Sailboat Maintenance

What, no copper?

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When your antifouling paint arrives in plain-labelled cans marked “Experimental,” you’re going to get some suspicious looks from your boatyard neighbors. When I painted our 34ft project boat’s bottom with Interlux’s Pacifica Plus copper-free antifouling last spring, the product was so new the labels hadn’t even been printed, and it proved to be a bit of a conversation-starter in the yard.

Driven by environmental pressures in Europe and, increasingly, in the USA, the search for alternative antifouling agents to copper has intensified in the last couple of years. Pacifica Plus contains Econea, a metal-free compound developed by Janssen Pharmaceutica, who says it is more effective than copper-based paints containing cuprous thiocyanate, and just as effective as those using cuprous oxide as a biocide. One or the other of those compounds is found in just about every copper-based antifouling paint on the market.

Econea is biodegradable, and its release rate can easily be controlled by paint makers. Its formulation is said to be especially effective against shellfish. This suited me just fine, since the boat is kept in Salem, Massachusetts, where barnacles have been a bit of nuisance over the last couple of seasons. Pacifica Plus also contains Biolux to fight slime.

I applied two coats of the paint over the existing Interlux Micron CSC, using a roller. It went on easier than the Micron and dried to the touch almost as soon it hit the hull. One blessing was that there was no longer a need to coat the saildrive leg and propeller with different paint: Pacifica Plus being metal-free, it can be applied to aluminum and any other underwater metal without fear of inducing galvanic corrosion.

Pacifica Plus is an eroding paint. The boat was in the water from early May to late October, and true to my usual aversion to getting wet I never bothered to dive in and scrub the bottom during the season. Only during the last month did the boat start to feel a little sluggish. That was par for the course.

I was not able to be present when the boat was hauled and pressure-washed, but there were only one or two barnacles on the saildrive leg, no clusters of small mussels around the through-hull apertures, and evidence of only minimal slime where the sling straps had prevented the pressure washer from doing its job.

On the evidence of one season’s use, I would be happy to use Pacifica Plus again. It’s the most effective copper-free antifouling I’ve tried. You can get it in red, blue or black.

Price varies according to outlet but MSRP is around $229/gallon. Interlux.com

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