Seepage at keel bolts E 38-200 (E 381) recurring issue?

Lifs2shrt

Junior Member
For owners of E 38-200 and E 381:
I've read some threads here regarding water ingress at the keel bolts in the 38-200, and apparently it isn't that uncommon to have to drop the keel and resurface, re-bed, and re-torque the keel and keel bolts to stop the seepage/leaks. Some say every 5 -8 years this may need to be done. It's about a $5,000 job at the yard here in Southern California. Also, it seems that perhaps there isn't enough support at the rear of the keel (needing another couple of bolts) and this could be part of the issue. Also apparently there could be hull "settling" because the grid may not be able to support all the weight for some reason, which some attribute to the head door not closing properly (on the 381) or the v-berth door not closing (on the 38-200).

Questions are:
1. How big of a deal is this? (because it sounds like a pretty big deal)

2. Is this (keel seepage/leaks) more of an issue on the 38-200 models and not as much on the 381 models? (even though the 381 is the older/previous model)

3. What percentage of E 38-200 and/or E 381s have/had this issue?
(1%, 10%, half, basically all?)

4. If it is common then I just would need to add it to the list of recurring maintenance costs, (such as bottom paint every 2-3 years)
Thanks in advance for any input
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
I don't know the E38 series, but I dropped the keel of our E30+ at about 35 years and was surprised how good condition it was in. The 1" steel keel bolts were hardly corroded--one just a little bit, the others not at all. The yard gave me the option of resealing it with 5200 caulk or with epoxy. I chose epoxy, as I never anticipate having to drop the keel again. The yard foreman said that the epoxy is strong enough that I probably don't even need the keel bolts any more, but of course we did put them on again. I marked them with a magic marker so I can easily see if any of them loosen at all, but none have.
I have never heard of rebedding the keel every few years--usually only once after about 20 years or more, so don't consider this a regular maintenance item, unless there is something unusual and unique about the 38 series, which others on this site will know.
Frank
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
I think you're far exaggerating the need to drop the keel of Ericson 38s.

It is certainly not a recurring maintenance issue.

And there is no design flaw or sagging or history of issues.

Some owners have keel bolts tightened, and some do drop the keel for confirmation or replacement of the bolts--it's a matter of choice of what you want to worry about.

Good to consider that no keel has ever fallen off an Ericson as result of keel bolt deterioration (or anything else), and Ericsons that have suffered traumatic hull damage from collision or grounding often find the damage quite limited (these are usually insurance claims and very expensive).
 

Bob Robertson

Member III
We've owned our boat since 88 and over the years had some seepage from time to time. All we had to do to cure the problem was to tighten the keel bolts.
 

David Grimm

E38-200
In the northeast it rains too often for me to tell. There's always been water in my bildge. However when it's on the hard for 6 months I do not get any wet marks on the outside of the hull. Rain, sleet, snow always dripping down the inside of the mast.
 

Lifs2shrt

Junior Member
Thanks for all the input. I only ask because there was a haulout for survey of a 38-200 and water was running down the keel (from the hull connection). The keel was then loosened and dropped several inches, resurfaced, then re-attached/bolted. No need to change the bolts as they were in decent condition. Not sure whether epoxy or 5200 was used.
But from the sound of it, this is not very common and is not a recurring issue.

Still not sure what flexes or causes the head door (381) or the v-berth door (38-200) not to close properly (catching on the top corner). (Not that a person couldn't sand or cut the top so it closes, but would prefer to find the cause first)
 

David Grimm

E38-200
I find the head door on my 38-200 changes its level of "stikness" throughout the season as well as on the hard to in the water. My V-birth door is a bi-fold and it's pretty tight but works well.
 

Lifs2shrt

Junior Member
These cases of door issues you cite --what's your source. Discussions on this forum?
My source is personal experience being on a 381 in person in which the door at the forward head was impossible to close at the top of the door (non-hinge side). The door was plumb at the hinges and no damage, so something has caused the other side of the opening to be out of square about 1/4". Which may not sound like much but it would require cutting or a lot of sanding, and of course another solution is to never close the door and just tie the door permanently open. But alas, I was trying to get ideas on why it's like this to this degree.
 

peaman

Member III
Not sure I would want a boat whose "hull stability" is dependent upon the fitment of the head door.
 

u079721

Contributing Partner
Well I hate to disagree with Christian, but in my experience the issue with keels needing to be dropped is a common one. And also there IS a design flaw that allows the interior pan and cabin sole to sag and throw off the cabinetry and door jams. Our 1989 model 38-200 had all these issues.

Right after we bought the boat we had water running down the from the keel joint with the boat on the hard, and when you lifted the boat in the slings the back foot or so of the keel separated from the joint and was unsupported. Based on this we had the keel dropped, and rebedded with epoxy. Which worked perfectly, as after that the bilge was dusty dry (except when it rained) and the keel no longer separated at the rear. The apparent need to add additional support to the rear of the keel is why our yard suggested using epoxy, not just caulk, to do the bedding. In our case there was clear evidence that the original mold release had not be removed from the bottom of the hull prior to mounting the keel, and there was even a paper label on the surface under the failed caulk. This might be unique to our hull, but I doubt it.

As for the design defect on the hull. After the boat was in the water awhile the cabin sole would sag, about 2 cm or so. You could see this on the side of the galley cabinetry, as the floor would drop, but the cabinet side would not move, exposing fresh cabinet side. And after this the door to the V-berth would no longer close. All of this went away every fall when the boat was hauled for the winter and placed on the hard on the keel. I contacted the factory and asked about it and they said they had seen this on other 38s, and called it "subsidence". They said that one owner had gone so far as to have a pipe engineered that tied the floor pan to the overhead to add additional support. But their attitude towards the issue was that while there was subsidence, it wasn't progressive. That is, once the hull shape had deformed a bit, it stabilized, and didn't get any worse. And as disconcerting as it was, the only real manifestation was that the V-berth door would not close.

I wouldn't let these issues deter someone from purchasing a 38, but I would sure look for them.
 
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Joliba

1988 E38-200 Contributing Member
When we bought our 1988 38-200 in 2008 it had been stored indoors out of the water for over a year. We had her transported from Rhode Island to Illinois where she sat outside over the winter with the mast down prior to our initial launch. When we removed the cover over the mast opening and rain entered the bilge for the first time, we noticed water seeping out of the keel/hull joint. We dropped the keel, which had absolutely no inclination to adhere to its root after the bolts were loosened. It was probably the manufacturing defect cited in this forum many times (mold releaser wax had not been removed.) The keel bolts and their nuts were all intact while the washers, being of slightly different nobility, had rusted away as sacrificial anodes. We rebedded using 3M 4200. The yard said that if we ever needed to repeat the procedure following a grounding or something else, 5200 would be a major PITA to remove.
Over the past 12 years we have had no recurrent leak. We periodically torque the keel bolts. A small superficial crack appears at the aft end of the keel/hull junction every year or two. We now do some minimal grinding with a Dremel tool and use G-flex epoxy for the cosmetic repair prior to bottom painting.
I have never noted any “subsidence” of the hull pan affecting doors or cabinetry in the cabin.
Mike Jacker
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Yes, I recall now the discussion of mold wax on some models.

As far as I know this was not an issue with the 381s, but would like to hear of any citations.

Perhaps the wax issue is related to a slightly redesigned keel stub on the -200 series, to accommodate the changed cabin layout and rudder location.
 

goldenstate

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I had two degraded keel bolts replaced after lowering my keel as part of a repair after a close encounter with a rock.


My boat leaked a little before the bolt replacement. It no longer does.


I also found that loading the standing rigging and the mast hold-down inside the cabin have an impact on the door swing of my head door.
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
Are the keel bolts leaking ? You can use modeling clay to dam up areas around the bolts to see if they stay dry. Most often water is coming from other sources.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Yes, I recall now the discussion of mold wax on some models.

As far as I know this was not an issue with the 381s, but would like to hear of any citations.

Perhaps the wax issue is related to a slightly redesigned keel stub on the -200 series, to accommodate the changed cabin layout and rudder location.
The failure to adequately remove the mold wax was an issue with our boat and at least one other Olson built in the late 80's. In our case the keel was dropped and re-bedded. Prior thread discusses this: https://ericsonyachts.org/ie/threads/keel-bolt-design-and-repair.3448/
 
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DrZiplock

Member I
Not sure if I'm finding this information comforting or not.

For reference:

About a year ago I bought an '84 E381 (if you search the forum for "Grey Goose" that's her before I got my hands on her. New name now). I've been spending the last several months doing an extensive repair and refit. Step one was getting all the bottom paint off and taking it down as far as it could go....which exposed the keel joint naturally. Saw what could charitably be called "lots" of fairing work there and some epoxy as well.

Then she was picked up off the blocks and brought into the paint shed and oh hi there. Significant gap in the aft end of the keel and water running down. She'd been on the hard uncovered for 5 years. They dropped her back onto the blocks, work kept keeping on, and I tested the aft most keel bolts (the single 30mm and then the three 1.5" next). All loose to the point I could turn them by hand.

This past Friday they lifted her back up to move her a bit forward in the shed. So I took the opportunity to address it. Still some water seeping, and you'll see the gap in the attached pic. I scraped it out, blew it out with compressed air, filled it with epoxy, and then dropped the boat back onto it.

Next step on this project is to go in and back off the loose bolts, quick visual inspection, some goop, and then torque everything down properly (side note - anyone know the torque spec ratings?) Then thickened epoxy the joint, fair it all out, three coats of barrier coat, two coats of bottom...and a few crossed fingers. It'll be a year or so before she's back in the water to see if this worked.

Also - you can see the not insignificant gouge in the keel. Cool.
 

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Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Note that until you lift a boat (any boat) off of the keel bolts and inspect the threads, there is no way to know whether those bolts have been compromised by corrosion.
 

peaman

Member III
(side note - anyone know the torque spec ratings?)
This post suggests 175fp. It did not specify what the bolt size was, but it was for a 32-3 which has 2 different sizes of bolts. It would be great if we had a resource listing the "correct" torque for the various bolt sizes for the various boats, since this often comes up.
 
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