Monday, November 30, 2009

A great idea... Ultrasonic Antifouling

Back when we built Loose Moose 2, our yearly expedition to the London Boat Show turned into some kind of mega shop. Let me tell you it is a very dangerous thing to go to a boat show while you are building a boat! So many neat things, so many good ideas, and so many scam artists selling things of dubious value that seem like a good idea at the time! A nautical carny if you will...

I was reminded of this when I saw today's post from Casco Bay boaters (a website I am simply in awe of) about the electronic antifouling from Ultrasonic Antifouling as way back then when fitting out Loose Moose 2 at the London Boat Show in a fit of gear-buying frenzy, we bought electronic antifouling for LM2!

Now let me tell you about some of the other things we bought at the show... A hydraulic windvane self-steering gear that was more vaporware than product with a heavy dose of scam involved... But boy, could that salesman SELL! What can I say... I was younger and dumber back then!

We also bought a couple of cat life jackets for way too much money that made the cats fall over on their sides, which I suppose is "sort" of a safety feature as if they can't walk they certainly are not going to be bounding around the deck getting washed overboard!

Which, I guess, brings us around to the Electronic Antifouling... By the time we had returned to France, the niggling idea that I'd been had, or even worse simply done a very stupid thing as the Electronic Antifouling just seemed too good to be true, and if it made so much sense, why was no one actually using it and so on... Deep doubt took hold and by the time I was ready to install it on Loose Moose 2 I decided simply not to bother and resigned the EAF to be flea market fodder at some future date (if, that is, I could bring myself up for public ridicule of being dumb enough to have actually thought it was a good idea at anytime).

Fast forward a couple of years later and we were down near Sete where they farm mussels and all of a sudden the bottom of Loose Moose 2 was a veritable mussel farm and the task at hand was to scrape and otherwise do mayhem on my back underwater... Yuck to the Nth degree!

Lo and behold, though when searching for a really big scraper to do said scrape job on the bottom, what did I come across but the box of electronic antifouling stuck away (shamefully hidden actually) and, when uncovered, the idea of "well I could always install this as a way of avoiding the job at hand" came to mind (I'm really pretty good at AVOIDANCE). So a day doing a clean electronic installation VS shrimp & critters in the beard was honestly no contest.

So a couple of days later, the install was done and the boat now made little drumming finger noises which, of course, did not fill me with a warm fuzzy feeling.  Later that day with snorkel gear and scraper in hand, I go below and find that 90% of the mussels had vanished! What was left was an interesting grid pattern of where frames and structure inside the boat obviously made the vibrations of the hull not reach but the rest of the hull was, as they say, "Clean as a whistle". What fouling that was left was easily handled in a half hour...

So the electronic antifouling worked! That said, it did have some odd side effects as the rhythm of the transducers had a strange effect when playing music, as no matter what you played, the inbuilt metronome effect of the transducers meant whatever you played adapted to the antifouling... weird but we soon learned that when the guitars came out, you simply had to turn off the EAF. Not so bad really.

The EAF continued to work for several years until one day (we were now in the Caribbean) one of the ex-British Telecom surplus transducers quit working and then another and, as soon as we lost the full compliment of transducers, the fouling ceased to be held at bay. By this time the company in the UK was long out of business and sadly we returned to the haul-out-and-paint brigade.

Which brings us back to the Innovative Ultrasonic Antifouling... Does it work? Frankly I don't know. But, having had a system before that did, I am not going to discount it out of hand. Most certainly, I am going to delve much deeper into this system. If it works it is a no-brainer. The cost of antifouling "So It Goes" comes to just around $1000 or more every year and a half  (paint/haulout) and that is yours truly doing the labor (and it is not a fun job). Add in the fact that antifouling paint is poison pure and simple so it is not good for me or sea life... An electronic option that works would both be better for the environment AND my pocket book (can you spell SLAM DUNK?)