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Old 14-10-2015, 15:49   #1
JMK
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Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

We hauled our boat for bottom paint and to fix a small defect on the bottom of the keel that was noted during the purchase survey a few months ago. As I dug out the soft fiberglass from the defect it started getting bigger and water started dripping from the area. We kept expanding the cut to try and find a dry area until we ended up cutting the glass away from the entire bottom of the fin keel. At that point several gallons of water came out, and when I checked inside the bilge it was now dry which tells me that water from the bilge was infiltrating down and around the encapsulated lead keel all the way to the bottom of the keel.

Now the question is how to fix it? There is no simple access to the bilge so I am not certain if the sump just aft of keel is the deepest or only sump but much of the bilge is hidden by tanks, engine, and sole. Is there any logic in cleaning out the bilge and trying to use low viscosity epoxy to try and seal a leak once the keel has dried out? Any other strategies to consider besides just sealing in the problem from the bottom knowing that water will continue to seep down into the keel.

It would be nice if used boats came with a warranty, but the survey did not indicate anything other than the defect was noted and it was recommended to repair it.

Thanks,
J.M.
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Old 14-10-2015, 16:05   #2
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

I am not expert enough to recommend a fix here, but I wish that all those folks who rant on about failing keel bolts would read your post and any forthcoming good advice about mitigation of your problem.

And I hope that you can find a solution!

Jim
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Old 14-10-2015, 19:16   #3
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

so without going into too much detail, i fixed a similar problem on my lead/concrete encapsulated long keel. i measured the volume of the crack by filling with acetone till the level stabilized and all the bubbles stopped. then drilled drain holes at the low spots on both sides. repeated this three times til the acetone ran clear. let the boat sit in the sun for a month to drive out all the acetone. then on a very cool day i mixed up some slow cure epoxy with 33% fibers and poured. i got goo all the way down to the drain holes in about half an hour (6' of 1/8" crack) second pour was 45% fibers and the third pour was 50%. 16 gallons total. exotherm wasnt a problem as the crack was narrow and the concrete a large heat sink.

im pretty happy with the result... ballast is now sealed from future water intrusion and well bonded to the keel shell and the bilge is smooth.
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Old 14-10-2015, 19:40   #4
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

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Originally Posted by robwilk37 View Post
so without going into too much detail, i fixed a similar problem on my lead/concrete encapsulated long keel. i measured the volume of the crack by filling with acetone till the level stabilized and all the bubbles stopped. then drilled drain holes at the low spots on both sides. repeated this three times til the acetone ran clear. let the boat sit in the sun for a month to drive out all the acetone. then on a very cool day i mixed up some slow cure epoxy with 33% fibers and poured. i got goo all the way down to the drain holes in about half an hour (6' of 1/8" crack) second pour was 45% fibers and the third pour was 50%. 16 gallons total. exotherm wasnt a problem as the crack was narrow and the concrete a large heat sink.

im pretty happy with the result... ballast is now sealed from future water intrusion and well bonded to the keel shell and the bilge is smooth.
Not a bad method. I can recommend US Composite 635 THIN epoxy resin based on your description. It is low viscosity so it will penetrate any fissure. It wets out glass cloth extremely well. It is very slow cure. About 6 hours before it begins to set unless its very warm. About 3 to 4 days for a full cure so no exotherm even for a thick pour. Thicken with 3M microballoons (also US Composite) Price is not bad in 3-gallon packs.

Our encapsulated keel is separated from the bilge by the centerboard trunk. We managed to find a rock two summers back and tear off the lower leading edge. 60 layers to fix it & all winter & spring to dry out. No water in the boat though.
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Old 14-10-2015, 20:00   #5
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

i find using balloons tends to stiffen the bog a bit too much for deep casting, probably because they are so buoyant. milled fibers add a structural element to the repair and being heavy they may help in pulling the resin along. my .02

the resin i used was an industrial product from a local formulator, amazing stuff. the only goo ive seen that will cure to the inside of a plastic mixing cup! seriously, if you dont clean out the cup in time theres no peeling it out after the cure...
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Old 14-10-2015, 20:50   #6
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

Get an inexpensive boroscope camera on ebay and explore the inside of the bilge. You might find some possible sources of the leak. You might find other things worth knowing.

And look on the bright side. This keel has probably been wet for decades and it has done its job fine. After drying and a bit of epoxy&cloth it will be good for another few decades -- even if it leaks again.

If this is the most serious surprise you have with your new boat - you are a lucky guy.
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Old 14-10-2015, 20:58   #7
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

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Get an inexpensive boroscope camera on ebay and explore the inside of the bilge. You might find some possible sources of the leak. You might find other things worth knowing.

And look on the bright side. This keel has probably been wet for decades and it has done its job fine. After drying and a bit of epoxy&cloth it will be good for another few decades -- even if it leaks again.

If this is the most serious surprise you have with your new boat - you are a lucky guy.
I bet there are a lot of boat owners with encapsulated keels who don't even know if they have leaks down into their keel. I suppose good practice would dictate drilling a hole or using a garboard plug every haul-out. Ditto for the rudder, probably. Arguably even more critical for the rudder!
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Old 15-10-2015, 01:11   #8
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

With a lead keel, it's no big thing. Reglass the bottom of the keel and continue on. A cast iron keel is a horse of another color.
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Old 15-10-2015, 03:40   #9
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

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With a lead keel, it's no big thing. Reglass the bottom of the keel and continue on. A cast iron keel is a horse of another color.

Unless one happens to be located in an area where water gets hard and expands......


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Old 15-10-2015, 06:48   #10
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

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With a lead keel, it's no big thing. Reglass the bottom of the keel and continue on. A cast iron keel is a horse of another color.
He would still have the problem of water in the bilge from another source (water fittting, water from anchor locker drain) bubbling down into keel cavity area, assuming there are voids down there, and the cavity had just been drained and sealed from the bottom from the last haul out, as you recommended.

With all this water sitting in a confined space around the lead, one could end up with interal blisters, possibly.

He needs to seal the outside (as you say) and also the entry into the cavity from the bilge side, once all the water is out.
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Old 15-10-2015, 07:28   #11
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

How big a space are we talking about JM? I've had great results using a 2-part polyurethane expanding foam for filling voids. Just make sure you clean out with acetone and let it dry thoroughly first (the acetone will eat the foam if there's still any there).

This is one of those moments when i get really jealous of you guys in the states having access to all sorts of great stuff. 16 gallons of epoxy robwilk?! Here in Bermuda that would set me back........ $4800, if i got a good discount. Oh, and it's impossible to buy slow-cure hardener. We live in a country where it's usually 90 degrees every day in the summer, and no-one has thought that maybe there might be a market for some slow cure hardener. Grrrrrrrrrrr.
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Old 15-10-2015, 15:50   #12
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

Why not use hot bitumen, many timber trawlers down under use it for many jobs including bottom paint, cheap,easy smells for a while till cured.
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Old 15-10-2015, 16:49   #13
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

I had that problem on a Triton 24. I simply drilled some 1/2 inch holes high up on the keel, got a funnel attached to a small hose and started pouring slow cure epoxy in. When the epoxy poured out the hole I knew it was full. The worst I have done was an old full keel Formosa. That time we went from the bilge and hole sawed a 2 inch hole into the ballast void and started pouring polyester resin in. It took a lot of resin but fixed the problem.
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Old 15-10-2015, 17:42   #14
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

"16 gallons of epoxy robwilk?! Here in Bermuda that would set me back........ $4800, if i got a good discount."

well it still hurt at $650usd. but then again you get to live in bermuda, so im not going to feel too sorry for you. (sideways winky face)
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Old 16-10-2015, 00:47   #15
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Re: Water from bilge infiltrating keel with encapsulated ballast

Why do people who own GRP boats made with Polyester resin immediately think about buying and using expensive Epoxy resin when ever they contemplate a repair?
That seems so wasteful and pointless. IS this a quest for a miracle that really is not necessary? and how did Epoxy get viewed as the miraculous 'Do It Yourself' universal repair material ?
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