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Old 02-10-2014, 01:28 PM   #1
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Leak in Bilge

Hello all,
New to Trawlers but not boats. I was in the bilge cleaning and hanging cables, etc. last night and noticed there was a very small amount of water "seeping" through the hull. I had dried everything to make it possible to access the parts I wanted to work on. Upon further inspection I found that the water was coming through what appears to be FG over the keel section.

In doing some research I found that some of these TT had stern tubes that would leak. Is there a way to determine if I have a leak in the stern tube that is filling up the keel and leaching into the bilge or if the "normal" water from my packing has leached downward and filled up my keel.

It seems to me that any boat that has had water sitting in the bilge for 44 years would have water going into the keel. My real concern is that I was installing a very small bilge pump to keep this water level down below my (2) 1100GPH main pumps and when I put the screw in water was actually coming up. No, I did not pierce the hull as this is very near center of the boat and on the "flat" portion over top of the keel.

The rudder post/box is not leaking at all. The shaft (drive) stuffing box drips as it should 2-3 per minute. There was indication that water may have been higher in the bilge at one time but the last time I dried the hull when I was scrubbing it out about 1 gallon of water came back in after 12 days or so. I did drive the boat during that 10 day period for about 30 minutes.

I appreciate any thoughts on this. I knew I would have the typical issues with ports and teak decks but this was new, and very concerning to me. I did a tapping test of the hull and it seems very sound. I do believe there is foam, cement, or a void in the keel that is full of water though and I want that fixed.

Thanks,
Jeff

Boat: 35' Eagle Tri-Cabin built by Shin Hsing.
1977 13.6 Beam (a major reason for the purchase- lots of room in a 35')
120 HP Lehman 3.5Kw Yanmar
1.5" Stainless Shaft in typical bronze boxes with bronze cutlass bearings.
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Old 02-10-2014, 01:53 PM   #2
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Is it possible to haul the boat to inspect the hull?
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:02 PM   #3
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Its very easy to believe a 1977 boat has a leak in the stern tube. Water would permeate the keel fill and show up as you have indicated. My 1979 trawler did exactly that. I replaced the stern tube. You may have to do that too.

I always had water in the rear bilge. When I hauled and drilled a small hole in the skeg it flowed for two days.

Stainless stern tube in concrete fill with stagnate saltwater is recipe for pitting of SS.

Moral of this story is go back with FRP stern tube
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:05 PM   #4
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like this???

and that's not from collision damage just a bad spot after I ground all the gel coat off, it was easy to see...so I just kept grinding...
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:32 PM   #5
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Strange you should have a picture of my boat draining the keel.

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Old 02-10-2014, 03:48 PM   #6
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Okay, thanks for the answers and they generated a couple of follow-on questions.
1. I have read that after the boat is pulled, you can test the stern tube with a plumbers pressure tester and plugging up one end of the tube. Is this a valid test?
2. Since I didn't want a boat payment, I paid cash for my boat. In doing so I have a reserve but it is a bit depleted. If I have a "leaky" stern tube can I wait until next season to replace it? Keeping in mind that I am not (currently) taking on amounts of water with this possible problem. I am not saying this isn't a priority, just a question of waiting to save up money for this.
3. In reference to question 2. I do all of my own maintenance except for the motor. If I haul, grind out the "false" floor, get the filling (whatever it is, i.e. concrete, foam, etc.) out myself to expose the tube, and prepare everything; what is an estimated cost to have a shop put in a new stern tube? I wouldn't want to work FRP or epoxy that is below the waterline as that is somewhat new to me.

I really appreciate the comments. I want to boat but it must be reasonably prudent to do so.
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:52 PM   #7
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And thanks for the pic. Why did you grind it so much instead of taking out the end of the stern tube and going into it from above? I am guessing there was things in the way preventing access? Seems like much more work to repair the ground out keel versus maybe a couple of hole saw styled cuts? I am hoping to be able to access most of the keel from above if possible.
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:55 PM   #8
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Okay, thanks for the answers and they generated a couple of follow-on questions.
1. I have read that after the boat is pulled, you can test the stern tube with a plumbers pressure tester and plugging up one end of the tube. Is this a valid test?
2. Since I didn't want a boat payment, I paid cash for my boat. In doing so I have a reserve but it is a bit depleted. If I have a "leaky" stern tube can I wait until next season to replace it? Keeping in mind that I am not (currently) taking on amounts of water with this possible problem. I am not saying this isn't a priority, just a question of waiting to save up money for this.
3. In reference to question 2. I do all of my own maintenance except for the motor. If I haul, grind out the "false" floor, get the filling (whatever it is, i.e. concrete, foam, etc.) out myself to expose the tube, and prepare everything; what is an estimated cost to have a shop put in a new stern tube? I wouldn't want to work FRP or epoxy that is below the waterline as that is somewhat new to me.

I really appreciate the comments. I want to boat but it must be reasonably prudent to do so.
yes it can wait...

depending on who you talk to and what boat...replacing the tube may never be worth it...

if you have room...a liner for the tube may be a better answer than replacing

yes..whenever you do the grunt work it really drops the price...however for some people with limited time, experience and the total equipment to do it, it may be cost wrth it to have it done.

some yards will cut it out...others have pressed it out (and say they would never do a job like it again)...some have coated it with a barrier coat. when the shaft comes out...you can inspect the tube with a camera (or an estimater can and let you know what's up in there.
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:03 PM   #9
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And thanks for the pic. Why did you grind it so much instead of taking out the end of the stern tube and going into it from above? I am guessing there was things in the way preventing access? Seems like much more work to repair the ground out keel versus maybe a couple of hole saw styled cuts? I am hoping to be able to access most of the keel from above if possible.

Oh I didn't do anything with the shaft tube...that was just a bad spot I ground out to fix before I reglassed my entire bottom after fixing severe hydrolysis delamination and osmotic issues.

I elected to bury my head in the sand for a couple years thinking what's a couple more after who knows how many my keel was full of water. Next long yard period I may drill down from above and mount a drain plug so I can see if the keel fills and how fast.

I planned to never store my boat out of the water in freezing temps again so I hope water in the hull, keel, tube...etc..etc is less of an issue.
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:08 PM   #10
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... The shaft (drive) stuffing box drips as it should 2-3 per minute. There was indication that water may have been higher in the bilge at one time but the last time I dried the hull when I was scrubbing it out about 1 gallon of water came back in after 12 days or ...
Do you really have a leak?

3 drops per minute = 180 drops per hour or 4,320 per day or 30,240 drops/week. There are about ~20 drops per teaspoon and 96 teaspoons/pint (8 pints/gallon).

Your stuffing box is leaking at a rate of just under 2 gallons per week.
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jbear View Post
1. I have read that after the boat is pulled, you can test the stern tube with a plumbers pressure tester and plugging up one end of the tube. Is this a valid test?
2. Since I didn't want a boat payment, I paid cash for my boat. In doing so I have a reserve but it is a bit depleted. If I have a "leaky" stern tube can I wait until next season to replace it? Keeping in mind that I am not (currently) taking on amounts of water with this possible problem. I am not saying this isn't a priority, just a question of waiting to save up money for this.
3. In reference to question 2. I do all of my own maintenance except for the motor. If I haul, grind out the "false" floor, get the filling (whatever it is, i.e. concrete, foam, etc.) out myself to expose the tube, and prepare everything; what is an estimated cost to have a shop put in a new stern tube? I wouldn't want to work FRP or epoxy that is below the waterline as that is somewhat new to me.
1. I think you could pressure test the stern tube if you can seal both ends of it.
2. Mine leaked for a couple of years before I fixed it.
3. Mine was removed by pounding it from outside into the boat. A foot at a time and cut it off inside the boat. The new tube was pounded in and sealed with MMM 4000. The yard said they never wanted to do a job like that again.
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:20 PM   #12
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Do you really have a leak?

3 drops per minute = 180 drops per hour or 4,320 per day or 30,240 drops/week. There are about ~20 drops per teaspoon and 96 teaspoons/pint (8 pints/gallon).

Your stuffing box is leaking at a rate of just under 2 gallons per week.
This would not explain the water pressure up from the keel.
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:40 PM   #13
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I was planning on hauling out to change the prop and look at everything anyway. I will get an estimate on pressure testing/evaluating the stern tube at that time.

Yeah, it isn't really leaking so much into the bilge. I only noticed a couple of drops of water when I stepped onto a section of the top of the keel (FRP) and it felt a little soft. So of course, being a guy I stepped down with all my weight and saw a couple of drops seep up from below.

I was in the bilge doing maintenance that the PO apparently didn't think was that important such as securing wiring, lubricating, labeling, and testing through hulls... you know, stuff that doesn't matter! When I went to install my Whale low-profile bilge pump to take care of the gallon or so that may come in each week is when I really noticed water passing between the keel section and my bilge. I of course informed the wife we may need to abandon ship but as it turned out, not necessary. I may have a bit of OCD but I don't like surprises when I am out in the Sound.

The Whale will keep any low level water out and I now have (3) 1100GPH main pumps installed in the two major bilge sections. Hate to hear the yards saying they would never do this again. If everything is cleared around the tube it seems like you should be able to cut/grind it out. But- never second guess this type of stuff. If everyone says it's a -itch it probably is!
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:43 PM   #14
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Oh, and the water that came up from the keel was some of the most disgusting smelling water you could imagine. I asked the wife to clean it up but she declined. See how smart she is?!! ha ha
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:04 PM   #15
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After I bought my boat I discovered it had water in the keel. I traced the source to 3 holes in the bilge that were securing a bilge pump. Glassed the holes and no more leak. To drain the keel I drilled and tapped for a pipe plug from outside. After 4 years of letting it drain while on the hard for winter it is finally dry.
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:18 PM   #16
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I elected to bury my head in the sand for a couple years thinking what's a couple more after who knows how many my keel was full of water. Next long yard period I may drill down from above and mount a drain plug so I can see if the keel fills and how fast.

I planned to never store my boat out of the water in freezing temps again so I hope water in the hull, keel, tube...etc..etc is less of an issue.
I would strongly recommend AGAINST this head-in-the-sand approach to a potentially water logged and rotting hull. I would take seriously the potential for a catastrophic failure which could result from a minor impact. No bilge pump will be able to keep up with a 6 inch hole in your hull. Why run the risk?

Sounds like it's time for professionals to evaluate the situation and remedy the problem. Ignoring a potential hull breach is a recipe for disaster.
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:29 PM   #17
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FlyWright- I agree. I am not saying I won't address the issue. I don't think the issue is a rotting hull either. I think the hull is completely intact. The issue is that there is simply water in the keel either from dripping down through the FRP in the bilge or up from a stern tube leak. If it is a stern tube leak, it needs to be repaired no question. If it is going down from the bilge because the shaft has been doing what it is supposed to by dripping water in the bilge for 44 years then maybe try to address that issue or not. The fact that there is water in the keel is not as much of an issue. Some boats have concrete, lead, or nothing in their keel. I was just trying to determine what others experiences have been with this. As I had said in an earlier post, I was going to pull the boat and see if they can pressure test the stern tube to see if it is the problem. I don't want to sink either!
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:29 PM   #18
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After I bought my boat I discovered it had water in the keel. I traced the source to 3 holes in the bilge that were securing a bilge pump. Glassed the holes and no more leak. To drain the keel I drilled and tapped for a pipe plug from outside. After 4 years of letting it drain while on the hard for winter it is finally dry.
How did you discover? Is there a easy non destructive way to tell? I can't believe that an owner would be fond of the idea of drill a hole in the keel during a pre purchase survey.

Just an interesting thought...could ever a system kinda like a dripless be integrated into the shaft log/cutlass? I understand that the bearing needs water as lube but would some sort of sealed bearing work? Or maybe one with babit?

if the tube replacement is such an issue and there are thousands of these aging boats around it maybe an opportunity for someone to start making something.
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:40 PM   #19
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I would strongly recommend AGAINST this head-in-the-sand approach to a potentially water logged and rotting hull. I would take seriously the potential for a catastrophic failure which could result from a minor impact. No bilge pump will be able to keep up with a 6 inch hole in your hull. Why run the risk?

Sounds like it's time for professionals to evaluate the situation and remedy the problem. Ignoring a potential hull breach is a recipe for disaster.
When I discovered my hull issues a lot of damage had already been done...I repaired all areas of weakened glass and the whole hull was gone over with a fine tooth comb.

The head in the sand approach I meant was not knowing or caring if water was leaking past the shaft tube into the bilge or hollow keel...I haven't opened up the keel yet but ill do this spring in dry dock.

I called at least a dozen major yards that do this kind or work and several of the major fiberglass guys I know in South Jersey.

Turns out with my experience and research. ..I knew more than about half of them of the potential problems and possible repairs...the other half agreed with my future plans.

My head in the sand was not about the overall health of my boat just if the shaft tube is leaking.

Also remember a "professional" gave my boat a clean bill of health on a survey and within a year I had already stripped the entire porous gel coat off, a layer of hydrolyzed matt off the whole boat, filled maybe 50 major and 100 minor blisters, added 3 layers of roving and 4 layers of cloth to a 5x6 foot area...covered the whole bottom with glass/epoxy, drained the keel, and major repairs around both the stuffing box and external cutlass....let's just say that "professional" glossed over my hull inspection. The local glass guys thought I did a superior job for doing it myself outside.
During my repairs...sampling was done all over my hull and where I plugged 7 thru hull holes and removed several other items from the bottom...also wherever a blister was found it was ground to dry glass sometimes the holes were over 8 inches in diameter.

My guess is that my hill might be a lot dryer than most boats that have lived most of their lives in the water. Plus many stay just as wet wit some residual water in the bilge all the time which saturates a hull almost as fast in some cases.

Knock on wood...but the probability of my boat having a hull breach is pretty remote with the attention to detail I watch over the overall health of the boat.
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:49 PM   #20
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How did you discover? Is there a easy non destructive way to tell? I can't believe that an owner would be fond of the idea of drill a hole in the keel during a pre purchase survey.

Just an interesting thought...could ever a system kinda like a dripless be integrated into the shaft log/cutlass? I understand that the bearing needs water as lube but would some sort of sealed bearing work? Or maybe one with babit?

if the tube replacement is such an issue and there are thousands of these aging boats around it maybe an opportunity for someone to start making something.
The yards and pros I discussed my issue with said I was "overworrying" the issue...especially for boats that get hauled every year for the winter as long as the bilges and keel are drained as Jay did/does....

I had other issues to worry about first but now I will have some time to do the interior tap to the keel to monitor leakage and I believe I have the room in my shaft log to put a liner in so it's not nearly the big job that others have tackled.
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