Swing Keels anyone ? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 08-22-2006
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Question Swing Keels anyone ?

Here's a post from another thread about keel types:
"I'm not interested in a swing keel. They scare me."

Since the original poster didn't seem to want to consider swing keels, I thought it better to start another thread to address it. Besides, as it turned out we already had plenty of issues just discussing some of the other keel types.

Swing keels are used to provide a very shallow draft with the keel up and rather deep draft with the board down. Like a centerboard, the swing keel can be retracted when going downwind for less drag. Besides some daysailers, swing keels are used on the British made Southerly on yachts from the mid thirty foot to mid forty foot. They have been in production since 1980 and a few years ago increased North American marketing efforts and redesigned the fleet for increased performance. The Southerly design includes a grounding plate in the center of the hull such that the boat can be easily and safely dried out. That is a big advantage where there are large tidal differences, more common in Europe. Beneteau is offering a swing keel on the cruising 323.

Does anyone have good or bad experiences with swing keels ? Can anyone relate to the above quote ? What are your opinions on the swing keel ?

ps - I've found that sometimes swing keels are confused with the laterally canting keel so let's not go there
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Old 08-22-2006
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My experience with swing keels is limited to the Catalina 22. Gives you a five-foot draft on a small boat, which I liked, but after acquiring the boat (a 1976 model) in 1998, and adding a new cable and winch, the cable snapped twice in the four years I sailed the boat. I had to get in and out of an inside slip with a hump in the middle of the fairway, so I had to check the tides, or hope that I could plow through it with the outboard. I talked to Catalina Direct, a parts supplier in California and learned that I should basically keep tension on the cable, rather than letting it go slack. The whipping action of a slack cable will eventually lead to it breaking.

The other issue was the entry point of the cable into the boat and the system used to make sure water didn't gush in. Kind of primitive (a piece of radiator hose attached by a hose clamp to a "cone" molded in the fiberglass of the bottom of the boat) and I was just never comfortable with this system.
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Old 08-22-2006
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Interesting thread Capt.

I thought of putting out a similar one. I personally would have some issues with taking the boat for much of a offshore jaunt, but that is not really what it was made for, now is it? The shallow draft and ability to ground may not mean much to Pacific NWesters or a lot of NEaster cruising, but I can really see a great advantage for the Bahamas, Florida, Keys, and many others. I would imagine the shallow draft would vastly increase your cruising grounds... and in the case of a storm (not a hurricane) could put you in a lot closer to a protected shore.

They did do a write up in CWorld some months back on a Southerly, as I recall. Seems the author was very pleased with it. My guess is the February/March issue. Might be worth reading.

Would also be interested in Jeff H thoughts and others that might be very knowledgeable.
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Old 08-22-2006
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Southerly

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad
.. I would imagine the shallow draft would vastly increase your cruising grounds... and in the case of a storm (not a hurricane) could put you in a lot closer to a protected shore.

They did do a write up in CWorld some months back on a Southerly, as I recall. Seems the author was very pleased with it. My guess is the February/March issue. Might be worth reading.

Would also be interested in Jeff H thoughts and others that might be very knowledgeable.
I've seen an aerial photo of the Northshore/Southerly factory on a river. The pier area dries out and the Southerlies tied up there just stand up. A Southerly rep at the Annapolis boat show told me they had a nasty storm that scattered boats all over the land. He said that for the Southerlies they just retracted the keel pennant and lifted them back into the water. The other boats tended to have significant other damage.

A few years ago they hired Rob Humphreys to do a performance upgrade to their fleet so I suspect that had something to do with the article that you saw.

The 46 footer retracts to 33". I know some neat Carribean lagoons that you could reach with that. Oh, BTW- they only make deck salon so the keel retracts under the raised area.

Last edited by captnnero; 08-22-2006 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 08-22-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SailinJay
My experience with swing keels is limited to the Catalina 22. Gives you a five-foot draft on a small boat, which I liked, but after acquiring the boat (a 1976 model) in 1998, and adding a new cable and winch, the cable snapped twice in the four years I sailed the boat. ...
...The whipping action of a slack cable will eventually lead to it breaking.

The other issue was the entry point of the cable into the boat and the system used to make sure water didn't gush in. Kind of primitive (a piece of radiator hose attached by a hose clamp to a "cone" molded in the fiberglass of the bottom of the boat) and I was just never comfortable with this system.
Indeed, there are things to be worked out on that one.
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Old 08-22-2006
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I have a swing keel (78 Chrysler 26) that I’ve owned since last year but have sailed on since 1994. I bought the boat from the previous owner who is a close friend of mine. He had owned the boat since 1981. The boat is a large trailerable pocket cruiser.

He has replaced the cable for the keel once. The present cable has a couple of frayed strands and I’m thinking of replacing it again this winter at haul-out. Not bad for 28 years.

This spring after I repaired the interior and rebedded the deck hardware and thru-hulls, I put the boat in the water to check for leaks, and found that the thru-hull for the keel cable was leaking. It was a pain to replace since I didn’t have a crane to lift the boat, ended up putting the trailer on jackstands and removing the axels to swing the keel to get to the thru-hull. It ended up being one of those plastic ones and had broken part of the head. I replaced it with a bronze and have had no problem this year.

I do lake sailing, so am not sure of the depth yet of the bottom in all areas of the lake (Lake Kerr). Even with a depth sounder I have grounded twice this year. (got to move that transducer to the front of the boat!) Just go down and crank up the keel and we were on our way.

The boat sails well, although it doesn’t point as well as some I’ve had. Some of that is rig tuning, some of it the lack of a traveler for the main.

This brand of boat has a slight history of the keel pin failing. Considering the number of these boats out there it’s not a major problem, just one to be aware of. I inspected it last winter and will make a habit of inspecting it every winter. Better safe then sorry. The pin has never been replaced on this boat and looks good.

From what I know the boat has a large displacement for its size, 5000 lbs. 1900 of that is the keel. This makes the boat very stable in heavy air and a slug in light air. The boat just gets its legs in 15 knots of wind and we don’t reef until 25 knots.

Most of my sailing experience was in Puget Sound where I have sailed C&Cs, SanJuans, J-boats, Columbias, Hunters, Chryslers and others. I favorably compare the stability, quality, and comfort of this boat against any of the others in the same size range. Not the fastest, not the most comfortable, not the highest quality, but up there in all categories that mater. But then again, I’m biased, it’s mine.
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Old 08-22-2006
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I've had two swing keel boats and they were fun cause you could get into all kinds of places with them, but the pennants were always a problem. They always seemed to let go at the wrong time...giving me a draft too deep for where I was headed. I've seen some larger c-board boats with hydraulic or gear driven lifts and I would have more confidence in these for offshore work. A cable submerged full time in salt water is just a problem waiting to happen.
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Old 08-22-2006
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pennant

Quote:
Originally Posted by camaraderie
I've had two swing keel boats and they were fun cause you could get into all kinds of places with them, but the pennants were always a problem. They always seemed to let go at the wrong time...giving me a draft too deep for where I was headed. I've seen some larger c-board boats with hydraulic or gear driven lifts and I would have more confidence in these for offshore work. A cable submerged full time in salt water is just a problem waiting to happen.
Southerly using some kind of synthetic. It's electric hydraulic with a manual backup.
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Old 08-22-2006
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The cable broke on my 39' with swing keel last year. As far as I know it is the first problem with it in her history. I can't attest to the sailing performance as the ol' girl would be a dog with any type of keel. But I can certainly say that my options for cruising and anchoring are dramatically expanded with only 4'3" draft with the board up.
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Old 08-22-2006
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I think the quote that kicked this thread off belongs to me. Swing keels scare me because it just seems like a lot of weight to be swinging back and forth. Perhaps that fear is unfounded, but in the research I have done it seems a thorough inspection is necessary every year, especially when in salt water. It just seems like one more thing to worry about. However, the reduced draft is handy.
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