I said that I wasn't going to add to the confusion over on the Any way to check keel bolts?
thread, and I won't.
However, thanks to a "Like" on that thread, I did poke my nose into the thread, and saw the following question;
This being a part of the vast lack of knowledge that I have about sailboats, let me ask the question. Is there anything that an owner can do to maintain or extend the life of his keel bolts?
I'll attempt to answer that question here. Please note that I am not going to get into cast iron, or encapsulated keels. I am also not going to go into why I believe that sistering keel bolts is NOT
the way to go. I did that in the other thread.
For those of you that have't seen the other threads, I have based my experience on the following; When my current boat went to survey, over 4 years ago, it was discovered that the keel was loose. You can read about that discovery here: A wet bilge is MORE than just a nuisance !
To make a long story short, the keel bolts were shot. There was no evidence, other than some moisture in the bilge every time that I looked at the boat. This is what the keel bolts looked like from the bilge;
and this is what the joint looked like at haulout for the survey;
Here is what the same bolts looked like this when the keel was dropped;
The keel was dropped by the yard that I had the boat hauled for the survey, and they sent it to I Broomfield and Son in Providence, RI. where they did the following;
When replacing keel bolts, we melt the lead around the bolt, remove the old
bolt (which is usually 304 SS), and replace it with a new bolt (316SS). The
lead is replaced and the keel is faired and painted around the area. [price info redacted...]
Depending upon the time of year, the number of
bolts that need replacing and how busy we are it usually takes about 4-6
The re-attaching of your keel
is usually taken care of at the boat yard, this is something that we are not
involved with at all. If you have any other questions, please feel free to
The yard reattached the keel, by bedding it in 4200, and then wrapped the keel hull joint in fiberglass to prevent any additional moisture intrusion. When finished the keel joint looked like this;
Two years ago I had the boat soda blasted, and here is what the keel joint looked like;
All of the above has been posted in various other threads in Sailnet. Sorry if it seems redundant to the reader.
The keel joint is very solid, as I had a helmsman "discover" a ledge in the Sakonnet River, next to Gould Island at 5 knots two years ago...
In order to keep the corrosion at bay, here is what I do;
- First of all, I installed a PSS Shaft seal to keep the salt water out of my bilge.
- I pulled the (expensive) Y-valve from the freshwater system on the boat, as that was leaking too. I replaced it with a home-built manifold of PVC and PVC ball valves (cheap and effective).
- I also needed to fix any leaks in the coachroof (replaced both cracked and leaky deadlights, and sealed them with a non-expired tube of Dow 795 Silicone. I removed the old silicone from the coachroof with a razor, and then cleaned it off completely with MEK... I still need to seal around one of the hinges for my propane locker.)
- I use a 4 gallon Shop Vac, which fits nicely in my laserette, to vacuum any water from the bilge. (water always seems to travel down my mast) I also leave the covers off the bilge compartment when I am not aboard. I reason that with the cover removed, there is more airflow through the bilge, and more opportunity for evaporation.
- Every other year, pull one keel nut at a time, and clean the nut, bolt, washer, and backing plate with a brass brush. After cleaning, apply a little motor oil to the nut, and re install. I use a deep socket, and a ½" breakerbar to remove the nuts. On reassembly, I use a deflection beam torque wrench torque the nut to 100 foot pounds. I usually have to play with the socket quite a bit. I turn the socket to engage with the nut, then try the breaker bar. If it doesn't engage, I remove the wrench, turn the socket 1 facet, and try again.
Here is what the keel nuts and bolts look like today (well yesterday);
You can see that I had just vacuumed water (from the incessant rain that we've had in the northeast) from the bilge just before I snapped this pic.
The last time that I pulled the nuts, the nuts, and bolts looked perfect.
I hope this helps!