Eco-friendly Bottom Paints 2012

Posted by at 11:19AM - Comments: (12)


One of our six 30-month panels reveals a mix of Good, Fair, and Poor performing paints.

There are very few times when the door to my office is closed. Bottom paint rating tabulation time is one of them. For the past week I’ve been poring over bottom paint data collected earlier this month: three Excel tables representing more than 300 data points. Although mammoth data tables are not what drew me into this business, the bottom paint program is still one of my favorite projects. I’ve spent enough time scrubbing, scraping, and painting to appreciate the importance of what we do.

This is now my 13th season overseeing our semi-annual testing program, and I’m always amazed at how no two seasons deliver the same results. Nevertheless, over the years, some consistent winners have emerged, and we’ll be exploring this in more detail next month when we release our spring 2012 bottom paint test results. This month, I just want to share a few pictures and a bit of insight from our recent round of bottom testing.

For the first time in several years, we have three active sets of panels in the water at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on Sarasota Bay—a 30-month-old panel, a 14-month-old panel, and a 4-month-old panel.

New paints for 2012 emerge for a first look after four months.

The newest panel, pictured above, has only been in the water four months, and you can see almost all of them are clean—as they should be. Keep in mind that all but a few of these paints are new, copper-free paints designed to meet new restrictions pending in California and slated to take effect in Washington. Many of them include a new biocide called Econea, which according to paint makers is less harmful to the environment than other pesticides and biocides that go into paints.

You’ll notice one blue panel, fourth from the right, has about an 80-percent coating of slime. That is Sea Hawk’s new Smart Solutions, a paint that we will be applying to one of our test boat’s Skimmer, a 25-foot Cape Dory that Managing Editor Ann Key is helping prep and paint as I write this blog. (I would be helping scrub and paint the hull myself were it not for this important blog post – which, as I review my notes and photos, will clearly require most of the morning.) This is the only paint in our test that has no metal additives, no zinc pyrithione (ZPT), and no copper. Its only listed active ingredient is Econea, which reacts with the water to help create a thin slick film that prevents growth from taking hold.

Managing Editor Ann Key sluices the panels before rating begins.

At first glance, the results are not so encouraging. Particularly compared to the adjacent panels that are almost clean. But after Ann sluices down the panel (above), you get a clearer picture of how easily the slime comes off. The biofilm is effectively lifting off the paint in whole sheets.

Slime peels of in sheets from the Sea Hawk Smart Solutions.

The close-up photo above gives a clearer view of this effect. When we dropped the panel in the water, the rest of the slime slid right off. In my view, it is still too early to get too excited about Smart Solutions, but it was interesting to watch how it works. Based on what we’ve seen so far, a person who uses their boat frequently would not have the amount of growth that we have on our panel, and what growth exists will easily wipe away. Other paints, however, are staying cleaner. It will be interesting to compare panel performance over the long haul, as well as on the test boat.

Dave Meiron wheels his hooka rig past the test panels.

The owner of Skimmer, Mike Collins, is hopeful. He is committed to protecting the environment, which has so far been a boon for his bottom cleaner Dave Mieron (right). Skimmer was one of the guinea pigs for the first batch of Interlux’s Pacifica paint, and this began sprouting barnacles after six months in the water. The paint was reformulated almost immediately, and the newest formula, Pacifica Plus, has proven much more effective than that first experimental batch. We generally recommend that readers looking to switch to a more eco-friendly formula wait at least one year—better yet, two years—for the paint to prove itself in the field. Yes, manufacturers do a ton of field testing before launching a new paint, but we've seen a few over-hyped eco paints — as well as some conventional formulas — deliver less-than-stellar results.

As copper prices continue to rise and new environmental rules take hold, we’re going to see a lot more new, and experimental paints—some will do well, and others will not. And it’s our job to find out which ones make the cut.




Comments (10)

As I am new in this field, I would kindly ask you to compare Smart Solution bottom paint, True Armor Marine Coating (Syntropic Solutions Inc. Texas) and Supermarine TS 1.000 (Top Secret Coatings Inc.,Arlington,WA).
We are trying to use the best one for boat hulls, as we shall start this Spring with commercial services on Adriatic Sea, The Mediteranean. Thank you in advance for recommendations.
Sincrely Yours,
Miodrag (ex-YU)

Posted by: miodrag k | February 12, 2013 7:28 AM    Report this comment

Please forgive me!! I am a former sailor who is now a power boater. I beg your indulgence as I comment on Sea Hawk's Smart Solution bottom paint. One of our boats is a 2003 40' express cruiser maintained in Baltimore's Inner Harbor (though we don't reside there) for cruising the upper half of the Chesapeake. The boat sees frequent use, even in the Winter, especially this past one. A reputable boatyard convinced me in April 2011 that the eco friendly Sea Hawk paint was the way to go, though I had always been happy using Petit paint. My experience belies the expected efficacy of this product. It has NOT prevented the growth of seemingly any and every type of waterborne organism known to mankind. It flat out hasn't worked. So ... in my opinion, s ecologically sensitive as I am and as others may be, I would seek alternatives to Sea Hawk's Smart Solution bottom paint.
With regards to all my sailing friends,

Posted by: Ted TZ | August 6, 2012 3:15 PM    Report this comment

Is Econea safe? How do we know that Econea will not become the next TBT? Isn't Econea toxic to humans. Why is this pesticide any better than copper?

Posted by: Ecoboater | June 9, 2012 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Per Sea Hawk Smart Solution and text in the article stating, "Its only listed active ingredient is Econea, which reacts with the water to help create a thin slick film that prevents growth from taking hold."

I would like to clarify that Smart Solution's formula as a whole, was designed to react with the water to help create the mucoprotein film. Econea aids in antifouling characteristics, but by itself does "Not" cause the bio-film. That's why you will only see the engineered "film effect" with Smart Solution. As this test moves forward, Smart Solution will continue to generate the mucoprotein bio-film which is easily cleaned and will keep the panel free of hard growth. Smart Solutions' metal free technology works and reacts completely different than any other the paints in this test. We will let the results speak for themselves at the end of your test!

Jason Revie
Sea Hawk Paints

Posted by: JASON R | February 10, 2012 7:52 AM    Report this comment

While this post focused on a new paint without metal, it questioned the performance and withheld the verdict. I'm sure the final article will address all paints on equal footing and take a few sentences to note the best choice for those of us who, by rule or choice, would like to limit our boat's impact on the waters we enjoy. I am sorry people seemingly take offense to this and feel compelled to write sarcastic and exaggerated complaints.

Posted by: DAMON L | February 2, 2012 7:28 PM    Report this comment

In your review of the new types of bottom paints, would it be possable to assess their ability to protect againest marine borers in wooden boats?

Posted by: Joe S | February 2, 2012 2:47 PM    Report this comment

Regulation drives innovation. Yet there is nothing so hard as changing people's entrenched paradigms, as evidenced by the comments above. I applaud Practical Sailor for trying to make sense of the changing rules, and the products that evolve in response to those rules. It is exciting to be part of making the world a better place than the one I grew up in, one "politically correct" environmental benefit at a time.

Posted by: ADAM H | February 2, 2012 11:04 AM    Report this comment

For many years I subscribed to Consumer Reports magazine. After awhile I realized I was not interested in many of the reviews, so I stopped subscribing. When they came out with an online subscription, I subscribed to that one at a reduced price. Now I (and others) can access reports that are of interest to me, and many trees are saved in the process. How about doing something similar for Practical Sailor? Charge us for online access, and not the paper magazine. In that way we can access the reports that are of interest to us.

Regarding your bottom paint tests - how about testing paints for those of us who sail in fresh water?

Posted by: Unknown | February 2, 2012 10:59 AM    Report this comment

While we have subscribed to your mag for more than ten years for its usefull gear reviews, we are becoming concerned about the number of trees you are wasting in your push for politically correct junk. We don't want to read, ad nauseum, about holding tanks and how they stink. We don't have one and that's because they stink and are unneeded in most waters. We don't want to waste time reading about the newest scam in bottom paint that costs three hundred bucks a gallon and protects for six weeks, but is "green". Like wise we use 8D diesel truck batts and have for twetny-five years. We are not remotely interested in paying a big subscription price to read about five thousand dollar lithium ion batts that may not last eight years or, with GM's type luck, burn up the boat. Perhaps your authors are getting old, as I have already done, and wish to be thought young and trendy. With luck you'll grow out of that. If not, have a nice day.

Posted by: schneider156 | February 2, 2012 10:30 AM    Report this comment

Antifouling is an important topic, but those that follow this issue should be aware that there is an emerging problem for those in the vintage boating community that are dedicated to preserving the authenticity of our old boats. Many, indeed, perhaps most, of the thousands of surviving vintage mahogany runabouts as well as sailboats built for decades had copper bronze bottom paint. To the extent that most such boats were and are drysailed, the antifouling characteristics of such paints was not a serious consideration. Indeed one major manufacturer of such paint points out that their product has never been advertised as "antifouling" and that the high copper content is bound up in the resins and doesn't leech out like "normal" copper based anti-fouling paints.

But now the tide that is running against copper based antifouling paints seems to also endanger the acceptability of these traditional hard racing copper colored paints. This even though the Washington law specifically addresses only "antifouling" paints containing copper. It is easy to see the legal cases on the horizon that will be required to sort this out.

In the mean time, the Antique and Classic Boat Society is seeking information on other potential sources of copper colored bottom paint suitable for our old boats. Please post any such info here on this site
Gene Porter
Chair, ACBS Gov't Affairs Cte

Posted by: Gene P | February 2, 2012 10:03 AM    Report this comment

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