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Author: Brendan
Subject: Witchy Woman Keel Bolt Failure PLEASE READ
Info: (2564 views) Posted: Tuesday 10-2-12 10:21:32 AM
This is a very sobering failure and a reminder to never stand under boats that are on the hoist. Tough news for Tom & the Witchy gang...

For those who haven't seen it, you'd be proud how well the boat held up despite the fall onto pavement. The rudder is ruined, the keel needs repair (and presumably new keel bolts), but the hull itself suffered only a few minor scratches (at least that I could see from the outside).

I believe Larry Tuttle at Waterat has the molds and/or templates for making new rudders and has done so recently.

Making a new keel could be more problematic. I'm not sure if the keel mold was with the rest of the E27 molds, or if it even exists any more. Dave Wahle in Watsonville would know, probably. Hopefully the keel can be saved and repaired.

As far as maintenance and prevention: Everyone should be aware that keel bolts are not maintenance free. Periodically (annually?) the bolts should be carefully torqued. To torque the bolts holding the hoisting strap, the strap must first be removed. I was unable to find a specific torque for these nuts, but the consensus among the experts was to torque them tightly with a short (approx 24") 'cheater pipe' or breaker bar. Be sensitive to galling and don't torque them hard enough to damage them. You will need a deep socket (3/4" I think), a long (12") extension, and a 1/2" socket wrench with cheater pipe. It takes only about 10 minutes.

I recently replaced all the nuts and washers on my keel bolts (one at a time--don't pull all the nuts at once). If possible, the keel bolts should be completely dried and sealed against water intrusion before the new washer and nut are installed.

Crevice corrosion in stainless bolts is a nasty insidious problem and very hard to predict or inspect for. I've seen a lot of stainless fasteners fail with very little signs of inspectable corrosion. So even if we could see the keel bolts (which we can't without removing the keel), it would be hard to know for sure if they were compromised without dye testing or some modern imaging. There may be some possibility of x-ray or imaging technologies that could inspect keel bolts without detatching the keel, but I don't know if any is available locally (or affordably).

Though eye nuts on neighboring keel bolts sound promising (and available--Fastenal sells 3/4" stainless eye nuts with 4700lb working strength), care should be given to placing loads on the keel bolts not intended by the designer. All the keel bolts in our Expresses may not be bedded equally in the keel (the hoisting bolts may be better supported), and side loads should be avoided. That said, Get Happy!! (hull #1) has the hoisting strap attached to different keel bolts than all the other E27s I've seen and so far no problems...

We are all wishing the best for the fast and effective repair of Witchy Woman.

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