Roaming the aisles at the WorkBoat Maintenance & Repair Expo held earlier this month in New Orleans, I enjoyed scoping out the wide array of specialty products designed especially for the maritime repair industry.

There was lots of gear relating to engines, naturally, and plenty of wheelhouse electronics, but there was a preponderance of stuff relating to hull maintenance. This makes sense since steel and water do not have the chemistry for a lasting relationship. There were coating specialists, there were welding suppliers galore, and there was my favorite, the Rustibus. Only at the WorkBoat expo would you run across a machine, about the size of a push mower, that is actually a de-scaler. Instead of blades whirling to cut blades of grass, the Rustibus has chains that spin and knock the rust off of steel surfaces.

This curious but brilliant machine made me wonder about how such inventions are born. So I wandered over to the booth and talked to Bjarne Solhaug and Orlando Chinea of Rustibus’ Houston division. Solhaug told me about Bjorn Ove Dalseide, an electrician in the 1970s on gantry cranes in the Austervoll islands in Norway. This region has a rich maritime heritage and is also an incubator for innovation. (A quick Internet tour of the region turned up this headline: “Austervoll Orders Second Salmon Cannon for Norway Plant.” What?)

Dalseide came up with the concept and built a prototype of an alternative method of de-scaling. He knew he was on to something, so the story goes, when the captain of the ship he was working on saw the machine and wanted to examine it. Dalseide threw the prototype overboard and when he got to shore, teamed up with his brother in 1978 to form Dalseide Shipping Services. They created an entire line of Rustibus de-scalers that make surface preparation a one-man job with minimal environmental impact.

Today, there are over 5,000 Rustibus machines in use worldwide and the brand has grown from its roots in Norway to Houston and other divisions in Antwerp, and Singapore. Rustibus also has a sales partnership in Dubai to serve the Middle East.

The lesson here is don’t let a nosy captain steal your good idea.

A collection of stories from guest authors.