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How can I keep corrosion at bay?

2019 April 1

Dear Boat Doctor,

I have owned my Tartan 37 for more than 25 years, first on freshwater and now in the Chesapeake and the Bahamas. I love saltwater, but it is eating my boat. What can I do to keep the salt from taking its toll?          

Bradley Smith

Annapolis, Maryland

Dear Bradley,

The ocean is beautiful, but corrosion never sleeps, and the results can be shocking after life on freshwater. Limit the damage first by keeping as much salt off the boat as possible. A freshwater rinse, when possible, will help.

Stainless steel can build up an iron surface coating, and iron combined with saltwater makes iron oxide, otherwise known as rust.

A mild citric acid cleaner will eat the iron and rust right off, with near zero work. My favorite is Spotless Stainless (www.spotlessstainless.com). This cleaner is a light gel with a mild citric acid base. Brush the cleaner on, let it sit for 30 minutes and hose it off. The rust will disappear. You are left with passivated stainless, a relatively iron-free chromium finish. The chromium will turn to chromium oxide, and this is what makes stainless steel stainless.

Can I swap out halogen for bicolor LEDs?

Dear Boat Doctor,

I am looking to replace recessed halogen lighting in my boat’s saloon with LED, and I’d love to have the option of red lights too. My existing lights are all wired together and over just two wires, so I don’t know how to do the second color.

Samantha Brown

San Francisco, California

Dear Samantha,

There are many options for single color lights as many manufacturers are now offering these. The biggest constraint is that you need a light that fits the existing holes.

Bicolor lights are a little trickier to find and retrofit as most take three wires to switch between colors. There are a few lights with a built-in switch to choose the color, like the Tide fixture from Imtra lighting. You would use the main switch in the boat to power them and then control the color with the switch on each fixture.

Lumitec (www.lumiteclighting.com) makes an even slicker option, most of its lights are dimming white plus a color, all controlled over just two wires. Its Timed Toggle Protocol technology, in which toggles off the power switch change the brightness and color. A toggle on, off and on again will change between white and the color. When showing a white light, the light will ramp up, a brief toggle during the ramp will stop the ramp and hold the brightness. This switching scheme takes a little getting used to, but it will give great control over the lights.