Q&A: Should I Apply Antifouling Paint To An Aluminum Boat?

Question: I’m thinking of leaving the bottom of my aluminum boat unpainted since I’m afraid of electrolysis caused, or at least made worse, by antifouling paint, particularly if the bottom is scratched. The boat is in fresh water, so she will not foul much.

Answer: There is no reason why properly applied antifouling paint that is intended for aluminum boats should cause or aggravate electrolysis. The key to preventing electrolysis is an isolated ground electrical system, good zinc anodes (or magnesium in fresh water) and an isolation transformer to prevent damage from other boats that are improperly wired when plugged into shore power.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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