Field Trip to Emerald Galvanizing and Lake Union

Whenever Mike and I get to go someplace new to do a boat task, we feel like we are going on a field trip. We always learn so much about things we’ve never been exposed to before. Our major project of the month is the anchoring system, including refurbishing/rebuilding the windlass locker and getting the 300 feet of chain we carry regalvanized. Time for a field trip to Emerald Galvanizing in Seattle, the only game in town.DSC03205

The previous week, we had removed the chain from the chain locker and had it stowed securely in the back of our little red beater truck. My thought was that I would take it up to Seattle on Friday, but Mike didn’t want me to have all the fun by myself. He took a half day off from work, I picked him up, and we tootled up to Seattle.

Emerald Galvanizing is in a small building that you’ll miss if you blink. It literally looks like nothing until you get behind it, where the action it. Then all the mystery is solved and we realized how dead simple it actually was to have this done. When things are unknown, they don’t seem simple. They seem daunting and complex. This was none of the above.

When we drove into the yard, a very nice man (in the photo above)  put a pallet on his truck lift, drove it over to our truck, and removed our chain by hand, piling it on the lift. He’s been at Emerald for 39 years and is getting ready to retire. Makes our time in the saddle pale by comparison.  He was able to tell us right then that our chain was in really good condition. One small area, that we had been concerned about, was just now ready for regalvanizing. This was excellent news as replacing the quality of chain we have would have been a ton of money, as usual. He said the chain would be ready in a week, took our name and phone number, then offered us a tour of the workshop. Fieldtrip! Yay! If only my good camera were not in the shop being cleaned.


Is that the glow from the Crack of Doom?


Don’t even think of putting your hand in there.

This galvanizing business is hot and dirty work. We watched the guys for awhile as they handled the large metal buckets of parts and dunked things into the molten zinc bath. Standing in the work area, we could have been in the depths of Mordor with the molten zinc bath glowing orange, surrounded by dim and grey.  No Orcs in sight, but should I ever come upon a magic ring that keeps evil in power,  I’ll know where to dispose of it.  The mind reels with possibilities.

But no, the workmen were all smiles and waves. And I had to wonder: Do these guys who work here ever get their skin actually clean?

Our chain will be put into the pool of molten zinc, then it will go in a centrifuge that will spin the excess zinc off. We should have it back long before we are finished with the windlass locker, which is turning into quite the project. More on that later. Meanwhile…epoxy epoxy epoxy.

When we finished dropping off the chain, it was mid afternoon on a Friday in summer.  Which means that rush hour starts before 3:00. In Seattle, in rush hour, you aren’t going anywhere. You’re going to be sitting in traffic. No, thank you very much. We were pretty much stuck.  Yes, that’s right, stuck in Seattle on a really nice day. The horror.


The steampunk-looking boiler on the Virginia V.

We decided to seize the day, park the car by Lake Union near the Center for Wooden Boats and go walk around the lake, look at boats,and generally take in the atmosphere. Our favorite Starbucks with its delicious coffee and excellent bathroom for middle aged tourists is close by,  and we could say hello to one of our favorite boats: M/V Lotus, which is docked right there behind the museum. Boats, coffee, bathrooms open to the public. It was a dream date.


in the bowels of the steam engine.

South Lake Union is really a fun place to just walk around and people/boat watch, but you shouldn’t miss seeing the Virginia V, docked right there behind the museum. Launched in 1922, the steamship Virginia V delivered people and goods from Seattle down the water to Tacoma via the west coast of Vashon Island.  She is built entirely of clear Douglass Fir and her steam engine is something to behold, like something out of a steampunk novel, except real.

Our tour guide was an extremely competent young man named Ed. Ed knows probably everything there is to know about this ship, as well as the other boats on the dock. He’s pretty impressive and answers any and all questions with factual information including numbers, dates, names and all. Ed is a history teacher’s dream. Just don’t suggest they might use WD-40 on that engine as a lubricant. One of the guys in our tour group mentioned something on that order. I’m thinking Ed has heard that one before, and his amusement is running thin. I hope I hid my smile well.

With still some time to kill, it seems appropriate to sit on the end of the dock and dangle our feet in the cool water of Lake Union. You don’t have to worry about sharks taking a foot off because… it’s a LAKE! All the little sailboats are racing each other, seaplanes are coming and going, it’s a cool place to hang out for an hour. greensailboat

I’d say that if you are looking for an interesting afternoon, go have a tour of the Virginia V after you drop off your anchor chain at Emerald Galvanizing. Ask for Ed. You’re going to learn some history, and there will be no test later!

Oh, and by the way. Here’s a piece of good news for you: When we left the truck, I accidentally left my window rolled all the way down. As in completely down. Mike’s bike was in the back of the truck, locked, but drawing attention. Mike’s backpack was in the cab, my bag from Nordstrom Rack with new walking sandals was in the cab. When we returned, all was exactly as we left it. No one took anything! Yeah, I know there’s no drama to this. No one stole anything, no one was shot, pretty much nothing at all happened.  That’s the point. Just a piece of good news about humanity in a week of pretty shitty news otherwise. People are mostly good. If they weren’t, then the bad things reported on the ‘news’ would not be ‘news’.




14 thoughts on “Field Trip to Emerald Galvanizing and Lake Union

    • I think they are just desperate to get our attention, like those annoying click bait things on the interwebs that start with ‘She turned the corner and then THIS happened’. Then it turns out to be a kitten walking across someone’s yard. But they got you to click! Remember that super annoying playground game where the mean kid would point and gasp and then, when you looked, say, ‘Made ya’ look!’. That’s the media today. Everything is drama. As though life lived without a huge amount of drama simply isn’t worth the time. Still, lots of shitty stuff going on, as per usual. I feel old and crotchety today. You know what? I think we’re ready to go sailing.

    • Apparently this is the best way because they have a centrifuge to spin all the excess zinc off. Mike has read of other places that give you your chain in a big heap and you have to use a hammer to break it apart. Um, no thanks. Good people. They are just everywhere!

  1. I’m so glad you found Emerald — it’s a little tricky, isn’t it? David was looking for something the other day and found the receipt for the work they did and it was $.80 a pound plus $50 for the centrifuge.

    Your comment about the news was timely. We were just reminiscing about watching the national news in New Zealand. One night, the top story of the day was about a bloke in Dunedin who had owned a fish & chip shop for over 30 years and was retiring. That’s it. No blood. No crime. No spin. Just a nice story about a guy everybody liked. We miss that . . . a lot!

  2. I am a relatively new boater. (Nine years in a new relationship) And a powerboat; not a sailboat. And freshwater, not salt. My husband is in charge of most boat systems; but I know how they work and where they are. I didn’t understand why you would re_galvanize your chain; or that they were even galvanized. But, thinking about it now; our chain “looks” galvanized.

    So Wikipedia brought me up to speed. [Although galvanizing will inhibit attack of the underlying steel, rusting will be inevitable, after some decades, especially if exposed to acidic conditions. For example, corrugated iron sheet roofing will start to degrade within a few years despite the protective action of the zinc coating. Marine and salty environments also lower the lifetime of galvanized iron because the high electrical conductivity of sea water increases the rate of corrosion primarily through converting the solid zinc to soluble zinc chloride which simply washes away. Galvanized car frames exemplify this; they corrode much quicker in cold environments due to road salt, though they will last longer than unprotected steel. Galvanized steel can last for many decades if other means are maintained, such as paint coatings and additional sacrificial anodes. The rate of corrosion in non-salty environments is mainly due to levels of sulfur dioxide in the air. In the most benign natural environments, such as inland low population areas, galvanized steel can last without rust for over 100 years.]

    We have zinc anodes on our boat; it was always my understanding that it was due to stray current in the water. So the galvanization process makes sense.

    New reader by the way; not sure how I found you. I am enjoying your blog. I will go back to the beginning at some point and read forward. Thanks!

  3. Emerald does really nice high quality work and for a very reasonable price — it’s nice to see your writeup and pictures about them. We had them do a couple anchors and all our chain a couple years ago that we are very happy with. The redone gear is still working and looking nice and from day one the chain ran easily on our windlass – they had checked the entire chain over and made sure the links were in good shape and not galvanized to one another. A really good company to work with.

    • I agree Julie. I have a short followup post coming soon saying much the same thing. We worked with a fellow named Neil that was most helpful and friendly. Of course I’d be friendly too if I were retiring in two weeks!

        • So good of you to drop by Neil. I guess you have more time to browse the web now that you are retired. We were very happy with the chain and just bought a new 88 pound anchor to hang off of it.

          I seem to recall that you were going to be taking an RV out for some well deserved travel. I hope you have many happy adventures.

  4. Hi Melissa,
    This was a helpful article and our chain is due for either regalvanize or replace with new. Now that you’ve had 4 years on it, with a good deal of time at anchor, how is the coating holding up?

    • It has held up great! We were just commenting on that the other day. We’ll probably give it a fresh water rinse before hiding in a marina for the winter and then check it before any future years-long trips, but we have been really pleased with the job they did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.