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Win The Corrosion Battle With These Salt Water Treatment Solutions

Salt Water Treatment for Your Shells
By Casey Baker

Do you row in salt water on a regular basis? Having lived and rowed in Florida for many years, I can appreciate how every minute spent in salt water preventative maintenance is worth its weight in gold. 

Most everyone knows and fears their boats being in salt water.  It is even a question that is asked when a boat is sold to another program.  How does one keep your program’s boats in the best working condition year in and year out when they are in salt water every day?  Water is a catalyst for corrosion.  Add salt water from splashing and it becomes a much more potent catalyst.  Here in Florida, add in the daily heat and humidity and the conditions are very ripe for corrosion!

The fallacy we tend to fall into is that since the hardware in racing shells is typically comprised of stainless steel and aluminum with a few having other ‘exotic’ metals involved, that one doesn’t have to do anything.  After all, it isn’t regular steel, it is stainless.  And as for aluminum, it doesn’t rust! Everything else is carbon, Kevlar, wood, fiberglass and plastic. So what does one have to maintain?  

We hear it all the time: "Well, we wash our boats every day! Isn’t that good enough?!"  

Sure. Most programs when they get off the water, wash their boats down.   But what do they really wash?  They wash the hull (paint or gelcoat over carbon or Kevlar) and maybe spritz the riggers.  Good enough, right?  Hardly!  Do your rowers wash or clean their tracks?  Can you get the hose into blast the wheels on every seat?  No, we tend to overlook all that in the interest of time.  Classes to go to, parents waiting, life occurs.

So, beyond simple rinsing after a salt water row, what is the secret to winning the battle against corrosion in vessels that see salt water on a regular basis?

1. Saltwater Prep

  • Prepare your shell for saltwater BEFORE it ever hits the water. The goal of saltwater prepping a boat before it ever hits the water for the first time is to allow the coach or boatman to be able to move, loosen, change and undo parts later on.  Otherwise, if the part is forgotten for a year, it usually is frozen in place due to salt corrosion. Cutting frozen parts off a boat can damage your hull or be in such a place (track bolts, shoe bolts, etc) that it is nearly impossible to get to it. I won’t go into why things corrode or which ones corrode faster than others, but there are ways to mitigate or at least slow down the damaging effects of corrosion. 
  • Get the right Anti-Corrosion products for your boat maintenance arsenal. There are many anti-corrosion products on the market that you can buy in any marine supply store.  The trouble is which one should you get?  Some are much like grease and can create a big mess on you and your boat.  Some are too thin and do little to help stave off corrosion.  Some are thick, some are sprays, some are very expensive and some are just very short term solutions. One needs to get a material that is workable around the boat, does a good job of dealing with corrosion and lasts long enough for when you go back to the part later in the year or even next year, that it will come apart. Two materials I keep in my kit for treating boats are: 

      Lanacote -

  • The Lanacote comes in a tub and I apply it to any and all threaded parts of the boat.  If you have Nylock nuts in some areas, it is less critical to lubricate those.  Think about these:  rigger bolts, track bolts, footstretcher bolts, shoe bolts (screws), wheel bolts, speaker mounting studs, and on.  Another benefit of lubricating your threaded components, especially your rigger bolts and pin threads, is prevention of galling.  Galling occurs most often on rigger bolts that are tightened and over tightened when there is no lubrication on the threads.  Under a microscope, it would look like fish scales on the threads due to the friction and can cause nuts and bolts to seize, making it impossible to tighten or loosen.  Lubricating the threads, whether salt water or under any conditions, can prevent galling and the resulting nut/bolt failure.  This also goes for the oarlock pins on both the top and bottom nuts as well as your backstay threaded components.

      CRC 6-56 -

  • The CRC 6-56 comes in either a spray or liquid.  Why CRC 6-56?  Because this was one of the highest rated materials that could be used on wheel bearings.  When investigating materials for this purpose, there were 15-20 materials tested for various conditions and salt water conditions was one of the criteria.  CRC 6-56 ranked 3rd overall for these purposes, ranking much higher than the popular BoeShield (expensive) and WD-40.  The only materials tested higher than CRC 6-56 were inappropriate for lubricating wheel bearings.

You may have your favorites and there are always new materials out there claiming to be the best, but I have personally found these to work the best. Remember when working around your shell, it's important to keep your boat, and yourself, as clean as possible. 

2. Saltwater Maintenance

Once I prep a shell for salt water I am comfortable for the time-being. Later on, anytime I take a rigger apart or a part of the boat, I always check whether I need to re-apply again.  These materials don’t last forever, so a watchful eye when working on your boats goes a long way to avoid the race day frustrations of a frozen or broken part that you cannot get undone. For those times when the saltwater threatens to win the corrosion battle, I have two other products I keep in the arsenal:

     PB Blaster - 

  • I keep PB Blaster with me for loosening up frozen parts. You can find it in any marine or auto parts store. 

     Salt X - 

  • For soaking and loosening salt-encrusted parts, I recommend Salt X. I've only been able to find it online, but it does a good job of dissolving packed-in salt if you can soak the parts. 

Take care of your boats and they will serve you for a long time, cost you less in replacement parts, and make you and your crew happier on race days when things still move when you want them to!

Want more info? Connect with us in the RESOLUTE ZONE where you'll find resources galore, plus a way for you to ask us all your burning questions.

Casey is RESOLUTE Racing’s fulltime Southeastern representative.  Casey’s rowing career began at Florida Institute of Technology where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Ocean Engineering. Besides rowing for Florida Tech, where he was the Director of Rowing from 1990 - 2006, Casey sculled at Vesper Boat Club and New York AC through 1984 where he earned berths on the 1977 US National Team in the 4x at the World Championships in Amsterdam and the US the Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela in 1983. In addition, Casey co-owned an automotive aftermarket franchise for 20 years, has served as Director of the Southern Sprints Indoor Rowing Championship since 1983, continues as VP of the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) since 1985 and was a member of the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championship Committee for 5 years. Among his many accolades are the Florida Tech Hall of Fame, Sunshine State Conference Coaches Hall of Fame, Dad Vail Coach of the Year and Olympic Torchbearer for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics. When Casey is not out on the water rowing or traveling to regattas he can be found surfing Florida’s east coast usually with his kids. Casey resides in Palm Bay, Florida. You can contact him by cell: 321.543.8707 or E-mail: