Westsail Owners Alliance - Thread: "Weeping Steel Shot Keel"
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Thread: "Weeping Steel Shot Keel"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Weeping Steel Shot Keel


Our W42 (hull#10) has been on the hard for 9 years receiving a complete overhaul/rebuild. I had noticed a soft-spot on the bottom of the keel about 6 inches long that was weeping fluid (no smell). Thought it was a blister and opened it with a grinder only to find a "fisher". I abandoned the grinder and followed this "fisher" by drill and entered the ballist area. A couple of gallons of what appeared to be brownish water drain out. I then drill three more holes along the length of the keel. One of the three additional holes drained more water. I left these holes open for the last several years. I am just now getting around to plugging them with an epoxy/glass mix.

I am distressed to find that the first hole is still weeping moisture. I used the grinder and opened that "fisher", removing compromised fiberglass until I got to good hard glass. Now I have an opening in the hull is now about 7"X1". Anyway. when I entered the ballast area, I found a hard grey layer maybe 1/4" thick. It kind of looks like dry window putty. Passed this grey layer is hard foam, like the pour-in foam. I dug out an amount of this foam and it is holding moisture. It's not enough moisture to drip out but enough that when you crush the foam it drips out.

What do I do now? I can't repair the hole until I can dry out the fiberglass, can I? Any suggestions would help greatly.

Dave Kall

You may want to contact Robert in his 42 build out. Here is a link to discover how he handled the situation. http://westsail42.blogspot.com/2005/05/surprise-water-ballast.html

Good luck

Bud Taplin

They built the Westsail 42's after I left the company, and I believe that what happened was that they used foam to fill in some areas, and also put a piece of plywood over the top of the ballast. This was to make the layer of fiberglass over the ballast easier to put down smoothly. We did not do it that way as long as I was there. We used mishmash to form a smooth layer over the top of the ballast. The grey layer is mishmash, a filler we used at the time, consisting of resin mixed with asbestos powder. Not advisable to do much grinding on this layer.
Evidently when they did the ballasting, they left some voids in the steel punchings that were not sealed with resin, mishmash, or foam. Also, the plywood over the ballast has rotted on some boats, and let water into any void areas of ballast.
In my opinion, some voids and water in the ballast is probably not too serious a problem. I have never heard of any expanding of the ballast due to rusting that has compromised the fiberglass hull. Thank goodness for the use of lots of fiberglass mat and roving used on the Westsail hulls. How would you feel if you had one of the production boats that have a thin fiberglass skin with a foam core.

Rob and Janet Sutton

My opinion: if the holes have been open for a long time, you are probably not going to get it much drier. Yes, having it as dry as possible is desireable before the glass work.

One thing you might try is cut a hole in the plywood top of the bilge to fit a large shop vac hose and turn the shop vac on for a few days (longer the better).
That will at least help draw air through the keel and maybe dry things out some more. We did this to dry some of small areas of balsa core on our 28 Skookum and had limited success.

Another possibility is trying to "rinse" the keel with alcohol (isopropyl). Water dissolves in alcohol and it will help carry the water away when it drains. Left will be an alcohol residue that will evaporate quickly, especially if you can draw air through the keel. The trick is getting the alcohol through the keel, and you need large quantities (keep away from open flame!). So I dont know if that is practical in your situation.

Even after our keel repair two years ago, a couple monts ago I discovered trapped water in the lower skeg when I drilled holes for bolting the rudder gudgeon. It was only a trickle, but I was surprised.

I suspect expansion of the steel ballast due to rust would only become a problem if it went through repeated wet/dry cycles. Stale, standing water can only oxidize so much.

Even then, as Bud said, I cant see it ever compromising structure and strength given how much roving they used down there in the keel.

You probably have a greater risk of hitting a rock, puching a hole in your keel and spilling the ballast on the ocean floor (which I have heard has happened before, not Westsails).

More importantly is finding out how it got wet in the first place, and fixing that. In my case it was standing water in the bilge which eventually found its way into the keel. If it came in from outside the hull, that should be addressed of course.

Looking back, our solution of filling the keel with resin was probably a bit extreme, but it was the only thing we could think of (and the yard recommended) so that the problem could never "come back."

Moisture readings on our hull are now pretty much zero.

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