Boat maintenance: anti-foul, paints, lubricants and more
A round-up of products designed to help keep boats looking their best.
Maintenance is a key part of operating any vessel in the marine environment and a task that, sooner or later, every boat owner has to undertake like it or not (and many don’t). Fortunately, there is an endless supply of products on the market designed to make the job easier, more effective or even reduce it to the bare minimum. Specially-formulated maintenance products, new and old, are a mainstay of the marine economy and in constant demand as users search for that ideal solution which will save them time, money and effort.
Of course, there are sound reasons why boat owners should carry out regular maintenance such as anti-fouling. A clean hull will reduce fuel costs and help the boat go faster. It obviously makes the boat look better and will help maximise its value when it comes to sale time.
Could anti-fouling also help you earn money? Recently, International Paint, part of the AzkoNobel group, awarded US$60,000 of carbon credits to a Greek shipping line as a result of switching to its biocide-free Intersleek brand of anti-fouling products. The carbon credits were accrued as a result of operational efficiencies following the anti-foul treatment, namely reduced drag leading to fuel economies resulting in lower CO2 emissions.
Last September, International Paint announced that 17 vessels had earned a total of US$500,000 in credits (equivalent to about US$4 per credit or tonne of CO2 saved). The credits can be traded on the carbon markets so they do have a value, although in the case of the Greek shipping line it will use the credits to offset emissions elsewhere in its business.
At the moment the scheme is only applicable to larger ships although there may be some application in the superyacht sector. It highlights though the role that anti-fouling can play in reducing fuel consumption and hence greenhouse gas emissions. The latest International Paints anti-fouling paint for the recreational market is Micron Extra 2 due to be released in Australia this year.
Protect your prop
Alongside anti-foul treatments for hulls, there are specialised paints for specific parts and materials. Velox Plus, available in Australia through PropPaint, is an anti-foul treatment designed for protecting propellers, stern drives, shafts and other underwater metal parts. A key feature of this treatment is that it is not affected by galvanic currents. Galvanic and electrolytic corrosion are the most common cause of paint failure on metal below the water line.
The complete application comprises a metal primer and the Velox Plus paint which is available in either black or white. The primer can be applied to steel, bronze and aluminium with two coats of Velox Plus applied on top. It is designed to maximise the time between haul-outs and make any re-application easy to undertake. If it is scratched or damaged it will not peel off and can be repainted without having to take it back to bare metal. It also has a shelf life of two years so any unused paint can be kept for the next haul-out.
To find out more, there is an application tutorial available on YouTube.
Epoxy products for wooden boats
In addition to anti-foul paints, there are a myriad of products available for the cleaning and protection of all types of surfaces and parts.
Local manufacturer Boatcraft Pacific makes a range of epoxy and polyurethane products for use in the marine market. In the wooden boat sector, its best-known product is Bote-Cote, a modern-type epoxy system which is designed to be highly water-resistant while still allowing a degree of flexibility to match the properties of timber.
According to Ian Phillips at Boatcraft, a key property of Bote-Cote from an industry perspective is its less harmful effect on the people who use it.
“Bote-Cote has a lower allergenic potential which means it is less likely to make users allergic to it,” he said.
Bote-Cote uses low allergic risk materials to the maximum extent, which means it is better for users who are sensitive to epoxies while non-allergic people are less likely to develop an allergic reaction over time, an important consideration from an OH&S perspective for marine businesses whose staff might be using such products regularly.
Other properties of Bote-Cote include no amine blush on the surface of the cured epoxy, a mixing ratio of 2:1 resin to hardener making it easier for users to calculate the correct ratio, and a range of hardeners suitable for different climatic conditions.
Boatcraft also manufactures a range of other marine products such as Aquacote, a two-part water-based polyurethane which is formulated to be hard wearing and long lasting. Aquacote can be thinned and washed up using water and is guaranteed to last for three years although Phillips said it has been known to last for up to eight.
Other products include Cop-R-Bote, a copper-based long-life anti-foul coating suitable for all timber, fibreglass, and ferro-cement craft, and Feronite, a metal primer that eliminates rust and primes rusty steel in one application.
Penetrating oils and varnishes
A product with a long pedigree in the boating market is the Deks Olje range of wood varnishes and penetrating oils.
Local distributor, Walter Huehn at Owatrol Marine, is a long-time user of the product, both as an avid sailor and from when he was previously running a yacht charter business in the Whitsundays. Later, whilst sailing up through Asia to Singapore and Malaysia, he tried to track down the product to use on his boat only to discover there was no distributor in the region.
Fast forward to today and Huehn is now established as the Owatrol Marine distributor for Australia and the Asia Pacific region including the Deks Olje products. The first shipment of products arrived in late February this year and is being distributed directly to chandlers and marine outlets from the company’s warehouse on the NSW Central Coast.
“People love the product,” said Huehn. “We’ve also started doing commercial projects such as cruise ships where it is used on hand rails, decks and bench tops.”
Other products in the Owatrol range include deck cleaners, gelcoat restorers and anti-corrosion oils and primers. Owatrol itself is part of a French family company with a long history in paints and oils dating back to the 1920s and best-known for a rust inhibitor oil called Owatrol Oil or Rustol. Deks Olje was originally a Norwegian product used on timber boats for preventing water damage.
Lubricants for protection
When it comes to lubricating and protecting components, especially metal parts, there are a number of products on the market ideally suited for use in the marine sector.
One of the best-known is CorrosionX which is designed for use on sensitive circuits and electronic connections – for a demonstration, check out the clips on YouTube of remote-control enthusiasts coating servos in CorrosionX and then running them underwater. John Allen at Southern Seas Marine, the Queensland distributor of CorrosionX, said the RC market has certainly taken to the product but the marine sector is also a major market.
The main feature of CorrosionX is its ‘polar-bonding’ properties which create a thin, lasting dielectric coating on surfaces that not only protects the surface but will also drive out moisture that might be lurking in any pits or crevices. In addition it is safe for use on all electrical and electronic connections, helping to clean contact points and improve connectivity without damaging circuitry. Possible applications include anchor winches, bow thrusters, lights, switch boards, batteries, pumps, refrigeration units and electronics.
As a lubricant, CorrosionX can be used on throttle cables, steering mechanisms, seat swivels, locks, winches, hinges, windlasses or any metal part needing lubrication. It is suitable for all metals such as stainless steel, steel, bronze and aluminium, and does not harm rubber or plastic.
Another well-known product for anti-corrosion lubrication is Tef-Gel which was developed in the US in the late 80s in the aerospace industry as an alternative to Duralac. Tef-Gel is designed to stop corrosion between dissimilar metals - not just aluminium and stainless steel - prevent galling of nuts and bolts and inhibit corrosion between electrical contacts.
Warwick Jonasen, Tef-Gel distributor in Australia, has been selling the product since 1998 during which time he says it has never once failed to do what it is supposed to do. “We still have our very first retail customer,” he commented.
The product is available through about 390 retail outlets and notable users include Rex Airlines, Boeing maintenance, Sydney University which uses Tef-Gel on its underwater robotic submersibles, and the Australian Navy on its Armidale-class patrol boats and new frigates being built in South Australia.
A new anti-corrosion product making its appearance in the marine sector is Fluid Film, a lanolin-based coating used in the mining, agriculture and transport sectors – you may have seen it on display at the recent Gold Coast International Marine Expo and in Sydney at the Trailer Boat Show. Fluid Film is designed to create a protective barrier that prevents the ingress of moisture and controls corrosion. It is made from specially processed wool-wax combined with petroleum oils and selected agents designed to penetrate metal fixtures. It is non-evaporative and resistant to water wash-off and corrosive elements.
Keeping it dry is the ultimate
Of course the best way to protect a boat from the ravages of the marine environment is to keep it out of the water. These days there are a wide variety of dry docking and lifting solutions for all types of boats.
Sandra Barber from Queensland-based dry dock supplier Dockpro was ideally placed on the marina at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show (SCIBS) to demonstrate the capabilities of the water-level Sea Pen dry dock. At the show, it was displayed keeping a Sea Ray 26 foot Sundancer out of the water but, as Barber pointed out, it would be possible to supply a Sea Pen for even the largest vessels on display at SCIBS.
Dry docks are the ultimate boat maintenance product because they eliminate the need to periodically haul-out and anti-foul although, interestingly, Barber said there are Sea Pen users who still anti-foul as well – the benefit being that it lasts a lot longer.
Other benefits of dry docking include protecting the boat – and the dock – while it is moored, making it easier and safer to berth the vessel, and ensuring a higher resale value for the vessel. Not only does the dry dock ensure the boat is still looking good when the time comes to sell but, Barber pointed out, typically the Sea Pen is on-sold as well so it is a real asset.
Sea Pen has been manufactured on the Gold Coast since 2004. It uses a rope mesh system to keep the boat dry and a hinged gateway that lowers the opening for easy access. The pen is made from a special polymer skin that resists barnacle growth so not only do owners spend less time maintaining their boats, they don’t have to lift the dock out of the water for cleaning either.
This article was first published in the June-July issue of Marine Business magazine.