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Old 08-01-2018, 01:45 AM   #1
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Hull leakage (and smell)

Hi folks. A year later, repaired holding tank and still trying to resolve a nasty accumulation of (very) stinky water in the forward portion of my bilge. Mine is a 35 ft 1983 Northern TriCabin trawler. Which I love, despite this tricky problem. I have ruled out leaks from the holding tank above. I have ruled out rain water. I have ruled out leaks from the cutlas bearing running forward. It accumulates in the deep forward part of the bilge, well below the level of the main bilge area and pump (bad design). Seems to build to about 5 gallons per week. I wet vac it out as black stinky water from under my holding tank. A yacht service Friend says that stink is not sewage but rotten fibreglass/core material. Does that sound right? And does anyone know if these Taiwanese trawlers typically had core material in the hull? This vessel once had teak decks but they were ripped out and replaced with glass. This problem is not a deck problem...it is a below the waterline problem. Comments/suggestions/ideas?
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Old 08-01-2018, 05:40 AM   #2
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You might have a small leak in the hulls keel. Some builders cap the inside of the keel (the flat center between the hull sides with wood and than glass over. This wood is probably rotted and the pressure from the leak has found a weak spot to allow the foul water to exscape to the bilge. Tough to figure out. Besides stopping the water from getting in the keel in the first place. You could try and find out where its seeping past the keel cap and glass that over in an attempt to keep it in the keel so the smell does not contaminate your interior.
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Old 08-01-2018, 05:52 AM   #3
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Can be coming in from a variety of places.

The biggest PIA is if it is leaking from the prop shaft log into crevices that lead back to voids in the keel.

My keel is hollow and was so full of water when I first bought the boat, it took all day to drain even with a good size hole ground into the side.

Water that seeps in works its way up through various screw holes where bilge pumps used to be.
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Old 08-01-2018, 05:54 AM   #4
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I agree with your friend. Haul her out and the spot on your hull that stays wet after a day or so is the source of your leak.
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Old 08-01-2018, 07:27 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnP View Post
You might have a small leak in the hulls keel. Some builders cap the inside of the keel (the flat center between the hull sides with wood and than glass over. This wood is probably rotted and the pressure from the leak has found a weak spot to allow the foul water to exscape to the bilge. Tough to figure out. Besides stopping the water from getting in the keel in the first place. You could try and find out where its seeping past the keel cap and glass that over in an attempt to keep it in the keel so the smell does not contaminate your interior.

I believe this will prove to be the problem. I had a very small leak that I couldn't track down - the water was dark and VERY stinky - but not really a sewage smell. Turned out that 2 bilge pumps had at one point been installed and later removed from our forward keel area and the holes never sealed. A small amount of normal bilge water got in there through the holes and occasionally would come back up. Sealed holes, problem finally fixed.


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Old 08-01-2018, 08:20 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnP View Post
You might have a small leak in the hulls keel. Some builders cap the inside of the keel (the flat center between the hull sides with wood and than glass over. This wood is probably rotted and the pressure from the leak has found a weak spot to allow the foul water to exscape to the bilge. Tough to figure out. Besides stopping the water from getting in the keel in the first place. You could try and find out where its seeping past the keel cap and glass that over in an attempt to keep it in the keel so the smell does not contaminate your interior.
I think it must be that something like this is going on. Do you know if any of these builders used a wood core material in the the hull itself (as opposed to the keel)? Also, if it is that water has gotten into that wood keel is the solution just to find and seal the ingress and egress points, or is it also necessary to address the rotten wood? Although the smell is certainly unpleasant, I also worry about the structure/safety side of this. Thanks for your help.
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Old 08-01-2018, 08:28 AM   #7
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When, if ever, have you done more than just shop vac water out of that part of your bilge....actually CLEANED it? 'Cuz a wet dirty bilge is a primordial soup that can make a whole boat smell like a swamp or even a sewer...and yours also has the residue of a previous holding tank leak.

And by "cleaning" the bilge I don't mean just dumping some bilge cleaner into it, letting it slosh around a while, and then drain it. You couldn't just add detergent to a sink full of dirty dishwater, swish it around, then pull the plug and expect the sink to be clean...so WHY do so many boat owners think that'll give 'em a clean bilge???


If you can get a shop vac into that area, you can use a power washer and detergent to give it proper cleaning, followed by a thorough rinse to remove all the dirty water. Then use your shop vac--and maybe even a sponge and a bucket too--to remove any remaining water. Leave hatches open to provide plenty of fresh air for at least a day...and if you still have odor from that area, treat with PureAyre.


As an added benefit from cleaning the bilge, you should then be able to pinpoint the source of any new water coming into it. It could just be condensation...or, if the boat has central heat/ac, where does the ac condensate drain line go? AC condensate that just drains into the bilge is a major source of odor.

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Old 08-01-2018, 08:34 AM   #8
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Good point. When I had the holding tank out I should have done this. I did spray with a regular hose but I did not think I could access it to actually scrub. I since realize there is an access hatch that would permit this. Maybe the tank needs to come out again. Still the smell, as bad as it is, is not quite a sewage smell.
Thanks!
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Old 08-01-2018, 09:08 AM   #9
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I've used toilet paper to track "weeps." Get everything clean & dry as described --use a squirrel blower if necessary to move the air & dry. Places where you suspect weeps -- toilet paper will quickly let you know if its getting moist. For me, it's a better, more positive indicator than my finger tips. You can't just leave it--you have to watch and see where it begins to accumulate first.
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Old 08-01-2018, 10:14 AM   #10
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We had a hollow keel on a previous boat. It was full of water and really smelled as bad as a holding tank smell. I drilled a couple of exploratory holes and whe water gushed up about 3Ē. What a smell. I put soap in the stern and flushed it out of the bow holes. It didnít make any difference. I finally cut the top fiberglass out so I could scrub it all and the smell was then gone. It could be that your boat sits a bit down at the bow and the water runs forward and then seeps out a small hole from an old pump. That would account for the continued accumulation of water in the bow.
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