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Old 03-29-2010
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Will a lead keel rust?

Hello all,

I have a question concerning lead keels that hopefully someone can shed some light on. We are relatively new sailors so any help is appreciated. I have a 22' trailerable sailboat (our first boat) that stays on the trailer at the marina where we store it. The keel is a shoal keel/centerboard configuration. Several months ago we had the bottom painted as it needed some attention. This past weekend I ran aground for the first time. It was not a long time, and we were able to push off after about 5 minutes. However, I think the keel got stuck on an oyster bed or some rocks on the bottom. There doesn't appear to be any damage (we were motoring at the time) other than having the paint scratched off the bottom of the keel (and some on the rudder). However, we have a lead keel, and I can now see the lead where the paint was scratched away. It is pretty minor, just some scratches by the bottom. Do we need to have these areas repainted? Or, can we just leave the keel scratched as is? Will we cause any damage if we left the keel scratched (with lead showing)? Will it rust or cause any other type of damage? Please keep in mind that the boat is stored on a trailer and is usually in the water for 1-2 days at the most.

Thank you in advance,
Brian
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Old 03-29-2010
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Brian,

Doesn't sound serious at all. The exposed bit of your lead keel will not rust. Usually the only major concern when paint gets scraped off a lead keel, is with fouling from growth. But it doesn't sound like you leave the boat in the water long enough to worry about that.

No urgency, although most folks would probably want to get around to repainting that abraded area as soon as convenient.

Just for curiosity sake, what kind of boat is this? So, it has a keel/centerboard arrangement with external lead ballast on the keel? What is your centerboard made from? I take it the centerboard was fully up when you grounded?
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Old 03-29-2010
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The boat is a 1983 Gloucester 22. The centerboard was up when we grounded. The centerboard is a steel plate with a zinc epoxy coating. This is our first boat, and we have only had it for 4-5 months.

I can live with the scratches as long as they are only cosmetic and will not lead to anything worse. Naturally, this was only the third time out since having the bottom painted.

Thanks for the advice concerning the scratches. This being my first grounding (and first boat), I just wanted to make sure I hadn't done anything that requires immediate attention.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nolesailor View Post
The boat is a 1983 Gloucester 22. The centerboard was up when we grounded. The centerboard is a steel plate with a zinc epoxy coating. This is our first boat, and we have only had it for 4-5 months.

I can live with the scratches as long as they are only cosmetic and will not lead to anything worse. Naturally, this was only the third time out since having the bottom painted.

Thanks for the advice concerning the scratches. This being my first grounding (and first boat), I just wanted to make sure I hadn't done anything that requires immediate attention.

Okay. I just wanted to make absolute sure the ballast was lead, not cast iron. If your ballast was cast iron instead of lead, the answer would be very different.

But let's hear from some others to confirm or question my advice.
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The literature that came with the boat (i.e. owner's manual, etc.) indicates that the ballast is lead. I would be more concerning with rusting if the keel was iron.
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Just to be safe, run a magnet over the areas that got hit. IF it sticks, then the area is not lead, but steel or iron and the scratches should be repaired ASAP. Also, check the centerboard fairly carefully to make sure that it was not scratched in the grounding.
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While your lead keel will not rust as steel does, any damage will show minor corrosion over time. Any paint put on an area of exposed lead will not last long. For your situation, you can ignore the damage, as you apparently could ignore bottom paint completely. To maintain a good bottom on a boat kept inthe water, you should grind down any damage to the keel, apply a few coats of epoxy, then re-paint.
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