Adventures with swing keels

This happened one weekend we spent on the water in Murrels Inlet.

After a walk on the beach and then hanging out for a while I decided to take a look at the keel. I wanted to see it in both up and down position and to mark the cable at the winch in the fully up and down positions. I’m still not sure what happened, but in raising the keel, the cable snapped in half. Luckly the keel was only about a third or half the way up. It still made a hell of a bang and shook the whole boat. 550 lbs of keel slamming down is an eyeopener and heart accelerator. I popped the inspection port open on the well the keel mechanism is in and the cable had snapped about 6 inchs from where it attaches to the swingkeel . I don’t think that the cable touches / or is supposed to touch anything there. There didn’t seem to be any corrosion either. I don’t know if it was defective cable or if there is something wrong with the winch and pulley system that it runs on.

There was nothing we could do for it there and I didn’t know how I was going to get it back on the trailer. It was looking as if we would have to find a marina to put her in to get fixed. It is was starting to look like an expensive weekend. The tide was still rising so we were able to get back to the public boat landing in murrels inlet without a problem. With the help of another daysailor that was putting his boat in the water we decided to drag the “Comes around, Goes around” up on the trailer. It is a very nice facility and at high tide the keel didnt start to hit the ramp till just a couple feet behind the trailer with it backed as far down as we could get it. After getting her partway onto the trailer :) dragging the keel up and over the rear beam of the trailer (patty at the wheel of the van) we winched her the rest of the way. The keel went right into the keel pocket on the trailer. To be honest it was not any harder than normal to get her on the trailer. Just a lot more un-nerving. I had a scuba-mask on and kept a close eye on the procedings from underwater. Once we got the keel over the end beam of the trailer there was no going back. It would hang on the trailer going backwards. In the end though all went well and we pulled her out.

Well I finally got the keel cable fixed on “Goes Around Comes
Around” my Santana 21. It was a bugger! Very stupid design. You have to
take the keel off the boat toput a new cable on. you could put a
new one on if the old one was still there I guess but mine snapped
about 8 inches from where it attaches to the swing part of the keel.The keel is cast iron and weighs in at 550 lbs so it isn’t
something that you just throw around. I took the boat to the Prop Shop
over in Little River and with the help of Richard and (Larry the owner)
we put it on the boat lift and lifted the boat off of the keel. Leaving
the keel on the trailer so we could then move it from under the boat to
work on it. In the below picture you can see it after we pulled the
trailer out from uder the boat and she is hanging in air before we put
supports under her.

Boat on lift

This was not non trivial. if you will look at the picture

Starboard Keel bolts in companionway

you can see 2 of the 3 bolts that are accessable in the little
companionway. The cordless drill hides the third. The other three were
back up under the seat and
area just forward of the port bulkhead and you could not get enough
leverage to break the nuts free from the bolts. This photo shows the

first two of these bolts from aft thru the storage under the seat that faces aft on the port side.Port keel bolt holes

Richard has a

compressor on his van and we used an air gun to remove the nuts after
drilling 1 inch holes down thru the fiberglass over the bolts on the
port side. This allowed a half inch extension to reach down thru the
holes to the nuts. A 30mm socket fit and I think richard used a 1 1/4
inch socket also that fit a little snugger. I will get some one
inch plugs to put in the holes later.
This worked like a charm. The only problem we ran into was that after
we got the nuts off we had to put them back on the bolts a few turns so
that we could use a small sledge hammer to knock the bolts down thru
the keel. The bolts are about a half inch in diameter with a cone
shaped shoulder flat screw head on them. They go thru the keel into the
boat from the bottom and recess in holes in the keel. The last time this was
done they used lots of epoxy to bed the the keel in and it had totally surronded the bolts holding them in. It tooks some serious banging with the sledge hammer to get them out. In the process one bolt and nut were stripped. We didn’t get the nut far enough back on the bolt before hitting it. We later used a tap and die to fix the threads on the bolt and nut so that we could put it back together.

Here are some diagrams of the keel setup.

cable and block for keel
pivot point in keel

full manual in pdf format for santana 21

We wheeled the trailer over to the shop and larry used his chain
hoist to pick the keel off the trailer so we could work on it.

There was a lot of rust on the keel so we took and ground it down
with angle grinders and some very heavy duty wire wheels (You can get
them at home depot for about 15 dollars apiece) I have used the living
daylights out of the wheel I got grinding on the keel and on some
places that had rust on the trailer and it is increadably tough. It’s barely shows any wear. A good
buy even at 15 dollars.

After grinding the keel down Larry treated it with OSPHO which is
a acid based rust converter and we left it overnight. The next morning
I put the first of two coats of InterProtect
2000E/1E Barrier Coat System from west marine. After the first coat it
sat over night and then I put the second coat on it the next morning.
This stuff rocks. Its a two part epoxy paint and goes on very thick.
You mix it together and let it sit for 20 minutes before painting with
it. I think it cost me about 34 dollars for the 1 quart kit that I got.
I used about 2/3 rds of it in two heavy coats on the keel. After the
second coat was one we put the keel back on the trailer and wheeled
back out near the boat and left it over night.

helping Richard put up a mast on the Sailboat Anago the next morning,
he went with me and we put the keel back on Comes Around, Goes Around.
first we had to chip away all the old epoxy from the where the
keel bolts to the hull. hammer and chisel would pop it off but then i
found that the 5 inch angle grinder with a sanding disk on it would eat
the epoxy right off. You just had to be carefull to not go to fast and
eat into the hull. 🙂 I was carefull@! I also used saftey goggles and a
resperator. (used the resperator when painting also) We used 3M 5200 to
bed the keel. This only took one tube. West marine sells this for
16 dollars a 10oz tube. Go to Home Depot and you can get it for just
under 10 dollars a 10oz tube. Once the boat was carefully lowered
over the keel richard went inside the boat with the airgun and I
crawled under the trailer so I could put the bolts up thru the keel and
hull. The bolts were also bedded with 3M 5200. Once the bolt was tapped
up into place I would hold it in place with a big screwdriver while
richard tightend with the air gun. You know its working good when
excess 5200 starts to squeeze out around the bolt and then the keel
where it is being drawn against the boat.

lol I almost forgot… we did put a new

Harken 308 BLK-2 IN. WIRE BLOCKimage of harken block

the keel… the old block had basically exploded and was why the
keel cable broke. When we took the keel off the boat pieces of the old
block just fell out. Luckily I had planned on replacing the block
anyway and had ordered a new one before hand. West marine had them
online for 52 dollars or so but I found the one I got for 40 dollars at The specs for it are

  • Description Single
  • Sheave dia. (in) 2
  • Weight (oz) 5 1/4
  • Max. wire dia. (in) 3/16
  • Max. line dia. (in) 1/4
  • Shackle pin dia. (in) 5/16
  • SWL (lb) 2000
  • Breaking strength (lb) 4000

We also got a new length of stainless 3/16 cable made up at west
marine to go on the keel and installed all this just before putting
keel back on.

Everything went well and Goes Around, Comes Around
is back on the trailer in the yard here. I still have to get a little
epoxy and filler to fair in the crack between the keel and boat and to
fill in over the top of the keel bolts where the are recessed into the
keel on the bottom.

Total time

  1. thursday .. taking keel off of boat with richard
  2. friday… larry and me grinding it down and larry treating it with ospho also helped richard with mast for anago this day
  3. saturday…first coat of paint .. also ground some rust back on trailer
  4. sunday… second coat of paint on keel and painted ground areas
    on trailer with leftover paint. put keel back out on trailer by boat.
  5. Monday.. helped richard put mast on anago with Orrin and then
    put keel back on Goes Around, Comes Around with richard. Took boat back
    to pattys and home on tuesday

Total Money around 444.00

  1. Using the lift at Prop shop and larry’s help… 120.00
  2. Richards help for 4 hours taking keel off and then putting back on 180.00
  3. 32 for paint and about 15.00 for brushes rollers and trays
  4. 2 tubes of 3m 5200 20.00
  5. Harken block and shipping and handling 52.00
  6. cable from west marine swagged.. 10.00
  7. Wire wheel for angle grinder 15.00

I spent probably 100 dollars or more on some tools and on some
supplies that I did not end up using. This ended up being a lot more
expensive than I had anticipated. However I put myself in the situation
of having it on someone elses lift taken apart. At this point you do
whatever is needed to fix it.

Things I would do differently if I had it to do over again.

Build my own lift in my yard. ( I will be doing this anyway now) All it would take is 4 4x6s 16 or 20 ft long.

I had many of the supplies and tools that I purchased already. But
because I needed a lift for the boat that was 45 minutes away from here
it was easier to just get stuff again. Rather than spend 2 hours round
trip time coming home and finding it here. Between not needing the lift
and the extra I spent on supplies I already had I figure I would have
saved about 160 dollars and 2 days time.

This would also have
took the pressure off to get the boat done now now now to get it off of
the lift at the prop shop. We had initially planned on it going on
thursday afternoon and being done and put back on… due to the massive
amount of rust and the grinding and painting this extended the time by
several days. Also Larry was house hunting thru this time and I only
had access to the shop when he was there while my keel was hanging from
the lift inside. This added two days to the time it took to get done.
Larry was nice and charged me a very reasonable amount for lift time
and his labor in helping on the keel. But I felt bad having to call him
saturday and sunday trying to get access to the keel in his shop to do
the painting and such while he needed to be elsewhere looking for a
place to live.

Things I would do the same…

It was
definately worth while to get richard to help me. Though I could have
muddled thru it on my own his experience and tools made the job much
easier and faster as well as providing a saftey net when working on the
boat while it was on the lift. This is always a good two person
time…. so at least one can call for help if something goes wrong.

would definately recomend anyone that needs help with their boat to
give richard a call. You can contact me and I will give you his number
🙂 lol don’t know if he wants it on the internet or not.

Also if
your boat is on a trailer and you need a lift to work on it the Prop
shop in little river is the place to go. They also do business as
Barnecal Boulters
you won’t meet a nicer people.

full manual in pdf format for santana 21