May 3, 2011

Goodbye copper bottoms

MY HOME STATE of Washington is close to becoming the first place in the nation to ban copper paint for yachts’ bottoms. This is largely the result of pressure from a group of activists who allege local boatyards are poisoning Puget Sound with the copper they power-wash off yachts.

As usual, the activists chose the easy target. They’re not going after the thousands of home-owners whose over-applied lawn fertilizer runs into the Sound via our storm-water drains. They’re not even going after large ships with acres of copper paint on their bottoms. The big boys will be allowed to continue to pollute the Sound. They’re only going after the little guys who can’t fight back.

At the moment there is no practical substitute for copper paint as an anti-fouling medium. It’s the most effective thing we have, apart from tin, which was banned years ago on all but a few select boats such as those with aluminum hulls, which would react very badly to copper.

I frankly can’t believe that pleasure yachts using copper do much damage to the wild life. But then, I guess I’m biased. I believe that man is part of Nature, too, and I firmly believe that we’re probably doomed to destroy the Earth sooner or later, in one way or another, despite the best (but irritating) intentions of the “green” mob.

It’s not that I would deliberately foster the demise of sea creatures, even though Nature herself has killed off thousands of different species over the years. Indeed, I have often put in a good word for such creatures as the much maligned barnacle. Barnacles are modest creatures, after all, and don’t wave their tentacles or squirt you in the eye for attention, as some of their underwater cousins do. Their main fault is that they stick to propellers and the bottom of dinghies that stay in the water too long.

The fact that copper might kill them is neither here nor there. You, too, might be killed if you chose to place yourself in the middle of the freeway without a car. The point is that both you and the barnacle have a choice.

The barnacles we would like to see succeed in the world are those with street smarts, the ones who can anticipate danger and stay out of trouble.

There are plenty of nice rocks and wooden pilings where clever barnacles can attach themselves and live long, peaceful and useful lives, contributing to the good of the community as a well-bred crustacean should.

Why would a barnacle cling to the bottom of a yacht clad with copper paint? It doesn’t make sense. And those who DO make their homes on copper surely deserve to be removed from the gene pool for the benefit of barnacles in general.

Today’s Thought
Extensive exhaustive researches
By Darwin and Huxley and Ball
Have conclusively proved that the barnacle
Can scarcely be ravished at all;
While further industrious enquiry
Has incontrovertibly shown
That this state of comparative safety
Is enjoyed by the barnacle alone.
— Anon.

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #194
The maximum speed of planing hulls is governed mostly by the power available. With 40 pounds of weight for every horsepower delivered to the propeller, the average planing hull can do about 25 knots. (Weight, of course, includes everything aboard, as well as the hull itself.) With only 10 pounds of weight for every horsepower, she should do 50 knots.

Woman to husband after party: “I’m ashamed of you. You made a thundering great fool of yourself tonight. I only hope nobody realized you were sober.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


mgtdOcean said...

Yep get the little guys, here in MD on our creek the DNR wants to check the lock on the toilet discharge valve constantly, but the sewage pumping station that overflows in to the creak a dozen times a year just gets a wink. It been so bad we finally moved. And I have called the DNR on the pump station several times but nothing happens.

David Browne said...

I'll betcha that you can find copper-based bottom paint in Victoria and a nice little yard where you can apply it.