Handle with Care
Fernando Pimentel of FP Boat Services in Miami talks about the right way to clean Propspeed and protect your investment.
While marine growth can include anything from shellfish to worms to sponges—as many as 60 different types in all—for our purposes, we’ll consider just two broad types: soft and hard.
Propspeed is not an antifoul paint but, rather, a silicone foul-release coating whose hydrophobic properties create a slick surface that inhibits marine growth from attaching. Any biofouling that does manage to colonize will generally dislodge, or release, once the vessel reaches cruising speed, so if you use your boat at least weekly, you can reduce your Propspeed maintenance to almost nothing other than an occasional wipe with a rag to remove soft growth.
Boats kept stationary in the water, on the other hand, can develop hard growth and must therefore be cleaned at regular intervals. Fernando Pimentel, owner and operator of FP Boat Services Inc. in Miami Beach, recommends cleaning your boat’s running gear every three to four weeks:
“If the boat’s not being moved, they have to come to the understanding that frequent servicing is needed to protect their investment. The owner has to be open to a 21- to 30-day service cycle. Sixty days is too long; it’ll be full of hard barnacles by then, and when the barnacles are removed, they remove the Propspeed.”
While antifoul is made to slough off over time, releasing a copper- or zinc-based biocide into the water column, Propspeed needs to stay on as much as possible in order to do its job effectively. It’s important to know that Propspeed’s silicone gel layer is relatively soft, tacky to the touch, and must be handled with care, whether you hire a professional scuba diver to clean it or do it yourself. According to Fernando, waiting too long between cleanings will generally result in a significant loss of product—around 30%—as will improper handling.
“When it comes to maintaining and cleaning Propspeed, if you don’t do it right, you will destroy it and basically remove it,” he says. “Divers who don’t understand what they’re dealing with scrape it off. Don’t scrape—tap,” he says. “That releases the growth without having so much of the Propspeed come along with it. And it’s not just the diver’s responsibility but also the owner’s responsibility to schedule the cleanings before hard growth takes hold.”
Though a plastic scraper may be used for gentle tapping, Fernando recommends that those who are new to cleaning Propspeed use a nylon bristle brush instead, whose edge can also be used to tap. Under no circumstances should you use a metal scraper!
“Once Propspeed is involved, the whole dynamic changes. It’s very different from cleaning a regular surface. Ideally, you want to never have to scrape. Clean with a good soft-bristle brush or hard bristle at most. That really should take care of everything. I had six months’ growth and when I passed my soft bristle over it, 60% of the growth was removed in one stroke—I couldn’t believe it!”
If Fernando had his way, all of his clients would use Propspeed. Currently, about half do. “I recommend it to my clients every chance I get. I don’t make anything from selling Propspeed; I’m just giving you the best advice on taking care of metals underwater to take care of your boat better, but I’m not going to lie; it does make my job easier.”
Fernando estimates that cleaning takes two to three times longer without Propspeed. With hull cleanings, bottom paint, pre-purchase inspections, prop work, zinc work, and topside washing and wax detailing to do as well, time spent cleaning uncoated running gear can really eat into the bottom line of his small operation. Currently it’s just him and his wife, Iaroslava, but he likes it that way. Two words: “Quality control. I take a lot of pride in what I do. I feel like I do a better job myself.”
Fernando first learned about Propspeed from a colleague at Bayside Divers in Cutler Bay, where he worked for a handful of years before going out on his own. Though he’s been in the boat-cleaning biz for six years now, he’s been a licenced recreational diver since 1985 so definitely knows his way around the bottom of a boat as well as the bottom of the ocean.
“If a person is the kind of person who will swim and dive recreationally, then, yes, a layman should be able to do it easily and quickly, especially if it’s done frequently. The more frequently you do it, the easier it is.”
Check out more of Fernando’s handiwork on Instagram at nando_diver305, and see Fernando and Propspeed in action right here: