One of the last things boat owners consider are barnacles – until they see them stuck to their ship’s hull. Barnacles are an aquatic life form that every boater in South Florida will have to deal with eventually.
What are Barnacles?
Related to shrimps, lobsters and crabs, barnacles are crustaceans. Most are small, ½ an inch or so. However, some can grow up to 3 inches or more in width. The most common species found in South Florida are ivory acorn and striped acorn. The crustaceans enjoy active waters and intertidal areas.
Ship hulls and whales are especially susceptible to barnacle attachments. The filter feeders will attach themselves to almost anything with which they come in contact, using an extremely strong natural glue they secret. Boaters commonly call them “crusty foulers” and with increased boating activities comes the potential for ecological disasters. They don’t discriminate in their choice of watercraft.
How Barnacles Affect Your Boat
The ocean creatures build up and create a significant drag on the craft. The engine works harder to propel the vessel through the water, resulting in decreased fuel efficiency and increased costs. The U.S. Navy estimates that the barnacles growing on military ships can increase drag by as much as 60 percent and create a 40 percent increase in fuel usage.
A barnacle infestation can prevent sufficient water from reaching cooling systems, affect the propeller, and cause thousands in repairs if not regularly removed.
Barnacle Removal Methods
The crustaceans can be scrubbed off by hand using steel wool or a dull putty knife, which requires a lot of hard work. The most popular method, and the easiest, is having the hull pressure washed. Both methods require the vessel being removed from the water. If cost is no object, divers can be hired to remove them while the craft remains in the water. When the barnacles have been removed, there are slickening agents that can be applied to the hull to make the process easier in the future and reduces drag on the vessel.
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