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The article below appeared in the September 2007 issue of POWER & MOTORYACHT Magazine.

FMI: Power & Motoryacht September 2007

Bare Her Bottom
By Mike Smith

When it's time to strip, find a way to do it gently.

Eventually the day will come when you have to bare your bottom. No, I don't mean your college reunion or Mardi Gras—I'm talking about stripping your antifouling paint, taking your boat's bottom down to bare surface to prep for fresh primer and paint, to find and repair blisters, for surveying, etc. Unless you are a masochist of Herculean proportions, stripping paint, bottom or otherwise, is best left to the yard. Most yards won't let you do your own bottom work anyway, for environmental and economic reasons, so your job is to choose the best method, then find a yard that uses it.

There are three ways to strip your bottom. Aggressive methods like sandblasting can damage the gelcoat, possibly leading to osmosis problems later on; it takes a skilled hand to blast a fiberglass boat safely. And the sand creates hellacious dust and finds its way into everything within sight. Chemical stripping is messy and poses a clean-up problem but is okay for relatively small projects. Modern chemical strippers are less noxious than the old-fashioned kind—for example, Soy Solvents makes Soy-Strip from 100-percent American-grown soybeans—but smart workers still wear breathing and eye protection. Scraping is not worth considering, unless somebody's paying you by the hour to do it rather than the other way around. (Sanding paint off? Fuggedaboudit. Life's way too short.)

Blasting is the most effective, most economical way to remove antifouling; it's how most yards do it. But instead of sand, modern blasters use biodegradable media that are environmentally friendly and easy to clean up—even such unlikely materials as baking soda are used (see "Green Machine," April 2004). I like the Farrow System, a patented method using proprietary organic media—natural volcanic pumice the company calls Green Clean and hot water at low pressure. When workers needed to strip red-lead from the orlop deck of H.M.S. Victory, the most cherished ship in the Royal Navy, they chose the Farrow System, which is enough endorsement for me.

During application, Green Clean absorbs the water propellant, so there's no dust, and cleanup is easy—just sweep up the damp residue. The system is so clean it can be used indoors and so gentle it can strip varnish without damaging the wood underneath. Four grades of Green Clean can handle everything from stripping furniture or cleaning smoke damage to blasting away graffiti, road markings, and barnacles from steel hulls. Removing antifouling is a snap, and the gelcoat is left paint-ready. According to Rick Halliday, service coordinator at Cardinal Yacht Sales and Service in Somers Point, New Jersey, the Farrow System "doesn't make a mess, doesn't destroy the boat." He's tried all the other stripping methods—dry sand, wet sand, walnut shells—but says, "The Farrow System is the best we've ever had."


Foul AntiFoul

Capt. Grant Rafter

Bottoms up boaters.

Starting on January 1st, 2008, the IMO’s zero-tolerance ban on Tributylin (TBT) will be in effect. Prior to 2003, the biocide TBT was a common additive to antifouling, keeping legions of hull growth at bay. Unfortunately, as TBT leached out of the antifouling, it settled on the seabed, where it continued to be effective at suppressing life. High levels of the toxin were found throughout the aquatic food web, including inside the carcasses of poisoned dolphins and otters. And although the effect on these environmental poster-children was grim, TBT's imposition on one mollusk, called the dog whelk, was...let me just say, disturbing: "TBT causes dog whelks to suffer from imposex: females develop male sexual characteristics such as a penis. This causes them to become infertile or even die. In severe cases males can develop egg sacs."

Although an IMO ban on applying TBT to vessels has been active since 2003, the upcoming 2008 ban will go further, requiring any vessel with TBT in its antifouling to have its bottom either sealed with an approved sealant or stripped and repainted. Vessels over 24 meters (~79 ft) and under 400 gross tons will be required to have both a TBT-free antifouling certificate and documentation of the work (ie: a paint receipt, etc.)

The European Union has surpassed the IMO's ban with even stricter legislation; if your vessel attempts to voyage through European waters without TBT-free antifouling, she may be subject to a fine and will not be allowed to enter any port.

Even without Europe on your itinerary, if your vessel's bottom has not been repainted in the past 5 years, it’s time to adjust the lift's slings for a haul-out. As you open your wallet to purchase the updated paint, just remember this: an androgynous whelk is a friend to no man.


Pontoons & Pylons - Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The Farrow System has been used to clean debris and detritus from jetty pylons and pontoons within the confines of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and has ongoing approval to operate in this sensitive area.

Alternative blasting systems and their associate health and environmental issues have been banned from working on Hamilton Island . It is likely too that this ban will encompass an ever widening area as the capability of The Farrow System is realised.

Mining Equipment

Mining companies can now restore heavy machinery without the need to strip the equipment down prior to blasting. Painted components can be either stripped back to bare metal, or given a light blast in preparation for recoating, without removing hydraulic hoses and other componentry. A full strip down of the equipment is no longer required offering an economical alternative to the complete re-build.

Time savings using this method mean that, from the point of view of the mining company, equipment is not lying idle. In addition, companies tendering on such refurbishment work can be extremely competitive by utilising The Farrow System.

Workplace Health and Safety Officers love this system. The risk associated with grit blasters or high pressure water jets are gone. The Farrow System can be operated safely in closed environments and in close proximity to other personnel.