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Old 09-02-2012, 11:20   #1
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Welding in Boatyards of The World ...

Hi Guys,

We recently purchased our first metal boat.

I plan to do the metal work and welding myself. The boat is aluminum, with the deck, hull, and keel between 6-12mm, but with everything I plan to do on 8mm plate or less.

I am planning to bring a TIG machine, but have a few questions:

- What kind of electricity is available in the boat yards of the world? Is 220/240 volt 1-phase the standard? Are the plugs usually high enough amps to drive a welder? I can get a more expensive TIG machine that will eat anything from 90-400 volts (or something like that), but... I hesitate to bring a very expensive welder on a boat, if a lower priced 220/240 volt machine would not limit me too much in where I can do maintenance.

- How long of an extension cord should I bring? If I haul out and say that I am going to be welding, can they usually put me within, say, 50' of an outlet? Or do I need to have something more like a 100' thick cable?

- Is Argon available in most reasonably sized cities? I'm guessing I should bring one small-ish tank, and then plan on it being easy to refill (and not so heavy as to be easily carried in a cab or bus...)?

- Are the gas tanks the same everywhere, or do some countries have different threads?

- Is there a common set of electrical plugs that I should bring with me, or do people just buy one locally, figure out which is which, and splice it onto their own cable?

- I am hoping to bring an inverter welder, since I am now thoroughly spoiled by how clean their arc is, and I believe they are more flexible about the hz of the local power grid. Has anyone had a problem with the hz being different from what the machine is made for? How clean is the power in random boat yards-- do you get many dips or small brown outs, is it better to weld very early in the morning or in the late afternoon when the workers aren't doing anything?

- Is welding by the owner commonly allowed in enough boat yards that I can do the work myself? Some of the 'higher class' boat yards in America won't allow you to do anything below the waterline-- that is 'their' domain. Since this is my first metal boat, I don't know if there is also a thought among 'high class' boat yards about an owner welding, and if they have a different take on above or below the waterline-- is it common to allow welding on deck by the owner? I'm thinking in the context of boatyards along the coconut milk run, and not in America.

The only immediate need for the boat is to close up a coke can sized hole in the keel, another hole on the deck, and add plates to screw a few padeyes for the boom brake and cockpit tethers. Eventually I want to close some thru hulls, but will wait until we figure out our equipment (we're getting rid of the AC and genset, but might add a watermaker, and etc). Once we bring the boat up to our basic seaworthiness standards, and if we feel like doting on the boat more, we might also fabricate some kind of solar panel bimini thing. So-- knock on wood-- nothing major, maybe a couple minutes under the hood for each small project (in case this makes a difference in what various yards will accept).

Thank you!
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Old 09-02-2012, 12:54   #2
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

Wow, that's a wide open range of possibilities!

It might be easier to start working from the specs of the tig machines and look for one that has world wide capability. For example, can one be found that operates on 60HZ and 50HZ, voltages of 200 to 240 Vac, or 100 to 120 Vac? Plugs and adapters wil vary between countries.

As far as yards go, they will vary widely as to what they will allow. Welding is likely to be the most difficult to get accepted due to fire risks.

It might be better to seek compatible yard, do the work, and then start the tour.
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Old 09-02-2012, 13:40   #3
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

On Boracay (steel) welding has been limited, but varied.

The main problem has been that the stanchions were neatly ground down at the base, leaving the metal too thin, so, one by one they have broken.

I employed a professional welder to do some while the boat was in a marina, brought a small welder to do some myself and had a shipwright do one.

I've also had a machined depth sounder fitting welded on professionally, some anode lugs rewelded and SS plates welded on to mount the dodger and bimini.

At one "marina" I felt the power was too low to drive my small welder properly, but there has been no problem finding outlets when at a wharf or marina.

All the welders who advertised themselves as "professional" did a job that I'd rate as good to excellent. My one poorly done job was by a worker who mentioned his lack of skill.

I one case I needed to supply welding rods rather than stop work and drive to buy some.

However, no one has been happy about welding. They've ignored it, asked for insurance (but did not follow through to actually check the papers), required screens, worried about sparks and rust marks from grinding and generally preferred that it not happen.

Mostly I've bolted fittings to the steel, rather than weld.

My understanding is that aluminium needs a pretty heavy duty welder so I'd expect that you would need to go to a yard where 415V/3 phase power was available or to install a generator + welder in your boat.

I'd strongly suggest finding a nearby yard where they have the necessary power supply and doing all your welding before you leave as already suggested. Rather than buying a machine the money could be better spent planning all work and then getting an experienced professional to do the actual welding.

If you carefully work out exactly what you need it may not be all that much.

If "field" repairs are needed I'd suggest getting some pieces of plate and a selection of 3/16" to 3/8" ss bolts together with a light drill press, hand drill and jigsaw.

Aluminium welders may be available most places but some of the more exotic supplies may not. Those that are long lasting, sealed and rust resistant may be worth bringing.
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Old 09-02-2012, 13:46   #4
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

Quote:
Originally Posted by St. Elsewhere View Post
Wow, that's a wide open range of possibilities!

It might be easier to start working from the specs of the tig machines and look for one that has world wide capability. For example, can one be found that operates on 60HZ and 50HZ, voltages of 200 to 240 Vac, or 100 to 120 Vac? Plugs and adapters wil vary between countries.
Thanks, yes, I'd like to figure out what 'world wide capability' means on a spec sheet. I've never paid much attention before to electricity in other countries (we made our own voltage converter in Singapore for our battery charger, but that was it), or boat yards, and don't know-- would 220-240 volts and 50/60hz cover most places? Or are different voltages pretty common in foreign boat yards?

There is a very expensive Miller, a Dynasty 200, that will eat anything between 110-460 volts... But... That's just so nice of a machine to stick in a lazarette and only haul out for a few hours a year. I hate to rely on other people, but at some point the investment to be able to do things myself may get ridiculously expensive. But maybe there is a less expensive welder that is as flexible with the voltage (don't know)...

My rough idea is an Everlast PowerTig, which'll eat 50/60hz, 220-240 volts, and is relatively inexpensive, but still a lightweight inverter. The slightly more expensive ones will also eat 3 phase power, if that's common in boat yards... Don't know.
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Old 09-02-2012, 13:59   #5
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

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Originally Posted by msponer View Post
Hi Guys,

We recently purchased our first metal boat.

I plan to do the metal work and welding myself. The boat is aluminum, with the deck, hull, and keel between 6-12mm, but with everything I plan to do on 8mm plate or less.

I am planning to bring a TIG machine, but have a few questions:

- What kind of electricity is available in the boat yards of the world? Is 220/240 volt 1-phase the standard? Are the plugs usually high enough amps to drive a welder? I can get a more expensive TIG machine that will eat anything from 90-400 volts (or something like that), but... I hesitate to bring a very expensive welder on a boat, if a lower priced 220/240 volt machine would not limit me too much in where I can do maintenance.

- How long of an extension cord should I bring? If I haul out and say that I am going to be welding, can they usually put me within, say, 50' of an outlet? Or do I need to have something more like a 100' thick cable?

- Is Argon available in most reasonably sized cities? I'm guessing I should bring one small-ish tank, and then plan on it being easy to refill (and not so heavy as to be easily carried in a cab or bus...)?

- Are the gas tanks the same everywhere, or do some countries have different threads?

- Is there a common set of electrical plugs that I should bring with me, or do people just buy one locally, figure out which is which, and splice it onto their own cable?

- I am hoping to bring an inverter welder, since I am now thoroughly spoiled by how clean their arc is, and I believe they are more flexible about the hz of the local power grid. Has anyone had a problem with the hz being different from what the machine is made for? How clean is the power in random boat yards-- do you get many dips or small brown outs, is it better to weld very early in the morning or in the late afternoon when the workers aren't doing anything?

- Is welding by the owner commonly allowed in enough boat yards that I can do the work myself? Some of the 'higher class' boat yards in America won't allow you to do anything below the waterline-- that is 'their' domain. Since this is my first metal boat, I don't know if there is also a thought among 'high class' boat yards about an owner welding, and if they have a different take on above or below the waterline-- is it common to allow welding on deck by the owner? I'm thinking in the context of boatyards along the coconut milk run, and not in America.

The only immediate need for the boat is to close up a coke can sized hole in the keel, another hole on the deck, and add plates to screw a few padeyes for the boom brake and cockpit tethers. Eventually I want to close some thru hulls, but will wait until we figure out our equipment (we're getting rid of the AC and genset, but might add a watermaker, and etc). Once we bring the boat up to our basic seaworthiness standards, and if we feel like doting on the boat more, we might also fabricate some kind of solar panel bimini thing. So-- knock on wood-- nothing major, maybe a couple minutes under the hood for each small project (in case this makes a difference in what various yards will accept).

Thank you!
Mate just go cruising and enjoy yourself, why bother carting around a workshop with you just for the possibility that you may need the gear to repair an, as yet, unknown problem??

I have owned countless MIG's and TIG's and i have to tell you the most damaging environment is a SALT AIR one. And the second one is damage by vibration/heat/jolting to the circuit cards.

Motor boats don't carry around boring machines or head grinders just on the offchance the motor may need re-building in some out of the way harbour.
Better to ensure your boat is sound and seaworthy from the beginning and that YOUR skills are adequate to keep off the rocks.

I'm no way having a go at you but i'd be focussing on more important items than lugging around that kinda gear.

I was taught aluminium welding by Kaiser Aluminium here in Australia i have 40 years experience in all aspects of marine and industrial welding, my advice is read up on it, then if you need some work done, get it done by a professional and observe.
If you believe those welds are dodgy at least your new knowledge will support your misgivings and you can intelligently ask for it to be re-done. OMHO Cheers
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Old 09-02-2012, 14:22   #6
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

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Originally Posted by Boracay View Post
All the welders who advertised themselves as "professional" did a job that I'd rate as good to excellent. My one poorly done job was by a worker who mentioned his lack of skill.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

Especially that you were able to find welders who did a good job. My skepticism of finding good welders is that main reason I was planning to do it myself. I'd hate to pay someone and them watch them screw it up.

Steel is of course also very easy to do a good job on. And if you mess up, at least with TIG, there's a lot you can do to fudge it and to make it still look reasonably nice. I've never had a weld in steel just rip apart by hand like I have had with aluminum, if I didn't prepare the surface properly or use the right filler rod. But I could also watch someone closely if I was paying them to do the work, to be sure they did it right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boracay View Post
My understanding is that aluminium needs a pretty heavy duty welder so I'd expect that you would need to go to a yard where 415V/3 phase power was available or to install a generator + welder in your boat.
The recent machines are pretty good. I can do ~1/8" aluminum plate on a 110 volt machine that plugs into a household socket, and up to about ~3/8" on whatever amperage an American 220 volt dryer socket has -- which would cover everything I'd probably need to do on the boat. All in a machine that's about as big as a microwave oven, though of course the tank, regulator, torch, and all that adds up to more room in the lazarette.

Thanks again. Maybe you are right, that it's better to just find someone good and try to get everything we need done all at once, or in big batches.

My idea for our next round of cruising is to give up on trying to get the boat perfect before we go anywhere, and to view it as in a bit more 'state of flux' the whole trip. That we'll cover seaworthiness, not sinking, no fires, and etc, very well before we head out to sea, but figure out the other details as we live and sail on it, to let the ideas evolve in our heads for a while and make a series of small incremental tweaks instead of major refits.
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Old 09-02-2012, 14:24   #7
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

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Originally Posted by Lagoon4us View Post
Mate just go cruising and enjoy yourself, why bother carting around a workshop with you just for the possibility that you may need the gear to repair an, as yet, unknown problem??

I have owned countless MIG's and TIG's and i have to tell you the most damaging environment is a SALT AIR one. And the second one is damage by vibration/heat/jolting to the circuit cards.

Motor boats don't carry around boring machines or head grinders just on the offchance the motor may need re-building in some out of the way harbour.
Better to ensure your boat is sound and seaworthy from the beginning and that YOUR skills are adequate to keep off the rocks.

I'm no way having a go at you but i'd be focussing on more important items than lugging around that kinda gear.

I was taught aluminium welding by Kaiser Aluminium here in Australia i have 40 years experience in all aspects of marine and industrial welding, my advice is read up on it, then if you need some work done, get it done by a professional and observe.
If you believe those welds are dodgy at least your new knowledge will support your misgivings and you can intelligently ask for it to be re-done. OMHO Cheers
X2 on that. I would also have doubt's that 220 VAC 1ph TIG is up to the task of welding 6 and 12 mm thicknesses. It also needs to be considered that aluminium has to be properly prepared and cleaned in order to be welded successfully, so even more gear is required.
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Old 09-02-2012, 14:27   #8
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

More info please.

This is the type of post I'd prefer to read 20 of than one poor bastard's story of how he only has $800 thou to spend.
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Old 09-02-2012, 15:01   #9
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

Lagoon, so do you feel it's reasonably easy to find good aluminum welders? Or, with an aluminum boat, would you only have work done in larger first world cities (like Sydney, Aukland, Ft. Lauderdale, Cape Town, and etc) rather than more out of the way places (like Langkawi, Trinidad, Panama, Papeete...)?

Last time I had a fiberglass boat and so never had to look for a professional welder...

Yes, I'm also worried about the salt air, which is why I would not bring a premium machine.

I'm not planning to weld the boat back together on a beach. Bringing my own equipment is to be self sufficient to do my own tweaks, like padeyes for the dinghy, mounting plates for a vane, closing dumb holes in the cockpit, extending the pushpit railing, tweaking the bimini arch, closing unused thruhulls, and etc.

40 years of experience only counts if you were paying attention! Kidding.
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Old 09-02-2012, 15:11   #10
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

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X2 on that. I would also have doubt's that 220 VAC 1ph TIG is up to the task of welding 6 and 12 mm thicknesses. It also needs to be considered that aluminium has to be properly prepared and cleaned in order to be welded successfully, so even more gear is required.
TIG puts out high heat and is suitable for weldments like brackets, bimini's gadgets etc.
MIG is much colder and very quick this is used for plate and structural welding.

Yes you can do either but the result is not the best practice.

Cleanliness on both sides is critical!!! Most problems come from welding from one side only and the other side has organic or hydro carbon pollution. It will contanimate the weld and frustrate the novice no end.

I was asked to repair a large Cat, they wanted an inspection plate welded back into the hull with a fuel tank on the other side (built in).

The slipways welders could not get a weld down without contamination issues!!! Not from the tank but from the open wheelhouse door allowing the 6knot breeze to enter the cabins, pressurise the hull and blow out the weld prep around the inspection plate.

Remedy? I cleaned the bad welds out, closed the door and had it nicely finished in 2 or so hours.

These are the things that screw with a novices head...... Cheers
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Old 09-02-2012, 15:20   #11
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

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Lagoon, so do you feel it's reasonably easy to find good aluminum welders? Or, with an aluminum boat, would you only have work done in larger first world cities (like Sydney, Aukland, Ft. Lauderdale, Cape Town, and etc) rather than more out of the way places (like Langkawi, Trinidad, Panama, Papeete...)?

Last time I had a fiberglass boat and so never had to look for a professional welder...

Yes, I'm also worried about the salt air, which is why I would not bring a premium machine.

I'm not planning to weld the boat back together on a beach. Bringing my own equipment is to be self sufficient to do my own tweaks, like padeyes for the dinghy, mounting plates for a vane, closing dumb holes in the cockpit, extending the pushpit railing, tweaking the bimini arch, closing unused thruhulls, and etc.

40 years of experience only counts if you were paying attention! Kidding.
LMAO so true, yes id get stuff done prior and quite honestly a cruising aluminium boat just isn't going to spend it's days cracking. A badly built hull will fail wether it be GRP Timber or Metal.

Ply patches screwed and sika'd will usually repair most holes better you plan it that way simply because there is no crystal ball here.

The liveaboard community along with the land locked can certainly direct you to good tradesman/repair facilities worldwide. this Forum alone is a very powerful tool.

Cheers
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Old 09-02-2012, 15:28   #12
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I concur with lagoon4us's comments. (I have 25 years of aerospace, motorsport and pipeline welding plus a masters of engineering science in materials welding and joining)

Low voltage single phase power for TIG will cope with up to 3mm non ferrous. You need good clean power with TIG or stick welding. A good square wave power source with foot or hand current control is a minimum requirement for all the little jobs.

For your 6 - 12 mm welds MIG will be more practical. But for field repairs sometimes a non welded solution can be a simpler option. Gasless MIG wire negates the need to carry Argon.
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Old 09-02-2012, 15:33   #13
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

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I concur with lagoon4us's comments. (I have 25 years of aerospace, motorsport and pipeline welding plus a masters of engineering science in materials welding and joining)

Low voltage single phase power for TIG will cope with up to 3mm non ferrous. You need good clean power with TIG or stick welding. A good square wave power source with foot or hand current control is a minimum requirement for all the little jobs.

For your 6 - 12 mm welds MIG will be more practical. But for field repairs sometimes a non welded solution can be a simpler option. Gasless MIG wire negates the need to carry Argon.
Cheers leftie :-) I haven't seen any successful gasless wire for ally yet (5086# or 5083# plate)... That's not to say it doesn't exist but iv'e only seen for ferrous (steel) Cheers
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Old 09-02-2012, 16:14   #14
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

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Low voltage single phase power for TIG will cope with up to 3mm non ferrous.
Is "low voltage" a technical term that means more than 220/240 volts, or does low voltage mean 110-120 volts?
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Old 09-02-2012, 16:29   #15
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Re: Welding in Boatyards of The World...

"Low Voltage" usually means any voltages below about 1000, speaking in terms of AC.
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