swing keel cable fix help needed

Started by Trailz, Oct 10, 2023, 08:18 AM

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I'll need to check my swing keel condition on my new to me Gloucester 16. Two main questions:

- What is a simple and safe way to lift the boat up high enough to see the cable/eye where it attaches to the keel?

- Dyneema vs steel cable? I'm not clear on the benefit or long term use of Dyneema.



For my boat, starting off the trailer, a set of (3) pipe stands with improvised pads (old pieces of carpeted bunks) along with a couple floor jacks were enough to get the boat off  the trailer and the blade and stub keel unbolted, refinished, and re-installed.

I am not finding a good pic online of the Gloucester 16 keel rigging. It seems to be a long blade with an internal trunk. Does the cable attach to the lower aft end of the blade or is it is attached somewhere higher? I found one pic on Sailing Texas where a boat is on slings and heading for tall stands.

Mr. Brennan is fixing to redo his cable in Dyneema, he writes and photographs his processes nicely. He backstopped some of my recent work with examples of his to compare and contrast.
Big dreams, small boats...

Charles Brennan

Trailz, What helps most, is boat/trailer geometry. 
If the end of your keel while sitting on the trailer is between trailer cross members there is a simple fix.
First, disconnect your keel cable, or loosen it up as much as you can, then perform these steps:
1) If your trailer has a tongue jack, hook the trailer to your tow vehicle hitch
2) Fold the tongue jack up, remove your trailer from the hitch and allow the trailer tongue to rest on the ground.
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3) At this point, the boat's stern is in the air, since the trailer pivoted on the trailer wheels.
4) Get bracing, cribbing, whatever you can get, to put under the stern and as close to the trailer as you can get it.
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Over the years, I have used 4X4s set on two stepladder steps on either side of the hull, stacks of 8x8 cribbing blocks, etc. even a couple of rock 'n roll speakers!  If you have sturdy jack stands of sufficient height that is good, too.  All this on an 18 foot boat with a 400 pound swing keel.
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5) Get a jack, preferably a hydraulic floor jack, but whatever can get under your trailer now that the tongue is resting on the ground.
6) Begin jacking up the trailer tongue, as high as you can safely get it.
7) By now, the lever action of trailer tongue pivoting on the trailer wheels will lift your stern away from the trailer, as the end of the trailer frame starts rotating downwards.  The nose of the hull may or may not need to be disconnected from the trailer winch, depending on your hull geometry.  Pay attention to what it wants to do, as you are jacking up the trailer tongue.
8 ) At this point, your keel should be hanging between trailer cross arms and lowered enough at the aft end of the keel, that the keel cable and attachment hardware is easily visible and able to be worked on.
9) Brace EVERYTHING before you crawl under there, to work on anything.
10) Run your keel cable up the hull entry point, preferably with a stiff wire, or fiberglass rod or whatever you can use to get the cable all the way back back inside the boat, WITHOUT climbing in the hull, while it is jacked up. Make sure whatever method you use keeps from jamming the cable in between the keel and the keel trunk, etc.  I had a light line that I ran down the keel cable hole and led completely outside the boat.  When I replaced the cable, I simply tied the end of the cable onto the light line I had previously dropped down the keel cable hole and pulled the line and the new cable completely inside the boat while I safely stood outside the hull.

If you aren't fortunate enough to have your keel drop down between trailer cross members, then the next solution is to jack up the hull in place.  It's the same idea as above except this time, the hull moves and the trailer stays in one place.  (See stepladder pic above)
1) Secure the trailer tongue to the tow vehicle hitch.  This is no time to trust to jack stands.
2) Secure the trailer frame on both sides of the wheels, using jack stands, cribbing, etc whatever keeps that trailer from MOVING.
3) With hydraulic jacks and sufficient cribbing to get the hull up, start raising the stern. Don't forget old towels, blankets, or whatever it takes not to scratch or mangle the stern as you raise it.
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In the above pic, you can see the hull resting on cribbing blocks placed between the trailer bunks and the hull, to expose enough of the keel to work on it.

I have used 7X19 stainless steel cabling for the swing keel since that's the way my boat came when I bought in November of 1976.  Eventually, strands break, usually near the swaged fittings, or else the thimble bends or breaks or fatigues until the cable fails.  Even babying the cable won't always help since you can get crevice corrosion on the stainless steel cabling and have a corrosion failure.
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The above pic shows an eye splice I made in 2014, that I replaced two years ago; so no matter how much care and attention to detail, stuff wears out or breaks.

I am getting ready to make another swing keel cable out of Dyneema and a closed thimble, like the above pic shows.
Do NOT use an open thimble (shown below) as the ends will eventually chafe the Dyneema. 
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DO google sufficient you-tube videos and whatnot to acquaint yourself with the Brummel splice.  Dyneema is stronger (pound for pound) than steel, but has a weird characteristic: It is slippery.  Most any knot you tie on it will slip apart.  There is a knot that won't, called the EStar stopper knot.  That is the knot you will put on at the winch end, so the winch clamp won't let go of the end of the Dyneema cable.

Hope this helps,
Charles Brennan

Noemi - Ensenada 20


Of course you did.

Charles, your keel has the pox again.

Travis Chapman

I have the same boat as Charles and did it similarly. Using the trailer tongue to pivot the stern, I put the rear on blocks and pivoted the bow up to gain clearance for the keel to drop down and expose the attachment point. I had a frayed stainless cable originally, switched to Dyneema, and went back to stainless. In principle it makes sense, but I ran into several practical issues. The keel trunk entry must be perfectly fair at all angles or you'll chafe, which meant different sheaves for me. Also, given how slippery it is, winding up the excess was a problem on the trailer. First sail afterwards when I was paying it out several windings slipped, dropping the keel against the stop bolt and cracking the fiberglass. Slow leak on a multiday cruise that meant I had to sponge periodically. Not cool.

I still have that issue after the swap, so be careful on that first lowering!!

SV Panda Paws
Windrose 18
Glyndon, MD

Charles Brennan

Noemi, That was an old pic taken before the Great Keel Refurb of 2014-2015.
Here's a pic from 2022.
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Hope this clarifies,
Charles Brennan

Charles Brennan

Travis, Your statement:
Quote from: Travis Chapman on Oct 12, 2023, 08:37 PMFirst sail afterwards when I was paying it out several windings slipped.
Has me mildly . . .  ummm . . .  FREAKED OUT!!  :o
Your experiences with using a Dyneema keel cable is what convinced me to bite the bullet and go for it, as I had been going back and forth on the idea and was tired of frayed stainless cabling and "meat hooks" in the cable and whatnot.
I'm still going to do it anyway, but I would very much like to know what you meant about "several windings slipping".

1) Did the knot in the winch spool end of the Dyneema cable slip, before the winch spool clamp caught again?
2) What exactly, slipped?
3) Was the Dyneema bunched up one side of the spool and then the windings slid down to the un-bunched side of the spool?

You said:
Quote from: Travis Chapman on Oct 12, 2023, 08:37 PMThe keel trunk entry must be perfectly fair at all angles or you'll chafe, which meant different sheaves for me.
On my setup, there is a stainless steel 3/8-16 x 5" bolt bolted through the keel trunk just below the "volcano", which is used as a sort of turning block for the winch cable.
This is a really old pic, taken before a major winch refurbishment showing the nylock nut on the bolt.
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Here's the reason for the refurbishment:
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And as it looks now:
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I don't have any sheaves at all, nor can I foresee how I could have any chafe on the Dyneema, this way. 

4) How is yours set up?

Inquiring minds wish to know,
Charles Brennan


Suddenly I'm feeling much better about the condition of my keel winch. : )

Noemi - Ensenada 20

Norm L.


My license plate.  8)

Travis Chapman

I know what you mean! I've had some battles with salt and rust, but thankfully nothing quite so visually surprising.

I'll try to pull some photos of the setup this weekend and post here. It looks like my winch mounting location is a little different, making the entry angle issue less of a concern for you Charles. The slip was caused by a combination of those symptoms:
- getting tension on each wind around the drum when loading it
- the winds at the edges, when you want the spool to start building the next layer, was hard to do like steel cable. The Dyneema would slide in between windings instead

When lowering the keel I managed to unroll maybe 8-10 turns when a series of those looser windings all saw the cable tension pick up after the upper layer's surface friction was gone, and it all tightened up real fast!
SV Panda Paws
Windrose 18
Glyndon, MD