The Finsulate Fiasco
What is Finsulate?
Finsulate is an eco-friendly wrap alternative to using chemical antifouls. It is a textured adhesive film that feels much like velvet as you brush your hands over it. It comes in rolls, like fabric from a fabric store. The backing is removed and the film is pressed on and rolled out.
The concept is these spiny, velvet-like fibers will not allow for growth. As it was explained to us even further, as you move through the water, the fibers will undulate to create a “moving” surface to which creatures could not adhere.
For us, mostly because it was a cost-effective-ish, eco-friendly antifoul. It was said it could last up to 10 years, the website now claims 5 years. This means we wouldn’t have to apply paint every year, a huge saving in time and money. We figured if we could skip a haul out every now and then, the upfront cost would balance out over time. Throw in the ‘eco-friendly’ and we were in.
I know what you’re saying, well, we would have to haul out any way to check everything and change anodes, to which our answer was we would get a diver if they needed to be changed.
We had heard Finsulate had won all sorts of awards. It was even the product of the year in 2018. It had already been used successfully commercially for some time, as we read on the company’s website.
A cute animated video demonstrated just how effective the product was. Well, it has been changed a little bit now… It said nothing grows on Finsulate, not even barnacles, clams, or mussels. In fact, it would even make your boat faster, as it was slick in the water.
We'll take it!
Considering Finsulate was a long term antifoul solution, eco-friendly, and winning product awards, we decided to do it.
Someone might say, we drank the koolaid, bought the magic beans, well, whatever. We wanted to believe, that’s true. I mean, a safe, effective alternative solution to Coppercoat can’t be that hard. And someone’s got to take a chance, right?
When was this?
Our experience began in La Rochelle, France, in June 2018. Rik, the owner and creator of Finsulate, along with Marion, new distributor for France, had Sea Odyssey already completed before we arrived.
We met Marion, nice lady, super pumped about Finsulate, while we were still on the hard waiting to get splashed for the first time. We had a very nice meeting, where she gave us instructions on proper maintenance and so on.
Ignoring the red flags
We thought we were doing a solid for the environment and boasted to others what a wonderful product we hoped it would be. Fingers were crossed, as we already had a red flag.
Turns out, an FP that was built ahead of us had Finsulate installed. Our dealer contacted us to let us know that the product was not adhering to the bottom of this other boat. It was peeling off. They recommended we pick another product. They were not fond of experimental antifouls to begin with so not recommending Finsulate was not a surprise.
But Finsulate is not a “new product.” It was said, for many years it was proven successful in the commercial world on cargo ships. A new line was just released for pleasure crafts. Since we were still excited about Finsulate and understood there would be a need for some growing room, after a solution to this problem was given, we continued on.
The problem was the wax released from the gelcoat making it impossible for the product to adhere to the gelcoat. Finsulate came up with a solution that our dealer agreed would work. Not realizing what a problem this solution would become later on we continued on.
The solution was to sandblast off the gel coat and install a product called VC 2, more commonly known as rubber claw in France.
First haul out, July 26, 2018
Due to some (eheh-ehem) confusion, our line cutters were never installed, so just 4-1/2 weeks after our initial splash, we had to haul out. We were horrified at what we found. Our entire bottom was already completely fouled.
Not pleased, we set to power washing it off. Some really thoughtful people working next door were so kind to relieve us of our underrated pressure washer which was taking us hours to go a couple of feet and lent us their industrial washer, 1800 psi.
Even with the pressure washer, and the help of our friends and their two kids scraping, it still took days to unfoul the bottom. The roots were so embedded, the bottom half of the plant still remained. It was more like mowing the lawn. Would it regrow?? We didn’t know.
We voiced our concerns
We reached out to Rik and sent him pictures and a video of the problem. We had some questions and concerns. We conveyed how alarmed we were with the amount of growth there was in such a short amount of time and the amount of effort it took to get it off. This product was for sure not living up to his claims already.
We talked about how skeptical we were at this point and asked what would it take to get it off. We learned it wouldn’t be easy, which means costly. He spoke so sincerely in favor of his product, disbelief even, that we were unhappy with the product.
His sad, sincerely sad, response was if we’re not happy he would remove it.
So then what did we do?
Well, we made excuses. Why was this guy legitimately surprised, sad even, that we weren’t happy? It bothered us he was so sincere. What were we missing? Maybe it was a dirty marina? Maybe it was because we didn’t move enough for three weeks? Maybe it was the season? But then we would jump back to, hey, this wasn’t supposed to grow anything. If perchance it did, it should just be a quick floof off. And, then this guy…
We summed up the problem. Soooo we just bought this not-so-inexpensive product with new install expense, to then turn around and take it off and put something very expensive back on??? And this guy wants to cry about it. Terrible.
An aside: That’s when we learned what VC2 was. It was glue, yes, and in order to get it off, we’d have to do something they call in France as chalking the bottom of the boat. We weren’t entirely sure what that meant. We do now.
A week or so later, after mulling it around a bit, we did tell him we would like to go ahead and remove it. We were headed to England to get lifted again and it would be the only opportunity for a while.
But he was nowhere to be found. Apparently, he was traveling in America trying to sell his product there. Our emails, WhatsApp texts, and calls all went unanswered.
So we left it like this with Rik...
From La Rochelle, we needed to head to Swanick, England, to get our propellers modified for our line cutters and ‘finish’ up some warranty work (I say finish, cause that is what we thought, so naive, oh my goodness.) We would need to get hauled out again, so we said we will look at the Finsulate again then and decide what to do.
Still no response.
Second haul out, September 6, 2018
When we got to England, we stayed a couple of weeks at a marina in Swanick up a freshwater river. The waterline on the sun side especially needed to be done twice before we moved to Saxon Wharf for our haul out.
Once we lifted, we saw the bottom was again fouled. Same material as France but not as long. This was 5 weeks after our last haul out in France. We wondered was this weed shorter because we were only in France for 2 weeks or because we changed from saltwater to freshwater.
Either way, we scraped and scraped the bottom of the boat using the drywall spatulas. The lift caused a tear and we repaired it with a patch kit, along with a small piece that was falling off.
Again, we tried to contact Rik to talk about removal and getting our money back. No response.
I hate this saying, “it is what it is.” Fuck it is what it is. Asshole. Just saying, using that phrase is never a good thing.
Well, we decide to keep the Finsulate. Apparently not only is getting our money back likely impossible, but we would also have to bear the entire cost of the removal and a new install.
We would deal with it as long as we can and then take it off.
It is what it is. :oP
Life with Finsulate
What a drag...
We head down the Atlantic coast towards Gibraltar where we wintered. Besides our top sailing speed in the 5-knot range, we also had repeated issues with our steering and autopilot.
One specific time, the autopilot overheated and shut down as we were headed through the Strait of Gibraltar. The boat then dangerously broached towards land. Obviously we recovered but scary. You are not far off land going through there to stay out of the shipping lanes and strong currents, so we didn’t have much wiggle room.
We were new to sailing with an autopilot and couldn’t understand what these problems could be from. We later discovered the issue likely was due to the Finsulate. The Finsulate was causing too much friction through the water for the autopilot. It seemed to create a drag, leaving the autopilot in constant distress and failure, with some sea states being worse than others.
A maintenance monster
The problem with the product is when sitting in a marina, the dirt in the water settles in the fibers in the Finsulate. Next, the sun hits the dirt and a garden on the bottom of the boat soon emerges. Once the growth begins, sea creatures can move in and attach themselves even easier.
At times we had an entire ecosystem traveling with us. We picked up a toe biter in Spain. It’s like a large beetle-looking thing. It lived on the bottom of the boat while we traveled our happy asses all the way to Montenegro. When we arrived, he was discovered again and had grown. He was literally living on the Finsulate along with crabs, jellies, muscles, and who knows wtf else. Seriously.
We also had a crab for a while. I saw it while scraping one day, let’s say it was about a half-inch or so. It scooted under a piece of Finsulate on the corner. I figured it would jump off or fall off eventually. Nope. Sometime later I saw the thing scampering away, now three inches or so! The damn thing was just circling around the boat as we scraped! All that time! Living a whole life! Incredible!
It all was just too much
A big part of our cruising life became scraping the bottom of the boat on a regular basis. Like every 10 days regular. Fourteen was pushing it, and any longer, the work would double. Two 50-foot hulls. Too much…
But really, it all was just too terrible. We learned it was best to stay up current whenever possible. When we ran the drywall spatula over the Finsulate, thousands of creatures, dirt, and plant matter fouled the water, actually chumming the water. It was really quite alarming. Fish would gather. Who knows what else could swim out from the darkness. I would get spooked and stop.
Plus, hundreds of tiny wormlike creatures would attach to you and crawl on you. It was that prickly-type crawling. You know, the one where it feels like biting almost. So freaking terrible, omg. We had to use earplugs in case one would get in our ears.
Then getting out of the water. Omg. We would look down at our skin and all these inch-worm-like things, idk maybe shrimp, would be crawling all over us… ‘biting.’ Omg, and stinky too. Plant matter was just all over us and in our hair.
Every ten days…
This is the end... my only friend
Third haul out, March 20, 2021
We knew we were calling it on this haul out. We were done. After 3 years of advising others to avoid this product but trying to make it work at the same time, we finally threw in the towel and decided to get this garbage off the bottom of our boat once and for all. Even before we saw the hulls this time, we were done.
This is what the Finsulate looked like after a year of sitting in a marina. We both doubt all of that would have come off clean enough for the product to work effectively. Even the little jellies and weed from France couldn’t be removed all the way.
At the very least there would be no fibers left with all the power washing and scraping. That was another big concern. With every scrape, too many fibers would come off. We were already doing the math. Not good.
Chalking the bottom
Once the product was removed, then it needed to be sanded down to a chalky finish. And here you go, chalking the bottom. It means taking off the gelcoat barrier, which is incidentally what keeps the water out. SMH. It’s a terrible thing to have to do, but we aren’t the first boat to need a new bottom. It is what it is… let’s not dwell.
Click for pics
With the bottom of the boat exposed, we needed to add a waterproof barrier. We chose Gelshield, specifically International Gelshield 200. Gelshield is an epoxy primer used as a barrier coat to protect the boat from osmosis. So basically, we are putting the waterproof barrier back. You can check out the details here → Gelshield
When you apply Gelshield, you alternate between green and gray paints. This really helps seeing where you need to go. One coat per day and a quick sand before each new coat. Five coats over five days, starting and ending in green, remembering to apply smoothly. Easy peazy.
Then we added Coppercoat. Coppercoat is a super long-lasting, incredibly effective antifoul. Details here → Coppercoat. This isn’t a Coppercoat post, but here is the jist and a few tips cause why not. Open if you are interested.
In the boating world, Coppercoat is a very stressful thing. It’s very expensive and if you don’t apply it correctly, it doesn’t work, and your money is wasted. So yeah, it’s stressful, and everybody has their opinion about how to do it.
Here to tell you, don’t stress. It all works out. Just do the best you can to keep it smooth. Don’t stress. If you are putting in the effort, it probably is enough.
Keep the pot stirred. Don’t let the copper settle to the bottom in either the mixing pot or each painter’s pot. Matt went around and rotated everyone’s pot until the next batch. Swishing your roller around is not enough to get in the corners where the copper collects. Don’t stress. Just go around and mix other people’s pots.
Oh and don’t forget the alcohol. No not that kind, although I hear ya. Isopropyl alcohol… to mix in! Come on weirdo, stay with me. The Coppercoat applies on smoother. The Coppercoat guy, Jason, also said it leaves little air bubbles when dried, which is good for copper exposure. We only used a little bit and wished we used the correct amount, ehem-ehem, like the directions said. Don’t listen to people and follow the directions. Don’t stress. Give a call to Coppercoat. They are there to help.
We were initially concerned about how smooth it turned out. It had an orange peal-type texture. We called Coppercoat and the guy said it was fine. He said to sand it down till you just see the copper shining through. You don’t want to sand more than you need or you are basically sanding money and longevity away. We sent sanded pics for confirmation. All good.
And it was. After a season, we think it turned out great. Plenty of room to sand in the upcoming years. We knew we did good job because with just a very light wet sanding we could see the copper shining through. We didn’t have to go very far into the Coppercoat at all. The copper patina’d just as it should. And it works. Job well done.
Had it not worked, we would only have had to sand down further. No biggie. No stress.
Maybe a little during the hose incident… check out the video if you’re curious :oP
Life after Finsulate
A breathe of fresh air
We had heard from others how quick the catamarans were, but ours was always a slug.
That’s not all. You can actually feel the difference. The boat glides through the water. I am pretty sure we are getting better fuel economy, too. It would only make sense.
Our autopilot seems thankful, too. No longer is the autopilot struggling to maintain course or just giving up. You’re welcome, little buddy. This is great for the both of us. Now we can begin to work on our trust issues.
A Maintenace Dream
With the Coppercoat, we just take a coarse sponge and wipe it down. That’s it. Wipe away a little slime and all done. Not even on any schedule. Even after being stationary for several months, no foul. We hauled out at the end of the season and the bottom looks great. We are so happy and thankful to be free of Finsulate.
Making sense of it all
Matt and I see people post good reviews. We honestly don’t get it. The only way we can make sense of it all is maybe, just maybe, as it pertains to pleasure crafts, it works best in certain regions and situations. We can’t make sense of it otherwise.
Maybe if you didn’t go through so many regions so close together you just deal with the organisms of the one region and not all of the regions at one time. But even in one region, you could get blasted with mussels and weed or whatever. And what if you live someplace with cold water? It would suck to scrape. Marinas aren’t safe to swim in so forget about diving in. What about bigger keels with deeper drafts? What about how horrible it is?
When we hauled out in Turkey after being in the water for a year and a half in a marina (covid), it was doable 2 feet down the hull from the waterline. Below was a complete abomination, of course. Had we not left the boat in the water for a whole year, what would the bottom have looked like after a few months in Turkish waters instead of someplace else? We don’t know.
And we don’t want to know, lol.
Unfortunately, Finsulate isn’t something you can just try, especially with such a nasty install. Idk, maybe you put a piece up somewhere and see what happens.
We are always thinking…
It gets old, quick
What can we say… every new region of water would assemble a new complex ecosystem of colorful creatures of the sea living their best life amidst a bountiful garden for us to disband. When we weren’t getting attacked by biting wormy thingys, it actually made us feel bad, to ‘kill’ everything, not kidding.
We really felt like we were basically tilling the hulls every two weeks. Seriously. Even then, deep in the fibers, there still was debris, nutrient-rich soil if you will, ready for the next crop. We’ll just pick dinner from the hulls. Let’s go! There was a fine selection in fact! Omg, just terrible.
Anyway, it got old.
Would we recommend Finsulate?
We feel the same about our experience of Finsulate, 100% garbage. We don’t want to tell someone not to use it but we sure don’t want to tell someone to use it.
We would not recommend this product to anyone living our type of lifestyle who doesn’t want to scrape their boat every 10 days through the summer, winter, and marina life. It is possible, but you have to really believe in this product to commit to its maintenance schedule to do it. But at that point, you’d be better to just scrape a bare boat and save the money. That’s a joke.
Finsulate's place in the world
Finsulate does have a place in the boating world, according to the website. It seems the product has been used on commercial ships which move frequently at high speeds. Maybe if our sailing boat could reach and sustain speeds of 20 knots and we didn’t stay in marinas for any more than a day or two the product might actually work. Even three days could be long enough to plan a harvest.
Maybe if our boat was smaller and we were in an agreeable region…
Look at us, we still want to believe. We need to wake up, smh.
~ On the tube ~
A two-part boater bit on what we did that winter.
Video companion piece to this article. Takes you through the whole Finsulate fiasco and our experience with the installation of Coppercoat and how it’s working for us now.
We did some really great things that winter. Upgraded the anchor alarm, put in a temperature-regulated fan for the freezer, etc, etc. You should check it out!
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