Keel Locking Bolt Problem
I have a Venture 17, which is in pretty good shape, despite being a 1974 model. My wife and I have sailed it a few times, and it's pretty nice, with one exception - I can't quite get the swing keel to lock in place with the locking bolt. The keel winch, although rusted, works fine to lower the keel, but it doesn't seem to get it in place so that I can pass the locking bolt through the hole designed for it. Or, rather, I can pass the bolt through the hole where it's supposed to go, but the hole in the keel isn't lined up correctly.
Basically, what seems to happen is that I lower the keel using the winch, being careful not to let it drop (while the instructions advise you to basically unlock the winch and let it spin, this seems dangerous to me for numerous reasons, so I gently lower it). It goes down, and I've even gotten out of the boat in the water and verified that the keel is down with my feet - which it is. However, when I go to put the keel locking bolt back in place, it doesn't prevent the keel from coming back up if I use the winch to lift it.
I'm not quite sure what could be the problem. I've inspected the keel, and aside from a very small patch of cracking/blistering (less than the width of an index finger, but almost as long), there doesn't seem to be any issues with it. My only guess is that it's somehow getting stuck just before it gets into position where the hole aligns with the keel locking bolt hole in the cabin.
By the way, I've been trying to visually see if it's aligned from within the cabin with a flashlight. Unfortunately, I can't see it very well (and obviously, it would be a bad idea to put my finger in there, as I don't want to lose it).
Any suggestions on what I might be able to try to get it aligned? How dangerous is it to sail with a keel that's not locked in place? I'm only sailing on inland lakes (not the great lakes), so the wind is going to be < 15 knots typically, with waves no higher than 15 or 20 ft at most.