St Mawes Ferry gets a baking powder blasting

25 November — 30 December 2008

BAKING powder has been used to clean the bottom of a small Falmouth ferry in a bid to save fuel and give passengers a faster journey.

The Queen of Falmouth, owned by Cornwall Ferries Limited, takes passengers to and from Falmouth and St Mawes every day except Christmas Day.  Like most vessels, she has a special paint, antifouling, which keeps her hull clean by resisting the growth of marine life such as barnacles, weed and slime.  Each year she has been re-antifouled, building up many layers of paint which have become progressively rougher, increasing the hull’s drag and making the engines work harder.

But thanks to a new company called The Gentlemen Blasters, the ferry has been stripped of its many layers of paint below the waterline using a gently-abrasive solution of sodium bicarbonate – or baking powder.

The baking powder is blasted at the hull using specialist equipment, reacts with the paint and turns it into a soapy powder, which is then swept up and bagged.

Managing Director of The Gentlemen Blasters, Jason Freeborn, said: “In the past, many boat owners have cleaned off old paint by sandblasting below the waterline, but that method can be quite aggressive and abrasive. The Queen of Falmouth had many layers of paint to remove and needs to be treated kindly, so soda blasting is the ideal way to remove old antifouling from the hull gently.

“Before we begin work, we build a tent around the boat to stop any powder from escaping into the environment. We also wear special suits and ventilated masks to protect ourselves. In the case of the Queen of Falmouth, we knew there were several layers of anti-fouling to blast through before we got down to the bare wood, so it’s very important to prepare well first,” he added.

The Gentlemen Blasters took three days to blast through 14 layers of anti-fouling and according to Cornwall Ferries’ operations manager, Garrick Royle, the end result is pretty impressive.

He said: “We are really pleased with the work that Jason’s team did – it saved us a lot of time! The sodium bicarbonate is amazing as it can take off as many or as few layers as possible and if they do blast down to bare wood (as they did with the Queen of Falmouth) the solution won’t ruin the red and white lead putty which is protecting the caulking.

“One of the main reasons for blasting off all the old layers of anti-fouling and paint was to reduce the amount of drag we were experiencing, which in turn will reduce the amount of fuel we will use and make the trip quicker for our passengers. The ferry will now be primed and repainted in the cream and blue used on all the fleet and will be back in the water towards the end of the month,” Garrick added.

For a no obligation quote from Gentlemen Blasters, call 08000 430 830

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