Topic: Remove the keel?

Has anyone removed the keel?

Do you have any pictures of the process?

Thank you

2 (edited by bertinol 2013-02-26 04:46:46)

Re: Remove the keel?

Can't do it.
The cast iron/lead is encapsulated in the fibreglass....

Re: Remove the keel?

I suppose one could do it but it would be a nightmare job.

Re: Remove the keel?

I thought that was the case.

Since the keel's encapsulated what's the likelihood of water penetration from the outside of the hull?

I assume it can happen. What is the failure mode when it does? Delamination of the FRP?

The keel is lead isn't it?

Thank you for the help.

Re: Remove the keel?

Encapsulated keels can be removed using explosives but I don't generally recommend it.  Water in the keel casting can enter from the outside, through unrepaired or badly repaired keel damage, or from the inside (rarely) through barrier tabbing forward of the bilge void.  It's unimportant as to whether the keel ballast is cast lead or iron.  If there is water present, it could cause FRP damage (non-lamination) when the water repeatedly freezes and thaws. This can sometimes be seen as deep crazing at the lower 1-2" of the keel casting but it's pretty hard to tell unless you've seen a few of these. 

The best course (if you're really concerned and haven't much else to do) is to drill a few 1/2" holes about 1.5 to 2" above the bottom of the keel.  If water comes out, you've got a problem.  On the bright side, you'll find out what your ballast is made of (lead or iron).  This may not be of any real value except for use as a conversation stopper.  When someone is boring you to tears, you break in with, "My ballast is cast iron!"  That will generally suffice to change the topic.  At best, the dull hammerhead will conclude that you are a lunatic and find someone else to bore.
So you've got water.  Panique not!  Let the water drip out.  Catch it in something.  Once it stops dripping, pour a lot of water into the aft bilge void.  If more water starts coming out the holes, you really have a problem but this is very, very rare.  I've only seen two in the last 40 years and they were both on boats that were of very marginal quality. 

Let's assume that no water came out via the bilge.  Look around for damage.  Sand off all the bottom paint and look closely.  On Lucy Ann (JJT 26) the bad repair was as clear as the stern of a goat but there were two other areas that were suspect.  I drilled three 1/2" holes on each side of the keel casting and out came about a pint of slightly rusty water (cast iron ballast).  I then opened up the 1/2" holes to 1" diameter and hooked up a vacuum cleaner (shop type) with the nozzle duct-taped to one of the holes and let it suck away.  I moved the vacuum nozzle from hole to hole for some fairly scientific reasons that included the phase of the moon.  I probably got another 1/2 cup of water out but let it suck for several hours just to get air running through. 

The bad repairs were dug out and they and the holes were ground/tapered and filled/finished with epoxy and stitchmat.

Re: Remove the keel?

My situation is such that if and when I get a Contessa 26 I want to understand ,before hand, as much about the construction of the boat as I can. All of the work on the boat will be done by myself. Since I'd be doing blue water cruising primarily I want to know what to expect and in what way the boat will perform given the possibility of the keel hitting something. Thus, how the keel is attached or secured is very important for my understanding. For example, what exactly does the ballast look like?  What shape is it? How much glass is before it and after it? Where is the best location to mount a stainless strap along the front of the keel to prevent damage to the frp?

Whether the ballast is lead or iron is important. Cast iron will rust and manifest iron oxide staining through any "to-water-exposed-areas". Lead will not (ok, well, there's lead oxide staining). Lead is less susceptible to corrosion than cast iron.

If you don't dry out something that's been exposed to water and then seal it in you're going to have problems. I might have the wrong perspective here- boats don't last forever.

I've read that the Canadian made Co26's are prone to deck/hull parting.  Have you seen any of this?


Re: Remove the keel?

You worry too much.  Just get on the boat and go sailing.
cheers, bertinol

Re: Remove the keel?

Both cast iron & lead are cast in one piece and lowered into the FRP keel casting and then sealed with FRP over the top and aft vertical wall.  I don't know what the FRP thickness of the forward edge of the keel is but the lower sides, where I drilled the holes, was around 1/2" thick.

Yes, iron will rust but, in an enclosed space, rusting will be minimal even with trapped water contacting the iron.  Oxidation (rusting) needs oxygen and after a while, the trapped water/moisture loses all its oxygen molecules and active rusting stops.  That's why the water coming out of my keel was just "slightly" rusty.  In short, whether your ballast is iron or lead is unimportant.  In either case, trapped water can cause FRP damage due to cyclic freezing and thawing.

Keep mind also that external cast iron has been used for well over 100 years on many boats where the iron has been in direct contact with salt water and it stands up very well – examples are the Tanzer 22 and the Pearson 26. 

In my opinion, a stainless steel strap has little worth.  A three ton boat hitting a ledge at 5-6 kts will most probably have serious FRP damage whether it has a "strap" or not.  I've done maybe 50 damage surveys (boats with encapsulated ballast) resulting from ledge-hopping and only a few required any major repairs.  Attaching the strap is another problem area.  Threaded fasteners in FRP seldom hold well.  If you drill the pilot hole too deep, you break through the keel casting causing possible leaks. If you have to use short screws (less than 4X the diameter) the threads can easily be stripped out with even a low speed bump.  Just from a sailing perspective, the Contessa is known for its easily driven hull that partially results from its fine entry.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Deck/hull parting – I saw a JJT 26 (1975) that was dockside and had been "T-boned" by a soused idiot driving a Bayliner 30.  The damage was substantial to both hull and deck just about amidships.  However, there were no indications of any built-in weakness of the hull-to-deck joint.

I agree with bertinol, relax and sail the boat.

Re: Remove the keel?

I'm thinking bertinol is on the right track here.  There are other areas on the Contessa that you should consider long before you worry about the keel.  The number one problem that I saw was not water penetration through the solid fibreglass hull but the cored deck.  All boats I found during my search had wet decks.  Many had never had their rigging replaced.  Several had serious wiring problems.  At least two needed serious engine work (worth as much as the boat is worth).

Buy one, they are good boats, but don't worry too much about the keel.