When we purchased Blue Nun, she came with a handy in-depth survey. It listed all the maintenance projects we should undertake and prioritized their urgency. One of the more intimidating items was an apparent and rusty crack in the back of the keel.
Despite Les’ handyman abilities and Lindsay’s irritatingly sanguine, “how hard can it be?” approach, it felt way too early in our boat-ownership career to start messing with the hull. Once Blue Nun was out of the water, however, we could see it for ourselves. The crack looked unsettling, and we wondered if maybe we shouldn’t wait. Still, Les was really hoping that we would be able to hold off on repairs for another year, but just to be sure he asked Calvin (our go-to friend for most boat-repair questions).
Here the reader should understand that Lindsay has a terrible habit of dreaming up projects that we really have no business undertaking and Calvin is one of her many enablers. He has a magic workshop (at least Lindsay is convinced of this) where he custom-fabricates all sorts of amazing things: Missing pieces to our mast, sails, a custom pennant for our friend’s racing boat, and entire boats designed by his own imagination. In short, Calvin can do ANYTHING. The result is that, with his help, we start believing that we can do anything, too (although, Lindsay hardly needed any convincing).
Calvin was of the opinion that it would need to be repaired before it went back in the water. And so, a mere few weeks before our scheduled launch date, we put our other off-season projects on hold and started chipping away at the hull.
As you can see in the picture, there was some cracking, rust was seeping out and paint was flaking off. The first step was to expose the joint, and see how extensive the damage was.
Les and Calvin used a combination of tools on this project. They removed the layers of paint and epoxy with a carbide scraper and old chisel. Once they exposed the joint, they used an aggressive grinding disc on an angle grinder to taper the edges of the joint. The goal was to create smooth transition from the hull to the keel.
Most of the CS27’s built in the late 1970’s have a cast iron keel, rather than the lead keel that is more common on boats of this vintage. Once everything was exposed, we found that the rust appeared to be coming from the keel itself, rather than the keel bolts. This was a good sign, since a bit of rust on the surface of the keel was less likely to cause structural issues than rusting bolts.
After grinding off all the rust, Les put on a coat of 2-part epoxy barrier paint to seal it. Next came some long-strand (hair) fibreglass filler. The long-strand adds strength to the joint and should prevent further cracking. After it dried, Les scraped it smooth with the carbide scraper. Then he put on a layer of fibreglass cloth for more strength. Next was short-strand fibreglass filler to create a smooth surface. Then came sanding…lots of sanding.
To finish it off, we added 2 coats of barrier paint. After expertly evading the messy fibreglass work, Lindsay actually came down and helped out here.
The last step should have included a fresh coat of anti-fouling, but we just ran out of time. Guess we’ll be scrubbing the hull on our swim-breaks this summer.
The hull sure looked much nicer, but we also needed to address the source of the problem: The rust’s origin. Fortunately, it was just a leaky keel bolt, and the fix was simple. We removed the nut from the keel bolt, let it dry out, resealed it with butyl, and re-torqued all the bolts.
Some very dusty, messy work – and some late nights in the dark – but we feel pretty good about the long-term condition of the keel joint now. Calvin guided us through the process, and did a lot of the work. Les learned a lot about working with fibreglass doing this project. We plan to scrape, sand and re-paint the rest of the hull in the fall. Then in the spring we will do new coats of anti-fouling bottom paint.