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vcirelli

Keelbolt repair... silver lining.

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When I did the survey on Miga, she was gently pushed out of the water like a synchronized swimmer in a water ballet. This machine that moves the boat out of the water is called a ‘slip way’ or ‘railway’ system (to my knowledge) and acts like a water elevator to bring the boat to dock level, and then rides on rails to a desired location.

While great for a ballet, not ideal for a survey when trying to assess potential issues with her bottom half. The boat, not the swimmer.

This method of pushing the boat out of the water never allows the weight of the keel to be suspended from the keel joint as it is when it’s in the water. Instead it compresses the keel joint area and potentially stems tell-tail leaks or the visibility of cracks in that area. So, when Miga came out of the water, and was allowed to dry, there was no apparent cracks or water seeping from the joint. Everything seemed ok under the waterline.

It passed the survey, and I bought it. Mine. Done deal. Ok, moving on.

Fast forward about a month…to my new water maker, AKA my bilge. It mysteriously collects water for me from an unknown source. I’d drain it, it would slowly fill back up.

Taste it. It’s salty.
Thrulhulls aren’t leaking.
I have a dripless.
No water from rudder shaft when underway.

I remember asking about the water in the bilge when buying the boat and the question was met with “every boat has some water in the bilge, that’s normal.”

Well, the more I learned about boats the more I found that statement to be only partially true. Shame on me for not doing my own research. Some boats have various packing glands, some boats have dripless seals. Some boats have vents that drain into a bilge, some boats don’t. Some boats have a bone dry bilge and some don’t.

I want my bilge to be dry, and it wasn’t. My thinking is that if you have water intrusion, that isn’t part of your equipment’s normal operation, you’re sinking. Hyperbole, I know, I’m new to owning a boat and so take these words with a grain of salt. So, I set forth to figure out the source of the leak. I built a dam around the bolts with putty. Then waited. Waited some more, even fooling myself into thinking, the keel bolts are totally fine! I'm just being my usual neurotic self lost in an infinite loop of, what ifs.

But then a glisten.

Naa, that was there! I just didn't dry the rim of the bolt well enough. It was clear, water was coming up around one of the keel bolts and so I did what any new owner of a boat with possible keelbolt issues would do.

I dropped to my knees next to the bolt, and projected a string of profound obscenities at it that could make the toughest sailor blush.

Then I stood up. Time to fix it.

I had the boat hauled out in Marina Del Rey, both yards here use Travelifts…so this time the boat would be hung by the hull, with the keel suspended for a couple hours. I assumed this would show me what the survey didn’t. It did.
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Luckily, five other bolts were in great shape, one had a touch of corrosion and needed cleaning, and then one was a real mess (shown below).

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So, what are the options? I asked multiple yards, ‘experts’, and friends. Having vetted all the options, such as melting the keel and replacing bolts, to sleeving the bolt, drilling new holes, etc. The team at Windward Boatyard in MDR came up with a solution that I verified with many would be a great solution for my particular situation. It would ensure that the keel wasn't going anywhere.

When the keel was cast, the factory tapped two holes for the machine that lifts it around during the manufacturing. You can see one of them below.

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Windward meticulously we're able to pull up sections of the sole without ruining it. Then in those specific areas where you see the holes drilled through the liner, they built up more glass in the bilge, made it level where the new bolts would come up through and finally tighten on.

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(The bilge pumps & plumping in this image are being completely overhauled)

Here is a picture of the boat, it has new thru-hulls under the galley, new barrier coat, and countless other things we did ourselves while the boat was on the hard.
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No leaky bolts, and a boat I know is safe. That's the silver lining.


Ok, don't get comfortable, lots more to do. I'll post all the things we did to the rest of her while she was out of the water...

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  1. Loren Beach's Avatar
    Not too bad compared to one or two pictured in a prior thread here.
    Glad you got it fixed; likely a once-and-done maintenance item. We have re-bedded our keel also, many years ago. Dusty dry bilge ever since.

    BTW if those are Rule centrifugal pumps in the pictures, I would guess that the much-higher-quality Jabsco pumps from the factory were replaced by someone prior to your arrival on scene.
    Updated 07-25-2018 at 08:23 AM by Loren Beach
  2. vcirelli's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Loren Beach
    Not too bad compared to one or two pictured in a prior thread here.
    Glad you got it fixed; likely a once-and-done maintenance item. We have re-bedded our keel also, many years ago. Dusty dry bilge ever since.

    BTW if those are Rule centrifugal pumps in the pictures, I would guess that the much-higher-quality Jabsco pumps from the factory were replaced by someone prior to your arrival on scene.
    Thanks Loren, I hear you on the pumps. That whole mess is getting an overhaul... if you saw some of the wiring to the pumps, you'd chuckle.