Let’s face it, maintaining a boat takes a lot of time! Are you thinking about turning basic underwater and topside maintenance chores over to a contractor? The following tips can help you find a professional maintenance service that will protect your boat and the boating environment.
Pick a Pro:
First, ask your marina manager or harbor master for a list of service providers who are allowed to work in the marina. (Some marinas may not be able to provide business referrals.)
Second, hire a professional. Ask to see the service's current business license & liability insurance. Also ask for a copy of their or their trade association's Best Management Practices (BMPs) or standard procedures.
Get three local references from a prospective maintenance service or other boaters who know their work. Ask if they were satisfied and try to see the completed work.
Obtain and verify the service's business address and telephone number. You may need to contact them in case of incomplete work, an illegal discharge or improper waste disposal.
Explain Your Expectations:
Be direct. Let the contractor know what you need and how it should be performed.
Ask the service company that you hire to follow marina requirements and use best management practices (BMPs) to avoid damaging boats or releasing pollutants into marina waters.
For guidelines on practices to protect your boat and the environment, download our fact sheet “Selecting Underwater and Topside Maintenance Services for Your Boat” or "La selección de servicios de mantenimiento para el casco y la parte superior de su bote (2007)" from our website at Boating and Marina Pollution Prevention, or Publications or Publicaciones.
Can preventing pollution save money? Since 1993, we've been talking about how to prevent pollution from boats and boat maintenance. Boaters understand that every little bit of pollution adds up. Taken as a whole, this pollution can affect the beauty of the water and the health of the fish and birds that make boating (and fishing from boats) a grand experience.
So what about a return on the pollution prevention investment? High property values near lakeshores, coastlines and wetlands illustrate the value of clean water and abundant fish and birds. Here in San Diego County, California a coastal house is a multi-million dollar investment and even a coastal-view condo is beyond most budgets.
Saltwater sportfishing is often overlooked when we talk about boaters. Yet, coastal anglers spent $3 billion dollars in California during 2006, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. About $2 billion stayed in California and the other $1 billion benefited other states.
Government benefited, too, receiving $317 million in federal taxes and another $216 million in state and local tax revenues just from coastal angling in California. (Can we fish our way out of government deficits?!?)
Seafood quality depends on clean water and sediment (bottom mud). Halibut and white seabass are popular foodfish -- California commercial landings were worth $3.44 million in 2009. These fish live in bays when they are young.
Harbors need regular dredging to maintain depth for navigation. Clean sediments are much cheaper to dredge and dispose. The Santa Cruz Port District calculated back in 1994 that, if the 10,000 cubic yards they dredged each year were disposed as hazardous waste, slip rental rates would rise by $1.50 per foot of boat length. Because toxicants from hull paints and maintenance products contaminate harbor sediment, preventing pollution can save marina tenants money.
For more information on the economics (and environmental impacts) of boating pollution download our newly updated fact sheet: "Boating Pollution Economics and Impacts," from the Boating and Marina Pollution Prevention page or the Publications page of our website.
Service life is an important consideration for boat owners in controlling costs. If a hull coating is not maintained properly, or eventually over time, water may penetrate the coating, causing it to blister. If that occurs, the hull's surface must be stripped down to the gel-coating, the blisters must be ground and patched, then a new coating must be reapplied.
Durability of the coating, proper hull surface preparation and application are important in extending the service life of each layer of the coating and increasing the number of layers that can be reapplied before coatings must be completely stripped.
Copper antifouling paints are used primarily to control fouling in saltwater. They are designed to slowly leach cuprous oxide so that new copper ions are continually presented to the surface. This discourages spores and larvae from attaching and surviving on the hull's surface. When the cuprous oxide is depleted, so is the antifouling capacity.
In contrast, a nontoxic hull coating is primarily a water barrier (although nothing is perfect). Nontoxic hull coatings are suitable for use in both fresh and saltwater. If they don't control fouling and must be used with a companion strategy, can they be cost effective? Service life is the key.
Our fact sheet, Nontoxic Hull Coating Field Demonstration: Long-Term Performance 2007 Update reports on three coatings that were included in our 2002-2003 field demonstration. The durable, epoxy and ceramic-epoxy coatings had lasted 5-8 years. In contrast, our 2002 survey of 200 San Diego Bay boat owners found that the average service life for copper antifouling paint was 2.5 years. (see our tech report Making Dollars and Sense of Nontoxic Antifouling Strategies for Boats). The economic analysis in this tech report found that nontoxic coatings can be more cost effective than copper antifouling paint, if they have a long enough service life.
For a full report of the 2002-2003 field demo, see our tech report Staying Afloat with Nontoxic Antifouling Strategies for Boats.
The fact sheet and the tech reports are available from the Nontoxic Antifouling Stategies and Publications pages of our website. The fact sheet is also available in Spanish on the Publicaciones page of our website.
What does alternative antifouling mean? The hull coating industry is developing new products as alternatives to copper antifouling paints. The main types currently on the market are nontoxic (biocide-free) coatings, coatings that incorporate zinc, and coatings with a biodegradable toxicant. Coatings with "nano-engineered" surfaces are expected to be the next generation.
Why is the hull coating industry creating new products, when copper antifouling paints are so widely used? In San Diego Bay and other crowded, California boat harbors, copper has built up in the water to levels that harm marine life. The effects are mostly on development of young stages, such as larvae. Agencies such as the Regional and State Water Boards and the Department of Pesticide Regulation are taking another look at how boaters control fouling growth.
New, alternative hull coatings come onto the market each year; some survive and some disappear. It's important to talk with local boat repair and hull cleaning services to find out what's available, what has performed well where you keep your boat, and pros/cons of each type.
Types of nontoxic (biocide-free) hull coatings include epoxy, ceramic-epoxy, silicone, siliconized epoxy, polymer and bottom wax.
The nontoxic coatings generally need a "companion" strategy, such as in-water hull cleaning, storing the boat on a lift or in a slip liner, or storing it on land.
A nontoxic (biocide-free) antifouling strategy combines a nontoxic hull coating with an effective companion strategy. Ask your marina, harbor or yacht club manager which, if any, companion strategies are permitted.
For more information on nontoxic coatings and companion strategies, you can download our publication, Alternative Antifouling Strategies Sampler. It's available on the Nontoxic Antifouling Strategies page of our website.
What do you think about using a nontoxic antifouling strategy?
Welcome to the Boating Environmental Forum!
We'll be blogging with you about issues, such as invasive species, water quality and costs, that affect boating experiences, such as clean water, fish to catch, birds to watch, vessel speeds, access to slips and boating areas, etc..
We'll share the results of our research, cover up-and-coming issues, and ask you to weigh in on various questions.
Question #1: When you think about boating sustainability, what comes to mind? What would you really miss if it were absent from the boating experience?
Please tell us if you own a boat, run a boating business or facility, or just enjoy the coast or shore, and the city and state where you connect with boating, so we know who's in the conversation and where it's happening.
I look forward to hearing from you!
- Leigh Johnson, Coastal Resources Advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension
PS: This blog will be moderated to filter out spam, etc.