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Old 16-03-2012, 18:04   #1
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Keel Bolts Leaking ?

We just finished a lumpy 2 day crossing and ended up with an inch of water in the bilge. With our flat and shallow bilge, the sloshing water gets the cabin sole wet on the leeward side. This has been a recurring problem whenever we're in very rough seas. I think I've narrowed things down to the keel-bolts allowing water in when the keel is working. Normally our bilge is dry as a bone. The previous owner seems to have tried to seal things up with silicone. We have a 7 foot lead keel with bulb and 8 keel bolts.

We're at a marina in Ishigaki Japan on our way to Hong Kong. I'd like to try to remove one nut and plate, clean and dry the area, then seal the bolt with butyl, re-assemble and tighten the nut. If that goes well, repeat for each bolt in turn.

Any thoughts, comments or recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old 16-03-2012, 18:51   #2
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There is equipment that can sound the bolts condition. Tad expensive why you would do this. If the bolts are failing they may stretch before breech. Having seen near failure of s.s. Stress crack corrosion I would look deeper then sealing the leak. What are the bolts made up of? My gist is that something is not as good as new. So why is it leaking? Before you fix it understand the why? You could have stress crack corrosion in stainless bolts or an opened seem with the keel dropping. Something changed and now there is water.
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:01   #3
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

Sorry to say but this sounds like you've got what could be a serious problem. It could just be that the nuts on the keel bolts have worked loose breaking the seal in the bedding and letting water in. What we don't know at this point is if that's all that is wrong. The bolts could be corroded, the threads in the lead could be shearing, or worse. If you can't get to a yard you can try backing out one keel bolt at a time, inspect it, and thread it back in with some bedding until you've inspected them all. That probably won't fix the problem but might at least tell you what your keel bolts look like. The better thing to do would be to pull the boat out of the water, drop the keel and replace any corroded keel bolts and rebed the keel. A good surveyor or boat builder can give you more details and advice before you start shelling out too much money.

Not trying to scare you, but keels have been known to fall off and unfortunately at the worst possible moment. If this has been a problem for a long time you may have a potentially serious issue.
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:20   #4
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

The bolts aren't going to let water in unless the joint has been compromised. The bolts working loose could have caused that, but at this point, they are only half your problem.
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:33   #5
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

Question is there is a single row of bolts in line or pairs of bolts alongside?

I believe you need to retorque the bolts and if you have the chance to reach a boatyard close to your location , lift the boat , let the boat rest in the keel , and retorque the keel, this is just for peace of mind if you need to leave the place to your next destination, at the same time after retorque the bolts , lift the boat in the crane and see if the joints open to much, dont forget your favorite sealant if you remove the nuts and plates , but you know sooner or later you need to remove the keel from the boat and inspect bolts , nuts , corrosion etc.... and reseal the whole keel in place, quite expensive because you need to drop the mast .
Good luck.
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:46   #6
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

"The bolts aren't going to let water in unless the joint has been compromised. The bolts working loose could have caused that, but at this point, they are only half your problem"
Yep, If water is getting in and continuing via the bolts, the bolts themselves are at risk as they are wet and semi enclosed. Unless you're lucky and the manufacturer used bronze. Isnt it amazing how a builder can decide to save... what... $50 on a $300k yacht using stainless where bronze is far superior...?

"quite expensive because you need to drop the mast ."
Just curious...why not just loosen the rigging?
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:50   #7
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

I am not a boat builder, or extensive knowlage about this subject but, it would seem to me that if the only time the bilge gets wet is during rough sailing it could be other forms of leaking. To me it would seem that if the bolts were leaking, they would leak all the time regardless of conditions.
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:55   #8
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocketman View Post
I am not a boat builder, or extensive knowlage about this subject but, it would seem to me that if the only time the bilge gets wet is during rough sailing it could be other forms of leaking. To me it would seem that if the bolts were leaking, they would leak all the time regardless of conditions.
Forces work diferent with the boat resting flat in the dock , with the boat heeling and pounding the keel work a lot, but yes maybe the leak come from a diferent source in the boat, good idea to check the plumbing, stuffing box , etc...
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:55   #9
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

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Originally Posted by Rocketman View Post
I am not a boat builder, or extensive knowlage about this subject but, it would seem to me that if the only time the bilge gets wet is during rough sailing it could be other forms of leaking. To me it would seem that if the bolts were leaking, they would leak all the time regardless of conditions.
Possible for sure. A 7 ft lever arm with a lead bulb at the end is a heck of a force though... might be flexing the hull enough to open a seam on one side slightly....
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:55   #10
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

Retorquing / rebedding the keel bolts alone won't tell you if you have a more serious problem that you cannot see until you've pulled the hull from the keel. Don't take my word for it either, get a professional surveyor down there to take a look. It will be money very well spent.
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Old 16-03-2012, 19:59   #11
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

Yes, if you are not certain the leak is coming from the keel bolts, then definitely check to be certain that's where it's coming from. No need to pull the boat out of the water only to later learn the water was coming from a leaky water tank or similar. But if you are certain the water is weeping in through the keelbolts, it's time to investigate the source of the problem thoroughly.
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Old 16-03-2012, 20:02   #12
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

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Originally Posted by callmecrazy View Post
The bolts aren't going to let water in unless the joint has been compromised. The bolts working loose could have caused that, but at this point, they are only half your problem.
I'm afraid I'd have to agree. If water can make it to the bolt shank then water is between the keel and the hull all of the time. This means that you likely have a mini galvanic cell working on the bolts. The fix is to pull the boat, drop the keel entirely. Inspect the bolts. Clean any salt intrusions away and dry; remove old calk. Lets assume you caught this before serious damage. Rebed the entire top surface of the keel and re-attach. The bedding material needs to exclude water from entering the joint.

If the bolts are severly corroded there are places to send the keel for installing new bolts. (not cheap) There are other local methods to replace bolts. Research this if you are unfortunate enough to need it.


Here is a photo from my March 2012 Cruising World article on the topic. I encourage you to access and read it. You can see the massive pile of goop used to do the job right. You can also appreciate how futile it is to mearely calk the bolts.


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Old 16-03-2012, 20:35   #13
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholson58 View Post
I'm afraid I'd have to agree. If water can make it to the bolt shank then water is between the keel and the hull all of the time. This means that you likely have a mini galvanic cell working on the bolts. The fix is to pull the boat, drop the keel entirely. Inspect the bolts. Clean any salt intrusions away and dry; remove old calk. Lets assume you caught this before serious damage. Rebed the entire top surface of the keel and re-attach. The bedding material needs to exclude water from entering the joint.

If the bolts are severly corroded there are places to send the keel for installing new bolts. (not cheap) There are other local methods to replace bolts. Research this if you are unfortunate enough to need it.


Here is a photo from my March 2012 Cruising World article on the topic. I encourage you to access and read it. You can see the massive pile of goop used to do the job right. You can also appreciate how futile it is to mearely calk the bolts.


Nicholson58
Luckily, the previous owner replaced my keel bolts. I hope they used your technique. The boat was in Traverse City, any chance you did the work? The boat is named "Wild Hare"
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Old 16-03-2012, 20:40   #14
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

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Nicholson58
Luckily, the previous owner replaced my keel bolts. I hope they used your technique. The boat was in Traverse City, any chance you did the work? The boat is named "Wild Hare"

No, not involved. If it spent most of its life in fresh water there is a good chance there is little or no damage. You can pick out the boats here that need attention. After a winter in the hard, bilges are wet and traces of water are evedent at the keel to hull interface on the leakers.
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Old 16-03-2012, 21:41   #15
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Re: Keel bolts leaking?

I'd dry the keel sump out, line it with paper towels, then go out in lumpy weather and watch what and where gets wet first. I was sure that my keel boats were working, and it turned out the water was coming in from the rudder post seal.
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