Oh lordy... bent keel?!? - SailNet Community

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Old 10-30-2012
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Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

This past season, I spent a great deal of time on my Northern 1/4 ton (same as a Mirage 24) trying to figure out why I was having reasonable weather helm on starboard tack but a bit of lee helm on a port tack. After countless adjustments to rigging, sails, and rudder, I kind of gave up on things and learned to ignore it. Fast forward to lift out last week- when placed in her cradle, I sized up the hull and noticed that my keel was bent/canted to starboard:





At the bottom, it is off center by about 2 inches. There's no sign of damage to the hull around the keel or the keel bolts, and I don't recall any hard groundings recently. My best guess is that the boat went into her cradle a bit tilted in the last few years and gradually bent herself this way. This bend was not present when I bought the boat three years ago.

So now I'm left with that timeless dilemma of what to do. I see a few options:

Option 1- leave well enough alone. The boat still sails fine (albeit with the helm issue), and an attempt at repair may be more effort than the boat is worth, or may just cause bigger problems.

Option 2- Attempt a fix by jacking up the stern of the boat enough to take weight off of the keel, putting straps on the top of the keel to reduce lever force on the hull, and use a come along or winch on the bottom to try to pull it back in to alignment. I'm sure there are a million things that could go wrong with this.

Option 3- wait until lift-out next year and modify the cradle to allow me to attempt a fix then without having to jack up the boat.

I'd love to hear any thoughts on best course of action or other potential fixes!
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Old 10-30-2012
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

Either option 1 or option 4:
Drop the keel, straighten keel bolts or fair keel stub, or both, then rebed.
I can't imagine anything but bad coming from option 2-- broken or at least overstressed keel bolts or crushed keel stub.
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

Good call on option 4. I hadn't even thought about dropping the keel.
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Old 10-30-2012
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

I wouldn't try to fix it until certain of why what was "bent". Is the hull distorted? If so, that may be a sructural problem to be fixed before the keel falls off with a piece of it. Is the keel metal itself somehow bent? Keep looking, closely, and try to find a sistership to compare with, closely, until you can be certain of what needs to be fixed--so your repair doesn't bend something else.
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

This makes me wonder if the keel bolts are (or were) loose enough that being out in a good blow (e.g. a thunderstorm) could generate enough lateral force to move the keel.

I don't your boat, but I'm making a guess that there is a slight indentation in the hull that the keel fits into as you tighten the bolts. That would make it much easier to align as you attach the keel. If it moved laterally in, or even out of, that slot, it would take up the slack from the loose bolts.
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

Option 4.

If your keel bolts are bent, and that's what it sounds like, then something happened to place an enormous load on the keel in the past. This is not something caused by light preassure over a long time, but a significant impact.

Once metals deform, it means they have been pressed beyond thier yield strength, for SS figure that equates to 36,000psi. This is enough load to do damage to the fiberglass structure holding the keel on, and until proved differently everything else must be considered suspect.
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Old 10-30-2012
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

Is the keel Cast Iron, or Lead?
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Old 10-30-2012
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

I'd say that dropping the keel is the only sane repair. I imagine that it was grounded hard once and that created some space where there wasn't any before. Then the boat sat in it's chocks crooked and that canted the keel. My boat's keel is fully encapsulated so I don't have any reason to have pulled my keel but when we were refitting in the boatyard (for 7 months) I saw many keels removed and installed. It's a big job but if you can find a good DIY boatyard you can do most of the work yourself. It's not too difficult if you're accustomed to fixing things but it is a lot of work. I'd say read up on loosening stuck fasteners before you start.
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

How did it look when it was hanging in the slings? Boats can flex quite a bit when they are sitting in a cradle if they aren't properly blocked & leveled.
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Old 10-30-2012
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Re: Oh lordy... bent keel?!?

The picture is tilted a bit which makes it look worse than it is. I would also be interested to see it in the slings. Put a straight edge on it to see if it is bent over it's vertical rise, looks like it is bent about a third of the way down but could be the way it is sitting in the cradle.

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Last edited by Gene T; 10-30-2012 at 03:42 PM.
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