Antifouling with care

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It is that time of year when you can not escape the impending task of annual maintenance to get boats back in shape ready for the sailing season ahead.

As much as the thought of drier, warmer weather and bluer skies offers some incentive, you still have to face the single most arduous chore of scrubbing and prepping hulls ready for a fresh coat of antifoul.

Antifouling, by design, is harmful to aquatic life otherwise it would not work. But a targeted use to control hull fouling is important for safety, speed and efficiency through the water. In addition to dealing with slime, weed or animal fouling such as barnacles, hydroids and molluscs, it also helps to minimise the threat of a more recent and growing problem – invasive non-native species.


Non-native species (sometimes known as alien species) are plants or animals that have been introduced to an area outside their natural range; mostly in ship ballast water, via aquaculture and through secondary spread on the hulls and equipment of recreational vessels.

There are over 90 marine non-native species in the UK and at least 20 are known to be invasive. In other words they are harmful to habitats and native species, as well as damaging to equipment and facilities including boat inlets and outlets, props, keels and rudders. An annual scrub and if needed a new coat of antifoul will definitely help.

It is a good time to ask your local chandlery about the range of options on the market (low Volatile Organic Compounds, alternative hull paints such as vinyl, silicone or Teflon or even an ultrasonic system) and the most appropriate solution for your sailing conditions. It is also good to ask how best to deal with the type of fouling where you keep or sail your boat, bearing in mind that some invasive species are developing a resistance to copper-based antifouling paints.

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The key to finding the balance between controlling fouling and preventing pollution from excess amounts of antifoul is largely down to common sense. The potential for impact is greatest where concentrated copper scrapings, dust and debris are allowed to enter the water, so as you head to the boatyard in the next few weeks take a couple of simple steps to safeguard the environment.

Tarpaulins are an inexpensive solution for skirting the hull when sanding (preferably with a dustless vacuum sander that will protect your health too) and when scrubbing. Tarps are also an easy way to catch drips and spills when painting. Most marinas and boatyards would prefer not to have sites covered with blue patches or to have loose material blowing into the marina or nearby surface water drains.

If you are doing the work yourself, ask the marina if they have some tarps you can use (and if they say no ask them to get in touch with The Green Blue so we can help out),

And remember that antifouling tins as well as topside paints, varnishes and solvents and used brushes, rollers and trays all have to be disposed of as hazardous waste in the hazardous waste bins and not mixed in with general waste.


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