Keep Blocks Running Free!

Sailboat hardware tends to gunk up easily with salt and corrosion, especially turning blocks.  But it’s easy to keep them running free, takes a few minutes a day, or a few times a week.  Save the frustration of a frozen block not cooperating just when you need it to help reef the mainsail!  Or the wheelpilot freezing when you need the autopilot!

It’s easy to rinse all the blocks when you’re giving the boat a fresh water rinse at the dock, but what about when you’re out cruising, away from the dock for months and don’t want to “waste” fresh water.


We have a pressurized squirt bottle aboard, the typical garden variety and we use it for a multitude of fresh water rinse stuff.     Unfortunately, we can’t find an exact replacement for the original pressurized squirt bottle we used — we were smart and bought two before leaving the US to go cruising.  This is the 2nd one and it’s on it’s last legs.  In doing some research, I think we’ll replace it with this one from Amazon – it’s between $16 – $17, compact and saves many times it’s storage size in frustration over salt corroded stuff!  Plus it conserves our fresh water supply.  pressurizedspraybottle

When you rinse stuff, don’t forget:

1.  All the rigging turning blocks.traveler

2.  Traveler blocks … these tend to get gummed up for us and work so much better when they’ve been rinsed!

2.  The roller furling bearings

3.  Any turning blocks on a self-steering device such as our Monitormonitor

4.  The inside of a wheel pilot autopilot – the rubber band mechanism gets salt corrosion in it and will eventually refuse to turn the wheel.  Read your manual, there may be an opening especially for fresh water rinsing after every sail.  IMG_2266

5.  Blocks on an outboard lifting crane.IMG_2886

6.  Any other blocks you can see – we have a lifting bridle for our dinghy since we don’t have davits, the blocks on it work much better if we keep the salt buildup away.

If you have a more difficult situation — for example the salt buildup is more than what just a quick fresh water squirt will rectify, there are a couple of solutions.  We use a white vinegar solution in our spray bottle which works well to dissolve the salt buildup for us – the harder it is to dissolve, the more vinegar vs water in the solution.  We always rinse with plain fresh water, not sure if it’s necessary, but that’s what we do.


Another solution I just saw in SAIL Magazine, but have never tried is to heat some water to boiling and pour a bit on the salt corroded block.  According to SAIL, the boiling water will dissolve the salt in no time.  I have no first hand experience with this solution — be VERY careful carrying boiling water around on a boat, the slightest wake could upset the pan and burn YOU.  Not sure how safe this is.

Anyone with other ways of removing salt build up & corrosion when you’re away from a dock and don’t have the luxury of unlimited fresh water from a pressurized hose nozzle to rinse away the problem?  Please leave a comment and share!   Cheers!   Jan

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