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Old 14-10-2009, 19:27   #1
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Water in Bilge Coming from Keel, or ?

I just joined, having been lured by the fascinating conversation about Formosa sailboats. My intention was to join that conversation, where I can passionately discuss both the pro's and the con's. (I love my Formosa 51, but love is a dangerous thing.)
But now I have a more pressing concern, and am hoping someone can help shed some light. For quite some time there's been a stinky water accumulation in the sump box that sits in my bilge under the engine - it's a glassed-in box cut into the keel that sits right under the flywheel of my engine - I think it was added by someone post construction?? Anyway, I've always believed that the water came from somewhere inside the boat, and I've chased and repaired and rebuilt everything that was ever suspect.
I just discovered that water was seeping from a screw used to hold a bilge switch in place, (just above the cutout box and next to it) and I removed it and water came gurgling out, and it has continued to do so for several days since. It smells, (like resin??) but is otherwise clear. WTF??
I now have attached a hose and pump and have been sucking the water out, and it has now slowed or maybe stopped. I believe a little water may also be seeping into the box from the bottom of the box itself.
Any thoughts?? This is freaking me out pretty good to say the least?
No one I've asked knows of any other Formosa with a bilge sump box cut into the keel.
The shipwright at my boatyard says to just reseal with epoxy and forget about it; that the water has just traveled from forward through voids to this spot, and that it happens. REALLY?

I'm worried.
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Old 14-10-2009, 20:07   #2
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So, that water came out of the solid fiberglass hull? If so, yes you should be worried and ask an expert (surveyor) for advise.

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Old 14-10-2009, 20:17   #3
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Is it salt water, or fresh? I'm not familiar with Formosas, so pardon my ignorance, but are there such "voids" as the shipwright seems to think? How much water are we talking about -- like ounces, or gallons?

I can certainly understand your concern. Little "discoveries" like this drive me nuts until I get them figured out.

Oh, and welcome to the Forum!

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Old 14-10-2009, 20:37   #4
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Cored hull or solid glass? If cored hull, the screw hole itself is the likely culprit. Never, ever, ever screw anything into a cored hull. If this is the case, grind out all the mush of the core & repair

If it is a solid glass hull, I would suspect that the retrofitted glass box would be the culprit - probably didn't use an epoxy resin, the poly resin has now turned to putty, there are also likely to be voids behind the glass box. The bilge water percolates through the box and sits in the voids. The easy way out is the screw hole.

The advice of "just patch it up" doesn't sit well with me, nor with you I suspect. I'd try the following approach:

Fill up the box with fresh water (the screw hole is above the level of the box right??) - does the flow increase again? if it does, you know that the box is the problem. Remove the retrofitted box and replace - use epoxy resins.

Check other potential internal sources in the same manner. If none prove to be the cause, and the flow does seem to have stopped, then it could well be an accumulation of moisture over the years and the advice to epoxy the hole could be valid. However, before doing so, I would:

1. grind out the screw hole a bit to get rid of any mush
2. get a dehumidifier on it for a couple of weeks (or even months if that is practical). Make sure it is inside a sealed plastic 'tent' and targeting the area, and not trying to dehumidify the county.
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Old 14-10-2009, 21:08   #5
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Stink keel, just like an old Choy Lee. Your internal ballast is most likely iron and cement. Leaks over the years begin to rot the cement and iron with the break down fluid stagnating in that fiber glass shoe.
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Old 15-10-2009, 00:36   #6
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As Delaminated says, I think you are getting water into the ballast that is supposed to be completely encapsulated in your keel.

Water could have gotten in from the bilge or from the outside.

Over the years it could have seeped in from that screw you removed....it obviously wasn’t sealed well or the water wouldn’t have been able to come out from the keel....it could be that simple.

Any penetration into that fairly thin layer of glass, that is the bottom of your bilge, will allow water to get in. Tap on it….you can hear that its got voids between the skin and the top of the ballast material.

OR You could have terrible Osmosis and its actually seeping through the hull ....that would be a bad thing and would mean lots of $$ to repair.
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Old 15-10-2009, 07:50   #7
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The fact that it gurgled out for days suggests it was under displacement pressure (external seepage). That nasty juice as James said is degrading your fiberglass, that's why if smells like blister fluid. Feel free to give me a call to discuss real world repair options,east coast 703 760 8136.
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Old 15-10-2009, 08:37   #8
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I had a S&S 38 years ago that I hauled for an extended period. There was a wet spot at the bottom of the keel that wouldn't go away. The owner of the yard (a boat builder) tolded me to drill it, which I did (this was a full keeled boat with internal ballast). The hole I drilled was 3/4" and when I hit the inside water,sand and some oil came streaming out (they cover the lead with oil and the sand to secure the areas around the lead). I was saying WTF as well! He assured me every boat with internal ballast has water inside the "capsule" and not to worry. I drilled a hole in the bilge into the keel and attached a vacum to the bottom hole. After drying for a week plus I glassed both shut and never had a problem again.
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Old 15-10-2009, 08:53   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Delaminated View Post
Stink keel, just like an old Choy Lee. Your internal ballast is most likely iron and cement. Leaks over the years begin to rot the cement and iron with the break down fluid stagnating in that fiber glass shoe.
not to mention the iron expanding while it rusts .. you can guess what happens next.
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Old 15-10-2009, 09:28   #10
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Most US and euro builder's do the incap keel properly,w/a cast lead hunk placed in a play sand bed and then applying resin to the sand before capping over. If water is allowed stand in the keel you will have problems. On keels built as above, one of the concerns is freeze expansion trauma that will result in bulging outward. This deforms the keel and stresses the glass.

On the far east built boats with scrap iron and cement, look out and hold on to your wallet.
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Old 15-10-2009, 09:58   #11
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It sounds like you have water in the encapsulated ballast area. I dont know if there is any really viable way of fixing it..? The good news is your Formosa 51 is probably super thick down there.... I would seal it up good. next time you haul, drill a few holes and see if any water comes out of the keel... at least you might get the majority of the water out. It'll always be damp though. If it makes you feel any better, A lot of offshore fishing boats were built with just unencapsulated cement, poured in the keels and take a lot of rough weather... Theres got to be a lot of dampness between the cement and the fiberglass onthose...
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Old 15-10-2009, 14:03   #12
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Well, this is a lot to digest. First I'd like to say, what an awesome forum, and a huge thanks to everyone who has taken the time to consider this. Wish I'd been a member these past 10 yrs - that's how long I've owned this boat.
Yes, the hull is taiwanese enclosed iron and cement. I did a blister job/West System barrier about 5 yrs ago to what was a moderate to light blister problem. I've hauled twice since then and have had no recurrence of blisters. It has appeared to be a rather dry hull.
Interestingly, it poured all day yesterday, giving me a chance to really scout with a flashlight this morning; here's what I found. There was about a cup and a half of new water in the 'sump' box, it was FRESH, not salty, there was fresh water laying on the fwd chine up in the anchor locker, there was fresh water aft of the compression post for the main, coming out of the little drain that is designed to let water pass there, and then it kind of disappears, i.e. there isn't much tell tale of it until the sump box. Hmmm??
I've sealed up the suspect screw hole adjacent to the box w/west system) and gave the box a couple thick coats as well. I noticed a tendency for air to want to seep out of the wet epoxy around the bottom edges of the box. Also, I've tapped around the inside vertical walls of the box to find that the two sides and fwd wall all sound hollow (the aft vertical surface sounds solid.)

I'm tempted to drill a couple of more holes into the hollow walls and see what's there.

Talked to my 'shipwright' again this morning at the yard and he suggested another idea -- to drill a hole where the screw hole had leaked (the one I sealed up), again pump out anything that wants to come out, then insert a tall pvc pipe, and pour resin in over time until it won't take any more. He insists he thinks it's water that has flowed from fwd, water that has entered the boat and found it's way "between the laminates", and that it has settled in a cavity. Aaaahhhhhh.
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Old 15-10-2009, 14:36   #13
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... and now just off the phone with John (Delaminated) who so kindly offered to go over everything with me on the phone: HUGE THANKS!!! Best plan: haul the boat, drill half a dozen or so 1/2" holes at bottom of keel, some even bigger ones up in the bilge, buy some cheap vacuums, and suck the hull for as long as I can stand it, then inject resin from the top and the bottom, glass it back up, and call it done. Even if my local guy is right, and most of this water has come from inside the boat, if it's been building up over these many years inside the keel, it should come out, and whatever voids there are in the keel should get filled up best as I can.
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Old 15-10-2009, 23:05   #14
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If the boat is a molded one piece hull and keel, then rather than drilling from the bottom do this. Internally locate the positioning of the ballast and then core drill into the side of the keel about 1/3 of the way from bottom of the keel to the estimated top of the ballast. You want to determine two things - if there is water trapped in the ballast cavity and how thick the exterior hull is over the ballast.
- - Trying to drill vertically up through the bottom of the keel is not advisable as normally the bottom of the keel cavity is filled with up to 6 inches of thick resin that drained down as the hull-keel was laid up. Drilling in from the side allows you to see exactly what the ballast is made of. Whether it is iron, lead or concrete. The older boats had their ballast areas filled with scrap iron with poured concrete of the top. Specifically they would put all the scrap iron around the plant into the cavity and then pour ready-mix concrete until the cavity was filled. Some manufacturers used a mixture of poured readi-mix and lead shot or iron shot to fill the cavity.
- - It is a good idea if there is water trapped in the ballast cavity to get it all out and dry inside. The water trapped inside will promote delamination blisters in the keel sides and eventually weaken the keel to the point that it will fail or collapse. I saw one boat in the boatyard I was working in collapse over its keel when in jackstands because the keel sides were virtually all delaminated due to blisters. The "Inspection" holes drilled in the side will allow good examination of the problem and are easily repaired with the core circles from the core drill.
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Old 16-10-2009, 10:45   #15
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I think you may be over worrying. But while you are drilliing... drill a hole in the rudder, you will undoubtably find water there too. If you do drill the keel, I agree the very bottom may not tell you much. Just try some 1/4" holes first maybe 6" from bottom and if dry... move up. Take a good look at what comes out, dry? wet? how wet? how thick is the hull? etc. If you really have water between your ballast and the hull, you will never dry it out... just cant be done from a practical standpoint. It's too moist and humid with no place for air to circulate. Injecting epoxy will just be a waste of money. I once saw a 44 foot cored hull in a boat yard and watched the repair process on this boat for a month and a half. The core was mostly above the waterline but was delaminated from the hull in spots, so the "fix" was to drill about 500 3/8" diameter holes in the hull and topsides. Then inject resin under pressure from the bottom holes until it flowed out the top holes. To make a long story short, after all this they discovered some thru hulls had leaked into the core on one side at the waterline. They cut about a 1 ft by 16 ft part of the hull away on that side. The epoxy that was injected in that area was a real mess.... milky white, semi hard in spots due to the water etc. It turned out that the hull was as thick as any Non-cored hull, then had a core and then had an inner layer. Basically, he could have left the boat as it was (except removing the water infiltrated area) and not worried that the core had not "stuck" to the hull in a lot of the areas. Are you over worrying this??? make sure.....
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