Keel / Stem Restoration

by Chris
(Wilton, CT USA)

My father and I are in the process of restoring an old '56 Penn Yan Swift.

Boat looks to be in good condition and have gotten it out on the water a few times, but recently noticed some rotting on on the keel.

Doing some research, I wanted reach out to get your guys' thoughts on the issue.

In your opinion, are we looking at a relatively straightforward repair or does might this require a major overhaul?

We are amateur's at best but have been enjoying the project - before sinking any more money into it I want to see how reasonable this undertaking is.

Pictures attached for reference. -Chris

Comments for Keel / Stem Restoration

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Jun 11, 2024

by: Mike

Hello Chris,

Dealing with keel rot in a wooden boat like your '56 Penn Yan Swift can range from straightforward to complex depending on the extent of the rot. Here’s how you can proceed to evaluate and potentially repair the keel:

1. **Assessment**:
- Thoroughly examine the keel for signs of rot. Poke gently with a small tool like a screwdriver to check for soft spots. Pay attention to the areas where the keel meets the stem and other structural components.

2. **Extent of Damage**:
- If the rot is localized to a small area, you might be able to excise the rotten wood and treat the surrounding area before filling it in with an epoxy wood filler. This is a relatively simple and common repair.
- If the rot has spread more extensively into the keel or the surrounding structural elements, a more significant repair or even partial replacement of the keel might be necessary.

3. **Consultation**:
- Since you mentioned you're amateurs, it might be a good idea to consult with a professional boat restorer or a knowledgeable wooden boat carpenter. They can offer a more precise assessment and advice on whether a DIY approach is feasible.

4. **Tools and Materials**:
- Ensure you have the right tools for the job. Depending on the repair, you might need chisels, saws, drills, clamps, epoxy resin, wood hardener, and replacement timber that matches the existing wood in type and quality.

5. **Repair Process**:
- Remove any waterlogged and soft wood carefully to prevent further damage.
- Treat the healthy wood around the repair area with a wood hardener to prevent future rot.
- If patching with wood, shape the replacement wood to match the original dimensions and affix it securely. If using epoxy filler, apply according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Seal and finish the repaired area to match the rest of the keel.

6. **Preventive Measures**:
- Once the repair is done, take measures to prevent future water intrusion and rot. Regularly inspect the boat, keep it dry when not in use, and apply waterproof sealants as needed.

7. **Further Maintenance**:
- Keep an eye on the repaired area and adjacent sections of the boat for any signs of weakness or recurrence of rot. Regular maintenance is key in wooden boat upkeep.

8. **Budget and Time**:
- Be realistic about the costs both in terms of materials and potential professional help. Also, consider the time commitment required if you decide to undertake the repair yourselves.

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