The Coppercoat Dilemma
We had been going back and forth about Coppercoat and there's definitely pros and cons. We believe there are benefits, especially if we are going to be sailing in remote places where it might be challenging to take the boat out of the water. Also, if we're going to keep the boat for 10 years, it's probably a good idea to invest the time and money to do it.
I’ll address the environmental objection right up front. We talked to a lot of people and when you compare the Coppercoat on a boat for 10 years, versus reapplying antifouling put on each year over 10 years, we couldn’t find data that told us Coppercoat was worse for the environment than regular treatment. It’s also important to take into consideration all the effects of flaking paint at the boatyard from everyone reapplying bottom paint to their boat every year.
In fact, in a 5 year study conducted by Plymouth Marine Laboratory, a wide variety of antifoul coatings were tested for longevity and efficacy. To quote the report published in March 2018: “After 60 months of testing, Coppercoat was the best performing coating.” But of equal relevance was the environmental information gleaned during this test. On average, the test panels of traditional products lost between 90 and 100% of their antifoul and 10 to 20% of the underlying epoxy primer. In contrast, the Coppercoat treated panels lost less than 5% of their topcoat. The point is, we want less flaking in the air and leaching in the water and Coppercoat flakes and leaches less based on everything we saw, but we encourage everyone to do their own research.
The second biggest con is in getting a proper application. There have been some owners who have been very happy with it but have stressed that the application process is fussy and needs to be done right. For example, you need to do it when there’s low humidity in the air for 72 hours, it needs to be done in a specific temperature range, and the coats need to be put on quickly after it dries, not wait a few days, which means you need at least two people to do it right.
In our case initially, our boat was coming out of the water in February which is when the average temperature is well below what it needed to be, and then we would have needed three to four days of consecutive, seasonally warmer weather, and you cannot have rain for 72 hours. Also, you need to be sure the product is coming directly from Coppercoat and isn’t some knock off mixture made at the boatyard.
The challenge for the commissioning agent is you basically have to have the boat out of the water for a period of time and then have a right window to get the work done and the people available to do it...all while other boats are coming out of the factory and going through the workflow. Our broker really didn’t want to do it and wouldn’t guarantee the work, even though the broker's commissioning agent said they could do it. We believe this had more to do with the time it takes and the potential to disrupt workload and back other people up.
So this whole ordeal got complicated but we wanted to do it and get it done right and save headaches and money later. Worst case, the application wasn’t great and we have to do it again, the net was about a $3,000 risk when you look at the cost difference.
Then, France went into a COVID lockdown.
Our boat was on the hard in a nearby parking lot where they stage the boats before they go on the boat ramp to be launched. In La Rochelle, due to the huge tides they can put the boats on the ramp and just wait for the tide to go up and ‘voila’ the boats are in the water. So there was our boat on the hard, and then everyone at the boatyard left.
Note that this is also when our boat was broken into, which is a different blog for a different day.
Roughly five weeks later everything was different. First, it was warmer and second there was a slow start to get everything moving again in the workflow as the factory was working through labor and supply chain issues. We spoke again with our commissioning agent who felt comfortable to do the Coppercoat, had the time to do it and the climate was in our favor.
They applied the Coppercoat as per the instructions and remotely we closely monitored what was going on. We opted to raise the waterline about 10 cm because previous owners had mentioned a fully packed, fueled and watered up boat goes below the standard waterline used when they apply the antifouling.
So far we have been happy with it. When we jumped in the water over the season we took the sponges with us to give it a little wipe and it’s kept incredibly clean. We will report back after it sits over winter but so far, so good.
This is what the hull looked like in August when AWEN was put on the ramp due to saildrive problems prior to leaving La Rochelle.