30 April 2015

Z is for Zinc

During April, we're participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays), we’ll be doing an alphabet themed post starting with “A is for Adventurous” and ending with “Z is for Zinc" - which is today's post! We made it to the end!!

A Snickers bar to anyone who can explain this to me.

“I would have never been a good scientist. My attention span was too short for that.” Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

Octavia Butler is one of my favorite writers. She explored issues of race, class and gender while writing about things like vampires, aliens and time travel. She also was awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, so it just goes to show you that things like vampires, aliens and time travel aren’t such silly things to write (and read) about after all. Knowing that she didn’t have the attention span to be a scientist makes me feel so much better about myself and the fact that I dropped out of physics in high school. I didn’t have the attention span for all of that scientific mumbo-jumbo either. 

So what does all of this have to do with today’s letter – Z? Well, Z stands for zinc anodes, or sacrificial zincs. And to understand why you should care about zinc, vampires, aliens or time travel, sometimes you have to learn a little bit about science. Not to worry – I don’t have a long attention span myself, so let’s keep this short and sweet.

1 – If you own a boat, you need zinc.

You stick zinc anodes in places where you have two different types of metal that are going to be submerged in salt water. Usually, you find zincs between the propeller (which might be bronze or aluminum) and the stainless steel shaft.

2 – Huh?

This is where the science stuff comes in. Or magic. Depends upon your perspective. When you take two different metals and connect them and then stick them in salt water, you create a battery. That basically means a current is flowing between the two metals. Electrons dance back and forth, but while they do that they give up their life in the form of metal ions and disappear into the sea. The fancy term for this is “galvanic corrosion”. It is kind of like a cat shedding its fur all over your carpet. Except in this case, the fur is really your propeller and propeller shaft. If you’ve spent any time on boats, you’ll know that they work much better when your propeller is intact and attached to your boat. 

3 – This is boring. Can we talk about vampires and time travel instead? 

No, we can’t. This is what I kept saying to my physics teacher. His response, “No. Focus on these formulas related to time dilation and relative velocity instead.” I thought it was boring. Little did I know that physics actually has something to do with time travel. 

Anyway, back to zincs and why you should care. If you place a magical zinc anode between the two different metals, then you can prevent damage to the more important (and costly) metal objects. Zinc is a happy little creature who only cares about others and readily gives up its electrons more quickly than the other metals. It is kind of like the Mother Teresa of the metal world. In other words, it sacrifices itself so that others may live.

4 – But what about the planet, man?

You wouldn’t think someone like Mother Teresa or zinc would ever get a bad name, but unfortunately, zinc is now increasingly restricted and controlled in some places. Zinc is a heavy metal and contains cadmium. That’s not to say that it is pudgy and overweight. It means that when zinc sheds its fur, the stuff it leaves in the water is bad for the environment. Scientists are concerned about the pollution it is causing and its presence in the human food chain. 

5 – Those crunchy granola scientist types ruin it for everyone. Now what?

Some folks think you should use aluminum rather than zinc. The catch – it is more expensive. But there is some good news. You need less aluminum (in terms of weight) and they last longer. We’ve only used zinc anodes on our boat. (Shh...don't rat us out to the crunchy granola types.) If you’ve used aluminum, let us know how it worked out.

Want to know more? Check out this article in BoatUs and this article in Sail World.

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29 April 2015

Y Is For Yikes!

During April, we're participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays), we’ll be doing an alphabet themed post starting with “A is for Adventurous” and ending with “Z is for Zinc”.

One of the tips when I signed up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge was to plan as many of your posts as possible before April rolled around so that you didn't have to panic each day about what you were going to write. I had themes sorted for every letter before the kick-off of the challenge. But, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what to write about for Y. It was starting to feel like a real Yikes! moment. 

So I asked our blog readers for suggestions and we got some great ones. But then I started worrying about which suggestion to go with. Yikes again! 

I've never been to Yellowstone. Scott has been there and I would love to visit one day, so maybe we'll blog about Yellowstone properly once we've visited there together. I have been to Yosemite - one of my all time favorite National Parks!

Yaks are adorable, but I don't know too much about them, so I thought maybe I should leave that one to someone more knowledgeable. Of course, I'm not really too knowledgeable about many things and that's never stopped me before from rambling on about a subject. 

Several people suggested Yacht, which I thought was really interesting. All sailboats in New Zealand are called yachts, but when we mention that we're looking to buy a new yacht in the States, people suddenly think we have lots of money and are in the market for some sort of super-yacht. Trust me - we don't have the money or inclination for one of those. 

Since we've been in the South for a while, my mom suggested Y'all - moms are the most dedicated blog readers, aren't they? Sometimes, I find myself saying "y'all" without thinking about it. I worry that Southerners might think I'm trying to insult or make fun of them whenever I say "y'all" with my Cleveland accent. I'm really not - it's just when you hear enough of something, it kind of seeps into your subconscious and comes out unexpectedly. 

And then there's the movie Yentl. I remember really enjoying this movie. I love musicals and when you add in Barbara Streisand, then you really can't go wrong in my books. Now I want to watch it again. 

Someone suggested Yellow Flowers. I like looking at flowers. When you've had a stressful day, there is nothing more relaxing then looking at flowers. Nature has a way of cheering you up.  

Do you know much about Y-valves? They're an important feature on boats so that you can switch where that stuff that goes down the toilet flows to - either out to sea or into a holding tank. Not the most pleasant thing to think about, I know. But if you own a boat, you have to think about it nonetheless. 

YOLO or you only live once. A great name for a boat or an RV and a good reminder that life is short and to live it to the fullest.

Once of our blog readers suggested You Rock because he likes our blog. That made my day. Sometimes I wonder what people out there think of our crazy blog or if they're even reading it. It's so nice to hear from folks that they like what we're doing here.  

Someone, who is also in Florida, thought Yikes! could describe how insanely hot it has been here lately. There just isn't enough cold beer to make this heat bearable.

Do you see what's happened here? Somehow, Yikes! has turned into Yippee! I've managed to write an entire blog post about absolutely nothing really. Just random musings on wonderful suggestions from our blog readers. Yippee! for blog readers!

Only one more day to go - tomorrow it's Z for Zinc. And then the challenge will be over - Yippee!

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