Thursday, April 4, 2013

War On Corrosion

My can opener didn't always have vice grips attached.  Once upon a time, it had a plastic handle.  And then one day last December, the handle simply fell off.  The plastic hadn't broken - the metal underneath had rusted away.  And so, in fine cruiser fashion, I improvised.

Not to be cranky, but metal on a boat is a pain in the neck.  If it is metal, it will corrode.  Unless I build everything out of Platinum, the salt water is going to get to it eventually.

Our hull is made of Aluminum.  That's great if you plan to ram into a tree trunk and not sink, but it has a downside: our hull wants to be a battery.  In the galvanic series for stagnant saltwater, Aluminum sits at position number 34 of 39.  That means that, in salt water at least, Aluminum is a giver.  Aluminum acts as a sacrificial anode for the 33 metals sitting above it on the list.  And guess what?  I don't want my hull to be so generous.  Keep your electrons, I say!  Don't accept that current!  Only Uranium, Cadmium, Beryllium, Zinc and Magnesium sit down below Aluminum.  And as I somehow don't fancy bolting a bunch of Uranium to my hull, I guess we'll just have to keep replacing our Zincs as they disappear into the salty blue.

It also means that our hull can be bested by a copper penny and a cup of salt water.  We have a screwtop jar aboard for copper coins.  The girls have helpfully drawn a skull and crossbones on it.  Erik lives in fear of the day someone drops a penny down the bilge; it could eat a hole through the boat in no time flat.

But aside from small matters like sinking the boat for pocket change, corrosion is a daily annoyance aboard. Electronic devices stop working.  The contact for the "E" key on my keyboard corroded away.  Metal zippers turn green and seize up unless they are used on a weekly basis.  We use some sort of a magic potion called 656 to get things moving again, but some zippers stay stuck and have to be cut off.

One day I was rearranging some food items in a locker when I moved a tin of dry mustard, and noticed a small pile of powder left behind on the shelf.  I frowned at the tin.  It looked fine from the front.

And how did the marketing department arrive at 113 grams, I wonder?
And then I looked at the bottom.

Aha.  The rust mice had been hard at work again.

We will keep fighting the good fight: keeping metal clean, rinsing with fresh water.  But as I watch the USB ports on my computer slowly turn brown, I know this is a fight we can't win for long.  Those electrons are going to move.

But I might replace my can opener anyway.


Anonymous said...

You do battle with the rust mice & I contend with the quilt police.

Lucky for us we are no longer using pennies now so the next time that we visit we can't drop any by mistake.
Love Mom

Paul in Iowa said...

Amy, I wondered about the aluminum hull and corrosion. We think corrosion all the time with aluminum airplanes, but nothing like those that live near the coasts. Thanks for the comment about dropping a penny in the bilge, I hadn't thought of that; I can see why that would be a constant concern. I suppose you have a checklist you go over with new visitors that come aboard.

I listened to Bob's No Wake Zone radio show and thought you did a great job, especially given when you had to get up. Perhaps he edited it. It was helpful to visualize your familie's life aboard. It caught my eye as I lived in Clinton, MO when I was a kid.

I just read an article in the April Sail magazine about seasickness and thought of you and your issues. (I could have done without some of the details the author provided!) Hope you are over it quickly when you go aboard again.