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Caring for a schooner takes way more than ever meets the eye. Schooners are built from wood (oak primarily in the case of Mary Day) and steel (or iron). Mary Day has an 80′ long cast iron ballast keel bolted to the bottom of the wood keel with very large galvanized bolts. In the salt water environment these steel and iron bits get “eaten” up by what amounts to minute electrical currents created in a number of different ways. Preventing that “galvanic action” requires sacrificing “softer” kinds of metal to protect the keel and the keel fastenings. Zinc is a tried and true kind of metal that unselfishly sacrifices itself. Every year we bolt zincs onto the ballast keel and every year we have to renew them as they slowly get eaten away. Zincs aren’t cheap but then again neither are keel bolts.

I spent yesterday creating a mold and melting down leftover zincs to pour some new ones by recycling leftover bits of zinc. This project was inspired by Captain Doug Lee who started doing this years ago with his forge at the North End Shipyard. I created the mold using 3″ channel stock. The ring burner worked quite well but I have improved on that by making a “smelter” using an old propane tank lined with concrete. You can see I use a cast iron teak kettle that makes pouring the molten zinc quite easy and accurate. In the second image you can see the mold and the finished product. The straps come from used zincs. The holes drilled in the straps fit bolt holes tapped into the cast iron ballast keel on the schooner. In the third image you can see the shiny molten zinc along with two old zincs that were formally bolted to the keel. Watch this video showing a little bit of the process.

We must have 50+ of those used zincs that I have been holding onto for years knowing such an occasion would arrive. New zincs retail for $29/piece. We use 7 each season. That is $210….well more than the $14 cost of the propane used to melt the old zincs. These are the kinds of projects that keep me awake between midnight and 4 AM.

Have a great day. And as always….be well. Do good!

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