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

by Scott Myers

If you're a seasoned boater, you know everything that can happen to a boat that sits in saltwater over time. For anyone just moving to our great state of Florida to enjoy the boating life, there are some things to know. Go Downsize lists those problems boats will incur if left in saltwater. As you see, #6 is "barnacles."

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You will want to prevent barnacle buildup, or you will eventually find an entire bottom boat cover that you have never imagined. Check out the National Maritime Historical Society, and you will see how marine growth on the bottom of a boat can look.



What are Barnacles?

As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains, there are "more than 1,400 species" of these "crusty foulers" in waters all around the globe, with the "most common one known to many boaters as "acorn barnacles." Once these "sticky little crustaceans attach themselves to the hull of your boat, it "requires some elbow grease (or a pressure washer)" to get them off. You don't want to allow them to grow a colony, covering the bottom of your boat.



The Problems with Barnacle Buildup

They don't just look icky, barnacle buildup can cause multiple problems.


Loss of Speed

Speed is one thing the buildup of barnacles effects for boats of any size. Again found on National Maritime Historical Society, a short poem was written almost one hundred years ago.

  • "Sir A. P. Herbert wrote in 1921: 
    • Thousands of  Barnacles, small and great,
    • Stick to the jolly old Ship of State;
    • So we mustn't be cross if she seems to crawl-
    • It's rather a marvel she goes at all."

Fuel Efficiency

Back to the NOAA article. "Large barnacle colonies cause ships to drag and burn more fuel, leading to significant economic and environmental costs." You will discover quite quickly, your ski boat may not be able to get up on a plane if you're loaded down with barnacle buildup.


Costly Damage

Not only will barnacles attach to a boat's hull, but they will also attach themselves to your propeller. As Quora reviews, barnacles on a boat's propeller "cause irregularities in the waterflow over the propeller causing the engine to work harder to turn it, and potentially causing damage to the shaft and bearing attached to the propeller." You don't want to use a boat with a propeller covered in barnacles.


Another area that is vital to a boat's performance is the raw water pump. An abundance of barnacles can "restrict the flow of raw water, which can lead to engine overheating and affect other systems that rely on raw water flow as well."


Barnacle Buildup Solutions

You will be amazed at how quickly barnacles and marine growth, known as fouling, will start building up on the bottom of a boat. If you're keeping your boat in a marina slip, you will want to clean the bottom of your boat regularly. If you're not an experienced diver, you should consider hiring a professional boat cleaning company to keep the bottom of your boat clean. 



Antifouling is Part of the Solution

You may want to take measures against fouling, and that is called "antifouling," as you can read on Motor Boat & Yachting. As you will discover, even with antifouling, you still must check the bottom of your boat for fouling. 



Marina Dry Dock Storage

Some marinas offer dry dock storage. When you want to use the boat, they place it in the water. It's a great way to keep a boat's bottom clean of fouling. 



Personal Boat Lift Storage

If you have waterfront property, and you want the convenience of having your boat dockside, a boat lift is the best solution for you. Meet the team at Duncan Seawall, Dock & Boat Lift, LLC, to see how we can help you design the boat lift that will keep your boat free from barnacle buildup and other marine fouling. You will enjoy years of boating across the Florida waters when you have the Duncan team on your side.


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