TOM BEAN, PRESIDENT, PIPE DEFENDER
Why is this man smiling? Well, that’s Tom Bean’s way. And why not. It’s his attitude that it takes just as much energy to smile than to frown. In fact, maybe a lot less and besides, it’s a lot nicer. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom last Palm Beach Boat Show quite by accident while visiting with industry friends Mark-Udo Broich of Apreamare, and the husband and wife team behind the highly successful, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based Anchor Yacht Sales–specializing in Hampton Yachts–Sandy and Capt. Forrest Roberts. After getting a tour of the engine room on the latest Hampton Yacht, Capt. Forrest pointed out a new piece of equipment that, like most aboard the entire line up of boats, is now standard equipment. Explaining how it kept the raw water system free of unwanted clam and mussel growth, he simply added that I could speak with the president of the company right outside, on the dock, between the Apreamare display and his. And I did just that.
KK: How did the connection with boats and the water take place?
TB: I was born in Miami and grew up on the water. At age seven, I had access to a 13’ Boston whaler. And by the age of nine, the dream came true. My very own 17’ Whaler with a 70-hp Johnson on the transom (which we still have). I discovered Biscayne Bay and got to know it like the back of my hand, from downtown Miami to Ocean Reef. At the age of 13 my family had a 58’ Rybovich, I learned to work the deck and really fish, and started docking and running the boat. This is when I discovered offshore and the Bahamian islands. There was no turning back now.
KK: Was there a particular event, or series of events, that you can recall that had enough meaning to you so as to influence your life?
The family purchased two Feadships during my high school and college years. Under the watchful eyes of the crew I learned more and more about bigger boats. While Attending the University of South Florida I sat for and obtained my 100 ton Masters License. After three years at USF I transferred to Maine Maritime Academy to further my education and expanded my knowledge and love of boats.
After years of boating, my interests moved from the sea to the sky, I attended American Flyers Flight School and earned my Private Pilot license. After flying a few years, I moved forward with a career in that direction. I was then hired on at Gulfstream International Airlines and flew All over Florida and the Bahamas. While I worked for a few different airlines out-of-state, my heart always brought me back to the islands.
In 2001 I started ClearSkyAir, a one man/one airplane, aircraft charter company based on the Treasure Coast. I flew Florida, the Bahamas, and beyond. I was over the Gulf Stream at least 6 times a week and loved to watch the boats below making the crossing to Grand Bahama or other islands to the east. After eight years of ClearSkyAir, I had 4 planes and 7 pilots. I sold the company and came back to the sea.
KK: How did the idea for Pipe Defender begin? What were the circumstances surrounding its formation?
The idea for Pipe Defender came after I took a position as the Captain on a 106’ Burger. While running anthe boat and taking care of all the maintenance aboard, I found a huge problem with bio-fouling and growth in the pipes and chillers. Deciding to do an acid wash proved to be a costly mistake. The company we called in must have used too much acid in their flush because it popped pin holes in the chillers and two of the three had to be replaced. End game: A lot of money.
After numerous flushing of the chillers and cleaning of the pipes and impellers. I spoke with the folks at Burger in Wisconsin. “What can be done about all the growth in the pipes on this boat?” Their response? “Tom, you are in South Florida. It comes with the territory. There is no special trick, and just something you have to deal with.” Well, needless to say the answer did not sit well with me. It’s not that Burger did not have the answer; they are an outstanding group of people. It’s that no one had the answer.
I then asked friends of mine from Maine Maritime, who are still shipping out as Chief Engineers on Super Tankers and huge dredges. Their answers were similar to others I have heard, with some being a bit more extreme “fix it” ideas that could not, and would not, ever be used on a private yacht.
I had heard all the same old tricks people used, Chlorine or Bromine Tablets, or liquid in the strainers. Pouring Muriatic acid in the strainers and other crazy stuff like that; not too “green” or environmentally friendly for my liking. Plus, it’s not a great idea to carry those kinds of things in my engine room on the boat for longer trips. I did some brain storming and thought of a few ideas, then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I made some calls and got in touch with some of the engineers at Aqua Cal. I told them about the problem and “my ideas for a solution.” So we worked together and engineered the system to get it to work on the Burger. When we were satisfied with what we have done we installed the system on the Burger and waited.
A few weeks into the experiment, things started to happen. Shells started to release from the side of the pipes in the raw water system. We noticed however that the “critters” were dead. Just empty shells. No more flushes of the chillers, the raw water system was running smoothly and all water temperatures on all our system were working perfectly. The system was working great and after a year working flawlessly on the Burger I started thinking about it, I decided, I can’t keep this all to myself, so let’s bring this to market. I had a meeting with Aqua Cal and asked if they could produce the system for me. I guess this was the birth of “PipeDefender”. My wife and I thought of the name and she, being a graphic artist, created the logo and face of PipeDefender.
We launched PipeDefender at the Miami International Boat Show in January of 2011. It was an interesting week. First of all it was a new product to the market, and people don’t really understand how it works or are reluctant to change to something new. As I walked around the show and talked with Captains on boats, I asked if I could come aboard and show them something. I the usual, “OK, what are you selling”. Then after listening and seeing pictures, most became very interested and wanted to know more. We did get a buyer on the manufacturing end, that being the group at Hampton Yachts, who were impressed enough to installed four units on their boats.