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Checking the condition of keel bolts for boating season

by William Souter, MarsKeel 11 Jun 2020 13:09 PDT
This is general condition that a repair keel arrives to us in. The bolts are corroded or in this case missing. The root cord is rough and marked from removal process, it is covered in bedding material or FRP. It is from here that the repair process starts © MarsKeel

This is a very strange period in our lives. Marinas are just starting to launch, and social distancing will make sailing very difficult. When we can, there are some checks that we all need to do on the boat before launch. One of them is the condition of the keel bolts.

Admittedly, you can see only a small portion of them from the bilge, but it does give you an idea of the condition they are in. Add the inside condition to what you see or don't see, from the outside and you get a rough idea of the overall condition of the bolts.

If the bolts look clean and dry, there's no visible corrosion, and the hull-keel joint is not cracked open, showing water, or has rust trails running from it, there is a good probability that the bolts are in good condition. There is a very big but to this. The only way to know for sure what condition the bolts are in is to lower the keel and look at them.

The bolts corrode mainly in the area where they go through the FRP hull. It is here that the water can get trapped and no oxygen can reach the bolts — this condition promotes corrosion. So, if there is any doubt in your mind at all or if something doesn't look right, call in a qualified professional to inspect them for you. This is not something that you want to ignore. The loss of a keel can be a tragedy. Spend the time so you are not a statistic, please.

If there is reason to believe that the bolts are in bad condition and require inspection, MarsKeel Technology can help. This process will require the keel to be removed from the boat. We will then pick it up, repair it, and return it to the yard ready for reinstallation.

Replacing bolts in a cast lead keel brings the keel back to virtually as new condition. We replace the bolts in the current positions (as close as possible, likely within 1/16" or more) and re-fair the keel making it ready to go back on the boat. On most keels this process is straight forward, however, we have run into older foreign-made keels that have bolt-to-bolt connections inside the casting that make removal and replacement difficult and very occasionally, not possible.

In almost 20 years I have only seen one keel that we couldn't remove the bolts without destroying the keel in the process. However, we were able to get around that as well. We cast a new keel using the old one as the pattern. For all other keels, the removal and installation process is accomplished easily by our very experienced staff.

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