FIT THE CORRECT ANODE MATERIAL FOR THE WATERS YOUR VESSEL IS OPERATING IN
As a general rule owners should fit the anodes suitable for the environment they most regularly berth in and the following table provides a useful guide:
Salt Water: Zinc (MartyrTM I) or Aluminum Anodes
Brackish Water: Aluminum Anodes (MartyrTM II)
Fresh Water: Magnesium Anode (MartyrTM III)
Note: Never Mix Zinc and Aluminum Anodes on the same vessel.
Some vessels will from time to time move between salt and fresh water, others are berthed within marinas and behind tidal barriers where the water is enclosed and likely to be brackish or even virtually fresh. Owners must be aware of the effects that this may have on their boats and fit the correct cathodic protection system to avoid corrosion. Not all anodes are suitable for every environment, for example the surface of a zinc or aluminum anode will if left in fresh water for some time become covered with an off white crust of oxide which effectively seals the anode and stops it working even when returned to salt water.
Zinc Anodes suffer a similar problem even in brackish conditions whereas Aluminum will continue to operate effectively in river estuaries and other areas of brackish water indefinitely. The consequences of this passivity of the anode are that the next most anodic item within the anode bonding system will start to sacrifice itself which could of course be very serious. It is therefore very important to check Zinc and Aluminum anodes after any trips into fresh water and if necessary clean off or change the anodes. Should a vessel move into fresh water for more than two weeks MartyrTM recommends that an alternative anode system is used suitable for fresh water situations.
Magnesium Anodes on the other hand have a much higher driving voltage than zinc or aluminum making them highly suitable for use in fresh water, they will however become very active in salt water where they will probably only last a matter of months. Protected surfaces can build up a layer of off-white calcareous deposit which will be difficult to remove. Magnesium anodes are not designed for prolonged use in sea water and if you are taking your boat into a salt water location for more than seven days (Fourteen days in any one year) you should consider changing the anodes.
Reprinted courtesy of MG Duff International and Martyr Anodes - CMP