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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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April 01, 2013

Barrier Epoxies & Ablative Paints: The Bottom Line

by Bob Banfelder

Donna and I have been bottom painting fiberglass hulls for some twenty-six years. We have used hard paints in the past with satisfaction but have recently switched to ablative (soft) paints for overall superior performance. Depending on where you boat, each method has its specific advantages. Fishing and boating in the northeast, namely Long Island, Donna and I have come to learn that ablative antifouling bottom paints are your better choice for fighting any number of culprits; namely, barnacles and algae; that is, marine growth and slime. Avoid paint buildup resulting from hard paints applied over the course of years and the unnecessary sanding that will eventually have to be addressed.

A few seasons ago we downsized, purchasing a new center console. I paid top-dollar for superior bottom painting. However, the boatyard had not properly prepared the craft; hence, virtually all of the paint peeled away by the end of the first season. The consensus from professionals was that the hull had not been thoroughly dewaxed or properly sanded. An old familiar saying states, "No scratchy, no sticky," referring in this case to protective barrier and top-coat antifouling paints not adhering properly to the hull below the waterline.

The boatyard was located out of state; therefore, it was not cost effective to return the boat for the crew to start anew. Needless to say, it was cost prohibitive for a boatyard here in New York to undo what had been done and to start from the beginning. We received blow-away estimates. What to do? Donna and I decided to do the entire bottom from scratch, each and every step of the way. Suffice it to say, the boatyard reimbursed us for the materials—not our time. The two of us spent innumerable hours prepping, scraping, dewaxing, scouring, washing, sanding, etching, priming and painting. Skip a step and you're wasting your time. Working with the boat sitting on a roller trailer, having to reposition the vessel by employing a come-along in order to reach all areas, proved grueling. However, we were determined to do things right.

Going down life's path, I've learned to turn negative situations into positive experiences. I'd do the necessary research, experiment then write an article or two on the results. We started out by asking professionals who worked in boatyards in our area precisely what applications they suggested (hard versus ablative paints), as well as their reasons why. As already stated, ablative won out for fighting barnacles and other marine growth, coupled to the fact that there would be less work to be done in the long run.

The next questions I addressed were specifically what name-brand primers and paints professionals preferred. The two names that kept resurfacing were Pettit and Interlux. Once again, I asked their reasons why. One fellow answered those questions rather well. "Because only the best will do," he stated with assurance. Three coats of 2-part Pettit Protect Epoxy Primer for barrier protection was clearly the preferred choice.

$88.99 per gallon MSRP

Two additional coats of either Pettit Ultima SR 40 Dual Biocide or Interlux Micron CSC were patently the preferred ablative topcoat antifouling paints.

After applying the recommended three coats of Pettit's Protect Epoxy Primer barrier (applied by brush in lieu of roller), Donna and I decided to paint one half of the hull bottom with two coats of Pettit's Ultama SR 40 ablative paint, and the other half with two coats of Interlux's Micron CSC ablative paint. The first coat was brushed on; the second coat was applied with a roller. The results were remarkable. In twenty-six years of boating, we've never had such a cleaner bottom after hauling the vessel at the end of the season. I could not determine which ablative worked best; they both appeared equal in terms of performance. Both sides of the bottom were clean and required only a light power washing. Think of ablative antifouling paint as a bar of soap that wears away after many showers. Ablative paints wear and remove marine organisms from your hull as a bar of soap would remove dirt and grime from your body.

Straight from the companies' mouths are their advertising blurbs:

"Pettit's Ultima SR-40 combines a high copper load (40%) with Irgarol, an algicide, to offer outstanding dual biocide, multi-season protection. Its ablative surface minimizes coating build-up while providing a continuous supply of fresh biocides. It [the boat] can be hauled and re-launched without repainting. Formerly sold as Ultima SR and Horizons Pro, this formula has a proven track record as one of America's premium ablative bottom paints."

$189.99 per gallon MSRP

Interlux states that, "Micron CSC is a great multi-season ablative bottom paint with a copper-copolymer formula that provides controlled release of antifouling biocides at the paint surface. The longevity of the coating depends on the amount of paint applied. CSC retains its effectiveness even when the boat is removed from the water for extended periods (winter storage, for example). To reactivate come springtime, use a stiff brush or power wash lightly."

$194.99 per gallon MSRP

Our boat stays in the water a good seven months out of the year, generally from April to the end of October; we use it regularly. As the boat's bottom is white, the primer coats gray, and both ablative topcoats are black, it is easy to monitor how our job is holding up. Since there is no white hull visible as well as very little gray primer showing, I could proceed with a single coat (to be applied by a roller in lieu of brush), of either Pettit's Ultima SR-40 or Interlux's Micron CSC at the beginning of the new season and see how that works out. However, I'm going to continue the way we were going, experimenting with both ablative paints in order to see which one holds up better with a single rolled on coat for the new season. I'll report the results to you folks next season.

I was strongly advised early on that when priming a new boat, it is best to apply three coats of epoxies with brushes, not rollers. When applying ablative topcoat paints, it is best to brush on the first coat; subsequent coats may then be applied with a roller. For protective barrier coats, remember that Pettit is spelled with three T's. This will help you remember that Pettit is the 3-coat primer preferred by professionals.

Do things right the first time by purchasing the best primers and paints available. Pettit and Interlux top-of-the-line products are superior. Do not hunt around for bargain primers and paints, for they will cost you more in the long run, both in terms of money and time spent laboring.

Enjoy a great boating/fishing season, guys and gals.

My thanks to the Parts Department at Lighthouse Marina, Aquebogue, re photographs. Lighthouse Marina has a complete line of the aforementioned primer and paints.


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