Antifouling your boat: Everything you need to know

MBY editor Hugo Andreae explains why antifouling your boat is so important and how to do it right

Any other systems on the horizon?

A number of manufacturers are experimenting with so-called ‘low surface energy’ products. These are usually non-stick Teflon or soft silicone-based coatings, which have such a smooth surface that fouling struggles to get a grip on it and is soon washed away by the water flowing past.

While these have proved effective on container ships, which rarely stop for more than a few days at a time, they are not generally so suitable for craft that spend large amounts of time stationary and may be vulnerable to surface damage from fenders, lifting strops and sediment.

Other possibilities include ultra-hard ceramic surfaces, which can be regularly scrubbed clean, and even nano-surfaces, which can stop organic matter from sticking to them through specially textured patterns.

So what’s the difference between a hard antifouling paint and a soft one?

A soft paint erodes more quickly than a hard one. In the case of fast motor boats, the action of the boat passing through the water can cause a soft antifouling to erode too quickly, especially along areas of high pressure such as planing surfaces, chine edges and where the crane’s lifting strops have rubbed.

This could wear away the fresh antifouling and expose untreated or exhausted layers of old antifouling.

Hard antifouling tends to have a smoother finish fresh from the pot and a greater choice of bright colours, but may not be so effective when the boat isn’t being used.

Does that mean fast motor boats should always use a hard antifouling?

Not necessarily. If you don’t use your boat that often or make sure you apply extra layers in areas of high wear, then a soft antifouling can be used and may prove more effective because of its faster leaching rate.

I use a base layer of hard antifouling on my 23ft sports cuddy, which I paint over with an extra coat or two of soft antifouling.

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