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Leaks in riveted barges; how to find and repair them.

Leaks are pretty rare, but they do happen. Sometimes when at the shipyard, they're visible by the water leaking back out, and then it's easy for them to fix. If the leak is a bit higher up though, an there's no water immediately inside [when the boat is on the slip, the rear is usually lower than when it's floating, so any water inside goes to the stern]. If you can take out the floor, you can clear out the water [wet/dry shop vac works well for this] and quickly find the problem. You really need to be able to at least look under the floor.


It's almost always a broken rivet. this happens when water sits under a beam on the inside and swelling rust breaks the rivet. There are a few ways to fix it; ultimately, it must be done at the shipyard by welding, but if you can get to it on the inside, you can make a temporary repair that will hold you for a few years.

The "Fish bolt" [Visbout] method; a bolt with a wide rubber washer on it, ground or filed at the threaded end, then drilled through. The next thing you need to do is feed a piece of strong string or fishing line through the bottom of the boat.

 Tie a fishing line or strong nylon string to a large nail or bit of steel rod. Then pound the broken rivet [Nagel in Dutch] out so it falls away into the water. A fountain of water will come squirting up; don't be afraid, despite the graphic appearance, it would take days for this leak to sink you, even if you didn't have your pump running. push your steel rod or nail through the stream and through the hull, and lower a few meters of string so the little weight is lowered through the ship into the water below.

Next go outside with another length of string; two people then take an end each, and starting at one end of the boat, walk to the other sweeping the string underneath. as it reaches where the first string is hanging through, it will pick it up. Bring the nail up over the rail of the boat, , cut the nail off the string, and tie the string to your prepared "fish bolt". Then throw it into the water.

From inside, pull the string back up through the hole [yes, water is still shooting upward into the boat], until you pull the bolt end up. The big end of the bolt and the rubber washer are on the outside, and now [at last] blocking the hole.

Cut the string about a meter from the bolt, and thread a washer and nut down it and over the bolt screw it tight; not too tight or you'll split the rubber washer and you'll have to do it all again. Just so the leak stops.

That's it; but write down where it is, or paint a line on the side of the hull above the water that points to it, because it can be tough to find the fishbolt a few years later when the boat's at the wharf.

I have used the "Visbout" and it worked just fine.

Most likely you'll have a few hundred liters of water to pump out, about the same weight as having a few friends over for dinner.

Another way is with a specialy made expanding plug. I invented one and had a few made, and used two very successfully. The foreman at a shipyard told me they already exist and are available.

Other methods; pound a round peice of wood into the hole. I never tried this myself.

Fast drying "hydraulic" cement;

It looks like normal cement, a fine grey powder, but it's made for sealing ceramic pipes. You can get it at ship's supply shops [like Leegwater at houthavens in Amsterdam]. It comes in sealed tins.

Mix in a little water and make a thick putty out of it and slam it onto the prepared [cleaned] hole. Hold it there for a few minutes as it hardens. I've done it succsessfuly. This is the best method for tight little corners between beams where sitting water caused the damage.

Grease; a lot of thick grease, a wad of cloth, and then a board pressed against it, held tight by a rod or wedge. This is the thing to do when you have a rust through hole, because the surrounding metal can be very thin. If this happens, you'll need to call your insurance company and arrange to get to the shipyard on an emergency basis.




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