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  Topic Review (Newest First)
08-31-2006 04:08 PM
hellosailor Zev, if you want to speak to keel experts call up Mars Metal, who are the foundry making a large number of the new and replacement (special purpose) keels in the US. They are good folks and even if you aren't going to buy a new keel (and you shouldn't need one) they can give you information about maintenance and inspection.

toll-free 1-800-381-KEEL
4130 Morris Drive;
Burlington, Ontario, Canada L7L 5L6
Phone 905-637-3862; fax 905-637-8841

I don't know what your keel is made of but as noted you can test it with a magnet, or check online with owner's groups to find a spec for it. Keel bolts usually are made of stainless steel "J" shaped rods, which are hung in place over the keel as it is cast from molten metal, so they form solidly into it as it cools and hardens. Removing them is possible, but difficult. You would cut into the keel from the side, making a hole where the bottom of the "J" is, to cut that out. Then drill down from the top to remove the stainless bolt, and that's a huge task. So the practical solution to bad keel bolts is to sister them in between the existing bolts, tying into the cross-members or adding new ones if needed. That's extreme, and probably NOT your problem.

Most keel bolts are stainless, but the washers and bolts on the top of them are usually carbon steel--and if only the washers are not stainless, that's all it takes to cover the tops of them with rust. Usually that's all the problem is.

You can clean them up as best you can with a wire wheel or rust removers (Naval jelly, acid, etc.) and see if it is just surface rust. If not, you would want to remove one of the nuts to see if the corrosion is just the nut--or the bolt as well. You can usually do this with a large wrench and a pipe to extend the handle. (There are torque settings for these bolts, typically in the 100-300 foot pound range IIRC. ) If the nut is really frozen, you can saw most of the way through but stop short of the bolt, then crack it off with a chisel or automotive nut cracker. (Yes, there is such a tool.)

Odds are you just need to clean it up, and then apply something to prevent further rust, and keep the bilge drier. Some people try to "pot" the top of the bolts with epoxy or another permanent sealant. Others use wax or tar (tar makes a mess but works) or grease, which allows you to remove it and replace it from time to time so you can inspect the bare metal easily.

This is all assuming you have an external keel. If you do, there's also a less traditional way to reinforce it. You loosen all the keel bolts and rebed the keel (clean out the keel/hull mating surfaces, CLEAN, and then apply new bedding compound & retighten) using 3M 5200 permanent adhesive. If you do that, the adhesive is so strong that when properly applied, it can hold the keel even if all the bolts are stolen by burglars in the middle of the night.

But get down to bare metal to inspect the bolts, call Mars after that, and then see what's happening. You're right to be concerned about basic issues like the keel, and even if it is only cosmetic rust, to clean it off.
08-31-2006 02:51 PM
pigslo I think maybe the reference you note of inspection every 5 years and replacement every 10 may be talking about standing rigging.
08-31-2006 12:37 PM
Parley I own a '77 C-27 that I am currently refitting. I have obtained tons of useful info from the catalina owners web site ( There is quite a bit of info there regarding the keel bolts. Additionally, Catalina Direct has keel bolt replacement kits for this very job ( If nothing else, you can call Catalina. I have found them to be very helpful with just about any question I've posed. They have some of the best customer support I've experienced in todays world.
08-31-2006 11:51 AM
sailingfool "My worrys are the fact that I read the boats should be checked every 5 yrs and replace every 10 acorrding to the sailnet articals, and yet I have a 20+ year old boat..."

I think you've got some articles confused, I don't think I"ve ever read advice to replace keel bolts on a schedule, let alone only 10 years. If it offers any comfort, in my thirty years of boat owning I've never seen a replaced keel bolt nor do I recall any other owner recounting replacing a keel bolt. I believe that bolts from reasonably conscientous builders will last the indefinite life of the boat, but I'm no engineer or expert. The keel fasteners on my twenty year old CS look no different than I expect they looked the day the boat was shipped from the factory.
08-31-2006 11:05 AM
Originally Posted by sailingdog
Why you didn't get a survey when you first bought the boat is beyond comprehension...
Being that all my previous boats were small power boats, surveying never came to mind really. But after reading all these post, hind sight is 20/20. I will just hire a survey sometime this winter. The boat seems fine, and the previous owner was know by the marina staff and neighbors to my slip as taking extreme care of the boat. My worrys are the fact that I read the boats should be checked every 5 yrs and replace every 10 acorrding to the sailnet articals, and yet I have a 20+ year old boat with bolts that might be the originals. There are no signs of the keel being loose, just new keel boat owner fears I guess. Like I said I will have it hauled out and surveyed sometime this winter when the lake goes up(very low right now).
08-31-2006 10:54 AM
sailingdog A couple of things... A lead keel will not attract a compass or iron one will. Have you tried a large, speaker type magnet on the keel. If it sticks, it is an iron keel...if it doesn't then it is probably a lead keel. The only way I can see a keel getting "worn" is through repeated groundings... and if you've got that problem...replacing the keel isn't really going to help much.

Lead keels often used galvanized steel bolts, as lead presented a problem with corrosion for stainless steel bolts IIRC. Stainless steel can is stainless, not stainproof...and a magnet should be able to tell you whether it is stainless or not, as the austentic stainless steels used in the marine industry, 304 & 316 are non-magnetic. Be aware that some of the lesser grades of stainless are magnetic.

A competent surveyor could tell you whether the boat is at risk for losing the keel. Why you didn't get a survey when you first bought the boat is beyond comprehension...
08-31-2006 10:24 AM
pigslo Tap the bolts with a small brass hammer. What do you hear? Dull sound or solid sound. If you are unable to interpret this sound, then pay a surveyor to do it. Establish what your problem is before you try to fix it.
08-31-2006 09:59 AM
Sailormon6 I bought a Catalina 25 with a cast iron fin keel in 1981. If I remember correctly, the fin keels on Catalina 25s were cast iron until about 83 or 84, when they started installing lead keels. To the best of my knowledge, rusting keel bolts was only a significant concern on boats kept in salt water. I never heard of it happening in a fresh water boat.

Catalina Direct supplies parts for used Catalina 25s, and they have a keel bolt replacement kit. I've never installed one, but I've heard they can be installed without removing the keel. I've also heard that it takes a serious drill and bit to drill deep holes into the cast iron keel.

Log onto the website for the Catalina 25 national association (, and you'll find plenty of information on the matter, as well as people who have done the repair.
08-30-2006 10:54 PM
Zevirii I haven't hauled the boat out yet, so I have no idea what the bottom even looks like. I know I was crazy to not hire a survey when I bought the boat, but I just didn't really know any better. I plan on having it hauled out this winter sometime anyway to inspect/clean bottom so I might just get a survey then.

The keel bolts don't look as they are going anywhere, its mainly fears from owning my first keel boat. So I am guessing by your responces that keels will give you plenty of warning signs before falling off, or becoming loose?
08-30-2006 02:28 PM
sailingfool If your keel is steel you should be able to tell because it is almost certain to have rust spots on it.

Whatever you're problem, I've never heard of someone replacing a "worn" keel - it may be the one part of a boat not subject to wearing out. Get a hold of a local surveyor and find out when he/she will be in your boat area. For an hour's pay the surveyor can look at your bolts and advise on repairs - better yet, if you did not have a survey done, have the whole boat inspected - if you need encouragement for this expense, read

One is far more likely to have the mast come down than the keel fall off...
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