SailNet Community

SailNet Community (
-   Gear & Maintenance (
-   -   Build a Swing Keel from Scratch - ''74 Helsen 20'' Sloop (

branon 03-24-2002 02:18 PM

Build a Swing Keel from Scratch - ''''74 Helsen 20'''' Sloop
I''m in the process of restoring a 1974 Helsen 20-foot sloop (ok, don''t laugh out loud). I''m contemplating becoming a liveaboard eventually (on a much larger boat, of course), and I figured the project would remind me about how much work a sailboat can be - it seems to be working. :)

The original swing keel is said to have been a fiberglass shell with lead ingots. The previous owners apparently rebuilt the swing keel out of steel slats, lots of resin, some kind of lightweight cement material and fiberglass fabric. Unfortunately, they apparently cracked the fiberglass and the steel marinated in salt water for awhile - thus creating a swollen keel in the UP position, which wedged itself inside the keel trunk. I LITERALLY had to chip it out piece by piece - not fun, to say the least.

In any event, I now need to build a new one. According to other owners I''ve located, the original swing keel was only 100 pounds, but it is 56 inches long, approximately 10 inches deep, and 1.5 inches wide and looks like a simple daggerboard.

Obviously, I want to make sure that I rebuild it strong enough, but also less apt to get swollen and stuck again. I''m thinking of using that honeycomb polymer foam-core, and cross layered fiberglass fabric with lead toward the bottom of the leading edge for weight.

Has anyone had experience in this arena and am I off-base with in using these materials?

I also don''t suppose anyone has any specs from a Helsen swing keel? Of course, Jopie Helsen now owns a huge Hunter dealership in St Pete and apparently can''t be bothered with any of his old designs - so contacting the builder for ideas is pretty much useless.


Jeff_H 03-25-2002 02:05 AM

Build a Swing Keel from Scratch - ''''74 Helsen 20'''' Sloop
If the old keel only weighed a couple hundred pounds, I would probably start out with a 1/2" steel plate and have it cut to the rough shape of the centerboard. That alone would weigh a couple hundred poinds but you can build it out to create a foil shape using closed cell foam or plywood and then glass over the whole swing keel with a couple layers of glass and epoxy resin. As long as the epoxy barrier/cloth remains intact this should last a very long time.

If you wanted more weight, I would cut a series of holes in the steel near the bottom of the keel equal about a quarter of the steel area, build a simple buried mold, stand the steel on end and centered in the mold and cast the tip of the keel in lead right around the steel plate. Build out the top in closed cell foam or plywood and glass over the whole board with a couple layers of glass and epoxy resin.

Good luck

rbappelbaum 10-15-2008 08:31 PM

Helsen 20
I resently purchased a 1974 Helsen 20 that needs some work. It also has a stuck centerdoard but I think I will be able to get it out more or less intact. I am hoping to contact any Helsen 20 owner that has information on the boat. I am particularly interested in information on the mast step.

Streaker20 04-26-2009 11:41 AM

And another new owner of a '74 20' Streaker. One of the previous owners cut out the fore seats (from just behind the keel pivot forward) and made a cabin. Unfortunately, that didn't last long (rotted?) and now the boat has 1/2 the seating as original, at least from what I can tell from my forensic investigations. The mast was also shortened some to make use of a mast step in the interior of the cabin, but that's another problem. Luckily the keel seems to be not stuck.

I am contenplating putting the fore cockpit back to original, but can only find one clear photo of the interior on the web

If the others on the thead would reply with some photos (via email) of the fore cabin and cuddy design, that would be more than greatly appreciated.


rbappelbaum 04-26-2009 04:54 PM

Helsen 20 foredeck
3 Attachment(s)
I will try to attach some pictures of the foredeck and hatch. The mast steps on the plate on the seat just aft of the hatch. I am sure that there is supposed to be a mast support from under the step to the flat (flotation?) area in the bow. It would have been about 13 inches long. It was missing when I got the boat. I would like to see a picture of one. Let me know if you need additional pictures.

Streaker20 04-26-2009 08:16 PM

Thanks! Those are a tremendous help! I was wondering what to do with the top of the cuddy - the one photo that I saw was using a snap cover of some sort.

I would post some photos of what I dealing with, but need to post more messages. :rolleyes:

A couple of photos of the centerboard trunk (if there are some inspection ports on either side for access to the pin) and if there are supposed to be lockers in that area would be a great help also.

Thanks for some of the only documentation that exists! :D

Streaker20 04-28-2009 10:14 PM

Here's my blank canvass that I am working with.

Sorry, I can't tell if there was a support under the step, or if there was any floatation under the cuddy floor, not without a good wask first.

Can see a 'bulge' on either side near the transom and the 2 stringers on either side of the center board trunk.

Streaker20 04-29-2009 08:47 AM

Hudsonian 04-29-2009 01:58 PM

A person with skills can build a new foil but given the effort required you should avoid the plywood or steel core that others have suggested. Plywood isn't strong enough and is subject to fatigue. If steel wasand appropriate material you wouldn't be replacing the board. Read the article in building a new board by J. R. Watson

If the construction techniques he describes produce an underweight board you can use a hole saw to insert a couple of lead hockey pucks near the tip before you glass the board. Each 4" diameter plug would weigh close to 6lbs.

rbappelbaum 05-03-2009 06:35 PM

Helsen 20
2 Attachment(s)
More on the Helsen 20. The centerboard pivot pin is accessed through the seat hatches. The picture shows the cover removed. The interior picture shows the pin glassed over with the bottom of the seat left and the end of the bow flotation chamber at the top. It looks like the pin on my boat has been removed at least once since it came from the factory. I can see the bump from the glassed over pivot pin in your picture. At least the pin will be easier for you to remove if you need to refinish the centerboard.

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 05:53 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.1.0 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
(c) LLC 2000-2012

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome