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Trying to find a bilge water source...


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My boat (Ericson 33RH) accumulates a small amount of bilge water (maybe a pint over 2-3 weeks).  I tested the water with a saline detector and it is definitely salt water.  I have checked all the thru-hulls (I think ??) that I can find and can't feel any moisture around the base where they contact the hull.  The hull was painted and boat surveyed back in march with no findings.  I dried the bilge and put clay in the round passageways and the bilge stays dry and I see no seeping around the keel bolts.   I found a small pool of water (maybe about a sponge full) under a small opening right behind the speed transducer (is thru the hull) which is next to the near the forward v-birth. I thought it was the transducer thru-hull or the o-ring in the transducer, but the actual transducer base stays dry for hours after I dry that area. That water must be coming from somewhere !. I don't think it can come from the bilge because that area is a few inches higher than the bilge.  I thought maybe that pool of water is just dew from the mast, but when I sponged it into a glass, it tests as salt water.    Anyone have any suggestions ?  

 

 

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Have the boat been in use? 

I had a similar issue on my boat. It took me months to find the leak. In my case it was the rudder stock. When the rudder moved there where some ingress of water. 
 

Don't forget condensation and moisture in the winter. 

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43 minutes ago, Mogle said:

Have the boat been in use? 

I had a similar issue on my boat. It took me months to find the leak. In my case it was the rudder stock. When the rudder moved there where some ingress of water. 
 

Don't forget condensation and moisture in the winter. 

Yes, the boat has been regularly used, but not over the last 3-4 weeks due to a project we did on running rigging reorg.  The boat has a tiller but the tiller is stored in the "up" position but the rudder is not locked, so I noticed the tiller does move periodically in the slip.  That is one area I have not checked, so maybe I will look there next - move the rudder around while inspecting the rudder post.

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I my case, I only had ingress at the rudder stock when the rudder was constant moved back and forward. I found the leak in force 8 under auto pilot. At that point I had one bucket of water every hour. It was easily fixed, the hard part was to find where the water came from. Remember that water in the bilge gets salty very quickly. It can easily be rain water. 

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2 hours ago, Mogle said:

I my case, I only had ingress at the rudder stock when the rudder was constant moved back and forward. I found the leak in force 8 under auto pilot. At that point I had one bucket of water every hour. It was easily fixed, the hard part was to find where the water came from. Remember that water in the bilge gets salty very quickly. It can easily be rain water. 

Had not thought about it being rain water that gets salty.  Where does the salt come from ?  Is it residue salt from evaporated seawater ?

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I get a surprising amount of water inside from my keel stepped mast - a couple of gallons from a decent rainstorm. It's all coming down inside the tube too - not a drop from the boot or the sail track.

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On 12/25/2020 at 4:48 PM, Mogle said:

I my case, I only had ingress at the rudder stock when the rudder was constant moved back and forward. I found the leak in force 8 under auto pilot. At that point I had one bucket of water every hour. It was easily fixed, the hard part was to find where the water came from. Remember that water in the bilge gets salty very quickly. It can easily be rain water. 

Yeah,  could depend on the sensitivity of the device used to measure salinity I would think.  Could be just salt collected on the deck or cockpit being washed through leaking cockpit drains.

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Rain can put a lot of water in the bilge. Every rain we had a quart or more through two pvc vent cowl deck plates and through a piano hinge on the deck box covering our steering gear. Butyl tape on the cowls and a gutter under the hinge sorted it. 

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So first thought.  Take a bucket and grab some water from the marina at your slip.  Test that with saline detector and see if you get the same reading.  If its the same, then good chance water coming in from outside from somewhere.  If its higher than water from the bilge, then might indeed be rainwater mixing with dried salt.   If that's is so, rinse bilge good with fresh water, then see if that accumulates in bilge is still got the same saline content...

Other possibilities include rudder bearings (already discussed), raw water cooling lines and raw water strainer, and finally your marine toilet itself and all the gaskets,  plus hoses, etc connecting it to both holding tank, overboard discharge, and intake.  Esp. if plugging limber holes resulted in dry bilge.

Do limber holes come from both forward and aft end of bilge?  If so, unplug one end, leave other end plugged, then visa versa to see if you are getting water only from one end of bilge.

 

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I've used chalk in the past to search for water leaks. Starting at the bilge, I would make horizontal lines leading away from (looked like a topo map) for a few feet. This lead me to finding a leaking port side chain plate by seeing the water "tracks" if chalk. Everyone I was working with thought it was silly, it wasn't so silly when it worked and finding it took about a day as it was a slow leak. 

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On 12/26/2020 at 8:36 AM, Blue Crab said:

No dry bilges with keel stepped masts? 

I had a keel stepped mast and it drove me nuts, so I looked around for a solution, but ended up selling the boat. Most promising solution I found involved a lot of work with the mast down... basically shove in a foam plug to above the level of the deck from below, stand mast up, pour in a sealing material from above until it runs out your pre-drilled mast drain hole or your lowest halyard exit hole. Extra figuring required for your wiring— either go around outside or run a conduit thru the plug before you pour. 

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