Keel bolt removal preparations

It’s been all fun and giggles writing about food, but it is time to get down and dirty! Today I spent most of my day preparing for tomorrow, when I hopefully will be able to replace at least half of my keel bolts.

After a meager breakfast (I forgot to get some yesterday…) I had a chat with the guys at the boatyard and got directions to a pushe… I mean supplier of the needed materials. Unfortunately they are in Cork, so it was a half an hours drive to get there. I called to make sure that they were open, and then I took the keel bolt that I’ve managed to remove and hit the road.

It was rather simple to find the store, since I’ve passed it several times before as I went to Cork to re-rent the car that I have. Now, I have to mention that today was the first day that Ireland eased on the lockdown and among the stores that was allowed to open was stores to supply construction companies with materials. So the timing is impressive, even if it wasn’t planned.

They had a system that we needed to wait outside the store until one of the point of sales was available. It’s a good system, keeps people apart while minimizing the risks for the employees, and it didn’t take long until I was in the store.

I presented the keel bolt with nuts and said I needed two meters of the same type of threaded rod. First he came with a rod that was two meters, but I quickly realized that it will be hard to handle it, so I asked for two one meter rods instead. I also asked if he had nuts to fit, but the only stainless they had he said was A2, which is a lesser grade of stainless that isn’t suited for this task. So I figured I just had to use my old nuts, no big deal.

I drove back to Kinsale through the beautiful countryside of Ireland. I can’t really do it justice, neither with pictures nor text, it has to be experienced. But I could see myself doing a motorcycle vacation here some day in the future. It is so green and lush, with trees some times making the road into a green tunnel. It really reminds me of the old road from Ödeshög to Gränna in Sweden that I’ve ridden so many times.

As I got to Kinsale I rememberd my sad breakfast, so I went into town and got some. As I got out and put my groceries in the trunk for some reason I just wanted to thread on a nut onto the threaded bar. Maybe out of satisfaction to feel it thread on and that I was about to do some serious maintenance to the boat.

It. Didn’t. Fit.

Whaaaat?! Okay, that anti-climax was total. I had to check again. Nope. Does not fit. Crap… Alright, it wasn’t hard to figure out what I had to do. Take another tour to Cork, talk to the people at the hardware store and get the right material this time. The drive is nice, so I don’t really mind it. But I wish I could have gotten into work mode today.

So, back to Cork. As I got there and I talked to a different person this time, and I explained again that it was for bolting on a keel, he asked “these are zinked mild steel, are you sure that you want to use that?”. Apparently the other person didn’t have much of a clue, probably the owners son or something. This one said that he would rather suggest tensile strength steel, which I was happy with. I also asked him if they had A4 stainless steel nuts, he asked how many I needed. Thirty-two.

As he got back and I was about to pay he said that there is €69 of nuts and that’s why it was so pricey. Yeah, I know that stainless isn’t cheap and a little more than €2 per nut was not more than I expected. Why go cheap on such an important part of the boat, you know?

Time to go back again, this time with the material I was supposed to have. As I got back to the ship yard I managed to start a discussion about what steel the rods should be. One said that mild steel would suffice, and the rust was proof of that it was used now. The other opinion was that I needed high tensile steel, but not just any but a specific one, 10.8 or something alike. Well, I already had the bars in my hand and they were 8.8, they seemed to be within acceptable specs though.

So, time to wrestle another bolt out of the keel, just to make sure that the first one wasn’t just a lucky (or rather unlucky, since my plan wasn’t to undo it) coincident. Well, I spent an hour trying to wrestle the bolt out of the keel. All I managed was to get about one centimeter out. It would not only take me hours to get one of the bolts out, it would be a workout from hell doing it.

Fortunately we hade a contingency plan.

Since I’m replacing all the keel bolts I have the option to do some… uhmm… destructive removal. Earlier we had spoken about welding a nut to the top of the bolt to get it to loosen from the keel, and this was exactly what I had to do.

I was allowed to borrow a teeny-weeny stick welder from the boat yard, and then pulled a long extension cord to the boat for some hot action!

It’s been quite some time since I last held a welder in my hand, but how hard can it be, really? So I wet down a towel to try to protect the boat from stray sparks and got to welding! First attempt was a failure, mostly because the top of the bolt was quite rusty still. But the second attempt was great success!

So, I took my extended bolt-loosening-handle and gave it a good pull. *creak* Oh, yes. One more. *cre-eak* And then more, and more. The protesting creaks quieted down and eventually the bolt was out. Yay!

The result was another hole in the hull. But damn, it felt nice! So, this was one of the bolts in an easy position, so I’m not expecting this to be easy but if it will be like this with the first sixteen that I have in the aft part of the keel they should be possible to replace tomorrow. I expect massive sore back muscles when I’m done, but it will be so worth it.

Oh, by the way… That welder? I want one! It is small enough and useful enough it could be a useful addendum to my tools that I have. I wonder if it could even be run from my inverter..? Hmm…

To be continued!

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