Ah, life on the ocean wave. What could be better? The warm salt air, the sun on your face and breeze in your hair. Incredible sunrises and sunsets. New vistas every day. And your guitar in your arms… But about that guitar. How is it going to enjoy ocean travel? Short answer: Probably not that much.
Whether you’re planning a cruise this year, or a summer spent on the beach, there’s no reason why you can’t take your travel guitar along with you. After all, what’s the point of a holiday if you can’t take time to play? However, there are a few things worth bearing in mind, if you want your instrument to survive the experience.
Humidity is not your guitar’s friend. When there’s too much water vapor in the air – as is often the case by the sea! – the wood of a guitar can become swollen. This can lead to warping. While this can be fixed, and a DIY approach is possible, especially if you’re just talking about the neck, it’s far easier and much more sensible to take precautions to avoid it. So, when it’s not in use, store your guitar carefully, along with some silica gel packets to absorb any moisture. A digital hygrometer can also be used to monitor the humidity of the guitar’s storage environment.
Try not to leave your guitar anywhere that it’s likely to get too hot. If a guitar is overheated, it can dry out and crack. Or the glue can melt, leading to a different kind of repair. So, even if it’s in its case, don’t leave it out on the beach, or on the deck of a boat because a black case will absorb the sun and your instrument can be fried.
Obviously, you don’t want to spend all your time away sitting in the shade but be aware that too much sun can fade or crack your guitar’s finish. Some people like this; it gives an authentically ‘weathered’ look. But if you like your instrument just as it is, limit your playing time in the sun.
That being said, sunblock isn’t great for your guitar either! Most of the damage can be easily rectified – you’ll need to clean the frets, and practically everything else. However, some sunblock can dissolve the finish, so it’s best to try to avoid getting it on the guitar body.
Salt is corrosive, meaning that salt air can have a pretty detrimental effect upon your strings. Now, of course, strings can be easily replaced. But, if it’s a long trip, you need to make sure that you’re replacing your strings before the tarnish spreads to other parts of the instrument – such as the frets. And yes, most frets are made out of silver nickel, which means that they will tarnish more slowly, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t tarnish at all.
As with any kind of travel, you need to make sure that your guitar is safely packed. For a traditional model, this should involve a heavy-duty case. Folding travel guitars are usually supplied in tailor-made backpacks or bags. Designed for storage as much as transportation, these backpacks should give your travel guitar all the protection it needs when not in use.
A weekend at the beach isn’t going to do your guitar any harm at all. Even a couple of weeks onboard a boat will be fine. But regardless of your length of stay, it always pays to take precautions. Look after your guitar as if it were a pet. Keep it dry and comfortable. Clean it if it gets grubby. Give it somewhere safe to rest. Do all of that and you’ll be playing sea shanties way into the future.