Keel smile

Lone Gull

Junior Member
Hi everyone, I'm trying to become an Ericson 32-3 owner, I mean I have an accepted offer on a 1985 model but there is an issue with the forward 1/4 of the joint between the ballast keel and the boss/sump it meets with. The joint has a crack from the leading edge back to the first double set of keel bolts. Does anyone now how this area of the keel was constructed? Is there any wood between the keel boss and the grid system that may be compromised so the forward keel bolt could sag and open that tiny smile? We want to close within a week or so but really want to know I'm not getting into unresolvable problems.

Would love some feedback,
Lone Gull


Sustaining Member
Is there any evidence of compression in the hull where the upper aft edge of the keel meets the hull (as you might get if the bottom forward edge of the keel hit something hard)? As the keel is lead, you'd also expect deformation in the leading edge of the keel if that has happened.
Just get a surveyor to check it out. It's most likely nothing to worry about if it's just a crack in the gelcoat in that area.
Are the keel bolts in good condition in the bilge? (not noticeably corroded/'rusted') - if they are in good condition, you likely don't have seawater seeping up into the bilges, as you might if the forward keel bolts are loose.
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Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
I would earnestly suggest that you have the keel dropped and re-bedded, as a first 'deferred maintenance' chore.
I had that done over a decade ago. I had a small leak around one bolt, and that cured the problem.
Our hull has no 'wood' in the sump anywhere, and I doubt that yours will either. The interior grid lays flat bonded onto the hull - which is also solid glass laminate.


Sustaining Member
Blogs Author

I found some degradation of my keel bolts when my keel was removed. This is very difficult to diagnose without the removal.

Your prospective keel is probably fine regardless. The boats are quite well built.


Ericson 34
We just had this “repaired” on our 1987 boat when the boat hull was stripped of many layers of paint, barrier coat applied, followed by bottom paint. As the boat yard explained, a keel smile is inevitable on boats our age. Our boats have two large flat surfaces butted against each other with tremendous side forces applied to them. The cosmetic gel coat will eventually crack.

When the old paint was stopped away, our boat showed signs of a previous epoxy filler patch over the keel joint. The yard checked the keel bolts and found no problems - no excess moisture and no loose or rusty keel bolts. The boat yard laid on several layers of fiberglass over the joint, building up a 6” wide strip to cover the entire length of the keel - hull joint. They expect it to last perhaps 6 to 8 years. Covering the crack with just some epoxy filler would last a couple years. But the crack will eventually reappear whatever the repair. It’s the nature of the hull to keel joint that makes this inevitable.

Lone Gull

Junior Member
Thanks for everyone's help. I have a surveyor coming today to check keel bolts with torque wrench. There is no cracking radiating out from the aft end of the keel and no evidence of water leaking out of the crack. This is a freshwater boat so I feel confident the bolts are in good shape but one never knows without dropping the keel. I'll keep everyone posted.