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Sailing in the Briny Deep - By Barry Fox
You would maybe think that being located on an island surrounded by salt water that most of us out here would be well practiced at preparing to sail our boats in salt water; some of us are, others not so much. A lot of us have worked on that for the past few years and see a lot less salt water related problems. With the upcoming Canadian Nationals being held in salt water I thought I would dig out my old document and update it a bit.
There are two main times you need to do something to prevent damage to your boat from occurring. The first of those is pre-sail preparation.
The biggest items to concern your self with are the electronics and all of their connectors. One of the first barriers is to prevent water even getting to the electronics. Waterproof your hull as much as possible to prevent the water from even getting in and then make sure you have a drain hole (and plug) that allows you to drain the hull quickly after every race. Depending on entry levels, the races could take place one right after the other and you won't have time to peel off tape and deck hatches and siphon out water.
Use of something like liquid electrical tape or Plasti-Kote applied to the lower half of your servos and winches will seal them against any water that might get in. Those little rubber deals on the servo, where the wires come out, aren't a very good seal. They should be liberally covered in these kinds of substances so that you are assured that the servos can't take on any water, salt or otherwise.
On your servos, if you remove the servo control arm and apply a small bead of grease, such as Vaseline, around the serrated servo shaft and then push the control arm back on you will have created a good seal around that moving part.
If your receiver is attached to some inside surface of the hull and exposed to whatever elements might exist in there then you need to consider a few alternatives. A popular method is to put the receiver inside a balloon and then seal the end(s) of the balloon to prevent water from coming in. The only issue is that if condensation occurs from the air trapped inside the balloon then it is being held in there so you maybe making your own little problem environment but that is easier to deal with than having the receiver awash in water.
The batteries are in the same situation. They are often mounted low in the hull and will easily get wet if any water enters the hull.
Others have some form of sealed compartment for receivers and batteries.
But no matter how you isolate these components you still need to do some preventative things. The normal method (well it was the normal thing I was shown to do) is to liberally spray all connectors, the receiver itself, batteries, switches, anything electrical with something like Corrosion-X or BoeShield which are corrosion prevention products. Once the product dries it leaves a kind of waxy film on all the surfaces and repels the water. I spray my receiver until it is almost floating in the stuff then shake out any excess, then spray all my servo connectors until they are dripping, plug all the connectors into the receiver and then let it dry. That way everything is connected and coated in its connected state.
Another approach is to take your receiver case apart and fill the case with dielectric grease until it oozes out when you reassemble the case. Then plug the connectors into it and make sure all the little openings where the wires go into the connector are completely encapsulated in the grease so that everything is a sealed unit. With this method you should not have to revisit the receiver very often as long as you haven't had to change a servo or, for us old-fashioned radio types, a crystal.
The whole approach is to coat and cover everything to prevent the salt (or any other water) from getting at the connections in the first place so being as thorough as you can is worth the effort.
Then go around with the same stuff and spray all you're turning blocks or at least oil them with a fresh coat of oil or light grease. Spray or coat all of you carbon fibre bits and pieces as well because they are susceptible to corrosion from salt as well. Don't forget things like boom pivots as well.
Anything that is not naturally corrosion resistant should be coated as well. I see quite a few boats with steel clevis ends for adjusting shroud tension and those are pretty prone to rusting even in regular water.
And then at the end of the day comes the rest of the effort. At least get the hatches open as soon as the day is done and let the hull air out, Forcing air through the hull is a good idea. I have a 3" or so squirrel cage fan that I hook up when I get home and just let it blow air through the hull for a few hours.
A hair dryer can be used for this as well but you want one that will just blow air as the heat from even the low setting on most of them could overheat stuff on your boat (like the hull, the epoxy holding things to your hull) and cause more trouble than it solves. If you find a cheap one with the right size nozzle to fit in one of your deck openings, you could take it apart and disconnect the heating element. They move lots of air so they would air the boat out quite effectively.
But here is the chance to really get to know your boat and give it that maintenance check you have always wanted to do. Strip everything out of the hull and clean everything. Thoroughly wash down the hull, fins, rigs . . . . everything. I use some kind of spray cleaner to cut through the salt film and give the whole thing a good wipe down and then just flood it with fresh water inside and out (you took out the electronics, right!!!). I also spray down the rigs with the same cleaner and wipe them as well as I can and then flood them with fresh water as well. If you have rinsed it all well then you can let it air dry before re-assembling.
While you are looking at everything, look at every connector in the boat. If any of the contacts are showing any form of color change then you are at the beginning of corrosion and should disassemble the connectors and get them cleaned. Sometime just brushing them cleans them. Sometimes a squirt of corrosion preventer will clean them up. Sometimes you need to use the old baking soda trick to break the corrosion loose. If the positive pin is already blue then you better do all of this stuff soon or you will be sitting on the shore watching everyone else race while your boat sits there twitching.
Obviously rinsing the electronics with fresh water might not be too good of an idea but get out your corrosion spray and give all that stuff a fresh spray and it will drive out any water that might have found its way in. A little spray of this same stuff on all the moving parts or raw steel parts and you are about done. Once it is all done put it all back together and you will have overcome the dreaded saltwater problems and had a real good look at your entire boat and maybe even found some things to fix that you hadn't noticed.
This sounds like a lot of work when it is written out but it is really less than an hour of effort and your boat is ready to sail again. At multi day events this routine in not an unusual thing to do at the end of every day.
This is not meant to be a definitive description as I'm sure there are other routines that some of our more experienced skippers use but doing at least this work will help you keep your boat sailing not only for a single event but for the entire season.