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  #1  
Old 06-19-2007
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Keel fiberglassing/hit some rocks?

Good Day to all. So here is the issue that hopefully all you wonderful people on the sailnet forum can help me with. I recently (3 months ago) made an interesting purchase of a 1983 30' Alero sailboat. It was a semi-custom boat build in fahardo, PR and i think they made about 6-8 of them. There is not much info I could gather about them but a friend of a friend said he had sailed on another one at some point. The gentlman was asking $8000 and I offered him $5000 thinking he wouldn't take it but he did.

Good news:
- all sails in good shape (110% head sail, two spinakers, main, 100% hank on jib)
- good working roller furling
- all rigging is in good shape (running rigging a bit worn)
- great running yanmar (changed oil, replaced zincs, replaced belts, rebuilt water pump, changed all cooling hoses, replaced secondary fuel filter)
- head working (no holding tank need to install one, yikes)
- fractional rig
- hand held gps
- auto pilot
- self tailing headsail winches
- very fun and fast, 8.4 knots on a reach with a slimy bottom in 15 knots as per the gps
- the basic hull design and rig is like a fat J-30 with a HUGE mast. not sure on the exact height but it is taller then the 36' pearson moored next to me

The Bad:
- the interior is pretty much trashed and will need to be redone, not to worried about this, I'm more excited then concerned
- A few soft spots on deck that I have repaired
- The keel problem that i will elaborate on in a bit
- the deck needs painting
- bottom needs painting (no blisters though)
- rudder has some blisters


Over all she is pretty sound as far as sailing her goes. My plan was to get everything ready to go to paint the deck on the mooring and then haul her paint the deck and bottom, replace the floor in the interior, and put her back in the water sail abit and then start the interior. I am almost ready to paint the deck, just maybe 1-2 weekends of sanding/fairing. So dove the bottom today with a tank to scrub the hull and get a REALLY good look at the bottom. This is where my concern has started. I knew when i bought the boat that there was a chunk out of the keel (again it was bought on a whim of sorts). Not too uncommon around here but i figured (hoped?) it would be a few weekends of cutting, grinding, and glassing to fix it. Anyway, today yeiled the real situation.

Just about all of the fiberglass portion of the keel below the ballast was ripped off when it hit what ever it hit. Also, a huge portion of the port side fiberglass around the ballast was ripped off (as little as 30% to as much as 45% of the surface area). This part extends 1/2 way up the trailing edge and then heads to the middle part of the keel ending in a point about 8" short of the hull. It contiues down to the bottom of the leading edge. Good news is that the ballast is lead which i discovered as i dug my bottom scraper into the portion where the fiberglass is missing. There is also a 4" crack along where the keel joins the hull at the trailing edge on both sides. The crack is maybe 1/32" wide at the trailing edge. I also suspect that there is a leak accociated with this problem as my stuffing box drips slightly but i always have about 2"-3" of water in the bilge each week when i get back on the boat to do some work.

i bought the boat figureing i would need to put another $10K and about a 8-9months of weekends spread over a year to get it in good, pretty sailing condition. i currently have about another $2000 in it now plus say another future $1000 for deck painting and $2000 for haul out and bottom painting.

I know its hard to tell from some words on the internet but my questions are as follows:

1) Big picture, is worth pressing forward with this project or cutting my losses and starting to put my paychecks back in the bank for a nicer boat down the road?

2) How serious is this keel problem? money/time? It seems to me it will take a good amount of help from the yard to get that heavy as hell piece of lead off the hull and in postion to do some serious grinding and fiberglassing.

I wanted to add this little piece about myself as well. I am a 25 year old mechanical engineer by education and currently work in a managment postion at the Ritz-Carlton hotel here in St. Thomas in the engineering department. i am not trying to toot any horns here but i generally consider my self very skilled in hands on and theoretical mechanics, materials, and attention to detail. I have quite a few "old salt" type of friends whom i am gather info from as well but no one have really talked to here has given me the serious experience coupled with know how that I am looking for.

Basically, i feel very ignorant about what really is involved in fixing this keel properly as my experience in serious structural boat repairs such as i am faced with is basically zero.

thank you all for any help and guidance. i hope this wasn't too long winded.

Cheers,
Rich
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Old 06-20-2007
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Hard to tell without pictures...

Is the lead attached to a fibreglass keel "stub" (external lead ballast)? If so - it may not be too big an issue. If it is lead poured into a moulded fibreglas keel (an encapsulated keel) it is going to be a bit more diffcult and expensive to deal with. I'm going to suggest that if it is encapsulated, you might want to look for a new boat, because you're probably going to end up way over budget fixing it AND the interior.

Let's be optimistic and assume it's external

First thing you want to do is get the boat out of the water. I wouldn't wait any longer than necessary. When it's on the cradle, let it dry out for a week or so. Then you want to drop the keel about an inch. Loosen the keel boats AFTER you have rigged up some support - or lift the boat a little but again - support it as close to the keel stub (sump) as possible. Check the keel bolts for wear, (replace them if necessary/possible). Clean out all the old bedding material on the sump and the top of the ballast casting (the lead). If there is any corrosion or wear, on either surface, fill it and fair it as well as you can.

Also, look carefully at the holes that your keel bolts go through. Does it look like there has been any wear there ? (One of those little mirrors like the dentists use is good for this) Typically, the lateral stress on the keel will enlarge the lower portion of the keel bolt aperture slightly, inversely proportinate to the length of the sump. If there is appreciable wear there, it's a good idea to try to fill it a bit.

I do it this way, but there are thousands who will disagree with me. I mix up a little slow-setting epoxy and add some silica to make it into a putty. THen I spray the bolt and the hole with 3M Silicone lubricant and then try to stick minute amounts of the putty into the bolt hole with a small rod or flat-head screwdriver. Not sure if this really does anything but it makes me feel like I have tried...

Now pick your favorite bedding compound - I like 3M 5200 but other people may suggest a different product - put a whole lot in the joint and drop the boat back on to the ballast. Tighten your keel bolts BEFORE the epoxy has a chance to harden. Let it sit for a few days to give the bedding a chance to set up a bit.

You should now have a boat with a watertight hull/keel joint that requires a straight-forward fibreglass repair job. Get rid of all the loose stuff, fair off the rest on a really shallow angle. Seal the exposed metal with something like S1 sealer, then apply a layer of mat, wet it out and roll it smooth. Use the correct fibreglass roller that removes air bubbles - not a paint roller.

Let this cure and then keep filling and fairing until you're ready to paint.

BUT

If your keel is encapsulated lead, you are going to need to let the boat dry out for quite a bit longer, until you are sure it is perfectly dry inside the keel. Then you need to rebuild the fibreglass sheathing around the lead. This needs to be well-bonded to the existing sheathing, as it's what holds the lead in place.

Once you have done this, it might be a good idea to pour as much epoxy into the cavity as you can to seal the metal and hold it in place. Do this bit by bit though, to allow air bubbles to work their way out.

I don't know what yards in your area charge, but up here, I'd expect the above work to cost me between one and four thousand dollars - depending on how much travel-lift time it required.

THEN AGAIN

You may find that your encapsulated keel is only one third lead and two thirds foam-filled fibreglass, or something similar, in which case you're going to have to repair the capsule, then secure the ballast, then dig out the foam and replace it as well.

At that point - I'd be tempted to just fill the whole thing with epoxy mixed with rags and old screwdrivers and sell it to someone who wasn't too concerned about buying a finely balanced boat - but have the decency to let them know what they're buying of course.

Good luck !




The next thing is to look carefully at the

Last edited by Sailormann; 06-20-2007 at 12:33 AM.
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Old 06-20-2007
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neptune has it coming

Thank god and baby jesus it is external. Had a talk on the beach after work with a friend who had similar ideas about the importance of making sure the keel bolts were holding on to the hull well and basically glassing/filling as necessary to seal it up from water. getting the boat out of the water will be tough as everyone wants to be out for hurriane season. i'm going down to the boat yard in the next week or so to see when they have space and that will dictate my game plan. What is the S1 stuff? Some kinda of treatment to make glass/epoxy bond to the lead? sounds like it is going to be a sh!t show but here we go!

side note, no 5 inch velcro adhesive disks for my sander on island. opps, put the sander down with no paper and melted it (sanded better then you would expect). went to 4 of the 6 harware stores here and...nope, called the other two... nope. Home depot however has 6 trailers in there parking lot since last week monday full of stuff which they say includes these disks. Welcome to the caribean love.

Thanks for all the help as it seems this won't be the end of the world just a good lesson on one way a keel gets attached to the hull on a sailboat. If your interested i'll send some pics when she is out of the water and what goes down.

cheers
Rich
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Old 06-20-2007
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Quote:
What is the S1 stuff?
S1 is a two-part, low viscosity epoxy sealer that bonds reasonably well to lead. Hadn't realised that you were in the Caribbean on an island - so it may be hard to find there. Just try not to leave the lead exposed to the air for too long, as it starts to corrode quite quickly...

Pics would be good .... Hope things go well.
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Old 06-21-2007
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Old 06-24-2007
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No haulout in St. Thomas until the end of huricane season (late november). So I guess i'll just wait or maybe see what is available in in Tortola. I'll take some pics when she comes out.

Cheers,
Rich
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Old 06-24-2007
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Out on the hard, this will be a fairly easy fix. As said, be sure the keel bolts are AOK. Other than that, grind out the upper crack and re-fill. Re-spooge the lower part of the keel and re-seal the ballast. The keels of these craft are quite simple and really not rocket science.
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Old 06-25-2007
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Good advice all. The only thing I would add is that with all the glass damage to the keel, it must have been a very hard grounding and there is real potential for additional damage to have been done to the hull structure itself (stringers, tabbing, cracks in the laminate. Suggest you look at all of this before investing in repairs...or maybe ask a surveyor in Tortola to look at just that aspect of the boat. Hopefully it is just as "simple" as Sailormann suggests as it WILL be worthwhile to do that repair. Good luck!
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