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December 19, 2017
Barnacles, Bryozoans & Boat Bottoms
by Bob BanfelderOn October 1st and 2nd, I had written a two-part piece for Nor'east Saltwater on Porta-Botes' foldable boats. Part One was titled Barnacle-Free Boat Bottoms? Better Believe It. In the piece, I stated that our foldable boat was impervious to barnacles, for it had sat in the suds from the beginning of the 2017 boating season until being prudently pulled because of threats of September's major tropical storms; namely, Irma and Jose. Surprisingly, there was not a single barnacle to be found anywhere on the hull, only a brownish-green marine growth slime, which cleaned up quite easily with boat soap, car brush, and a good hosing, so back in the brine she went after the coast was clear of impending storm damage.
Then, on October 15th, Donna and I pulled the boat anew to launch her elsewhere for another distant angling adventure. What had happened in that short period of time also surprised us. Amid the brownish-green slime were a few minuscule barnacles found along the hull—about a dozen. No big deal. They came off easily, along with the slime, using the aforementioned bucket of soapy water, car brush, and hose. However, a thin encrusted surface layer of something strange stubbornly remained after repeated scrubbing. Donna and I straightaway addressed the issue with a putty tool and pressure washer, gently scraping away at the crusty layer. After approximately an hour and a quarter, the hull came spotlessly clean. That's the magic of Porta-Bote's space-age polyurethane-copolymer material. For the structural black tubing running along the hull, a Brillo soap pad made for easy work in removing small sections of filmy grime in seconds.
It was not until I removed a pair of black vinyl inflatable boat fenders from our dock—where we had horizontally secured them all season long—that we now saw a series of thin, flat, circular, muted gray-white skeletal-like organisms to which several small barnacles were firmly attached. In our years of boating in the Peconics, we had never seen—or perhaps not taken notice of—anything like that before. Barnacles on our pilings for sure, along with grassy marine growth, but not those strange, blanched circular shapes. We wondered. What were those crusty creatures that had clearly adhered themselves to those black vinyl boat fenders? Their circular shape resembled something like that of a nautical sand dollar. Perhaps they created the crust found along the hull of our Porta-Bote. I say perhaps because they were not at all discernible on the light-gray hull.
After sending an e-mail along with photos to our good friend, Chris Paparo, manager of Stony Brook University's Marine Sciences Research Center, Southampton Marine Station, he immediately identified the crustaceous culprit as Bryozoans. A Bryozoan, aka moss animal, is an invertebrate comprising many marine and freshwater species.
A pair of boat fenders encrusted with Bryozoans and several barnacles.
Gentle scraping and pressuring washing had removed all Bryozoans, barnacles, and grassy marine growth from the fenders. The question is will we again leave our Porta-Bote in salt water or ever brackish water for drawn out periods of time? I had wondered if the crusty substance was some sudden invasion of a marine species that might not show itself again.
After a lengthy and detailed phone conversation with our marine biologist friend, Chris had explained that my latter concern was definitely not the case. "They've always been around; you probably just didn't notice them before," he said. I immediately thought back to those boating fenders. It was the second boating season that I had conveniently secured the fenders dockside instead of carrying them aboard a small boat. Chris went on to explain that the boat's polyurethane-copolymer surface, when new (or in our case, relatively new like those fenders) will help retard such organisms as barnacles and Bryozoans. However, as time goes on and the surface gets roughed up, Bryozoans, barnacles, and other marine growth will, indeed, attach themselves to those surfaces. Chris went on to compare the polyurethane-copolymer hull to that of a new fiberglass boat. "At first, that nice shiny fiberglass factory finish thwarts marine growth; however, as time goes by and the bottom becomes scabrous, marine growth will, indeed, adhere to its hull," Chris said.
Hence, bottom paints to the rescue if the craft is to be left in salt water for prolonged periods of time. However, you may recall from my October 1st article that marine bottom paints do not adhere well to Porta-Bote's space-age material. What to do?
Even though our Porta-Bote went practically seven months before being pulled from salt water, and without any sign of barnacles, then again for less than a month before collecting several barnacles as well as those crusty Bryozoans, I'd now think twice about leaving the craft in the suds for prolonged periods of time. Using the boat for the way it was intended, that is as a portable craft from water to property, is probably prudent advice. However, I wouldn't hesitate to leave our Porta-Bote in the suds for very short periods of time. Cleanup should not be an issue. Keep in mind that a gentle scraping with a putty knife will not harm the boat's hull, for it can be pulled into and from a sandy/rocky shoreline without fear of any damage save a few cosmetic scratches that will not affect performance. The boat is virtually indestructible as covered in my previous articles, being almost twice the thickness of an aluminum craft.
In any event, I have to make a retraction referencing my earlier statement in Part I of the October 1st article. Porta-Bote's space-age polyurethane-copolymer material is not impervious to marine growth. However, all things considered, Porta-Boat's cleanup when compared to the time and expense involved in prepping, priming, and bottom painting a similar sized aluminum or fiberglass hull would be far less. This is not a rationalization but a fact. Next season, I will play around with waxes and/or polishes to, perhaps, help retard marine growth then monitor the results and report back to you. Also, keep in mind that utilizing a pair of Porta-Bote's optional set of wheels when transporting the craft from vehicle to shoreline would help prevent scuffing up the hull before launching, which would otherwise enable marine growth as marine biologist Chris Paparo made crystal clear.
Porta-Bote ~ Shipshape, shiny, and about ready to be folded following removal of seats and wheels.
Port side of Porta-Bote port hull. All cleaned up and looking good as new, ready to be transported for another angling adventure.
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