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riveted boat leaks

Old 08-16-2020, 07:38 PM
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Default riveted boat leaks

For 10 years, I’ve had a 19', 1989 SeaNymph Great Lakes Special, riveted heavy gauge aluminum hull, and plywood floors I replaced in 2015. The boat is an extremely durable, and excellent for big lake fishing: high gunwales, very deep V, heavy gauge aluminum. This season, it developed a leak so upon 3 hours of trolling, the bilge pump will pump out about 3 gallons of water. The boat has a live well below deck, in front of the helm. The live well is dry, and is never used. I think the live well draws from below the water line in the stern and exits (via a pump) starboard amidship.

The hull is leaking somewhere. The hull is completely out of the water on hoist when not fishing. My first task is to assure the live well inlet is sealed to see if that stops the leak. If not, once I pull the boat for the winter, how can I find the leak? I’ve thought of putting it on the trailer, making sure it is level fore-aft, port-starboard, then filling it with water dyed with black or blue dye up to the bottom of the floorboards. Then with a flashlight look for the leak. Could also do it with un-dyed water, but it would be harder to find the leak. Anyone out there with another good way to find a leak in a riveted aluminum boat?

Then, once I find the leak, is there a good sealant anyone can recommend? I read high praises about Alcoa gutter sealant. I don’t want to coat the bottom with epoxy as that will add a lot of weight to the boat. I had a row boat once that was epoxied, and it weighed a ton.

Need to find the leak, then seal it. Removing the carpeted plywood floor is not an option, so replacing rivets is not an option.

Ideas? Thoughts? Thanks in advance.
Old 08-16-2020, 07:48 PM
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I had a 13' aluminum v-hull that slowly leaked at two rivets in the transom floor. I would leave the boat in for an entire weekend and only have a couple gallons in the boat.
I drilled out the two bad rivets, I believe I used marine epoxy on the new rivets, and then tigthened them down with the rivet tool. Never another drop of water. I highly advise properly fixing the issue, not "duct taping" it. The other way to find a leak is remove/open all the floor hatches and have someone shine a bright spotlight on the bottom of the hull while you are looking from the top/inside the hull to look for any light coming in. Obviously, it is wise to do this at dusk or in a closed garage with the light off. I can send you the company I bought my rivets from if you can't find any locally.
Old 08-16-2020, 07:53 PM
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I had the same issue with a 1970's 14 ft starcraft. I used penetrating epoxy only around the rivets. The epoxy is slightly flexible and no more leaks. That was 12 years ago. It doesn't leak at all. The epoxy stained a bit, but I haven't painted over it. It's my beater fishing boat used around all kinds of stumps and rocks. Dents and dings just add to its character.
Old 08-16-2020, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Zolczer View Post
I had the same issue with a 1970's 14 ft starcraft. I used penetrating epoxy only around the rivets. The epoxy is slightly flexible and no more leaks. That was 12 years ago. It doesn't leak at all. The epoxy stained a bit, but I haven't painted over it. It's my beater fishing boat used around all kinds of stumps and rocks. Dents and dings just add to its character.
Where do I find "penetrating epoxy"? I know epoxy, but have never heard of penetrating epoxy.
Old 08-16-2020, 08:42 PM
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Bert31: How did you find where it "slowly leaked at two rivets in the transom floor"? Flashlight?

I have no floor hatches. The entire floor is screwed down, by me, in 2015. The only place I can see the bottom+ribs+rivets is the center of the transom where the batteries are located.

I can well imagine that with all the force the transom takes over the years, it is inevitable the vibration and torque would loosen things up. Although, the SeaNymph transom is entirely encased in aluminum, and the hull and transom are riveted together.
Old 08-16-2020, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by beckoning View Post
Where do I find "penetrating epoxy"? I know epoxy, but have never heard of penetrating epoxy.
There is a ship shape video on youtube that they do a boat with it and go over the epoxy and all the steps. I suggest you look for it,

I believe it was a west systems product they used and applied it around the rivet with a syringe.
Old 08-17-2020, 01:00 PM
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You can find it at Defender or Jamestown Distributors. I got mine at West Marine about 12 years ago. It was developed to solidify rotten wood. In my case it filled in holes and "repaired" the area around the rivets. I also put it along some seals. I used a plastic hypodermic to get it in where it was needed. The stuff works well
Old 08-17-2020, 01:17 PM
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We used gluvit years ago on a boat that had several small leaks we couldn’t find. I slathered that stuff all over the inside at and below the waterline. It did the trick.
Old 08-17-2020, 01:24 PM
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Amazon Amazon
Old 08-17-2020, 01:26 PM
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while boat is high and dry, put the water hose in the hull with the plug in. start watching for leaks on the outside!! then figure out the problem!

the riviets for the hull are put in from the outside, so dont rule out putting in a new rivet just yet!
Old 08-17-2020, 01:59 PM
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https://www.amazon.com/Marine-RM331K-Gluvit-Epoxy-Sealer/dp/B07GD63444/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=Gluvit&;qid=1597694341&s=automotive&sr=1-3 https://www.amazon.com/Marine-RM331K-Gluvit-Epoxy-Sealer/dp/B07GD63444/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=Gluvit&;qid=1597694341&s=automotive&sr=1-3
Old 08-17-2020, 02:26 PM
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I gather you suspect the livewell plumbing may be leaking. Try temporarily plugging the intake with toilet ring wax or similar and launch to see if the leak stops.
Old 08-17-2020, 06:39 PM
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My crabbing skiff didn't have a "floor" so I could see every rivet along the hull. Behind the rear bench would always get wet first so I knew it wasn't something further forward leaking back. I waited for a nice sunny day and filled the boat with enough water to cover the entire hull from midship back. From there I was able to see the two rivets leaking while I laid under the boat. If your boat is leaking that bad you should be able to see it easily. Definitely best to be on the trailer but that's your decision.
Old 10-10-2020, 08:03 PM
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I have determined that water comes into the bilge only when the boat is moving at speed (15+ mph). When trolling (2-3mph) or sitting at the dock for extended periods, water doesn't accumulate in the bilge. My transom (outboard motor) is low with drain holes, so when I stop after moving at speed, water comes in over the transom into the motor well. Sometimes, when trolling with waves, some break over the transom into the motor well. There is clearly a seam between the aluminum "deck" of the motor well and the aluminum covering of the transom. Maybe water coming over the transom could be going into the bilge? What would cause water to get into the bilge when under power, but not other times? I can troll (2-3mph) for 3 hours, and no water in the bilge. I can leave the dock and motor at 12-20mph for 15 minutes, and water accumulates in the bilge. Not really a major problem as my automatic bilge pump quickly dispatches the water. Any ideas why water accumulates in the bilge at speed by not trolling or sitting at the dock?
Old 10-10-2020, 08:21 PM
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Could your transom be flexing a bit allowing a slightly loose rivet to open up just enough?
Old 10-11-2020, 01:42 AM
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Water getting in when the hull is at speed is likely due to the increased water pressure on the hull. And unlikely to be at the transom because when planing, the transom area is almost all out of the water, except the very bottom edge where it joins the hull bottom.

I have had aluminium boats since the 1970’s. Although none of mine were riveted - we stopped making riveted boats here in Australia in the early 70’s! Still, even welded boats get pinholes and need to be fixed.

Anyway, your plan to put the boat on the trailer then add water is often effective, done it myself a few times, but I would not fill it up beyond maybe an inch above the chines. Water is very heavy and you dont want to overload anything.

You should see some drips then its just a matter of tracing the water trail to the source.

And check those thru hull fittings. And bung fittings, the sealant will eventually fail and let water in.

Old 10-11-2020, 04:10 AM
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If your live well has a high speed water pickup you could be getting water at speed due to a leak in the plumbing. It would get pressurized while on plane. Depending on the location, (above or below the waterline, before or after the pump) it might not leak under any other circumstances.

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