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Bob from Windborne in Puget Sound recently asked me “now that you’re in salt water, how do you like it?” At the time I didn’t really have a response but now I do. I don’t like it, or at least, I know ZTC doesn’t like it.

While re-rigging our boat after the great hurricane tear-down, I decided to take advantage of the free water at our friends’ dock and give our baby a bath. What I saw during that close inspection almost made me cry. All over the boat, on pieces of metal that are supposedly stain-less, were the beginnings of rust. RUST! We’ve only been in salt water for a couple of weeks! This just won’t do.

Short of giving our boat a fresh-water rinse every day, what can we do about this? Inquiring minds want (need!) to know.


  1. 1. Do you have the right zincs installed for salt water? They are different then those for fresh/brackish water. I know having galvanic corrosion is different then rust, but your article made me think of this.
    2. Stainless doesn’t mean rust free, as you now see. I use Prism polish and Mirage sealant to remove streaks and keep it at bay on our stainless. It will look brand new after you are done. It works on a lot of other things too. It is great on gel coat, brass, even stainless sinks and shower/sink fittings. The sealant helps resist future rusting.

    Other then that, do a fresh water wash down every day after you travel and make sure you address an rust as soon as possible and keep your paint fresh.

  2. My friend, this isn’t even salt water. This is brackish (part fresh, part salt, and you have been up near the fresher side of the Bay). Funny b/c on our PDQ we were so used to brackish and almost fell over when we saw what REAL ocean salt water can do to a boat (plus add salty wet tropical air to the mix!) Remember, green is not a conductive color in electronics 🙂
    I don’t have any useful advice, just sympathy. Keep rinsing.

  3. Seriously – is that a picture of rust on your boat??? I use Never Dull, buy it at a auto parts store. Works great but I’m sure there are “boat” products out there that cost more and maybe work better.

    Love your pics and your journey!!!! I’m jealous cause we’re back at school today!

  4. I see you have comments turned off on the St Michaels blog but its too funny that you met up with Eric and Bonnie! You may have seen/ heard of them on our blog too! Eric owned the first boat we ever looked at and was extremely helpful to us and we’ve remained friends.

    That Solomons picture make me of the red marker makes me grimace. I looked at that marker for about 3 hours in August when our engine broke outside of Solomons on our big cruise. Haha. And that big creepy metal thing in the water is just that. – CREEPY. We have no idea what it is either but I always feel like they are listening to us when we go past it!

    Solomon’s is gorgeous, you guys are living it up!

    • Seeing as the St. Michael’s post is locked for comments, I will reply here. The structure off of Cove Point is a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal. they do maintain safe distance clearances and I hear that they will make contact if they are violated. Can’t remember what the distance restrictions are but I believe there are bouys.

    • Eric and Bonnie seem very cool. We’re looking forward to hanging out with them later this month.

      I’ll have to go back and read your blog post about your engine breakdown now that I know where it happened.

  5. Think your boat is unhappy about being in salt water? Wait till you get in water warm enough to swim in and see how much your body misses Great Lakes cruising with an evening fresh water swim after a day on the water…. (grin)….Anyway there are some products that you will learn to keep on the boat at all times….

    All three of those products are available from pretty well any chandlery, including (yeah, on the next isle to the pirate flags) West Marine…..(grin)

    John Foster
    Blueberry, Nonsuch 22 sail# 48

  6. Ouch! Mike do you know if that SS is 300 series? 304? 316?

    If you have a grade of SS that isn’t holding up to the salt spray you might want to consider a metal coating. I know the US Government has been using Nyalic for many years. I figure if it is good enough for NASA it would probably work for us underlings. Many other alternatives exist though.

    Either way you’re sort of in a… “wash it daily or coat it” sort of pickle.

  7. That is a beautiful photograph in an abstract sort of way – I surely hope that it isn’t representative of the corrosion you have discovered on ZTC.

    I suggest that you get used to a little corrosion. Exterior brass is hopeless – it requires continuous attention to keep it looking good (we know – we have a brass compass binnacle). Bronze turns greenish, and some stainless rusts. A little. But if you have severe rust anywhere, you’ll need to upgrade the alloy of those fittings.

    My particular bugaboo is the combination of stainless and aluminum (eg, stainless fasteners in the mast). You should do whatever you can to isolate these two metals (for fasteners, use Tef-Gel).


  8. Mmm, corrosion….

    There’s no easy way around this. (100 years of research, 31.1 million Web pages devoted to it, and we still have issues with rust, on every damn thing that goes anywhere near salt water.)

    As I’m sure you’ve discovered, stainless steel is only “stainless” if it’s exposed to the air. If it’s not, the protective chromium oxide layer can’t form. Where’s it not exposed to the air? Right… bolt holes, inside fittings, anywhere that water can get in but you can’t.

    A magnet will reveal the most vulnerable parts. “Real” stainless (300-series) is not magnetic, but “fake” stainless (400-series), which is much more vulnerable to this sort of damage, will attract the magnet ever so slightly. (In some cases- hose clamps, for instance- the visible part might be good 300-series and the hidden internal parts might be crappy 400-series.)

    A bit of weeping rust is ugly but often harmless; the photo above (what piece of equipment is that?) looks a bit more serious. There are all sorts of quick-and-dirty fixes I’ve heard of that may or may not work. The most reliable one seems to be to use only good quality 316L stainless steel, and to install and bed all the hardware so that there are no nooks and crannies where water can sit and anaerobic conditions can form.

    Where, exactly, are you finding evidence of rust? Is it on fasteners, on exposed hardware, or at the bedding between the hardware and the deck?

  9. We had a saying in the U.S. Coast Guard, that applied to preping metal for painting “Dust, makes Rust!”

  10. Hey, you remember my comment about your “new” engine. Statr oiling the tilt mechanism.

    1. Yes, you may have the wrong zincs. good comment. Be more careful than ever to get your engine out of the water when not underway.
    2. Don’t worry. The spots of rust are superficial in most cases and are self-limiting. I wash my boat… when it rains. That has been my practice for 25 years. Rinse daily? With what, when not at a marina? My Stiletto was 30 years in salt water when I sold it, had had perhaps 10 rinses in its life, and I sold it for more than I paid.
    3. You will learn to be more careful when buying fasteners and gadgets. Brass plating and chrome plating are generally a waste. Even inside the cabin, you are better off with brass and stainless.
    4. Buy a can of PB Blaster. For loosening the stuff that is going to stick.

    In my mind the only areas that really bear watching are chainplates and the lower ends of shrouds. Life is too sort to worry over the rest.

    PS. That was the Cove Point LNG terminal. Big ships come in with cryogenic natural gas. Just to the north was the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

  11. I know how to fix that! Head to fresh water. Just kidding:)
    Is that picture of rust from your boat. I sure hope not.

  12. Is that picture from the moon or mars?

  13. Really hope the pic isn’t ZTC! RG has spent 33 years in salt water and never has that level of rust … We think that if you have rust fast, then whatever is rusting isn’t high enough grade stainless and eventually you will need to replace it. In the meantime, clean realy really well with a wire brush, make sure it’s not tightly aerobic (eg with tape), and rinse as much as you can. We are not familiar with the various barrier products recommended above.

    Otherwise – is salt water, waves, bigger winds going down well?!

  14. If that’s rust on your boat, then, gulp.
    Hope it’s just a google search ‘rust’ photo.

  15. OK, I didn’t mean to get everyone all excited… that pic is just something I found on the web. NOTHING on our boat looks anywhere near that! I was talking about little brown specs that I found on the stainless.

    I appreciate everyone’s concern and tips. I am going to compile a lit of these products and scope them out. Thanks again everyone. Please keep the tips coming.

  16. Lesson learned! It’s so neat that some of us really don’t know you, follow your life via your blog and everyone wants to help you! That’s just how life is in America – we still have the spirit, the American way!

    Keep the pics coming!

  17. Hey pete and Suzanne – not all of us are American!! It’s the cruiser way!

  18. Stainless is partly free of stains because of a chemical process the makes the metal passivated. Most products clean the stainless, make it look nice, and get it ready for the next round of rusting. “Wichard Wichinox Stainless Steel Cleaner For Passivation” cleans the stainless about like other cleaners. Once clean, the product chemically reacts with the stainless to form a barrier that is much more resistant to rust.

    It takes 2 or 3 cleanings to really see the difference. My 1993 Gemini was seriously rusty. I sanded the stainless with find paper and cleaned it with Wichinox every 6 months or so. Looks quite good now.

    The stuff is expensive, about $30 for a 3 or 4 year supply in a tube. Very little is required for each use.

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