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Old 16-11-2013, 02:59   #1
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Sailing with a welder aboard?

I'd love to hear if anyone out there cruises with an engine-driven welder/generator on board.

We are exploring the idea of traveling on our steel boat with our own welder. One of us is developing arc welding skills and we think it could be valuable, not just for our own needs, but to possibly use for small paid projects as we travel (imagine needing a welder to make a repair and having it be boat-based so it can just raft up to you). These welder/generators are getting so small and portable now--some less than 100lbs--that this really seems possible.

For those of you with experience, what are some of the pros and cons to consider? Some of these welders max out at 150-200 amps. Is this a real limitation?

For everyone, have you ever seen or used a boat-based welder? Would you? Have you ever been in a position where you badly wished a welder was on hand? What was the issue, specifically? How much in USD would it have been worth to you to pay for the service to repair it?

Just in the information-gathering phase right now, and would appreciate some constructive thoughts and ideas.

Thanks!
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Old 16-11-2013, 03:58   #2
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

i may be wrong but something about steel boats, water, and arcing electricity doesn't sound quite right
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Old 16-11-2013, 05:15   #3
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I've used welding machines on ships and shrimp boats, all while in the water, some times quite wet. 150 amps is only a limitation if you're planning on welding thicker plate, bit for the most part won't limit you on the average sailboat hull.
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Old 16-11-2013, 05:31   #4
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

I would carry an arc, for you and a tig for pay.

I have a portable miller diversion tig unit with a collection of cords that allows me to connect to a variety of different dock connections. It lives on board a boat, and is handy for fixing things when they break and making tools. I went Tig on a account that can use silicon bronze braising rod to weld up silicon bronze, I had a pair of engine mounted jabsco waterpumps that are no longer available that needed to be rebuilt... The Tig cost less than hiring out the repair work. (You do need a lot of extra heat, a couple propane torches to get the casting hot... as bronze will take all the amperage you've got to keep the puddle going.)

I've got a collection of short pieces of SO cord, you can go from a twist lock to a dryer plug or welding plug. A 50 foot shot of that stuff is heavy, but worth while because you can find shore power plugs anywhere there is 240v. I'm limited to 3/16ths, due to the welders limitation.

Being able to weld stainless, and aluminum in place is a positive. I've welded hatch frames in place, and made through deck fittings for folks as well as patched exhaust elbows and cracked muffler mounts. I haven't been out of the US with it, so I don't know what would be involved with a bottle of argon on board.

I still haven't figured out how/where to do any grinding, filing, descaling work on a boat without making the paint job a rust speckled surface, so having a portable rig is nice... sometimes it is worth going the extra mile and carrying the parts and pieces to a dock, or at least doing the initial grinding of anything high carbon dock side!

Zach
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Old 16-11-2013, 06:14   #5
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

I carry a diesel Miller 250 Bobcat welding machine and love it. Used it recently to repair a puncture in my shaft log while in the water after hitting a rock at 5 knts. Saved me a 100 mile trip to a boatyard and just about paid for the 10k welder.
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Old 16-11-2013, 06:15   #6
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

I also weld, and have thought about bringing a welder with us. My main concern is that the marine environment would eat up a welder pretty quick, considering most of my tv and game remotes are junk after just a short time aboard. The other concern was storage of all the cords and equipment needed, and if it's really worth the effort based on the fact that it would be used so sparingly. Most cruisers are on a tight budget and it would be difficult to make a living welding, most fixes are bartered trades or for beer, rum etc. I love the idea but just not sure if it's worth the effort.
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Old 16-11-2013, 07:00   #7
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

I'm not yet a cruiser, so I may be wrong about this. But I am a weldor, in my home shop on my free time. I'd also recomend a TIG rather than a stick welder. You will be able to weld many more of the types of metal items that need repair on a boat with TIG. Such as stainless steel, and aluminum. And TIG welders (the ones I am familiar with) naturally also can be used as a stick welder.
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Old 16-11-2013, 07:07   #8
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

If your main engine or gen set can crank 10k at 220v you can carry a cracker box to stick weld, much cheaper. Also some TIG welders use lees power.
You are right, there is no money to be made cruising, but lots of friends if you carry serious repair gear. I wouldn't worry about corrosion, most rigs are built to live in the back of a pickup truck somewhere in the swamp.
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Old 21-11-2013, 11:37   #9
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

Wow lots of great responses, thank you! Keep 'em coming!

For a boat-based welder, what are examples of the most common jobs you'd imagine we'd come across in our travels?

Also, I'd be interested in hearing your suggestions for the optimal sort of setup for a boat. Our engine is an air-cooled diesel Deutz. It would certainly make sense to have a diesel welder/generator but this is not absolutely critical if the perfect machine on the market happens to be gas-powered. Obviously the more lightweight and compact the better. This machine would also serve as our primary generator (it may be useful to know that we only use a generator for special projects, not to power any TVs or microwaves). Your suggestions are welcome, and please share links if you can!

We have a 36' steel cutter with currently no cockpit-accessible lockers. We've discussed changing this since our entire stern area is storage. This area is where we'd store any onboard welder, so lazarette access means we could possibly winch a welder straight up and out for operation (a completely separate project to be sure, but if you have any online how-to links for this, please share!).
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Old 21-11-2013, 12:35   #10
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

I would not use a welding machine as a primary generator, indeed, primary generators are fast disappearing. A Honda 2000eu will cost you $900 with no set up cost, just plug it in, no inverters, no batteries, no chargers. It will run everything on my boat and burn a gallon every 8 hours. To buy and properly install a 10k diesel generator will cost at least $15,000 and burn a gallon every 4 hours. Now add the inverters, batteries, and charger.
Just my 2c.
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Old 21-11-2013, 13:01   #11
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

To clarify, we rarely use a generator (we have solar and an inverter to serve our daily needs). But when we need it, we really do need it, usually for power tools or a vacuum. The idea of having an engine-driven welder/generator is to avoid having two separate machines where space is at a premium. I'm thinking perhaps a 150-200 amp welder, but would like to see specific units that you all recommend.
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Old 21-11-2013, 13:29   #12
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

I'm planning on going with a small MIG/TIG unit to make brackets in steel and, later, aluminum, and so on. I think it's feasible, as I discussed here:

The world encompassed: Medium rare to weld done

Frankly, it's not because I love or have a gift for welding...it's the appalling shortage of welders at any price willing to do simple jobs aboard.

I have plenty of practice in front of me this winter.
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Old 21-11-2013, 14:49   #13
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I work at an aircraft manufacturing plant where we build the fuselages out of 4130 and everything we do is TIG, there exists a tiny little TIG machine that plugs into a regular 110V outlet and will weld steel, but I don't think it will weld aluminum, thing is no bigger than a battery charger and I don't see how it could work as it can't draw more than 15 amps at 110V, but it does work, but not on aluminum.

On edit I did some looking, look up a Miller Maxstar 150 I think
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Old 21-11-2013, 15:33   #14
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

I carry a Harbor Freight inverter welder.

Ain't much but better than nothing. Might get me out of a pinch.

Inverter Arc Welder - 80 Amp

At home I have a Millermatic 211 that works on 110 or 220.

Millermatic 211 Auto-Set with MVP - MIG Wire Welder - GMAW - Miller Welding

That would be nice to have on the boat, but storage would be an issue.

I don't know if it will work off of my Honda generator, never tried.

I'm still a novice welder. I can do OK working down, but overhead? Ug.

I build and replaced the 44'er sprit last winter, that worked out well.
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Old 21-11-2013, 15:44   #15
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Re: Sailing with a welder aboard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
I'm planning on going with a small MIG/TIG unit to make brackets in steel and, later, aluminum, and so on. I think it's feasible, as I discussed here:

The world encompassed: Medium rare to weld done

Frankly, it's not because I love or have a gift for welding...it's the appalling shortage of welders at any price willing to do simple jobs aboard.

I have plenty of practice in front of me this winter.
You are not alone. I have some rust under the engine mounts and some back in the haunches. When I sandblasted I found a bad spot that needs a bit of plating. Oh, and I spent last weekend removing my perfectly good fuel tank from under the cockpit in 10 pound chunks because I have some rust going under it and can't get in there to deal with it otherwise.

I tried welding in a bit of plate and did a real hack job. I can tell I, like you, will be getting lots of practice. Overhead welding is tough.

Also, I'm having some issues with my base coat of paint. I'm getting unexplained blisters. I THINK I have found I can deal with them by sanding them out and repainting. But need to let my last work set another week to see how many come back after my last go at it.

Sometimes I think you don't really understand boating until you find yourself crying.
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