As if saltwater is not harsh enough on a boat, factor in barnacles. Barnacles are found in the coastal waters of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and beyond therefore it is essential to know the impacts. If you have peered into saltwater around docks and pilings, you have more than likely seen a barnicle. For boaters, barnacles can become a nuisance. What are the effects of barnacles on your boat?

Why Do Barnacles Grow On Boats

Much like a seawall, buoy, piling, or dock, objects that remain stationary at times are prone to the accumulation of barnacles under boat which is why they adhere and grow beneath the waterline on vessels stored in the water. The barnacle will affix themselves to almost anything and as a result, rapidly grow covering the object in its entirety.  

It is not uncommon for boat owners to ask the question do barnacles damage boats? The answer is yes, boats become damaged as a result of the accumulation of barnacles. However, proper maintenance reduces and eliminates damage when performed properly.

What Are The Effects of Barnacles on Boats

A single barnacle on a boat won’t have the same impact as barnacles coating the surfaces. A barnacle-laden boat is affected in a multitude of ways. Each can result in spending excessive amounts of money on repairs and or operating costs. 


The most costly circumstance of barnacles accumulating on the hull is fuel expenses. Proper hull maintenance avoids shelling out extra cash when unnecessary.

As barnacles on boats begin to layer the bottom of the vessel, the hull’s design to limit drag is all but eliminated.  Once barnacles have grown, the craft will not cut through the water easily, thus increasing the amount of fuel burned. 

When comparing the fuel operating costs of a cleaned boat hull versus a fouled boat hull they are substantially different. Boat owners shell out money rapidly when the hull lacks a proper cleaning. As a result, schedule scraping at regular intervals.


Marine gasoline and diesel engines require sea water to run at safe operating temperatures. The lack of proper water flow results in the risk of overheating and permanent engine damage.

The raw water intakes beneath the surface of the water can become fouled with boat barnacles. As a result of fouling, water flow to the engine is significantly reduced or eliminated when left untreated. 

An engine that becomes overheated can put you and your passengers at risk should the motor shut down completely. Beyond safety, repairs to an engine that has overheated is a costly and avoidable situation. 

Weight and Drag

Many would say that weight and drag would fall under compromising fuel costs. Although it does directly affect fuel costs, the implications of weight and drag go further. 

A direct effect of additional weight or increased drag is a loss of speed. The boat may not respond quickly in its ability to get on plane. A fouled hull directly impacts optimal cruising speed to maximize fuel efficiency and becomes altered. In addition, the ability to pull someone up on skis when participating in water sports becomes challenging.

As a result of the impacts on the vessel, it is essential to remove barnacles from boats.

How To Reduce the Growth of Barnacles On Your Boat

The ability to keep a boat operating at maximum efficiency when barnacles are a threat is simple. Following a few steps will keep the hull clean. 

Antifouling Paint

If you plan to store your boat in the harsh saltwater environment, you need to invest in antifouling paint. 

Bottom paint contains biocides and is slowly released reducing the number of barnacles settling on the hull.  Boat service yards will apply bottom paint to your boat at a price per foot. At regular intervals, the hull bottom coating must be inspected and reapplied resulting in maximizing the reduction of barnacle growth. 

Storing a Boat Out of The Water

Some would argue that the application of bottom paint reduces the value of the boat. To avoid painting the hull in an antifouling coating, consider storing the boat out of the water. 

A few options include keeping the craft on a trailer, dry rack storage, or even more convenient, a drive-on floating boat lift. Drive-on boat lifts secure dockside and allow the operator to keep the hull high and dry without the hassle of launching at a boat ramp.  

When a vessel is stored out of the water it eliminates the need for removing barnacles from boat.

Bottom Cleanings

Antifouling paint does an excellent job of reducing barnacles’ growth but does not eliminate them entirely. Hull cleaning experts are a necessity in boat barnacle removal.

When a boat is stored in saltwater, even with a biocide applied, divers must come periodically to scrape the barnicle away from the boat’s hull. The frequency of cleanings is highly dependent on the growth rate in your vicinity. However, hull scraping is required once per year and particularly during the summer months. During the summer months, barnacles accumulate at a rapid rate. 

When you’re at the marina or repair shop, ask for a recommendation on a trusted diver to remove barnacles on a boat. Neighboring boat owners will be glad to steer you in the right direction.

It’s Time to Start Removing Barnacles to Lower Costs

Yes, money will need to be forked out to help prevent or remove barnacles periodically. The combination of bottom paint and hull cleanings thus reducing growth and removing barnacles will result in lower fuel costs and decrease the need for engine repairs due to overheating. The upfront cost will help lower expenditures caused by excessive barnacle growth on the hull of your boat.