Copper-free Paint Solution for Wooden Vessels
An Old Fishing Troller and a Classic Yawl are Ahead of Their Time
Last year, Washington became the first state in the country to ban copper-based paint for recreational boats. The new laws will go into effect in January of 2018.
Copper-based antifouling paints have been the most effective method for preventing growth on the bottom of boats and have been the common practice for decades. They are designed to leach the toxin slowly into the underwater environment to poison the settling organisms. Over time, this small amount of metal accumulates in the marine environment, and has shown to have detrimental effects on marine life. One example is a salmon’s inability to smell, making it difficult for the salmon to eat, spawn, and avoid predators. Industrial wastewaters are also major culprits of copper contamination.
While many Washington boat owners grapple with what to do in six years when these new laws go into effect, Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op has already spent four years exploring copper-free alternatives for wooden vessels. Co-op member, Chris Chase, spoke directly with a staff scientist at the ePaint Company before selecting the proper paint for wooden vessels. He has since been surprised with the positive results of SN-1 on vessels of long time clients Kevin Campion and Les Schnick.
Les owns a 1944 built Monk designed wooden troller named “Sockeye”. He is converting this forty-five foot fishing boat into a cruising vessel. Beginning in 2006, Les helped to form the Port Townsend Marine Trade Association and later sat on the Port Committee. During the years that followed, Les became aware of the need for boat owners and marine businesses to come up with alternatives to traditional paints. Ethically dedicated to the issue, he chose to be an experimental boat in the Port of Port Townsend. Now almost four seasons past, Les is pleased with the results. There has been no problem with the underwater wood, just a small amount of slime that comes off easily with the pressure washer.
In 2010, Kevin Campion bought a sixty-four foot classic yawl and had it restored at Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op. Deep Green Wilderness, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching sailing and stewardship of the marine Pacific Northwest, would eventually operate this 1934 wooden ship, Orion. Naturally, Kevin did not like using copper paint knowing that it would harm the ecosystem that Deep Green Wilderness would work to protect. Kevin was also aware that copper paint would soon be phased out. He and Chris Chase researched the copper-free products available at that time, which were few and far between. They chose ePaint.
ePaint applies the very same as traditional copper paint and requires the same annual haul out for a new layer. However, switching to copper-free paints does require that the vessel be stripped down to a bare hull. The timing for Orion’s new paint job was perfect. Kevin had already scraped and sanded down the boat for a boat survey, to assess the planking, and get familiar with the boat. Kevin did not want to go through this rigorous process again in the near future, so he took the plunge with this alternative product. This February, when Kevin returned for his winter haul out, he confirmed that after two years, ePaint is working just as well as traditional copper paint. Orion did not have much shellfish growth, maybe 40 barnacles this year and some slime that, like Sockeye, came right off with the pressure washer.
Les Schnick had some tips for those of you considering the switch to ePaint. He said to be sure to follow instructions and wood the boat completely. Les had aggressively sanded Sockeye intending to remove any loose layers of copper paint before applying ePaint. However, he did not wood the vessel completely and later found that the areas, where residual copper paint existed, were lifting as he applied the SN-1. The old copper paint that had appeared well stuck to the hull, was reacting with the ePaint and lifting onto the rollers. He found himself picking pieces of old copper paint off the rollers. There were not very many places like this. Each year he finds a few more and slowly they are disappearing. However, Les is glad to be able to share his experience to save other boat owners from this hassle.
ePaint was developed twenty-seven years ago with support from the U.S. Navy. However, it was not available to the public until the company formed in 1991. What makes this product different than the traditional paints is that the active ingredients break down and decompose quickly in the water. ePaint relies on light, water and oxygen to form a peroxide layer that surrounds the vessel’s hull preventing animal larvae growth. This process is called “photo-active technology”. Therefore, the lighter colors react the best. This is why Kevin Campion chose light gray for his bottom paint. It has a unique look, since this color was not previously available in standard copper paints.
Although the switch from copper may be an adjustment for boat owners, it is helpful to have businesses like the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op and boat owners such as Les and Kevin, who are exploring the options and finding solutions.