because the California environmental code is among the strictest in the nation,” says Eric Norrie, CEO of New Nautical Coatings.
Eco-Clad, on the market for about a year, is another “green” bottom paint. Steve Schultz, president and chief executive of its manufacturer, Luritek, says the company’s goal is to show that “green products can, in fact, deliver long-term effectiveness.”
Eco-Clad contains a “bio-limiting” material and a “bio-supportive” material. When it is placed into salt water or fresh water it forms a slick, invisible film designed to repel and prevent fouling while improving speed and fuel efficiency — as much as 10 percent, according to Schultz.
Priced at about $299 a gallon, Eco-Clad (www.ecoclad.com) has about twice the volume of solids as traditional antifouling paints, Schultz says, and requires only one coat to get full protection. The company says it will last 24 months or more and is easier to clean than traditional bottom paints because of its hard, abrasion-resistant formulation.
Eco-Clad has been applied to boats from Maine to Puerto Rico and has federal EPA approval. It is awaiting state approvals in California, New York and several other states. A growing dealer network stands at 270 nationally.
Among copper-based paints, Interlux’s Micron is among the most popular. Its controlled-release formula allows a predetermined amount of copper to leach out over a given time, so it uses less copper more efficiently than high-copper paints, according to Interlux. Micron Extra, which includes Biolux to control slime, sells for $239.99 a gallon on the West Marine website. The Micron series would be good for slower boats because it does not require much speed to remove fouling from the hull and it can withstand multiple haulouts and launchings without requiring a recoating.
For those on a budget, Interlux’s Fiberglass BottomKote NT provides the benefits of a hard paint and an ablative paint in one product. It’s harder than other ablative coatings, so the copper release is slower, which would be ideal on a trawler. The retail price at West Marine is $99 a gallon.
Pettit’s Composite Copper Technology replaces the traditional cuprous oxide core with silica for a more environmentally friendly paint. The biocide is released the same way, but the technology results in 40 percent less copper leaching into the water, according to Pettit. The company’s Hydrocoat SR uses Composite Copper Technology.
The company also has what it calls Clean Core Technology, which contains fewer metals and allows a more consistent release of biocides. Pettit says Clean Core reduces heavy metals by as much as 90 percent and a consistent timed release of biocides delivers fouling protection.
Coppercoat (www.coppercoatusa.com) offers yet another solution with a solvent-free epoxy binder containing high-purity copper — about 2 kilos of spherical copper powder in every liter of resin, the maximum allowed by law. Classified as non-leaching, Coppercoat bottom paint is hard-wearing, long-lasting (as much as 10 years, according to the manufacturer) and comparatively eco-friendly.
If you’re like many boat owners in this economy, you’ve decided to upgrade your pride and joy rather than take the plunge and buy a new boat. “You’re not selling the boat, so you might as well give it a fresh paint job and make it pretty,” Pettit’s Zabransky says.
Interlux offers a two-part, high-gloss polyurethane called Perfection ($84.99 a gallon), and its popular one-part Brightside Polyurethane ($43.99 a gallon) gives do-it-yourselfers a sprayed-on look when brush-applied in thin coats.
If you’re looking to invest a little more in your boat, professionally applied Awlgrip is perhaps the best-known finish. AkzoNobel — Interlux’s parent company — produces Awlgrip polyester-based finishes and primers. New on the market is Awlcraft SE, a coating in metallic and pearlescent finishes that provides a brighter, more fluorescent look to pilothouses and superstructures. Another popular area for Awlgrip is the engine room, according to Ekman.
To make applying Awlgrip easier, the company has introduced Awlgrip 321 HS Undercoat, a high-solids finish primer that complies with more stringent emissions requirements. Applying it beneath Awlgrip topcoat ensures that the finish will be smoother, and the job can be done in one or two coats instead of three or four.
Although Awlgrip might be the best-known name, Alexseal, a division of Germany-based Mankiewicz Coatings, has grabbed a respectful share of the market with a polyurethane topcoat that is repairable (www.alexseal.com). “When we surveyed the market we clearly identified that durability and reparability were the two most requested characteristics of a marine polyurethane coating,” says Tripp Nelson, sales and marketing director for Alexseal. “When we formulated our product, we decided to use a unique, polyester-based polyurethane that was repairable.”
Based in South Carolina, Alexseal offers a complete coating system that includes primers and fillers. The company supplies finishes only for professional application above the waterline. The primers seal imperfections in surfaces, such as old gelcoat, and smooth the finish before the polyurethane finish is applied. Alexseal’s newest product, Cor Spec 135, is formulated for aluminum and steel hulls. Cor Spec 135 is a chromated epoxy primer that’s designed to be covered by urethane paints.
To ensure that Alexseal’s products retain repetitive color quality, the company’s factory packs every color. Factory packing means that every can of paint is made in the company’s factories rather than being mixed at a local dealer. When matching a boat’s existing paint, a skilled craftsman can get a repair close, but if the paint is factory-mixed, you know you’ll get a match when you need to make a repair.
“Every color we make, whether it’s one gallon or 1,000 gallons, is sprayed onto a panel to check its color consistency before we send out a can of paint,” Nelson says.
Smaller regional distributors carry Alexseal. In New England, Hamilton Marine and Lewis Marine carry it. At Hamilton, a gallon of Matterhorn topcoat sells for $127. Nelson says the Snow White topcoat is probably the company’s best seller. Alexseal also offers water-based coatings for interior applications, including sprayable suede and leather finishes.
Although Awlgrip and Alexseal are best applied by professionals, Pettit has focused on do-it-yourselfers with its EZ line of products targeted for cabin interiors, bilges and decks, including a non-skid coating. A new product, EZ Poxy 2, has the strength, scratch resistance and gloss of a two-part polyurethane, but it’s more forgiving.
“We have mixing ratios that we recommend you hit, but if you miss by a little it’s still going to cure and mix and look great,” Zabransky says.
EZ Poxy 2 can be applied over a single-part polyurethane without the surface needing to be stripped. Pettit recommends putting down a layer of EZ Poxy Primer and sanding the surface before applying the topcoat. It can be applied with a roller and then followed with a light tipping brush; the finish will look as if it were sprayed, Zabransky says.
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This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.