In his 1964 release, Bob Dylan reminded us, ‘The Times They Are A Changing’ and Bob’s sentiment would certainly hold true within the world of yacht coatings. Taking the lead from the aviation and automotive sectors, marine coatings are a far cry from the traditional paints and varnishes of yesteryear. The paint manufacturers and applicators have been investing in research and development for the benefit of the environment and the yachts themselves.
Article by Adam Fiander
Whether inside, outside, or underneath the hull, the once default option of painting, polishing and varnishing have made way for alternative methods to protect, preserve, enhance or to change the look altogether of just about every square centimetre of a boat’s surface area, one way or another.
At a time when the yachting community’s own sense of eco-responsibility, environmental awareness and cost-consciousness has never been higher, this ‘perfect storm’ scenario has opened the door to a number of alternative ways with which to tackle the maintenance, preservation, and long-term well-being of a boat hull.
By adding a thin, but extremely hard-wearing layer of protection to extend the life of a hull, the rise in popularity of ceramic coatings, is one example, and vinyl decorative wraps and paint protection film are another.
Either way, there’s plenty to talk about, so let’s start by looking at ceramic coatings, which, due to their hard and resilient nature and deep gloss shine, are being used more and more frequently as the first line of defence.
Like feathers on a bird, ceramic coatings have strong hydrophobic (water-repelling) properties, which means less need for frequent washing, and less unwanted detergent flying around.
Depending upon the type and thickness of the ceramic coating applied, they are good at providing mid to long-term protection against oxidation and UV, not least salt deposits, acid rain, exhaust fumes, bird droppings and all manner of greasy party food left over from the night before!
Ceramic coatings protect by carefully ‘filling¬in’ the micro and macroscopic pores and voids left open in bare gelcoat and glass-fibre hulls, not forgetting those same pores, voids and undulations are also present even on the very best top-coat finishes.
Depending upon which type of polymer or binder is used, there are organic and inorganic ceramic coatings and it’s important to find out which type you are considering, because it has a bearing on application, in-service use and end of life removal and reapplication.
The nature of ceramic coatings means they can sometimes be a nightmare to remove. In nearly all cases, they require professional removal, and preferably by the same people who applied the coating in the first place. Some require an acidic removal gel, or releasing agent, to start the removal process, others require machine or wet sanding to lift them and the fine particle silica dust from ceramic coatings is not particularly friendly.
Coincidentally, at the same time as I was putting together this report, ICOMIA, (the International Council of Marine Industry Associations) published a comprehensive and free to download, 18-page Guideline Document, with key areas of information for anyone considering the concept of ceramic coatings.
With their own range of ceramic and nanotech treatments for acrylic and polyurethane painted hulls, iShine has placed great emphasis on working with and improving relations with professional paint applicators With their softer, more ‘user-friendly’ ceramic treatment called Fusion Finish, iShine’s mission is to encourage applicators to apply ceramic polish right from the very beginning, and preferably before a newly painted yacht has left the shipyard.
IShine’s Benoit Delan told us, “The light micron thickness and molecular structure of iCeramic coating means it avoids the usual problem that applicators fall into when having to repaint because stronger ceramic coatings bond stronger into the substrate, often penetrating right into the sanding process, whereas ours is more superficial.”
iShine are hopeful they can change the mindset of applicators to ‘embrace’ ceramic coatings, not only as an ideal way to generate additional revenue, but as a useful tool for keeping in regular touch with their important yacht-owning customers.
The argument is a strong one, when you consider that after a new paint job has been applied, that same customer might not need to return back to an applicator or refit yard for anywhere between 5 and 10 years, so why not have that same customer coming back for an annual coatings check¬up and replenishment if needed.
CeraShield are another ceramic coating supplier facing a degree of reluctance from paint manufacturers and applicators. As a result, CeraShield are funding a major, ‘benchmark’ report from a respected test lab that MD, Andy Williams, hopes will reassure paint applicators and manufacturers that yachts treated with ceramic coatings are fine to work on. Amongst other things the study will produce a pathway on how to deal with ceramic coatings prior to a painting programme.
Andy told us, “Part of the problem is at grassroots level, whereby a normal paint warranty is for 1 year only, but for some applicators, putting a ceramic coating on top automatically negates the warranty and a sense of stalemate and general reluctance ensues.
“Not only are we losing out from the commercial benefit, but yacht owners and crew are being denied the technological benefits and long-term savings that a protective ceramic coating treatment can provide.”
A company that places a lot of faith and trust behind an extensive product research and development protocol, is the Nanoshine Group, the Taiwanese parent company behind the global Ceramic Pro brand and Kavaca brand.
Like many coatings manufacturers, Ceramic Pro’s formative years lay in industrial and automotive coatings and Ceramic Pro’s Chris Dell, told us, “Marine is a relatively new and largely untapped market that is growing exponentially as owners look to protect the value of a vessel by keeping it in ‘as new’ condition.
“Ceramic Pro’s nanoceramic coatings have been tested and verified as above 9H (on a pencil hardness scale) by world-renowned product and consumer goods testing agency, SGS. And the new product range, specifically designed for marine application, enhances the protective properties even further.
“There’s a lot of physics and science behind our products. We work at a molecular level to provide protection from within the substrate to the surface as opposed to a wax or polymer that sits on the surface and cannot protect in the same way.
“We prepare a vessel to the same standards as a supercar. This entails a four or five stage cleaning, polishing and detailing process to create a mirror finish, prior to us applying Ceramic Pro Marine. The removal of swirl marks and holograms that many marine valeters and some manufacturers cause is key to the finish of our boats.
”We even treat the fabrics, glass, kitchens, bathrooms and hot tubs. Preventing stains from setting in is achieved by the ceramic coating forming a barrier between the substance and the substrate, therefore it is easily wiped off. We know that ongoing cleaning and maintenance is reduced by 50%!
“We also have a range of Paint Protection Film (PPF) called Kavaca to protect both painted surfaces and GRP against scuffs, scratching and rubbin But like most work connected to surface treatment it’s about the preparation done before applying the ceramic coating that counts. Chris told us that even for a 37ft yacht, the deep cleaning and careful polishing and detailing, to remove dirt, stains, swirls marks and imperfections can take up to 60 hours.
With devastating wind speed of up to 180 mph at times, the after-effects of Hurricane Irma in 2017, were truly awful for many people in the Caribbean and throughout the Florida Keys and eastern seaboard region. But for Marek Fisher, it was the subsequent contract he was awarded by The Moorings boat company, to repair hull damage across the entire charter fleet, that eventually lead to Marek forming his successful refit, repair and ceramic coatings company, MS Protection Ltd.
Whilst still carrying out refit, repair and project management on yachts today, MS Protection has since diversified with a pioneering range of ceramic coatings and boat-care accessories, that the company claims to have the lowest cost per sq.m coverage, of any comparable and equivalent ceramic coating currently on the market.
Not only are the ‘MS Marine’ branded products used by professional applicators, but DIY minded owners or crew can apply the same products. There is no doubt that during a busy charter trip or owner’s visit, there will be some type of visual damage to a tender or the mothership. This is where the crew can use these products to touch up the scuffed areas with complete ease. Fisher adds, “Strictly at their own risk, and, by doing so, can reduce the yacht’s down time.”
If, like me, you’ve spent many an hour bent double underneath the hull of a boat, with sanding block, masking tape and paint brush in hand, then you too will be interested to hear about London based Mooving Marine & Media, who have added MacGlide to their portfolio. MacGlide is a silicone rubber derived material, bonded to a polythene ‘tie layer’ which, similar to wraps and PPF, has a strong self-adhesive on the reverse.
A product initially conceived by US paint, flooring & coatings giant, PPG – but with manufacturing now part of the Avery Dennison group – MacGlide comes with a 5 year warranty and the promise of providing fouling protection for at least that time period, if not longer, depending upon how and where the yacht is mainly being used. It’s not really a DIY product, because application involves stripping back any existing coating to either bare gelcoat, or to a compatible condition, from which to apply MacEpoxy, an adhesion promoter for the film.
As an example, the cost/benefit equivalent for a 35ft sailing boat with steel block keel would be approximately €2300 in MacGlide materials, with professional labour on top of that. But spread over a 5-year period, this still looks promising compared with an erodible antifoul paint, that would still require reapplying every one, or possibly two years.
Propspeed have developed three non-biocidal antifoul coatings of their own, specifically tailored for each job they were designed for. Firstly, Propspeed coating is a well established, painted-on, silicone based ‘foul-release’ preparation for props, shafts, stern gear and hull skin fittings. Secondly, their Lightspeed product uses the same mechanism, only this time in the form of a clear film coating, specifically intended for underwater lights, with little or no loss of lumen output or degradation of colour.
Last but not least, Foulfree is Propspeed’s fouling preventative for transducers that offers a decent minimum of 12 months protection time.
With ambitious plans of doubling revenue in just five years, Danish marine and industrial paint and coatings giant, Hempel, want to achieve this target with sustainable and environmentally friendly products leading the charge.
Biocide-free products have been high on Hempel’s agenda for quite some time, and in the antifoul range, Silic-One is their best-known product, which I have had recent personal experience with.
With its own primer and tie-coat system, applying Silic One is a four-stage process which must be adhered to closely. This includes a Primer and Tiecoat, followed by two coats of Silic One. Preferably it works best if you can start from a bare gelcoat hull, but previously coated hulls can be cover-coated with Hempel’s Silic Seal, a two-component epoxy primer, as long as the substrate is in good condition.
Applying Silic One is quite a lengthy application process compared to others that can be applied with little more than patch-priming underneath. But the results are worth the extra effort and labour time involved. Not only does it work well, but it’s a ‘high-solid’ coating and has less VOCs emitted into the air, which is definitely good news all round.
For large yachts and superyachts generally cruising at slower speeds, then Hempel has Hempaguard X7 – a low-friction antifoul that Hempel says will reduce overall fuel to work for periods of up to 60 months maximum without reapplication and/or over very long idle times of up to 3 months.
Research and Development is high on the agenda for every paint manufacturer, and with more environmental policies due over the coming years, this is a good policy.
SUPERYACHT COATINGS & INNOVATION
Based in Bremerhaven, in the heart of Germany’s yacht building industry, PKC, is a family-owned business who, unlike some, have willingly embraced and readily adapted to the changing face of the coatings industry.
While filling, fairing and painting is still a mainstay, PKC has nonetheless broadened its appeal, by offering a range of services that generally complement and interact with each other.
Yacht Contracts Manager and qualified naval architect, Sami Patroun, told us, “Whether that service might be implementing composite materials to replace high filler thicknesses, or 3D scanning to pre-fabricate a custom-made part prior to proceeding, it’s from offering a superior level of customer service and technical detail that really motivates us.”
“As a family owned business, we value customer loyalty and repeat business, and from the largest down to the smallest possible request, no matter where our customer is located in the world, we will try and support them with materials or labour support and back-up wherever they are.”
I must be getting old, because I can remember, not that long ago, when hull colours were fairly drab and more predictable than they are today. Other than the obligatory white gelcoat, there was the odd dark-blue or red coloured hull, various shades of dishwater grey and 1970s beige. In summary, hull colours were fairly nondescript and far too bland.
Thankfully, imaginative paint companies like Stoppani, for instance, have changed all that, and their Isofan Marine Range is a good example of the mind-boggling variation of colour choices now available. Stoppani’s colour stats are overwhelming when you look into it. How does 1500 different solid colours to choose from grab you? And for the fashionistas amongst us, there are 800 different metallic, pearl and effect colours to choose from, not forgetting their ‘tintometric’ mixing machine which takes the colour permutations even higher.
There are up to 10x different finish products to choose from, and that’s before you’ve even thought about the actual colour! And if you need to justify the cost to the boss, Isofan marine military black can even save you money because the painted substrate absorbs a minor amount of heat, such that A/C cooling systems can be marginally turned down.
Looking to make serious inroads with their Imron® Marine Product range for yachts and boats is Axalta, a relatively new name in marine paint refinishing, with a recently launched and easy to navigate marine website – www.axalta.eu/marine
With a solid 150-year track record, this is clearly a company that has made a huge impact with paint and coatings used across core markets such as automotive, commercial vehicle and other industrial applications.
The Imron® range is a topside paint system, with products designed to work cohesively together comprising HS primers, 2K topcoats in solid colours only, mixable Basecoats in a huge variety of different colours, with paint finishes including solid, pearlescent and metallic, with a final Clearcoat finish for durability, UV resistance and easy maintenance.
Product and Marketing Manager for Europe, Inge De Jonge, told us: “Our extensive basecoat colour palette enables yacht owners and designers to personalise vessels and make them truly stand out. “With the launch of our new colour retrieval platform earlier in the year – Imron Marine Colour Compass – choice of colour, colour matching and colour repairs are on another level. Our Colour Compass database holds more than 65,000 regularly updated colour formulas. This enables users to source information on any colour or shade, whether they are looking for a specific colour match, or seeking inspiration for something new. When the Colour Compass is paired with our latest generation of Axalta spectrophotometers, which benefit from WiFi connectivity, colour matching becomes even faster and more accurate.”
SUPERYACHT WRAPS & VINYL
With roots in the decorative interiors market, vehicle signwriting and automotive paint protection film market, vinyl film wrapping for yachts and boats is steadily gaining ground.
While it’s a less ‘permanent’ solution than others, there’s no denying the quick application and reversibility and repeatability of wrapping a hull, makes it a perfect ‘drop of the hat’ solution for an external change of appearance, or an interior makeover.
We all know that certain colours suit certain objects better than others, so, if nothing else, wrapping is a great way of discovering if a paint colour choice you have made is going to look as good on your boat as you had originally intended.
With wrapping you can effectively customise parts of your boat on a whim. The same as for ceramic coating, it can mostly be completed outdoors in predictable weather, with none of the hassle and expense of dry-docking in a tented or dust-free environment.
Depending upon the extent of the work involved and the condition of the substrate it is intended for, interior and exterior surfaces can be de-greased, cleaned and wrapped and a yacht back out there earning its keep within a matter of just a few days.
It makes better sense to print your semi¬permanent design, message and logo on an adhesive backed foil or vinyl, as opposed to painting it on and, therefore, wrapping is perfect for short-term branding during, say, a promotional event like a regatta, a trade exhibition, or a boat show, for example.
Paint Protection Film (PPF), or sometimes referred to as Surface Protection Film (SPF), is another type of clear film wrap that is generally harder wearing than a coloured wrap. PPF offers extra protection to highly vulnerable areas, such as around exhaust stacks and the waterline area. Anywhere, in fact, that suffers from regular, repeated use and above average wear and tear can benefit from PPF. It can also be applied over a vinyl colour wrap to give it additional protection.
But, surely, for any kind of coating to survive the rigours of a salt water, high UV environment, vinyl wraps and PPF must have their own set of problems too, don’t they?
We posed that question to Michael Whitehead, from BG Install, and he told us, “The wrap films we use are marine rated and have very good UV stability and glue removal properties. They may fade after long periods, however within their rated lifespan they have no noticeable fade. Typically, ours last 5-7 years in Zone 1 countries like the UK and 4-6 years for zone 2 such as in the Mediterranean. This is therefore a great option for many yacht owners even if they just want to alter the colours of the bimini for a season or two.
“We recommend the use of fender socks that are kept clean and rinsed with fresh water. As a general rule, anything that will affect paint will also affect our wraps. Wrap film has a self-healing property for micro surface scratches and scuffs. Left in the sun and allowed to warm, it will return to a gloss finish. We have seen and experimented with the use of PPF film as
fender patches… while it’s great for impact protection such as stone chips. We have found it to be unsuitable for the sideways friction a fender imparts on to a hull and this in turn creates a bigger repair job in
the long run.”
When asked about potential problems associated with matching wrap colours from different production runs, Michael said, “Our suppliers do occasionally change their colour range or improve the formula in the way it’s made. If there’s a concern we can check before we order material, but we generally find the reputable brands do a far better job of managing colour profiles, with no noticeable difference in production runs.”
One company taking a more pragmatic approach than most is LuxWrap, whose management acknowledge that wrapping can both divide and unify opinion at the same time.
Rather than viewing the whole situation as some form of wrapping versus painting contest, LuxWrap’s common sense point of view, is that wrapping should be seen not as the enemy of painting, but more a way of keeping new paint fresh on a permanent basis, potentially by wrapping every season, to ensure the new paint stays that way, and at the same time offering easily reversible style changes LuxWrap’s management say that, “With paint you pay a capital amount which can almost be considered an investment in the value of your yacht, yet it depreciates every year and needs to be redone every 8-10 years.
“It makes far greater sense to wrap as soon as new paint is out of warranty. Polishing new paint is labour intensive, and each time it’s polished it wears away the paint. So if you regularly wrap it instead – for a ‘few’ years of service each time – your paint would be like new even after 10 years or so, saving you the cost of repainting and reducing downtime over the same 10 year period.”
Based in The Netherlands, Ruben Anders’ Yacht Colors company will wrap everything from jet-skis to superyachts and his experience with films and adhesives goes back 42 years! Did you know wrapping had been around for that long? So why did it take this long to enter the yachting world?