Anybody who has ever worked on an aluminum mast knows how hard it can be to disassemble fittings that have been in place for more than ten minutes. No—make that five minutes if they are made of dissimilar metals.
Now build yourself an entire boat in aluminum and imagine the scale of the problem. And it’s certainly true that aluminum has its own set of challenges, just like any other material, mostly to do with avoiding corrosion and achieving a good seal to pipes and tanks.
I got an insight into this early on in my sailing career, when I bought a yacht that had an Aries windvane fitted. Everybody told me just how wonderful it was, and I was really looking forward to using it on the first long passage home. The reality was somewhat less impressive than I’d been lead to believe, though, largely due to all of the bearing surfaces getting ‘sticky’ from salt build up and corrosion—it basically didn’t work.
So I took it off and set about rebuilding it. And then the fun started, as it was an early model that had several different metals employed in the construction, including such wonders as stainless helicoil inserts into aluminum castings, and it was seized absolutely solid. And I’m well aware that many people who look at aluminum boats think that it’s always like that, and it puts them off.
So when I came to rebuild the Aries—yes, I finally did get it apart, though I nearly quit on several occasions—I swore blind that there had to be a better way and I was going to find it!
Happily I’ve been greatly rewarded in searching for that Holy Grail, and now know that there are many simple ways to make life easier, and we now carry all the materials and products that we need to do so. Much of it is applicable to boats built in other materials, too.
Here, then, are some of the materials we carry and techniques to use them that:
- make maintenance easier,
- the boat more reliable,
- are a boon for emergency use and repair on the move;
the result of much hard won experience!