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How To Prevent Barnacle Build Up

by Scott Myers

As a boat owner, it is crucial to be aware of what barnacles can do to damage your marine craft. And if you live or have your boat docked or stored along either the Pacific or Atlantic coastlines, or along an Intracoastal waterway - that is, the salty tides that will enter into any bay, canal, inlet, or river that extends inland from the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia, along the Florida Keys and the Gulf of Mexico, and ending near Brownsville, TX - chances are you are very familiar with the nuisance of barnacle build-up on your boat.

Related Blog: The Persistent and Pesty Problems from Barnacles on a Boat's Bottom

Understanding the Life of Barnacles

You may be emotionally and financially attached to your boat, but barnacles physically attach to marine craft and they have become a growing concern as the increase in barnacle infestations are at epidemic levels. Scientists attribute this to unusually warmer water temperatures and higher rainfall totals. Rainwater aids barnacle growth because the runoff from land contains sewage, fertilizer, and other organic nutrients that crustaceans love to feast on.  

But it's not only the underside of boats that they attach to but also on rocks, the pilings that hold up docks, the skin of whales or the shells of large mussels - and other underwater components that are critical to your boat's safe operations.

Once a barnacle attaches to a surface during the larvae stage, they remain there, feeding on plankton that floats by and reproducing - forever. The sticky adhesive they secrete cannot be dissolved but must be physically removed by scraping and scrubbing.

How To Prevent Barnacle Build Up

Coating solutions that include copper-based anti-fouling paint or silicon-based coatings are toxic to animal life and will destroy the pristine appearance of your boat's hull upon application. The thick black coatings will also present an additional drag on your boat, slowing down your motor and causing your boat to lose speed. The best way to protect your boat is to lift it out of the water - and with a residential or commercial boat lift, you can enhance the performance of your vessel and maintain the condition of the hull by preventing barnacles from building up.

A boat lift is crucial to extending the life of your watercraft. Not only will a boat lift protect your boat's hull from barnacle attachment, but by keeping your boat out of the water you also prevent your paint job from deteriorating, hard to remove scum and algae accumulation, and boat damage due to fluctuating levels of water due to tide, storms, or other sea motions.

But in the case of barnacles, using a boat lift will save your boat from a dangerous build-up of crustaceans that can hamper its operation or increase safety risks for you and your family.

The Danger of Barnacle Build-up

Barnacle build-up is not just annoying to boat owners, but it can seriously compromise your safety when on the open waters. These tenacious biofouling organisms can quickly cover your anchor line or the hull of your boat within months. This amount of extra weight will create extra drag on your boat that causes the engine to work harder and will certainly increase your fuel costs.

In addition to the loss of efficiency of your boat's operation, when you have inches thick layers of crusty barnacle growth, there is a danger of that build-up occurring in the wrong places. When barnacles cover water intake strainers that aid in cooling the boat's engine, a reduced volume of water is available which can cause your boat to run hotter at higher RPMs.

Barnacles can also clog water discharge systems on the bottom half of the boat. When drains are clogged, you can be sure water is building somewhere inside the boat. The overflow of water can damage interiors and will cost more money to fix, than if the owner had prevented the build-up in the first place. Other crucial operating systems can be negatively affected, such as the rudder or propeller shaft and blades.

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