Barnacles have caused problems on boats ever since humans started building ships and sailing across the Seven Seas. Even with our advanced technologies and fancy materials today, the shipping industry still spends millions each year to prevent barnacle from boat bottoms. What is the deal with these creepy creatures? Do they want to dominate the world’s oceans? Is it part of a larger problem, which most boaters will learn about sooner or later? Barnacles and other elements are at the mercy of a boat.
What ever your opinion about the barnacle’s dominance in the world, let’s take a look at what they do to your boat and how you can prevent them from growing on your bottom.
Barnacles shells on the hull of a boat
Why do Barnacles attach to Boats?
Shellfish are found in every ocean on the planet. NOAA reports that there are over 1,400 barnacle species. Like oysters and clams, they are filter feeders. Like those animals, they also float on water currents until they settle down and begin to grow their shell. Barnacles secrete a powerful adhesive once they have settled. Barnacles are attracted to places where there is a lot of water movement. They can be found attached to dock pilings and rocks in tidepools. The secret to their success is the powerful biological sealant. They can stay attached to the surface of the water no matter how fast it moves. It’s so strong that scientists have tried to replicate barnacle glue in industrial applications.
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What do Barnacles do to the Hull of a Boat?
What happens to barnacles once they are attached? They just keep growing. Barnacles will eventually cover the entire bottom of your boat. They like to grow not only on the bottom of the boat, but also on propellers and rudders. Barnacles will not permanently damage the boat if you prevent barnacle growth by coating the bottom with an epoxy barrier. The colony can grow so thick, it will add significant weight to your boat. The water will also no longer flow easily over the bottom of the boat, increasing drag.
A bottom is fouled when there is a large amount of growth. A fouled bottom can reduce speed and increase fuel consumption. The boat may take extra effort to move through the water in extreme cases. You could even risk overheating your engine! Barnacles can also be a major problem. Unbalanced weights on a propeller can also cause vibrations. Propellers can lose their efficiency when they are reshaped. A few barnacles will cause the propeller to not perform as it should. The same thing happens to the rudder and bow thruster.
Too much growth can clog seawater intakes. A lot of growth can cause problems for boat systems which require outside water like the cooling system and air conditioning. The problem of barnacles on propellers is a major one.
How to prevent barnacles from forming on boat hulls?
Barnacles on boat bottoms have been a problem since there were boats and ships. The problem was even worse for wooden boats because barnacles and worms were able to get a better foothold. They can even dissolve the wood. Copper sheets were used to attach to the bottoms of boats in order to control growth. Copper is poisonous for small marine animals. Barnacles are not going to settle on the bottom of a sea.
Copper Bottom Paint
Today’s modern equivalent to prevent barnacle growth is copper-laden bottom paint. Over the years, other metals and chemicals have been added to paints. Tin (TBT) is one of them. These paints are extremely harmful to the environment and have been gradually replaced by copper. Copper is the active component in paints, so the more copper they contain, the better. Copper is less toxic than other alternatives but it’s still banned in many places. There are two types of bottom paints: ablative and solid. Ablative paints are designed for gradual removal from the bottom. It is easy to remove the paint when it grows. You can remove it by moving the boat, but most often, a scrapper or scouring pad is all you need. This means the paint will need to be reapplied about every year to make sure there is enough to stop growth. Hard paints are not removable. It is more difficult to remove these paints when they grow. The paint will last longer and require less frequent application. Hard copper paints last about three years for most users. The copper pigment will fade over time, even though the paint remains on.
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Barnacles can be removed using new technologies
Copper in water, despite its wide use and minimal environmental impact, is not the best option for the environment. This also causes a lot more hazardous waste in boatyards where boats are constantly sanded, painted and repainted. A few companies have developed creative and innovative alternatives to the annual chore of painting a boat’s bottom to prevent barnacle growth. Coppercoat epoxy antifoul is one solution. This is similar to hard copper bottom paint but is not a paint. The epoxy is applied to the bottom and suspended solid copper particles. The epoxy is sanded off, revealing the thin layer of copper on the bottom of the boat. Copper coat is smooth, and it is claimed to last for ten years and more. However, it does need cleaning and scrubbing from time to time. It is smooth, and it does not leach copper into water.
Some companies use super-slick polymers to make their products. Barnacle glue will not stick if the surface is too slick. Barnacles may still adhere to the boat but the idea is for them to fall off when the boat moves. YouTube’s SV Delos, a famous YouTube sailor, tested a silicone product called Sea Speed VX 10. A few companies also produce ultrasonic antifouling system. These systems use an electric emitter with one or more transducers through the hull. These systems do not work on soft growth but they can prevent barnacles.
Both of these systems have the advantage that they don’t leach any chemicals into water and they can work for an indefinite amount of time.
Use a Hull Cover
There is no way to prevent barnacles. Even the most toxic of copper paints cannot prevent barnacle growth. The underwater critters will grow on anything, even if it is a copper paint. While one bottom paint may solve your problems at one location, if you move the boat, new critters will attach themselves. Barnacles are not the only marine organisms that do this. The barnacles attach themselves to something solid and start growing. There are many types of clams and worms in both brackish and freshwater. Paint can’t keep them away. Paints only really work when the boat is moving a lot. Most boats don’t. Even world cruisers move their boat for a couple of weeks, then let it sit for another few. This type of stop and go movement allows barnacles to attach.
Cleaning is an important part of the paint job. Owners hire divers to clean the bottoms of their boats every few months. If any growth does occur, it is removed and the paint exposed. Cleaning your own bottom can be a monthly task that you enjoy if you are a diver or swimmer. This is a lot easier than the usual yard work of a home owner. As an alternative to underwater cleaning, you can have your boat pulled out of the water and pressure washed. All boat yards scrape the bottom and wash it after the boat has been removed. It is often enough to remove the growth, and may be the easiest method if you have a heavily fouled boat.
Barnacles on a boat’s bottom can be removed.
You’re not alone if you have sea nasties. The ocean has been called the last frontier. Scientists discover new species every year. The bottom of your boat will make you feel as if you are an oceanographer. You’ll find all kinds of sea creatures if you clean your boat bottom yourself. From barnacles to slime to creepy worms to crazy alien shrimps.
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Barnacles on boats FAQs
What causes the barnacles on boats to grow?
Barnacles are found in all oceans and attach themselves to almost any underwater structure. Barnacles are common on rocks, dock pilings and boats. The cement they secrete keeps them attached to the surface. Once they have established themselves, the cement is so strong that it can withstand high-speed boating. Special bottom paints can be used to prevent barnacle growth and to make cleaning easier once it has occurred.
What happens when you leave barnacles in a boat?
Barnacles should not cause problems for your boat’s bottom when you are sitting still if your bottom has been properly protected by a barrier coating. The more barnacles you have, the harder and more time-consuming it will be to remove them. For a number of reasons, you shouldn’t attempt to leave with a dirty bottom. Barnacles, growth, and other obstructions will reduce your speed, and increase your fuel consumption. Growth on propellers and rudders can impact performance. In some cases, an impure propeller may not be able to move you out of a slip. Barnacles also clog water intakes and can cause your engine to overheat due to the additional work required for pushing the boat, as well as the reduced water flow.
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Are barnacles taking over your boat and causing unnecessary hassles? Don’t let these pesky crustaceans ruin your beach-to-bay adventures! Take action now to protect your boat and ensure memorable, hassle-free days on the water. Together, we can preserve our beloved coastal environments and enjoy a smoother journey on the open waters. Contact Beach To Bay Divers and Pools today and trust our experts to prevent barnacle growth on your vessel!
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