Published Wed, Mar 28th 2012
A Black Country galvanizing business is making a big splash in the independent boating sector, even though it is based nearly 100 miles from the coastline.
Despite its landlocked location, Willenhall-based B.E. Wedge, part of Wedge Group Galvanizing, is carving out a name for itself as a key part of the supply chain for yachtsman up and down the UK, as it is one of the few companies in the country that has the capability to properly galvanize continuous lengths of anchor chain.
"The sea is a particularly corrosive and acidic environment, which throws up a serious challenge to a small boat's anchor chain," Lee Dickens, Commercial Manager of B.E. Wedge, explained. "It can suffer from a rapid loss of section through rusting and abrasion as the chain of the anchored yacht moves across the sea bed when she swings around. In fact it only needs approximately a 10% loss in thickness to compromise the anchor chain's strength. Protecting the steel against the elements is therefore absolutely vital."
As one of the few facilities in the UK able to perform centrifuge galvanizing - where small pieces of steel, such as bolts, or nuts, are placed in baskets and 'spun' to ensure excess zinc is removed and prevent links in the chain from sticking together - B.E. Wedge has seen a dramatic increase in the number of independent yachtsman and sailors calling on its services in the past few months. Requests have come from all across the UK, from Hampshire on the south coast all the way up to Scotland, with one client even requiring a galvanized anchor chain to be supplied for a vessel en route to Norway which had docked in Plymouth.
One experienced sailor who has employed the services of B.E. Wedge several times is Gavin McLaren from Falmouth, Cornwall. A member of the Royal Cruising Club and the Ocean Cruising Club - an organisation only for sailors who have completed a continuous ocean passage of at least 1,000 miles - Gavin has been sailing since 1976, and has clocked up approximately 140,000 miles on the seas, including skippering seven Atlantic crossings. He owns a 41 foot sloop - a sailing boat with a single mast - which was built in 1976 and has an 83 metre long, three-eighths of an inch thick anchor chain.
"We've had the anchor chain, along with our 60lbs anchor and shackles, galvanized three times now. Whilst the original chain has never been damaged, as we anchor a great deal during cruising, the ends do eventually become corroded, as the protective zinc layer on the bottom rubs of," Gavin McLaren explained. "The chain was manufactured in pre-metric times, so it would be extremely difficult to source a replacement to meet the exact same specifications. Having the original chain re-galvanized protects us against this eventuality. Replacing the anchor chain with a new version would probably cost three times as much, and that's even taking into account the cost of transporting the chain between Cornwall and B.E. Wedge in the Black Country.
"The quality of the galvanized anchor chain is excellent. Because of the special operation B.E. Wedge employs, which is unique to the plant, none of the chain's links are welded together and there aren't any unsightly blobs of zinc hanging off, which can affect how the chain fits on the boat's windlass gypsy, the mechanism that enables the anchor to be raised and lowered."
"I would not hesitate to recommend B.E.Wedge to any yachtsman who needs chain galvanising. A friendly, efficient and reasonably priced company who take the yachtsman's small order as seriously as they take a much bigger one. We have suggested the company to several friends who need chain galvanising and they have, without exception, been delighted with the service they have received and the quality of the finished chain."
Wedge Group Galvanizing is the largest hot dip galvanizing organisations in the UK with a history dating back over 150 years. With 14 plants strategically placed across the country, the firm offers a truly national galvanizing service.
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