Part 2: The result is a nontoxic, environmentally friendly way to clean your boat’s hull bottom.
By Elizabeth Ginns Britten — April 2004
Ben Hershburger, an independent contractor who for three years has been using the process on boats up to approximately 90 feet in South Florida, agrees. Hershburger says using chemicals to strip paint is costly and time-consuming because, once the paint is removed, the chemicals and remnants must be taken to an approved chemical dumping site and, afterwards, sealed into drums. Prior to sodablasting, he relied heavily on pressure washing and grinding, which resulted in a lot more difficulties, most notably finding a skilled grinder who could remove the paint without leaving holes in the gelcoat. He says that although sodablasting “might be a little noisier,” it is faster. (LeCompte says using a SodaBlaster to clean and/or remove paint from the boat’s hull takes about 1⁄10 the amount of time traditional methods do, but cautions that paint residue must still be disposed of in accordance with local codes.) Hershburger adds that baking soda is easier to work with, since the substance itself doesn’t produce any harmful chemicals to breathe in or protect your skin from.
Connelly claims he removed the bottom paint from a 35-foot sportfisherman with a 12-foot beam in just 45 minutes. He also told me about a friend who uses the method who at one time needed a team of laborers to do the work he now does himself in a fraction of the time. “With all his extra time, he’s building a tug boat. I’d say he’s very appreciative,” Connelly adds.
It is because of stories like these that MMLJ has teamed up with Home Port Marine Marketing to develop and execute a public-relations program for the SodaBlast system. LeCompte says MMLJ wants to make people aware that such an option exists in a market where conventional methods are “destructive [to gelcoat] by their nature.” He says he’ll occasionally sodablast a hull and reveal a “swirling” or “blistering” from a previous job, indicating a damaged gelcoat in need of patching or replacement, which can be costly. That’s why the cost of grinding vs. sodablasting cannot be compared; LeCompte says since sandblasting tears up the hull bottom, it is more costly in the end. “A lot of boat owners tend to go for what’s cheapest up front, but there’s always that ten percent of people in the know, who are looking for an alternative,” he says. “We want to reach them.”
Although the cost of a SodaBlast job varies according to a boat’s length and beam, LeCompte reports that clients can expect to pay approximately “$20 per foot for a 22-foot boat, $30 per foot for a 35-footer, topping out at around $40 or $50 per foot for larger boats.”
So if you’d like to save yourself some hassle, get your boat back in the water quicker, and do your part to protect the environment, check with your local marina to see if there are any SodaBlasters in your area. Or call MMLJ directly, and the company can refer you to a local contractor.
MMLJ Phone: (800) 727-5707. www.mmlj.com.
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This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.