Sacrificial anodes die so your boat’s underwater gear may live

A war is raging under your boat. High-priced running gear and outboard lower units made of aluminum, copper and steel face galvanic corrosion that happens when dissimilar metals are connected underwater. But sacrificial anodes made of aluminum, zinc and magnesium are fixed to the boat’s engine and propulsion parts that are underwater and take the brunt of the corrosion.

The solution involves connecting an even more “active” negatively charged material to the copper and steel—the sacrificial anode. The aluminum or zinc that dissolves sacrifices itself underwater to protect the more valuable metals.

“Anodes have to be underwater to work,” explained Martin Wigg, vice president of Anode Business at Performance Metals, for a story I wrote about anodes in Southern Boating magazine’s February 2019 issue. “The anodes work by providing a supply of electrons to lower the voltage of the ‘protected’ metal. That is only half the circuit though. The other half is the flow of ions in the surrounding water. No water equals no ion flow and no circuit and therefore no protection. There are companies that market ‘corrosion grenades,’ to protect metal in air but they are a scam.”

Aluminum has become a recommended metal for anodes in saltwater, and magnesium anodes work best in freshwater. In freshwater, a zinc anode forms a chemical coating that stops it from working. However, zinc anodes are a favorite of many boat owners in saltwater despite the advantages of aluminum.

“Zinc is still used in the majority of cases,” Wigg said. “It’s fine for use on inboard boats in saltwater but that’s really all. However people are slow to change. They have been using zinc for years (hundreds) and are hesitant to change to something new, especially if zinc was working fine.”

When boaters take the leap and try aluminum anodes, they find that they work better than the old zinc anodes and never go back. This is especially true for aluminum-hulled boats and outboard motors.

“Zinc doesn’t really protect aluminum components that well even in saltwater,” Wigg said. “Many boaters also don’t realize that zinc doesn’t work for long in fresh or brackish water. I have heard people say, ‘My anodes have lasted for years.’ Yes, because they stopped working.”

Anodes dissolve over time, and eventually must be replaced. Two factors are important. First, to provide good protection there must be enough anodes to bring the hull potential of the vessel down by 0.2V and into an acceptable range. The lower the measured voltage the less likely the metal will corrode. This is where zinc anodes have a problem protecting aluminum components. Zinc anodes sit at -1.05V and aluminum components sit at around -0.75V a difference of 0.3V. Not much more than the required 0.2V drop required. Aluminum anodes—a special alloy–sit at -1.1V a difference of 0.35V, which is much better.

“The second factor is that the protection offered is proportional to the surface area,” Wigg said. “So as the anodes wear away that surface area is reduced. The general guide is to replace the anodes after they have worn down by one half. That’s why we invented the wear indicator to help tell the boater when that point has been reached.”

Performance Metals’ range of aluminum alloy anodes have a Red Spot plastic indicator that appears on the surface when it is time to change.

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Refurbish or replace blurry and worn clear enclosures to improve your view

While underway do you wonder “Is that a scratch in the enclosure–or a buoy?” If so then it’s time to repair or replace your acrylic, vinyl or other type of clear marine enclosure. Don’t push the limits of commonsense and get yourself into the danger zone when it’s simply time for repairs or replacement.

The scheduled down period during haul-out or any time when convenient at a marine service yard gives the professional the time to do it right. The choices of clear enclosures today are myriad—including acrylic, polycarbonate and vinyl.

Note: This article for Southern Boating’s March 2019 Haul Out Guide doesn’t cover the maintenance or replacement of ¼-inch tempered safety glass common on coastal cruisers and yachts.

As a material’s primer, acrylic enclosures are semi-rigid and include brands such as EZ2CY. Polycarbonates fall under brand such as Makrolon, and clear vinyl includes CrystalClear, Regalite and Strataglass.

In the sub-tropics like the Bahamas and South Florida boats must endure high humidity and temperature swings, and that’s where acrylic works the best. Acrylic does not fade or yellow over time, and you can also buff out scratches.

“EZ2CY is 80-gauge acrylic and it’s doesn’t roll, but rather is made to lift up,” explained Andy Flack, project manager for Canvas Designers in Riviera Beach. “The panels pin to the roof or the bridge when you don’t need them. Because of the thickness it can withstand a lot more air pressure when underway and holds in the cool air if you use an air-conditioner.”

For boats already equipped with EZ2CY enclosures, the refurbishing and buffing process during haul-out is simple.

“Once at the yard do an inspection, and if it’s scratched, have the yard take it out and send it to your EZ2CY dealer,” Flack said. “The dealer will have it buffed and polish, then hang it or store it, and bring it back to the boat looking like new. Then it can be re-installed so it’s perfect when the boat comes out of the yard.”

Get a powerful Internet Wi-Fi connection with a boat-mounted system

Boat owners are usually always on the move—it’s not uncommon to go from vessel to home or remote retreat in a week or less. No matter the location, most people on the go want to be connected to the Internet, and that’s where a reliable Wi-Fi system for your boat comes in. I wrote about Wi-Fi in an article for Southern Boating magazine.

It’s not enough to just turn on your computer and tap into a signal. Today’s cruisers want powerful coverage not only for their laptops but also for guests’ devices, including cell phones and tablets. In addition, Smart TVs need Wi-Fi to use streaming services such as Netflix.

However, when you move from your home or office to the boat, the experience changes and usually for the worse. Global Marine Networks (GMN) offers a system that solves that problem. The Halo Long-Range Wi-Fi Extender contains everything you need to get going except the final mount, which depends on how you want to mount it to your boat.

The complete system includes the long-range antenna that connects to the remote hotspot, a local Optimizer access point that everyone connects to on the vessel, 32 to 100 feet of cable, and a stainless-steel connector that works with any 14 TPI, one-inch-wide mount.

Read the entire article.

Underwater lights synced with music will transform your ho-hum boat

Underwater lights dazzle below your boat

The best parties have it all: great food and drinks, music and dancing, fun people, and the right mood to tie it all together. Lights that change with the rhythm of music is the icing on the cake. But when you put them underwater on the bottom of your boat, it turns the water—whether you’re at the dock or off shore—into a modern-day disco ball for guests to shimmy to a watery version of Saturday Night Fever. This is what I wrote for the article “Get Lit” for Southern Boating magazine’s August 2018 issue. For those who are less into parties and more into romance, lighting controls can be set to enhance the mood for a quiet evening on the hook.

“Underwater lights can be programmed to change color depending on the type of music you’re playing,” says Alexandra Bader, U.S. vice president of sales and marketing for Aqualuma (aqualuma.com). “They can pulse or stay stagnant depending on the mood of the evening. Underwater lights like our Gen 4, 18 Series Thru Hull lights can really change the atmosphere of any boat party with just a few clicks.”

The earliest versions of programmable underwater lights only offered a few colors, but the range of colors, effects and features now available has increased dramatically over the past few years. According to Susan James, marketing director for Lumishore (lumishore.com), the company’s EOS Series offers fish strobe, color cycle with adjustable speed and color sweep with adjustable speed that cycles the color across the boat’s transom or around the entire vessel.

“There is also Sound-to-Light, which is enabled simply by connecting a single, 3.5-millimeter stereo jack audio out cable from your onboard stereo to the EOS controller. There are also adjustments users can make to their Sound-to-Light mode where they can increase or decrease the sensitivity or pulse speed of their lights.”

Read the entire article.

Designer Doug Zurn turns boating dreams into reality

Doug Zurn in his Marblehead office

Opportunity has knocked on yacht designer Doug Zurn’s door more than once, and the 54-year-old from Marblehead, Massachusetts, has nearly always had the good sense to answer the call. I met Zurn during a boat show and spent an hour learning about his career, and then wrote a story for Southern Boating magazine’s May 2018 issue. I found out Zurn always loved boats and grew up sailing on the Great Lakes. He graduated high school from University School east of Cleveland in 1982, and even though his senior year design project was a sailboat instead of the house he was assigned, a career in the marine industry seemed unlikely. His parents pushed him toward engineering, and in the mid-1980s, he was at the University of Arizona, yet he still dreamed of designing boats.

“I looked up naval architecture schools on microfilm and found the Westlawn correspondence course,” Zurn says, referring to the famous school that boasts graduates such as designers Tom Fexas, Gary Mull, Bruce King, and Jack Hargrave. “I moved back east, started the Westlawn program and set a goal to get a boat built with my name on it within five years.”

Zurn moved to Marblehead and worked as a rigger with Dieter Empacher in the late 1980s, then Chuck Paine, and in the 1990s, he moved back to Cleveland and worked for Tartan Yachts for three years as a rigger and sailboat designer. He finished his Westlawn correspondence course in 1993 and had a boat launched with his name on it, the Tartan Yachts 4600.

“Tim Jackett, who now owns the company, was nice enough to share the credit,” Zurn said. “Working at Tartan was a really good education. I learned about tooling, building molds, and about custom boat building and relationships. I had more than a few tape balls thrown at me as I learned how my work affected other people’s work.”

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Powercats Offer Unique Cruising Features

A powercat on the move

The multi-hull catamaran design has centuries-old roots in seafaring cultures around the world—think outrigger canoes in the South Pacific. As engine technology evolved, applying power to sailing catamarans was a natural progression. Today, powercats range from 28-foot fishing boats to 70-foot luxury yachts that come equipped with sought-after mono-hull features like generous interior appointments, advanced electronics and equipment that ensures ease of use. Bareboat charter companies, such as The Moorings and MarineMax Vacations, use powercats for their fleets, where customers charter and pilot the boats themselves. (Allowing charter customers to pilot vessels unaided says a lot about how well powercats perform.) And once you take a tour of the luxury powercats, you will be amazed at the size; the sprawling interiors seem more like apartments than boats. I had a chance to review a slew of these marvels for a story in Southern Boating Magazine’s March 2018 issue.

Read the entire article.

Keep boat’s generator running strong with proper maintenance

Cummins Onan generator

Marine generators are beasts of burden, able to toil tirelessly for years with little trouble. Using the right fluids and with proper maintenance, generators keep electricity flowing and allow boats to come to life with electronic gadgets, heaters and sound systems when the main engines are shut down. It’s easier to keep the generator in shape during your main boating season, as it most likely is run every time you go out, provided you use the boat on a weekly basis or so. However, if you’re a boat owner who may not run the vessel for weeks or months at a time, rest isn’t good for a generator. Exercise is crucial to keep the unit in shape and well lubricated. This is what I wrote for my Engine Room column in the March 2018 issue of Southern Boating.

“Our generators are virtually bulletproof when cared for properly,” says Andy Kelly, marketing communications manager for Cummins, Inc. “The best thing you can do for your generator is to start and run it periodically. This helps keep the moving parts moving [and gives] the lubricants in the engine an opportunity to do their job. To maximize engine life… you should always allow for proper warm-up prior to turning on large appliances like air conditioners; about two minutes is sufficient.”

Read the entire article.