Bilge keels

Because we’re going to be predominantly working our boat out of Portscatho, Si designed her with bilge keels so that she could comfortably take the ground in the drying harbour. Once we’d finished fibreglassing and fairing, the next job before painting and turning over was to make and fit these to the hull.  We decided to make them out of opepe (a tough, durable hardwood rather than some kind of product to treat bladder weakness) and fit them after fibreglassing. This made more sense as it avoided the need to glass over a protuberance on the hull (thereby potential creating a weak spot) and allows for repair work to be easily carried out on a part of the boat that is likely to get heavy use and sustain damage.

Having marked the designed position of them on the hull, we spent some time checking this by eye with the opepe cut roughly to size.

Once we were happy we transferred the curve of the hull to the wood using a spiling block (a tool used to offset a curve; essentially a pencil on the end of a bit of wood) and cut the timber to fit. We then used this as a template to cut the starboard bilge keel and checked this against the other side of the hull.

Finally, Si cut and planed the outer profile of each keel, using Bob’s table saw to remove as much wood as possible without compromising strength in order to streamline the keels.

We then mixed up a thick epoxy fillet blend and used this to bond the keels to the hull, also locating them temporarily with screws (eventually replaced with bolts once we’d turned over).

It’s amazing how much the addition of bilge keels changed the appearance of the boat; like looking at a face without ears and trying to work out what’s wrong with it, then adding ears and being all like ‘Oh yeah’. The following day, having given the epoxy bond time to cure, we coated the keels in a layer of clear epoxy.

We gave the keels two coats of epoxy in total, ready to be painted and then fitted with stainless steel runners to protect the hull from damage when the boat takes the ground. Lovely shiny boat ears.


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