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sailhog 03-13-2007 11:52 AM

water in the bilge
I'm in the habit of cleaning my bilge every few days, and I've noticed that I take on approximately 1/4-cup of water per day. It's a 27-year-old Catalina 30 with new keel bolts and a recently epoxied keel-hull joint. Although it could be my imagination, it seems like there's a little more water in there lately. Also, when I return from sailing there's a little more still. It's salt water, and it's not coming from the ice box. The engine is raw water-coolled, but I don't think that's the source. Is this too much water? Any theories on the source? Appreciate any comments.

TrueBlue 03-13-2007 12:01 PM

We always get a little bit of bilge water trickling in from the prop shaft packing gland. A 1/4 cup or more seems normal for an older boat, but you might tighten a turn on the packing nut to see if that reduces the seawater amount. Otherwise, if pertinent to your boat, check the rudder post gland.

sailingdog 03-13-2007 12:07 PM

It is probably the packing gland on the prop shaft. If you're really worried... sprinkle some talcum powder in the bilge after drying it thoroughly... the water will leave tracks in the powder as it moves....

A 1/4 cup per day is pretty reasonable for an older boat. You should see how often the bilge pumps work for some of the power boats at my marina...

ianhlnd 03-13-2007 12:09 PM


It's salt water, and it's not coming from the ice box.

How do you know? Did you taste it? EEeeehhhh!

Like stated above, the packing gland is supposed to drip so many drops a minute. But also, if you're taking water over the bow, the chain locker drains to the bilge. 1/2 cup of water is nothing. Careful not to tighten the packing gland too much, could cause friction heat.

christyleigh 03-13-2007 12:19 PM

Shaft Drips
As Ianhlnd mentioned you don't want to tighten it too much so I would check your drip rate at the dock in gear before tightening it. Drip rate is not a perfect science but I'd say 1-3 per minute is fine, 10 needs a little tightening, 20 is way too loose, and should be watched closely after tightening for a while to insure your packing hasn't gone junk for ballpark figures.

camaraderie 03-13-2007 01:21 PM

My own view is that at REST at the dock, the packing gland should be adjusted just tight enough so that there is NO drip. Do this by finding the point at which there is one or 2 drips a minute then tighten 1/8 turn. If no drips evident after a couple of minutes...that is fine...if drips...another 1/8 etc.
Check when underway that the shaft if not getting too hot to touch. and if so...back off a bit.
The water you are getting is no big deal if it is from your packing gland but given your recent repairs, you need to be sure that the gland is where the drip is coming from. Put some paper towels underneath is and see if they get wet! It is normal for the gland to drip more underway than at rest.

Bill Mc 03-13-2007 02:38 PM

Same Same GI
If it is a universal engine take a mirror and look beneath the exhaust manifold and see if the freeze plugs are leaking. A friend of mine just went thru this with his Catalina. We found a crack where the keel bolts on, but after that repair, his bilge pump still cycled alot, the freeze plug popped and his exhaust line crumpled during that fix.

Fair Winds,


wimackenzie 03-13-2007 10:16 PM

I am the friend that Bill Mc was talking about. I also found a leak in the head behind the toilet under the vanity. A bad water clamp had cut through the hose so that every time I opened the thru hull to flush, water ultimately found its way into the bilge! Frustration, keel bolts, manifold, freeze plugs and toilets!! I did stay on the boat this week-end and for the first time ....NO WATER!! Good luck. Let me know what you find......

Valiente 03-14-2007 01:58 AM

The above poster beat me to it...You can use the talcum idea to confirm that it isn't some hose intake leak or even a small crack in the ball **** housing...I had that one launch and had to haul out in a TraveLift over a lunch hour to break it out and screw on a fresh one..."Plumber's Pal" self-adhering tape sealed the crack until I could get to it, and it only dripped when the **** was open, which it wasn't unless the head was in use, but still...

If you get some paper towel and run it behind cabinetry, you might find leaks or even condensation down there.

hellosailor 03-14-2007 01:16 PM

Aside from the talcum, another good trick are washable children's markers. They're like magic markers--but water washable, sold with the kiddie art supplies. You take a big thick one and draw a big arc around the packing gland or "downhill" in front of it, and check back on the next day. If water has been trickling in, it will wash away part of the line.

Same idea as the talc, but if you are looking for one specific area and don't want to scatter talc, it's a bit neater and cleaner. Also easier to see than white-talc-vs-white-hull in tight spaces.

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