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Old 05-07-2018, 16:09   #1
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Tracing a very small leak

I have been trying to trace a small leak and am running out of ideas.

We are talking a couple tablespoons of water in the bilge every day. It is so little, that I can never see a drop of water falling off of anything that goes through the bilge (hoses, wires, etc), or dribbling down the side of the hull into the bilge. I have just spent an hour watching it, and never saw any water coming in, but somehow a tiny puddle grew.

This is a steel boat, so I would really, really like to find and stop this leak. Does anyone have any tricks for finding/tracing really small leaks?
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Old 05-07-2018, 16:48   #2
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

You lucky man,my favorite boat! Try laying kitchen paper towel in the bilge and see where it gets wet first.
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Old 05-07-2018, 17:30   #3
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Facial tissues can come in handy to help you trace a small leak. If that fails then sprinkle a bit of baby powder in the area where you suspect the leak is. Move out from there if you don't find the leak in that area. Also the blue paper towels are handy in showing small amounts of wetness.
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Old 05-07-2018, 17:34   #4
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Another idea... Baby power. Sprinkled liberally, it will show a water trail dramatically
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Old 05-07-2018, 20:19   #5
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Paper towels and powder are great ideas, just what I was looking for. Can’t wait to try them. Thanks!
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Old 06-07-2018, 09:03   #6
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Could the "leak" actually be condensation drip from either AC, refrig/frzr or the hull itself?
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Old 06-07-2018, 09:17   #7
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Condensing water from your breathing at night?
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Old 06-07-2018, 09:59   #8
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scrimshaw4 View Post
Could the "leak" actually be condensation drip from either AC, refrig/frzr or the hull itself?

Both of these comments! an adult breaths out up to 2l of water a day plus boiling water for drinks etc. A steel hull in cool water is a perfect condensation plate. Getting no water would be like having a fridge that never needed defrosting.


Never had a steel boat myself (but known a few). If you really want dusty bilges I would suggest either something absorbent to mop the water up or maybe a bilge blower to circulate air down there.
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Old 06-07-2018, 11:22   #9
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Dust the area with blue powered chalk, the type you would use to fill a caulk line. Even if the water evaporates it will be obvious that water was there. Also much easier to track than baby powder.
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Old 06-07-2018, 14:07   #10
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by steamgoat View Post
You lucky man,my favorite boat! Try laying kitchen paper towel in the bilge and see where it gets wet first.
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Old 06-07-2018, 16:59   #11
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by jalmberg View Post
I have been trying to trace a small leak and am running out of ideas.

We are talking a couple tablespoons of water in the bilge every day. It is so little, that I can never see a drop of water falling off of anything that goes through the bilge (hoses, wires, etc), or dribbling down the side of the hull into the bilge. I have just spent an hour watching it, and never saw any water coming in, but somehow a tiny puddle grew.

This is a steel boat, so I would really, really like to find and stop this leak. Does anyone have any tricks for finding/tracing really small leaks?
Maybe check to see if it's fresh or salt water then proceed with diagnosis.
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Old 06-07-2018, 19:40   #12
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

It could be condensation, I guess, or any of a thousand other sources. That's what I'm trying to figure out!


I did taste the water in the bilge. It didn't kill me, and it was clearly fresh. That seemed to rule out sea water, until I realized that we are far enough up the Chesapeake that we are in fresh water.



Alas!


We will be in salt water again soon, but I was hoping to find the leak before we fill our empty water tanks.


We'll be back on Petronella tomorrow, so will try out the paper towel and/or powder ideas ASAP. Will report results!
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:04   #13
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

If you are in a marina or a well sheltered area that is the boat is not rocking about try putting a little rolled out putty to form little dams.
That will hold the water and give you a goog idea the area to investigate further. Keep raising the 'dams' until you can pin point the leak. Worked for me
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:22   #14
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

The dam building idea sounds good,,but my bilge is so deep that I need to use a grabber to reach the bottom. They are too clumsy for fine work.

I’ve been thinking about the fridge. I think it is water tight, but maybe it’s not completely.

There are so many potential sources, that it is hardly worth counting them up. I think the only practical thing is to track the leak back to the source. Hopefully I have the tools to,do that now. Now it’s a matter of access.
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:26   #15
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Re: Tracing a very small leak

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Originally Posted by steamgoat View Post
You lucky man,my favorite boat!
Mine too! She’s a great sailer - both fast and comfortable. My wife and I have been restoring her for the last year. Finally finished all the big projects, so we are now working on the small details, like this darn leak.
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