Keel Bedding Survey

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High Current

I discovered this fall that the seemingly minor smile in my C34 was weeping rust.  To make matters worse, I came back a couple of weeks later and found that it was (a) still wet, and (b) had a drip of orange bilge antifreeze on the leading edge of the keel.  :cry4`

I've already arranged with the yard to have the keel dropped + rebedded before launch, but now I'm agonizing over the "proper" way to re-bed it.  I came across an earlier post that said Gerry Douglas recommended polyester or vinylester resin but I also read through a bunch of posts where people talked about using "Satan's glue" 5200.  I can imagine both benefits and drawbacks to having a little flexibility.

So I want to know:  if you ever had your keel dropped for repairs or inspection, what did you re-bed it with and how has it held up over time?

Alternately...am I going too far?  Given it's a small crack that likely compromises only the frontmost bolt and there is ZERO evidence of grounding damage, I could just try to dry it, seal it inside + out, re-torque, and cross my fingers...
Ben, #1050, 1990 Mk 1.5 std rig / keel

ewengstrom

I removed the keel from our boat in the fall and spoke extensively with Catalina regarding the proper method of re-bedding it before doing so. Warren Pandy (with Catalina) said that Catalina currently uses an epoxy product from FGCI to attach the keels to their new boats. Here's the link to the product they use.
https://fgci.com/product/trowel-on-epoxy-fairing-putty/
Yes, it's a fairing putty, but it's grip is very, very strong.
Warren related a story where a customer wanted to switch the keel on a new boat from a deep keel to a wing keel and when they unbolted the keel and lifted the boat, the keel stayed attached. After much work with saws and chisels they ended up just using a sawsall with a long blade and cut thru the bolts and everything along the entire joint to remove the keel. This epoxy product grips tenaciously and is the exact product I'll be using to re-bed my keel.
Interesting personal note. I too unbolted the keel bolts and made a cut along the joint with a skill saw in as far as the blade would reach, we then lifted the boat with a travel lift and that keel just hung there and was like "Is that all you've got?" In the end I used a deep core bit and drilled down around the keel bolts until I hit lead and that did the trick, we lowered the keel without further issue. ***IMPORTANT NOTE***....do NOT attempt to remove the keel without drilling down around those bolts, you'll rip the bottom of the keel stub out and that just opens up a can of worms I'd rather not have to deal with. I humbly speak from experience on that last part.
The bedding compound that Catalina used to use (at least back in 1988) was a polyester resin, not an epoxy, and even though Warren stated that at 35 to 40 years the adhesive was probably due for inspection I found it to be gripping quite well!!!
Sorry I can't say I've already completed this method successfully, but it works well for new Catalina yachts, and that's good enough for me.
Eric Wengstrom
s/v Ohana
Colonial Beach, Virginia
1988 Catalina 34 MKI TR/WK
Hull #564
Universal M25XP
Rocna 15

scgunner

High Current,

As anyone on this board will tell you that's the famous "Catalina Smile", yours doesn't even look that bad. It's your boat, your call of course but I wouldn't drop the keel to fix it, seems a bit like killing ants with a sledgehammer. I'd just open it up with a grinder let it dry out and fill it with the fairing material of choice (I prefer West Systems) and you're good to go. Since your boat comes out of the water every winter you get to check it annually. When my boat goes into the water I'm not going to see that smile for another four years and in the 36 years I've had my boat it's never been a problem just a maintenance thing.

One more thought when you drop the keep it's basically reattached the same way it is now is there any guarantee the smile won't reappear at some point down the road?
Kevin Quistberg                                                 Top Gun 1987 Mk 1 Hull #273

Jim Hardesty

Quotet's your boat, your call of course but I wouldn't drop the keel to fix it, seems a bit like killing ants with a sledgehammer. I'd just open it up with a grinder let it dry out and fill it with the fairing material of choice

That's about what I would do. Inspect, retorque keel bolts then fill and fair. Also see that the boatyard doesn't add to the problem by having too much pressure on the bow.  Will probably be some redoing each year.
Jim
Jim Hardesty
2001 MKII hull #1570 M35BC  "Shamrock"
sailing Lake Erie
from Commodore Perry Yacht Club
Erie, PA

Ron Hill

#4
Eric : There are numerous post on how to repair the "Catalina Smile". Yours does not seem that bad.  Your hull # and being a 1990 production you should? not have any wood fill in the keel step!!
The reason for the smile is improper blocking of the Hull!! You need to put weight on the Nose of the keel by screwing up the rear keel jack stands!!

A few thoughts
Ron, Apache #788

Noah

Current: what year is your boat? It makes a difference as to whether it has any wood in the keel stub.
1990 hull #1014, San Diego, CA,  Fin Keel,
Standard Rig

ewengstrom

High Current,
My earlier post addressed re-bedding the keel. But I did go back thru the information I've received from Catalina and see that they do in fact specifically address sealing up leaking keel bolts, which is pretty much exactly what you describe.
The fix involves nothing more than removing the keel bolt nut(s) and washer(s), cleaning up the area under them and then sealing the area with 3M 4200. They also say to put an "O" ring around the bolt and then reinstall the washer and nut and and re-torque to spec. This method and the standard Catalina Smile repair around the front of the keel should solve your issue without removing and re-bedding your keel.
You've listed your boat as a 1990 so you definitely do not have any wood in your keel stub and that's a very good thing.
Hope this helps you decide what to do.
Eric Wengstrom
s/v Ohana
Colonial Beach, Virginia
1988 Catalina 34 MKI TR/WK
Hull #564
Universal M25XP
Rocna 15

High Current

Thanks everyone!  @ewengstrom your description of removing the keel is giving me cold feet on my original plan - seems like more opportunity to do harm than good, *especially* if I'm entrusting the work to someone else.

When I bought the boat a year ago my conclusion was "just a Catalina smile".  The bilge was full of water (on the hard) and the crack was dry.  No big deal - I fixed one on my old hunter and they're just part of having a fin keel, right?

What reduced me to panic was realizing that the bilge is leaking and rust is weeping out, which means salt water has reached and is corroding at least one of my keel bolts.  At least the antifreeze is rinsing it clean?  :D  I saw the Catalina tech note on resealing them, but the outside must be fixed as well or it's just hiding the real problem.  Is crack filling with G/flex up to the task? 

I think my plan will be to do the following, go sailing, and see how it looks next fall:
1)  Reseal the keel bolt(s) from the inside
2)  Let everything dry out for a few weeks
3)  Grind + seal the crack with G/Flex
4)  Torque the keel bolts

Thanks again for holding my hand!
Ben, #1050, 1990 Mk 1.5 std rig / keel

scgunner

Eric,

Solid plan, when you pull the boat next fall you can see how your fix is holding up. Based on my experience where my boat only comes once every four years I'd say your fix will probably last two or even three seasons.
Kevin Quistberg                                                 Top Gun 1987 Mk 1 Hull #273

Ron Hill

Eric : Where I've seen trouble - is when there was water in the bilge and no antifreeze and the freezing split the PVC tube going thru the underside of the keel step. His fix was to seal off that tube which allowed any rain water coming down the mast to only collect in the bilge aft of the mast step!!

A thought

Ron, Apache #788

ewengstrom

#10
Ben,
What led me to remove the keel this winter was corrosion in the keel bolts, it was especially bad around the tops of several of the bolts and to the point where the tops of the bolts were completely corroded and threads were missing on several, even under the nuts. When I removed the nuts after the boat was hauled and blocked I found that when the boat was originally built and the keel attached, the holes for the bolts was drilled slightly oversized, that would make sense. But I could clearly see moisture in the gaps around the bolts and some corrosion around a few of the bolts going into the stub....so I concluded I could no longer trust the integrity of the bolts and that's why I pulled the keel.
Interesting note......so I pull the keel, and then clean up the bolts to really get a look at the whole bolt, I found that the bolt corrosion was bad above the bilge floor, but not so bad inside the keel stub. Honestly, I still would not have trusted the bolts based solely on the thread condition where it mattered most, inside the nuts....but the bolts themselves really weren't that bad.
A very possible source of the rust you are seeing could be the factory lifting points inserted in the keel when it was poured. There are two of them, one directly below the mast step and one about four inches behind the aft keel bolt. these inserts are not stainless steel and the forward one showed signs of rust. When the keel was attached, there was no special attention to filling or sealing these lifting points...so if water can get to them, they will rust!!!
My pain...your gain. Again, hope this helps you out.
 
Eric Wengstrom
s/v Ohana
Colonial Beach, Virginia
1988 Catalina 34 MKI TR/WK
Hull #564
Universal M25XP
Rocna 15

scgunner

Eric,

Totally understandable in your case, with corroded tops the only way to check the condition of the bolts was to drop your keel and inspect. It was probably as much for peace of mind as it was for the repair. Fortunately for Eric it doesn't sound like he's gotten to that point.
Kevin Quistberg                                                 Top Gun 1987 Mk 1 Hull #273

ewengstrom

Kevin,
I tend to agree after the deep forensic dive I've done on my keel. I love having in depth knowledge of the keel at this point and am happy to share, like I said, my pain, others gain.  :? 
Everyone's boat and everyone's situation is different, but I tend to agree with Ben's choice of opening it up, drying it out and then doing the standard "Catalina Smile" repair along with sealing the bolts in the bilge would be my path.
Another "fun" experiment would be to remove the nut and send some compressed air down around the bolt while someone below checked for bubbles, escaping air, rusty water, etc.
I'd be curious to know if this would reveal anything...other than an obvious path for that bilge antifreeze.
Eric Wengstrom
s/v Ohana
Colonial Beach, Virginia
1988 Catalina 34 MKI TR/WK
Hull #564
Universal M25XP
Rocna 15