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Old 09-08-2010, 01:57 PM   #1
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Greetings everyone.

I was looking for some advice on taking care of sensitive electronics while on a long ocean passage.

In the spring of 2011 I am looking to crew on a Pacific crossing to either New Zealand or Australia, from anywhere in the Americas. I plan to travel and work in New Zealand for a year, and move on from there to continue my travels. I have prepared myself as much as possible to better my chances of finding a boat looking for crew, but that's not what this post is about.

I am a photographer and have some pretty valuable gear. Can anyone recommend some strategies to protect my gear in such a damp and humid environment? Should I basically vaccuum seal my important gear until I get to New Zealand, and use an older camera to take my photos during the passage? There is also the option of having my gear mailed to me from home once I get set up in NZ, but that would be my last resort as I will also be doing a bit of travelling in North Amerca on my way to wherever the departure point might be. So I will obviously want to have my best equipment for that segment.

Not so much of a "tell me what i should do!!" post - but if anyone has any experiences (good or bad, or tips on taking care of stuff) with electronics, specifically camera gear, on long ocean passages, I would appreciate to hear about them!

Thanks!

Marc
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Old 09-08-2010, 04:28 PM   #2
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Hi Marc,

since 1989 (!) I own a case of *UK-Underwater kinetics *and I am very satisfied! *I stowed my camera equipment, a small world receiver etc in this box and now my notebook, digital camera and so on during moist periods and bad weather. *For half a year even on an old wooden traditional sailboat which was very damp most of the time. It is still after 21 years perfectly tight - I notice that when closing this case during a low pressure period and when opening it during high pressure. It even has a pressure relieve knob on the front in case you cannot open it. *A masterpiece of ingeneering, very expensive even back then but worth its money.

The whole box is ruggetly built and the case itself does not show any signs of tear and wear - just the foam inside starts to crumble away.

In this case I *place a bag of these drying crystals (you find in every original packing of electronic goods with the warning DO NOT EAT) to soak up the air moisture inside the case. *With this care I never had any corrosion problems on cameras, radios, notebooks etc. *You can buy this stuff in white paper bags. And if the crytals are not pink or purple they are still keeping things dry. Once they are purple, throw them away or place them in the oven after the pizza is done. They come out dry and clear.*

(The new* problem was more of the kind that I did not take out the camera during wet or stormy periods and therefor only shot nice-weather-settings. Therefor I changed to a small watertight pocket camera and later to a digital camera with a watertight case for unterwater use - since then there is more action on the photos... taking pics during wild weather can be fun!!! ,but that is a different topic where you might be much more of an expert.)

Uwe

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Old 09-08-2010, 06:23 PM   #3
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Marc,

the stuff Uwe mentions is probably dry-rite and it works wonders. Those yummy packets you are discouraged from eating likely are silica gel, which is a different animal. I'm not sure if the silica stuff can be re-generated... but definitely only before ingestion.

All that the fancy containers do (like the Pelican etc.) is keep liquid water or ambient air out, but whatever humidity is inside of course stays inside. The dry-rite will absorb that internal moisture down to zero very fast. What's more, it will then also suck it out of the nooks and crannies of your equipment itself. ( digital or film, you still want to keep fungi off the lenses, shutters and CCD's )

There are several sources for Dryrite and I found a 40lb(?) bag for the boat for under $50 online from the manufacturer. Trunk-dry (or something like that ) has 4 of 8oz bags for about $8. The good thing is the contents can be regenerated by heating. A metal frying pan with a lid on will show condensation on the lid once you heat the pellets on a stove to around 250-300F. That lets you know where you are in the process. DO NOT EAT WHILE HOT. Just keep stirring it around until there is no more condensation, then let it cool quickly on a metal pan. lt'll start absorbing humidity right away so keep it covered with tin foil as much as possible before storing it in a hermetically sealed jar.

The enhanced type with a dye tracer will actually turn color as it dries: grey to pink to blue but there are different versions out there. The cheapest type just stays a light gray all the time and you need pm changes or weigh it accurately. That's OK for a lab but in the sticks simply replace it at intervals from your stock jar.

The beauty of the dry-rite is that it is low-tech, renewable, cheap, non-toxic (I believe) and it can save your gear. If anything goes overboard into the salt water, get it out, rinse in fresh water several times, dry it off and then fully dessicate it in a bag with these pellets. Cell-phones, I-pods, cameras, ssb... but who in their right mind would ever drop that stuff into the water?

It'll certainly work for shipping or storing stuff. For the TSA at the airport I'd suggest a DO NOT EAT label as a hint, or they might think

it is part of a fertilizer bomb. They know the cameras and tripods are just a clever diversion.

Ivo
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Old 09-08-2010, 07:31 PM   #4
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" Those yummy packets you are discouraged from eating likely are silica gel, which is a different animal. I'm not sure if the silica stuff can be re-generated " ....

Silica gel is infinitely re-usable by applying mild heat ... exactly as described in a previous post for " Dry Rite " ( which is a brand name & actually silica gel too ) ...
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Old 09-08-2010, 08:26 PM   #5
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Actually, back at the ranch...

The CAS listing numbers are different for both the Drierite ( Dry-rite etc) and the clear silica gel. ( CAS 7778-16-9 versus 63231-67-4 for the silica gel. OOgle it for all the low-down details.

The Dryrite I described is anhydrous calcium sulfate and totally opaque. Silica gel is mainly alumina and usually a clear honey color, which may have caused and given it the 'do not eat' moniker. Side by side the two items look quite different.

The color change of the "indicator type" Dryrite from dry to wet I did get barse-ackwards though. Now I remember the drying tube ends changed from a dark blue to shades of pink when used up. Sorry, my bust.

Hey, you get what you pay for and I'm not a chemist.
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Old 09-09-2010, 03:27 AM   #6
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I own several Pelican cases of different sizes. One stores the camera, one the computer printer, and one for the laptop. They are expensive but are well worth it, just be sure you get the right size(s) for your gear. I rely on them when carrying stuff to the beach in the dinghy. Or walking the dock. I also use silica dessicant to remove the humidity when it's closed up. You can buy pounds of it from one of the chemical suppliers on eBay - an eBay store, I believe.
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Old 09-09-2010, 02:44 PM   #7
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I'm no chemist either but I do know that Silica Gel is re-useable & since it is not " branded " is way cheaper ...
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Old 09-09-2010, 05:31 PM   #8
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The suggestions from Linnupesa and JeanneP for desiccants sound like they are the same--Linnupesa is just using a branded version of the same type of Silica based product. Pelican cases are worth the investment. We also have several ammunition cases purchased years ago via the US Army/Navy surplus stores. They work great as well. We've been wilderness canoing, wet camping, spelunking (wet caves), sailing, and so forth with expensive (film) camera equipment since the late 70's using ammo cases for storage. The Pelican cases and some of the new ammo cases (which look like Pelican cases but are Army green) are plastic rather than metal so should last better in the saltwater marine environment.

Rather than just relying on keeping moisture absorbed in the cases, you may wish to investigate purchase of a vapor phase corrosion inhibitor. These are products that you place inside your box that off-gas a coating that will act as a block to corrosion on metal parts. Specifically good for electronics. Google the term "vapor phase corrosion inhibitor" and/or "vpci" and see what's out there now.

I don't know the brand of your digital camera equipment, but you may consider Pentax in the future since their high-end digital stuff is waterproof (lens and body) and is most likely ideal for the marine environment.

Good luck
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Old 09-15-2010, 01:44 PM   #9
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Thank you everyone for your wonderful suggestions!

ALthough I wonder if boat owners would consider me bringing a backpack, a small day pack, and a pelican case with camera gear a bit too much stuff for just 1 crew member?

And Aquaria I know full well what you mean about wanting to take the camera out in bad weather! That's when all the best shots are to be had!
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Old 09-19-2010, 07:02 AM   #10
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Ah, cameras in a damp environment are not good news.

There is one issue which has not been mentioned so far but which also should be considered - that of lens moulde. Camera lens moulde can turn your really expensive, top of the field lens into nothing but a bulky paperweight.

Mould requires dark and moist conditions to grow, and even if you lock your lenses away in the hard shell of a Pelican bag they will be locked in together with some dampness. Desicants, such as silika gel do not remove dampness either - they simply absorb and retain moisture but they only do this to a point. Using a desicant, you are still locking moisture in your bag.

Ideally, lenses should be stored in a well ventilated, dry space. In humid, tropical areas serious photographers use electric dry-boxes (see photo). These are expensive, require mains voltage and are bulky. You would really need to be a very dedicated photographer to buy and install one of these in a yacht.

There is, however, a simpler way to avoid lens moulde - ultra violet light and the easiest way to get that is to take your camera and lenses out and use them (all lenses) daily. Let the sunshine flow in. For this very reason, professional photographers, using their kit on a daily basis, have far fewer problems with moulde than amateurs who take their cameras for a walk on weekends only. Using your equippment on a daily basis, you will still have issues with dampness but, at least, you should have no worries with moulde.

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Old 12-01-2010, 02:17 AM   #11
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Get an IKELITE underwater housing for your camera and favorite lens. Toss a couple bags of silica in it in such a way that they can't move around and interfere with the controls.

Now you can keep your camera safe from the elements, and take it out to use in the worst weather.
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Old 12-01-2010, 08:19 AM   #12
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A good idea but:

a. how do you protect your other lenses, flash and extra battery-pack/grip?

b. IKELITE does not make a an under-water housing for my camera (Sony α-700)

Aye // Stephen
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Old 12-01-2010, 07:30 PM   #13
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I just re-read a previous post by Stephen ( Nausika ) and do want to clarify something brought up:

The dessicants mentioned, like dry-rite or silica gel, DO absorb moisture and DO reduce the relative humidity to very low levels until they become saturated and cannot absorb any more. In fact, fresh dry-rite will produce less than 2% relative humidity, which is way better than what you get in most deserts even. They are quite rightly called dessicants and do not just absorb SOME moisture only.

The reason I can say this is because I've professionally calibrated temperature and relative humidity instruments in my calibration lab over many, many years and have measured what happens when a probe gets put into a chamber with these dessicants. The readings drop precipitously and can go below 1% even. By comparison, a comfortable humidity level for a person is around 45% relative humidity, below 20% is getting to cracking lips and alligator skin. Lens fungus will be 100% prevented at this level is my guess. Similarly, so will all electronic or other oxidisable material.

One big caveat regarding batteries: Frequently they leak, especially if discharged and left in situ. This leakage is highly hygroscopic and attracts moisture due to it's salt content. This causes the corrosion of the battery terminals and poor contact issues down the road. A quick fix is cleaning and washing with hot water after scraping off the oxides formed. A dab of vaseline ( another wonderful use for that product! ) and all is well again.

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Originally Posted by Nausikaa View Post

A good idea but:

a. how do you protect your other lenses, flash and extra battery-pack/grip?

b. IKELITE does not make a an under-water housing for my camera (Sony α-700)

Aye // Stephen
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