H26/260 Leaks

Let's face it most, if not all, boats leak to some degree. The H26/260 is a pretty dry boat but as it ages, owners report leaks that are often difficult to locate. If after reading this page you still have questions, it is possible that Hunter Customer Service customerservice@huntermarine.com 800-771-5556 may be able to help.

These comments are focused on the H260. Some of these comments may or not apply the H23.5 and the H26 water ballast boats. If you want to add or comment to this list send an e-mail to h260@h260.com

Identifying sources of leaks: Owners report success in locating leaks by sprinkling talcum powder in suspect areas. Also, carefully placed towels or tissue will tell you where the water is coming from and going. Some assert that adding food dye to the ballast tank may also help determine if the leak is coming from the tank, but remember that there is 240 gallons in the tank so you’ll probably need a lot of dye. The flashlight and water hose technique also works well - one person sprays the boat in suspect areas and the other shines a light on the inside to see if water is seeping in.

Common Location of Leaks:  

Sliding Hatch: Probably the most common source of leaks. Virtually all H26/260s hatches leak to some degree or another. The H26 is notorious for a leaking hatch, but the later model H260's are more dry. Water can be forced into the cabin when washing the deck or during a driving rain. There is a teak strip in the aft portion of the sliding hatch that acts as a stop and diverts water to the slides. Make sure the wood strip covers the width of the hatch and that it is well caulked. Owners report the most success fixing this problem is by installing a sunbrella cover over the hatch.

Ballast Tank Valve: A very common source of leaks. Forgetting to plug the air hole next to the valve will usually result in some water sloshing out during heeling. This water will drain down into the bilge. Sometimes the plug needs to be tightened or replaced. In some early boats there is a tank inspection hatch at the foot of the steps that is secured by a gasket and screws that may need rebedding.

Aft bunk: The “sugerscoop" design of the stern is a mixed blessing. When sailing, the stern sits under water most of the time. There are a number of screws and bolts (Rudder/Ladder/Motor Mount etc.) that penetrate the stern into the space where the holding tank and battery are stored.  If you can’t find the leak, it’s best to remove the wall in the aft bunk so you can shine a bright light on the interior space. Have someone flood the exterior of the stern and cockpit with water to see where it might be coming through. Holes made for lights and engine wires are a common source of water leaks. One person reports a hair line crack on the bottom side of the joint all the way across the stern and up the port and starboard. He cleaned the crack and sealed it with 3M 5200 all the way across the stern and above the water line on both sides.  

Bow: Leaky water tank valve and quick connectors. The water tank valve may be leaking or the black water line connectors have to be pulled apart to ensure a tight fit. If they've been squeezed together, they'll leak. This applies to any of those black connectors along the waterline to the head and galley. Also, make sure the refill and vent hoses are not disconnected or leaking. Tighten hose clamps or replace hoses as needed. The best solution is to replace the pipe and connectors with common PVC joints. 

Compression Pole Base: Water can come up from the keel area; often only when sailing. Look for rust and moisture at the base of the pole. Check leaks in centerboard bolts under the table which drain into area between floor and above ballast tank. Shake the post and you may see water leak from the cup it rests in. 

Compression Pole Top: Water can leak down at the base of the mast where the centerboard up-haul line goes through. The caulk may have failed letting water run down into the space between the deck and ceiling of the cabin. Remove the light near the pole and look for moisture. The problem is actually the seal between the center post and the deck. It probably has a tendency to run forward, too. The first step is to re-caulk the area but It is really hard to caulk back behind the centerboard line turning block. If your boat is more than 10 years old the caulk may have dried out and the post needs to be removed and recaulked. This is the time to replace the centerboard up-haul line. Go Here for more information on this fix.

Under sinks and in Lazerettes: Check water lines, hoses, clamps and thru-hulls. The floor under the sinks is also the top of the ballast tank so if you screwed something to the floor or accidentally scratched the deck under the sink you might have a small leak from the tank. Also, the plastic ”L”  drain fitting in the bottom of the sink is fragile. Check to see if it is cracked or broken. This is a common part available at most hardware stores. Another source of leaks here is at the base of the thru-hull, in the H260 the valve is mounted on a small circle of wood and if the boat has been out of the water, the wood shrinks and leaks where the wood contacts the fiberglass hull. Look for seeping at the base of the wood block. A turn on the thru-hill nut will usually do the trick.

Cockpit seams.  See aft bunk and bilge notes. There is a seam that runs across the cockpit floor. Look for loose screws and failed caulk. Recaulk with Sikaflex 295, as it has a high degree of UV and mildew resistance. To see if water is leaking into the liner below the pedestal remove the access panel in the ceiling of the aft bunk. Flood the deck above to see if water is dripping in.

Hull Deck connection: Early boats had quality control problems here. Remove the stern rubrail and look for cracks along the sugerscoop or loose/missing screws. Remove/replace and re-caulk the screws. 

Leaking Ballast Tank: Apparently, this is a very rare event. The ballast tank for the H23.5/26/260 is created by gluing the cockpit deck to hull with 3M 5200.  One theory is that when the boat heals or flexes, experiences a hard landing or is run aground this breaks that bond or seal.  One owner confirmed the tank was leaking by pulling the boat, making sure the boat and tank were completely dry, and then refilling the tank with a hose. There are no written repair procedures available; the repair process is different depending on where the tank is leaking. If you would like to speak with someone on this please contact Eddie Breeden at 800-771-5556 x 3632.

Other obvious locations: Most H26/260 owners install depth and fish finders with "shoot through the hull" transducers, but if you've installed any device that has put a hole in your hull you should check here first. Also, don't forget the forward Hatch and portholes. These hatches may look closed, but a strong water stream from a hose or driving rain may still seep through if they are not secure. 

Related Issue: More than one person has reported water under the cabin sole. When you walk on it, there is a "squishy feeling". The sole of the cabin is a very thin plywood insert. This insert is put down with 3M5200 caulk and over time it separates from the fiberglass so when you walk on it feels spongy. In addition, the caulking around the edge breaks down and if you have water in the cabin it gets trapped underneath the sole. As a result, you get that spongy feeling. Sort of like walking in wet shoes. 
I know of people who have pulled the sole up but you have to be very careful as you can break it. There is a 3M3500 caulk remover that works pretty well to melt the caulk. It is made by DeBond. Caution: 3M 5200 is substrate-specific. Read the FAQ's on this product especially that related to use on wood. DeBond Corp., Wellington, Fla. Phone: (561) 575-4200.

Finally, there are a number of repairs and fixes related to leaks that are described on the H260 knowledgebase on the sailboatowners.com website. Check there for pictures and other information.