Atlantic Boat and Marine News and Information
Grow Your Own Reef
FOLLY BEACH, SC (09/26/08) --

Growing your own reef isn't hard to do. Just put your new boat in the water without anti-fouling paint and wait. You'll have large sheepshead feeding on her bottom in just a week or two. The pictures to the right are of a new boat that had been in the water a little over four weeks. This is a common mistake with boaters new to salt water and one that can cost big bucks to have corrected. Anti-fouling paint doesn't totally prevent growth, but can slow it down enough to make it manageable.

Here in the Charleston area, the 5 to 7 foot tidal range and swift currents promote the growth of barnacles and other marine critters. They multiply like rabbits and cover the boat's bottom quickly once they get started. Algae can form a thick coating on your boat's bottom as well, blooming rapidly and creating an environment that attracts other organisms. Shafts, struts, props, and especially outdrives are all effected. In fact, outdrives are the worst with all their nooks and crannys.

A fouled bottom can slow your boat to a crawl when it's moving through the water. For sailors with a fouled bottom, the wind still pushes your sails just as hard, but your hull isn't slick enough to convert that energy to speed. The result is excessive heeling and stress on your sails and rigging. Picture yourself heeling way over, rail plowing through the water, waves washing into the cockpit. All the while you're making less than 2 knots. You get the idea.

If you keep your boat in the water, the answer for our area is twofold. First, apply a quality anti-fouling paint on the bottom annually or at least once every two years. Second, supplement this with regular bottom cleanings. Once a month in during the winter months, and more often as the water temperature rises. Let the reef grow elsewhere.

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