What Does Electrochemical Deterioration In a Wooden Boat Look Like

20181103_142047
What Does Electrochemical Deterioration In a Wooden Boat Look Like
 
Todays story is in two parts – firstly the photos above were sent in by a concerned woody that viewed this boat, with purchase in mind. I share to highlight what electrochemical deterioration in a wooden boat looks like. This decay is the result of ignorance.  The builders of this launch would have used the best kauri and proper Aluminium bronze for the stern gear. Marin bronze does not require an anode but you can see where one has been mounted (rusty mounting) You can see the copper strap used to connect all the metals to the anode. A perfect example of what you should not do on a wooden boat. After about two years you will see discolouration of the wood around the so called protected metal , in ten years the wood will be soft and in twenty years uneconomical to repair. So woodys – read below an abridged version of Chris’s WW article. I do encourage you to take the time to review the long version as it appears on WW – link below    https://waitematawoodys.com/2016/04/28/electro-chemical-damage-in-wooden-boats/
 
 
Firstly I should point out that Chris repeatedly points out he is not a consultant and does not have a degree in Chemistry. But his views are the result almost 60 years of working in boatyards. 
 
“If you connect a positive and negative metal in salt water you will make a battery and create an anode and a cathode. The negative (protected) metal is the Cathode.  The positive anode gives off Chlorine gas and the Cathode Hydrogen gas. 
That is why battery compartments have to be ventilated. Back to the Cathode. The Hydrogen from the protected Cathode mixes with the salt water and the by product is Sodium Hydroxide or Caustic Soda. Caustic Soda is used as paint remover and to pulp wood in the paper industry. Want that on your boat?
While a lot of boats may have no bonding, they do have anodes on the shaft. The shaft is in affect the bonding wire between the (+) Anode and (via the white metal bearing) the (-)bronze stuffing gland.  Zinc is at the bottom of the galvanic scale and bronze and copper could not be more dissimilar.  So there is your battery, the salt water is the electrolyte.
The Sodium Hydroxide is washed off the outside of the hull so you don’t see it but the chemical is trapped under huge pressure round the stuffing gland and slowly forces it’s way out. That is the white powder you see. Unfortunately, even if you remove the Anode the chemical will remain in the shaft log and soften the wood. 
A proper fix is to remove the gland and soak the wood in vinegar.
Cathodic protection is necessary on a steel hull but should never be used on a wooden boat. Marine surveyors round the world are now awake to this after seeing some ruined wooden boats.  Wooden Boat Magazine, Professional Boatbuilder Magazine and Classic Boat Magazine have all written on this subject. Some of the articles are thirty years ago, but few people in New Zealand seem to read this technical stuff and they fork out $ for anodes every year i.e. Loving their boat to death. Refer below re these articles”
 
For the people who doubt what I say about anodes and bonding. Please check out this article in the “ Professional Boat Builder” Magazine.  # 64 page 38 – 51 Here is the direct link https://pbbackissues.advanced-pub.com/?issueID=65&pageID=44  For any one with a wooden boat it is essential reading.
 
 
On a wooden boat it is extremely difficult to recommended bonding of any sort, due to the extreme problems created for any wooden structures in proximity to the noble fittings. Consider the following: In the galvanic couple created by bonding, the protected fittings are the cathodes and the remotely placed sacrificial zincs are the anodes. The water-soaked wood below the waterline is electrically conductive. In the area around each of the noble metal fittings (the cathodes) highly alkaline sodium hydroxide is formed, and the wood is destroyed. A white fluff is formed that looks like small ice crystals or snow, and is very caustic. The lignin is stripped out of the cellular matrix of the wood leaving only soft spongy cellulose behind. Sodium hydroxide, where found, can on the surface be neutralized with vinegar, but the problem is not cured. On a wooden boat, the system put aboard to protect the underwater metals eats the boat instead! 
 
Cathodically Protected Metal The formation of alkaline conditions at the cathode and the resulting wood degradation describe the phenomenon that occurs in wooden vessels around embedded metal that is being protected cathodically against sea water corrosion. It is common to protect the immersed metal on ships from corroding by cathodic protection. This is accomplished by attaching zinc or magnesium anodes to the vessel, and connecting these either directly or by a conducting wire to the immersed metal. The anode is a sacrificial metal, and it corrodes preferentially to the immersed metal. For a wooden vessel, the metal to be protected is purposely made the cathode. However, it is often overlooked that the alkaline reaction product at the cathode, in time, can result in loss of strength of the adjacent wood. The end result is that, although the metal does not corrode, the wood surrounding the fastener may fail. The vessel can literally “stew in its own juices.” It probably requires more than 10 years to produce conditions that can cause some loss in strength to the wood, and severe strength loss has been noted in wood vessels after 20 years’ service. Figure 2 shows some planking removed from a 20-year-old vessel. The wet hull planking was fastened to internal silicon bronze structural straps that were protected cathodically. Salts with a pH of 11 were found in the wood in contact with the bronze where the wood deteriorated. 
 
 
“You may be wondering why I say not to bond and others say to bond. Why should you believe me? It turns out my boat is very old. The things I am saying have been tested in real conditions on my boat for 50 years. For example, last year I replaced two bronze through hull fittings just because they were over 50 years old and happened to be the last two old fittings, the others having been replaced or removed for other reasons. As I said, bronze has a shelf life in salt water of about 100 years so I was giving myself a 2:1 safety factor. These through hulls had never been bonded in over 50 years. They have been in salt water the entire time and near the shaft and other metals I might add. We cut them in half in the process of getting them out. They were pristine. I could have left them in there another 50 years.”

Electro-Chemical Damage In Wooden Boats Update – Revisited

rudder electrochemical damage

 


ELECTRO-CHEMICAL DAMAGE IN WOODEN BOATS UPDATE
A Special Post By Chris McMullen

Recently I received a note from Chris where he questioned if the story we posted last year on ww about electro-chemical damage to wood  was a little too long & were people reading it. Well I can tell you that the post is the single most visited story on ww, ever, & gets read by people all over the world. Its frequently referred to on the hugely popular WoodenBoat Forum in the USA. The link below takes you to the original story.

https://waitematawoodys.com/2015/05/15/electrochemical-damage-to-wood-the-marine-version-of-leaky-homes/

For the impatient ones out there 🙂 Chris has done a ‘Readers Digest’ version & refers to a vessel that recently featured on ww.
I encourage all of you to read today’s story & if you own a classic wooden boat – read both versions – the problem is the biggest risk to the life of our classic boats.

In Chris’s words:
“I received the above disturbing images of another woody being destroyed by an owner who I believe is unintentionally loving his boat to death.

The use of anodes and bonding on a wooden boat is fatal. The cathode or protected metal makes hydrogen gas and this combined with saltwater makes Sodium Hydroxide (Caustic Soda). This chemical is used to pulp wood in the paper making industry. Not on my boat thank you! I say again, there is no reason to use anodes and bonding on any boat. The only exception, steel hulls require anodes. If copper or bronze are being corroded it is due to a positive DC leak and Zinc anodes will not help. Find the electrical leak is the cure. If there is brass or manganese bronze underwater it will corrode due to the
zinc in the alloy. Anodes will possibly stop the corrosion but at the expense of wood damage. A better plan is to replace the brass with proper marine bronze.

Bronze and copper should last indefinitely in the sea. To prove that statement, I ask you to look at the Roman coins and artifacts salvaged from ships wrecked in the fourteenth century. There was no anodic protection and the metal is well preserved. So what is the difference to the copper and bronze on your boat? There is absolutely no difference so why waste your money buying anodes that will in time destroy
your wooden boat.

Three or four bottles of wine will cost the same as anodes and will make you and your boat happier.”

Note: ww is read all around the world, if there is water & boats, there are people reading ww. So a little about the man for non kiwi’s  – Chris is one of NZ’s most respected boat builders (retired) and at one time was the Lloyds (Honorary) Wood Boat Surveyor in Auckland. Chris’s (the original company) ‘McMullen & Wing’ built and repaired wood, steel and marine aluminium vessels. They built the first welded aluminum vessels in NZ. Chris is the current holder of the Classic Yacht Association of New Zealand ‘Outstanding Achievement Trophy’ for services to classic boating.

14-05-2016 Photo Update
Gavin Gault sent in the below photos of a Nova skeg floor that he believes were probably damaged due to engine – anode bonding failure. Pretty graphic !!

 

10-07-2016 Reply from Chris McMullen

“Wow. Thank you Gavin Gault for sharing your very graphic images. Very sad, small consolation but yours will not be the only wooden boat affected by this scourge.
Maybe, at last some of the Flat Earth Society will start to believe what I have been saying. The worst detractors are some in the Marine Industry who have been preaching the Anode, Bonding party line for years.  Now there is no where to run for cover,  they continue to conjure up excuses and it seems, refuse to accept a simple scientific fact.
“If you have a positive and negative electrode in salt water, the negative cathode or protected metal makes hydrogen gas and this combined with salt water makes Sodium hydroxide.”
This chemical is also known as caustic soda and removes paint and destroys wood.  There is no doubt about this fact. You do require a power source and bonded dissimilar metals ( zinc and copper) provide sufficient current to do the damage, but slowly.
If there is a negative DC leak (to the sea)on a bonded boat the process is accelerated. If there is a positive leak any metal becomes an anode and will waste away. It is important to isolate the DC power from contact with the sea. Again bonding is just asking for trouble. Please remove Anodes and Bonding from your wooden boat now!
Chris McMullen”

06-09-2106 In case you were not to sure what to look out for – the below photo should be a wake-up call to a few woodys 😉

IMG_1120

 

Building the Mullet boat ‘Tamatea’ by Chris McMullen

Tamatea 17

1961 – the build begins @ 67 Waiatarua Road, Remuera

Tamatea 22

Tamatea 1

Tamatea 29

 

Building the 22’ Mullet boat ‘Tamatea’ – Sailing Sunday

photos & story by Chris McMullen. edited by Alan H

After Chris McMullen saw last weeks ww story on ‘Tamariki’ he contacted me re sharing his ‘Tamatea’ photos that had been languishing in an album kept for him by his dear mother, Vera McMullen. I couldn’t let Chris escape with just sending the photos to me, so I asked him (nicely) to write us a story. Now that’s something he is always a tad hesitant to do, why I don’t know he tells a good yarn. But being the great guy he is, he put pen to paper, in doing so Chris commented that he hoped that bringing these photos into the daylight may encourage others to share their boating or boat building history on waitamatawoodys.

Below is Chris’s story on the building, launch & sailing of the 22′ mullet boat Tamatea. Remember you can enlarge photos by clicking on them 😉

“In the early 1960’s I was apprenticed to boat builder, Morrie Palmer who was also an enthusiastic Mullet boat sailor. Sailing, cruising and Mullet boats were the conversation most lunch breaks.
Morrie had in mind to build a 22ft Mullet boat but family and business commitments at the time, delayed his plans. He had a new steel centre board plate, a profile plan and the offsets of a design for a hull that was supposed to be the Charlie Colling’s design ‘Tamariki’. I am not sure how he got these offsets but the original lines plan were in safe keeping at the R.N.Z.Y.S and not available to anyone at the time.

Morrie encouraged me to build this design and gave me his centre board plate and loaned me the offsets. I managed to scrounge some primitive basic machinery and set out to build the boat. As an 18 year old apprentice boatbuilder I had no money, no car and no girl friend but I was full of enthusiasm and wanted to go sailing. And yes, I had read Johnny Wray’s book. “South Seas Vagabonds” many times.
The Tamatea was built in my parent’s back yard at 67 Waiatarua Rd Remuera. These days such a project would not be possible due to the noise regulation’s but in the early 1960’s people were remarkably tolerant and it was not unusual to see half built boats on people’s quarter acre sections.

 Riveting of Tamatea at night was not really fair on the neighbours. I got one complaint by working too late. I had to enlist my friends to back up the nails with a dolly. If they came late, we worked late. I was desperate to get it done. Another source of irritation was my Fathers Desoutter electric drill. It had no suppressor and affected the people who had TV’s. I was the neighbour from Hell for a while.

Now to the photos.

The photos feature some of my friends who helped. Recognised in the photos are
John Jennings, Des Laery, Ken Wilding, Murray Napier, sorry but I can’t remember all the names but Alan Bell and Neil Gillard would have been there. In the dinghy sculling is ‘Snow’ (Neville Stacey) who was / is a well known helpful character; he loved boats and spent much of his time at the ‘Okahu Bay’ hardstand.
The young man painting the Tamatea in the colour picture is the late John Eastwood. In the same image but in the cockpit is a another young man, John Court, also since deceased. My Model A truck alongside the boat, used as a work bench. The sailing cockpit shot shows Ken Jaspers and with me on the helm. These three guys and John MacDonald built and loaned me gear and helped finish the boat. I guess this was the year after she was launched. I was grateful for their help as I could not afford to run the boat myself at that time.  

You may notice in some of the images, the concrete blocks on the roof of the shed. These allowed me to force rocker (bend) into the keel using a timber prop under the rafters, their weight prevented the roof lifting. Looking at it now, I am lucky the lot never collapsed on top of me.

I never lofted the hull; I just made the temporary frames (moulds) direct from the offsets and cut the plank rabbet’s (rebate) by eye using battens.
The hull was planked with kauri over temporary frames or moulds. The planks were tapered towards the ends like a wooden barrel. The garboard plank was steamed but most was bent cold and edge set. I broke some planks! They should have all been steamed but with my primitive steam box it would have taken too long and I was in a hurry and wanted to go sailing.  
The short planks left out in some of the photos are called stealers and have to be spiled. I remember the frustration of not having a thin plank to use for a spiling batten. I could have borrowed one from my boss but with no car or trailer, how could I get it from Devonport to Remuera on a motorbike?
The ribs were Tanekaha, all steamed and held with riveted copper nails. The centreboard case was demolition kauri held to the keel with galvanised bolts.

Some of the images show the most distinctive feature of a proper Mullet boat – the hollow sections aft and the deep built down deadwood. The boats are a built to certain design and scantling rules.

Tamatea was transported to the water using a trailer kindly loaned by Sandy Sands of Sea Craft and towed by a neighbour Mr Picket with his (at the time) huge truck. A dangerous load? Well maybe, but we got there!

Tamatea was the last planked 22 foot Mullet boat.

My boss, Morrie Palmer forced change to the class rules by building “Controversy” using 3 diagonal layers of ¼” kauri over stringers instead of carvel planking caulked over ribs. Now Mullet boats can now be built in G.R.P.

I was about 18 when I built Tamatea, she was rather amateur built as I was a second year apprentice and although, I thought I knew it all, I was very green. She was built under difficult conditions almost in the open and exposed to the weather, I had very primitive tools and no transport or money to purchase anything other than what went into the boat. Later, I replaced a damaged plank in the “Contessa” built by Cal Crooks and sailed on the”Patiri”built by Bob Harkin. Both these Mullet boats were beautifully built by apprentice boat builders but to be fair, they were older and more experienced than me.

I built the Tamatea for cruising and she was a raised deck Mullet boat. She was very spartan when launched. Second hand sails and a poor rig. We cruised north to Whangaroa the first season but some time later lost the first mast. Insurance paid Baileys to build a new box section oregon mast and my new crew of engineers made all new mast fitting and a set of backstay levers. Their efforts made a huge improvement to the yacht.
Leo Bouzaid (‘Sails & Covers’) built a new dacron mainsail and gave me a year to pay. That was in April 1962 I still have the original invoice for 126 Pounds!

I/we sailed in the Lipton Cup but with poor results. Since then the raised deck has been cut down to a conventional sheer and she has a modern rig. Sailed by others she has won the Lipton Cup a number of times.

Further – looking back to the early 1960’s to give my story some context :-
• I crossed the harbour every day usually on a steam ferry.
• There was six o’clock closing at all bars.
• There were few restaurants where you could buy a drink with your meal.
• A quart bottle of beer cost 2 shilling and sixpence or 3 shillings and sixpence at the   Mansion House, Kawau Island in ‘The Snake Pit’ sly grog bar.
• Many cruising boats carried a rifle on board.
• There were no imports except for essential industries or you could apply for special licence but it would be most likely declined. You could only buy a new car if you had overseas funds.
• A few importers had import licence and charged accordingly.
• There was death duties and high tax.
• There was black and white poor quality TV and manual calculators.
• There were No mobile phones.
• No double insulated power tools.
• No  epoxy  Glue.
• No GRP boats and very few synthetic sails
• No moorings in Matiatia.
• No marinas or travelift’s
• Most pleasure boats were hauled out for the winter.
• There were NO IMPORTED BOATS and you could buy kauri so wooden boat building was a competitive but viable business.”

 

Electro-Chemical Damage In Wooden Boats Update

rudder electrochemical damage


ELECTRO-CHEMICAL DAMAGE IN WOODEN BOATS UPDATE
A Special Post By Chris McMullen

Recently I received a note from Chris where he questioned if the story we posted last year on ww about electro-chemical damage to wood  was a little too long & were people reading it. Well I can tell you that the post is the single most visited story on ww, ever, & gets read by people all over the world. Its frequently referred to on the hugely popular WoodenBoat Forum in the USA. The link below takes you to the original story.

https://waitematawoodys.com/2015/05/15/electrochemical-damage-to-wood-the-marine-version-of-leaky-homes/

For the impatient ones out there 🙂 Chris has done a ‘Readers Digest’ version & refers to a vessel that recently featured on ww.
I encourage all of you to read today’s story & if you own a classic wooden boat – read both versions – the problem is the biggest risk to the life of our classic boats.

In Chris’s words:
“I received the above disturbing images of another woody being destroyed by an owner who I believe is unintentionally loving his boat to death.

The use of anodes and bonding on a wooden boat is fatal. The cathode or protected metal makes hydrogen gas and this combined with saltwater makes Sodium Hydroxide (Caustic Soda). This chemical is used to pulp wood in the paper making industry. Not on my boat thank you! I say again, there is no reason to use anodes and bonding on any boat. The only exception, steel hulls require anodes. If copper or bronze are being corroded it is due to a positive DC leak and Zinc anodes will not help. Find the electrical leak is the cure. If there is brass or manganese bronze underwater it will corrode due to the
zinc in the alloy. Anodes will possibly stop the corrosion but at the expense of wood damage. A better plan is to replace the brass with proper marine bronze.

Bronze and copper should last indefinitely in the sea. To prove that statement, I ask you to look at the Roman coins and artifacts salvaged from ships wrecked in the fourteenth century. There was no anodic protection and the metal is well preserved. So what is the difference to the copper and bronze on your boat? There is absolutely no difference so why waste your money buying anodes that will in time destroy
your wooden boat.

Three or four bottles of wine will cost the same as anodes and will make you and your boat happier.”

Note: ww is read all around the world, if there is water & boats, there are people reading ww. So a little about the man for non kiwi’s  – Chris is one of NZ’s most respected boat builders (retired) and at one time was the Lloyds (Honorary) Wood Boat Surveyor in Auckland. Chris’s (the original company) ‘McMullen & Wing’ built and repaired wood, steel and marine aluminium vessels. They built the first welded aluminum vessels in NZ. Chris is the current holder of the Classic Yacht Association of New Zealand ‘Outstanding Achievement Trophy’ for services to classic boating.

14-05-2016 Photo Update
Gavin Gault sent in the below photos of a Nova skeg floor that he believes were probably damaged due to engine – anode bonding failure. Pretty graphic !!

10-07-2016 Reply from Chris McMullen

“Wow. Thank you Gavin Gault for sharing your very graphic images. Very sad, small consolation but yours will not be the only wooden boat affected by this scourge.
Maybe, at last some of the Flat Earth Society will start to believe what I have been saying. The worst detractors are some in the Marine Industry who have been preaching the Anode, Bonding party line for years.  Now there is no where to run for cover,  they continue to conjure up excuses and it seems, refuse to accept a simple scientific fact.
“If you have a positive and negative electrode in salt water, the negative cathode or protected metal makes hydrogen gas and this combined with salt water makes Sodium hydroxide.”
This chemical is also known as caustic soda and removes paint and destroys wood.  There is no doubt about this fact. You do require a power source and bonded dissimilar metals ( zinc and copper) provide sufficient current to do the damage, but slowly.
If there is a negative DC leak (to the sea)on a bonded boat the process is accelerated. If there is a positive leak any metal becomes an anode and will waste away. It is important to isolate the DC power from contact with the sea. Again bonding is just asking for trouble. Please remove Anodes and Bonding from your wooden boat now!
Chris McMullen”

06-09-2106 In case you were not to sure what to look out for – the below photo should be a wake-up call to a few woodys 😉

IMG_1120

 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT – CYA Outstanding Achievement Trophy

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT – CYA Outstanding Achievement Trophy

Last night (Dec 5th 2015) at the 2015 CYA Patio Bay weekend BBQ / Xmas party CYA member Chris McMullen was presented with the CYA Outstanding Achievement Trophy for services to classic boating. The trophy has only been presented once before (Haydon Afford).

Now Chris is a regular on ww & has sent most of his life in & around wooden boats. As a founding partner in McMullen & Wing boatbuilders there would not be a medium that Chris has not applied his skills to – wood, steel, alloy & the f word (fiberglass), the great thing is that thru-out his career he has remained true to his passion for wood. Even today Chris  is at the forefront of trying to raise awareness & educate classic wooden boat owners on the issue of electrochemical damage to wood.

There is no other living, New Zealand wooden boat enthusiast more deserving of this award & I was proud to stand alongside Chis when he received the award.

photos ex Fiona Driver 

Venture

VENTURE
photos ex AH, Chris Miller & Rod Marler

On the weekend CYA cruise to the Riverhead Hotel we were joined by (to me) a new classic on the CYA scene, Venture. Keen to learn more about her & what lies underneath the ‘addition’.

Neil Lineham has advised Venture was built in 1961 by Morrie Palmer and apprentice Chris McMullen for Stuart and Peter Opperman. The boat built after her (1963) was Neil’s fathers boat Oranoa, built in the old police station at Clarance St Devonport. Oranoa is still owned by the Lineham family.

04-11-2015 Input from owner Jeff Norris (edited by Alan H)

Venture was built by M. G. Palmer at Devonport launched in 1964 the first owner was a Mr Hudsmith he owned her for 30 years . The design for the 36′ Venture was ‘influenced by’ Colin Wilde. She is powered  by 86hp 6cyl Ford Trader she used to have a 30hp Perkins wing motor it was removed by the owner before Jeff. Jeff has owned venture for 15years and is in the process off doing a tidy up and a repaint off the top sides . They are going to glass the hull next year and maybe a re-power as the trader is getting very old but still runs perfectly, Morrie told Jeff , there is a sister to Venture but it is a bridgedecker , Morrie built Venture for himself but had to sell her before she was finished . Venture was a very good game boat in her day but now she is just a cruiser.

02-05-2016 Photos of Venture at the CYA Raft-up at Salthouse Boat yard (Alan H/Ken R)

VENTURE 30.4.16

And just in, a trip report from CYA chairman Rod Marler, currently in New York. Rod did a circumnavigation of Manhattan on this fine ship yesterday. I would say she is a replica but her heart is in the right place 😉

 

A Visit to Chris McMullen’s Boat Shed

One of Chris’s experiments

And of a few photos of one of the prettiest boats on the Waitemata – Wirihana, the 1933 Colin Wild launch.

A Visit to Chris McMullen’s Boat Shed

Yesterday was a biggie on the wooden boating front – Barbara Cooke & myself organized for the Classic Yacht Association a visit to Chris McMullen’s workshop & boat shed. I have posted photos of the shed & its contents on ww before & ww has published several of Chris’s posts on the topic of electrochemical damage to wooden boats – but it was special for the members to meet the man himself & hear him speak on his past, his current passions / projects & future plans. The reproduction 1898 Herreshoff steam launch project just has to be one of the best kiwi ‘can-do’ tales around. The day she hits the water will be a very special occasion, I just hope I’m around to see it 😉

Today two things stood out for me:
1. The turn-out of two wooden boating icons – John Salthouse & Max Carter
2. The healthy number of sub 35 year old guys with a new found passion for classic wooden boats in attendance

If your a CYA member & you didn’t make the effort to come to the event – more fool you – as one of your most respected members said to me “today was a privilege, Chris is a one of a kind, his practical knowledge on boat building and engineering is unique”.

In my time as CYA launch captain one of my personal goals was to help deliver up events & access to people & ‘cool stuff’ that people would not normally have access to without being CYA members – from the comments & the smiles as people where departing today, Barb & I got it right today 🙂

To read / view more on Chris, his boats & the topic of electrochemical damage to wooden boats just enter – Chis McMullen – in the ww search box 😉