What is going on with my keel joint?? - SailNet Community
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What is going on with my keel joint??

Hello-
I have a 1991 Hunter Legend 35.5 that has experienced two hard impacts at full speed over the past 13 years (I no longer let anyone else helm ANYWHERE near land, sigh). The first one 13 yrs ago resulted in re-bedding the keel and probably contributed to the divorce (lol) as it was $42k and out of the water all summer. When the second one happened 5 yrs ago I was told the keel joint was undamaged, though there was $12k worth of repair to fair the keel and repair hairline cracks in the cabin sole. Now on this haulout I have an oily substance weeping out at the joint.

To compound the issue we had a couple of 90 degree days here in Seattle while it was on the stands after it was painted, and possibly after sitting in 45-50 degree water for 28 years this temperature change is partly to blame. None of this was visible before painting. What is this coming out? It is a lead keel so the rust must be from the keel bolts (damn), but what is the brown oily stuff that dries white?

There is more water than normal in the bilge, probably 2 cups where there's usually 1/4 cup when resting over the winter, and it tastes salty to me (gross) but I'm told that the taste could be iodine-like from slight rust on the inside. The boat is in saltwater 100% of the time.

I don't know what was used to re-attach the keel 13 years ago, but the invoice does mention removing/pouring new foam "at the internal cavities of the keel ballast". I have read the posts about the large air gap on these keel joints, and am aware of what happens to keel bolts if this is ignored, but I'm going to cruise for the summer and deal with it in the fall, I just want to understand these symptoms better. Any advice is appreciated!
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Keel joint 1.jpg   20190614_122634.jpg  

Last edited by LoriP; 4 Weeks Ago at 12:56 PM.
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

Does this keel have "pockets" that the keelbolts key into? (Sort of like this: http://www.angelfire.com/tn/santana5.../keelbolts.htm) They may be the source of the leaks. From the pictures it is hard to tell where the keel/hull joint is, or how much of a keel stub there is. If the bilge had lots of water and it was leaking out, wouldn't it tend to show up at the keel/hull joint? It looks like that joint might be higher up than where your leaks are showing, which led to the pocket theory.
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

Hi Paulk-
The keel bolts are cast into the lead -I know this because one had to be replaced 13 years ago and it was quite the process.
Your link does not work, btw.
The joint is right at the top of the upper weep lines.
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

I have the engineering drawing of the keel on my 2001 Hunter 410. There are "pockets and voids in the top and any little crack in the fairing allows water in there and that leaks out when on the hard. The only way to "fix" would be to drop the keel and fill the voids, but it doesn't matter as long as the keel is tight and isn't leaking into the boat IMO. The last time I was on the hard I considered drilling holes into the void and filling with something. But it seemed an exercise it "fixing" something that didn't need fixing.
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

That's rusty salt water.
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

Thanks Don0190. I wish I could just ignore it, but I would think that water in this pocket would lead to corrosion of the keel bolts (probably already happening since it looks like rust).
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

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Originally Posted by LoriP View Post
Thanks Don0190. I wish I could just ignore it, but I would think that water in this pocket would lead to corrosion of the keel bolts (probably already happening since it looks like rust).
Well then all that leaves is to drop the keel and replace the bolts with titanium or something that you believe wouldn't rust (the 316SS installed now are not rusting) as you will NEVER stop water from getting pass a hull/keel join in the long term.

How do you know it's rust?? The color means nothing (proven to me time after time in years of water treatment). I bet it's just dirty water!!!

If you go walk around a boat yard you will see LOTS of boats with this "problem". Heck it's so common on Catalinas that they call it the Catalina Smile

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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

Lori-
Going out on a limb to try guessing what's happening here. That looks like a lead winged keel, which normally is a solid lead casting, no "voids" or spaces in it to be filled. With J-shaped conventional keel bolts that are permanently embedded.
I'm guessing that after the first grounding, the yard sistered those broken or damaged bolts, by drilling straight down from the cabin sole structure, and then drilling laterally across the keel, to add new bolts or other retainers at the bottom of the new keel bolts. That's the usual way to sister in new bolts in a conventional keel. But it also leaves vaguely fist-sized holes going laterally through the keel, or more than 1/2 way through it. Those holes have to be filled and SEALED to prevent the new bolts from corroding. The proper way to do that is by building up a clay dam on the side of each hole and literally pouring in new molten lead, but these days the odds are they used some kind of epoxy or filler instead. And if that's what they did, the seal may have been imperfect and the new bolts are now corroding.
In which case the really safe and proper solution would be to drill out the filler, completely, and replace the sistered keel bolts. If done one at a time, I think that could be safely done without dropping the keel.
You'd want to get a hands-on opinion from a professional surveyor (although you could certainly dig a little with an ice pick to see if those weep areas are in filler, rather than lead) and then of course, start looking for a better yard to do the replacements--unless you have the time and incentive to DIY on that.
If the yard work that was originally done is failing, that might also be good reason to have the work they did inside the hull rechecked. Just to be on the safe side.
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

Thanks HelloSailor.
Yes, it's a lead winged keel.
The "sistering" was done with the keel detached, I'm thinking they probably did it "right" from what I see below from the invoice:

Found starboard most aft keel ballast bolt with eroded threads between the lead ballast and fiberglass hull layup. It is recommended to replace the specified keel bolt with new.

1. Cut out and remove the starboard most aft keel ballast bolt from keel ballast. Cut into lead keel ballast approx. 3" x6", approx. 12" below the keel ballast top inline with the removed bolt hole.
Hours: 7

2. Fabricate new keel bolt and machine new backing plate.
Materials: SS 210.00

3. Install new keel bolt in existing keel ballast hole. Fit and install new backing plate in keel ballast as retainer for the new bolt.
Hours: 5

4. Build temporary mold to fill the 3"x6" pocket in the keel ballast after the bolt is installed. Supply and melt lead material and fill the 3"x6" pocket. Remove the temporary mold, sand and fair the area on the keel ballast.
Hours: 11
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Re: What is going on with my keel joint??

Lori-
That sounds like they did it right, but just to one keel bolt. You've got at least four "weepers" and then the question is, even if that's just rusty salt water with oily "crud" that's leaving white salt crystals behind...how is it getting through a solid lead keel??
It might pay to try visiting that repair yard, find out if they can take a look (or show them the photos) and see what they make of it. When holes in lead are filled with lead, it tends to fuse together very nicely. Basically, it is being soldered and becomes one piece again, unless there's something very wrong about the job.
Could be the shock of the groundings did some damage that was not visible to the other keel bolts, and that's just now becoming an issue. That may require checking them all from the cabin, and excavating or at least picking into the keel to see what's really going on down there.
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