Alternative title: maybe I should have got a camper van?
My wife and I don't have much money
and after 10 years of trying and saving we thought we were getting close to taking off cruising. The other day I noticed a tiny section of rust in the bilge
of our steel 44 foot Roberts Mauritius sailboat. This was on the edge of the the bitumen that has been used to seal the ballast into the keel
. I removed the bitumen to reveal the steel punchings ballast and found to my absolute horror that it's full of water
The water tanks
have been leaking and I believe that for the last few years this has been leaking past the bitumen and into the keel
. This is really depressing! I'm not sure what to do. I'm not a boat builder
and have limited knowledge of these things.
The steel punchings don't actually look very rusty which is odd. The steel is black and soaking in black, filthy water but there are only the occasional spot that shows normal red rust and is stuck together.
Dig out some of the punchings. Soak up the water (it fills any hole I dig just like digging a hole in the sand on the beach). Get a large quantity of that corrosion
inhibitor used in the cooling
system of an engine
. Chuck that in there and seal it up again. Note that I'm not considering normal ethol glycol antifreeze
but rather the stuff that only stops corrosion
. We're not planning on sailing anywhere extremely cold.
I use this stuff in the main engine
and the water still seems to go rusty even though I add heaps of it. Where do you get that stuff out of "Erin Brokovich"
Haul the boat out and drill some holes in the bottom of the keel. Drain out the water, tap the holes and plug
them with some bolts. Epoxy
around the bolts to keep salt water
away from them. Fill the keel with oil
. Replace the bitumen. Fibreglass over it so that water won't get in there again.
dissolve the tar? Will the oil actually dissapate throughout the closely packed and somewhat rusty punchings?). Will it stop the rust? I don't want to place the drain plugs on the bottom of the keel because they could be more easily knocked off in a grounding so I'll have to put them on the side near the bottom. No matter where I place them there will be a small amount of water remaining. The oil will float in this so it will remain at the bottom of the keel promoting rust.
Now this is pretty terrifying but maybe I should haul out
, cut the whole side of the keel off with an angle grinder, remove all the ballast, paint
inside the keel and panel, get it all welded back together, fill the keel with new ballast, seal it with tar and then fibreglass.
There is a large and heavy 55 foot mast
sticking out of the deck
. Will the boat fall off the cradle
and flip over if I remove all the ballast? I guess I need to run some ropes from the mast
to heavy items on either side before trying this? This boat has a draft
of 2 metres (7 feet). The keel is at least 1.5 metres high. How can I reach into it and clean then paint
the inside of the welds so they don't rust?
A local steel boat builder
said that a) there's no way to get the ballast out, b) if it's not rusting then don't worry, the tar is excluding all oxygen so it won't rust. Just replace the tar and forget about it.
Problems: at the moment the keel isn't rusty. It has a good coating of some kind of paint and appears to be in good condition inside. So at this point the problem is somewhat fixable without replacing the entire keel. I think that if it's left then in a few years the ballast will rust and expand. This will damage the keel which will also rust from the inside. I don't want to be cruising in the middle of nowhere in a few years and suddenly realise the the keel has rusted though from the inside and the boat in sinking. Or hit something solid and the whole thing snaps off. Either way the family
This steel punchings ballast has just been chucked into the keel and tarred over. I reckon if the boat tipped upside down then it would all come out resulting in the death of my family
. The reason I bought a steel boat is that we want to go on some serious adventures and cross ocean so this is a real consideration. Shouldn't the ballast be mixed with epoxy
? The boat is beautifully made so it seems odd if this isn't done correctly.
Sorry this posting
is so long. As you can tell I really need help. I would be happy to pay an expert to be a "consultant" and advise me how to get this goddam boat ready for cruising. Ideally someone in Sydney
that can come and have a look. If we don't get out of here soon the dream will die!