It’s around this time of year that thoughts of many boat owners start to turn to what they should do in terms of antifouling their vessels for the coming season. Many will have noticed that it appears to be becoming increasingly difficult to keep the hull clean, which is perhaps not surprising given the legislative restrictions on the biocides that provide an antifouling’s potency.

Antifouling technology

Painting the bottom with antifouling: the classic boat owning ritual.

Fortunately antifouling technology in the long term looks promising. Manufacturers are pumping lots of effort into research and a number of novel solutions are well advanced in their development. We've already seen ultrasonic devices that are intended to work on animal fouling and other novel solutions are on the way.

Teflon and silicone based paints, for example, are so slippery that marine life finds it hard to become established – it just slides off when the boat starts moving at any speed. These products have already made a limited penetration into the market. In addition, textured coatings that replicate the surface of shark skin are also under development and are showing promise, both in terms of resistance to fouling and, perhaps surprisingly, reducing frictional drag on the hull.

However, such developments are unlikely to benefit the mainstream of boat owners soon – as with other new products, when first brought to market any truly innovative antifouling technology is certain to be attract a hefty price tag. It can therefore be expected to be aimed at specific niches in the market in which buyers are happy to pay a premium.

So, what can today’s boat owners do? For more advice on how to choose the right coating, see: How to choose antifouling paint, or for specific advice on your type of boat Which antifouling paint is best for my boat?. For more about preparing the hull and applying antifouling, see: How to prepare and apply antifouling.

Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.