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Keel Secrets

Copy Write © 6/1/1998      Updated 12/16/2005

In the Begining    Keel Trunk    Starting the job     Keel

Dropping the keel     Decisions     Grinding Away    Preparing the keel    

Sealing the keel Keel Pin Blues    Putting it back together     Disclaimer      E- Mail

In the Begining

In the beginning buying a boat. You never really know what you're getting. Sure you can look her over bring in a friend even a surveyor. But, sooner or later you take the boat out and see what it's made of, find out what's going to fail, break or not work right. After about month of sailing you will pretty much know what needs what.

The Keel and Keel Trunk

The Keel and Keel Trunk One of the things I noticed upon pre-purchase inspection was some slight rust stains running down the side of the keel trunk where the keel pin was. The stains weren't bad, just enough to let you know something was going on under all that fiberglass. I figured there were some washers or something like that rusting.

Sailing the boat after purchase the keel worked perfectly and I never noticed it leaking. You never want to tempt King Neptune or his cousin Murphy excessively! With a used boat I figured, it was about time I looked into pulling the keel.

Starting the job

The keel pin was fiber glassed in with resin and cloth. At the time I started the job, I was of the illusion someone had done some work on the keel trunk in the past. From what I have heard of other SC 22 sailors. It seems to have come from the factory that way. First thing I did was jack the boat up one side at a time and put 4X4's on top of the bunks to raise the boat. The bunks on my trailer have seen better days and it was while jacking up the starboard side that my friend Murphy paid one of his many visits. The boat shifted and moved on the trailer. In the process the bunk separated from the posts holding them in place. I'm not sure how but the bunk support posts did not puncture the hull and no damage occurred.

After getting the boat jacked back up and stabilized. I ended up making a trip to the trailer supply business for new bunk hardware. Keep in mind this is an older trailer and the bolts holding the bunks in place are rusty and must be ground off. Once the bunk was repaired and the boat jacked up and 4x4's placed upon the bunks to raise the boat up a bit came phase 2 of this little project.

Dropping the keel

Dropping The Keel I am of the understanding the keel weighs 500 lb. Even for Popeye and his spinach, not exactly something easy to move around. The first thing I did was to lower the bottom of the keel with the keel pendant on the winch so the keel rested on the trailer cross members. There by taking most of the weight off the keel pin.

My next step was to place an auto scissors jack under the top of the keel and raise it just enough to take the weight off the keel pin. Brute strength is next, back in the boat with a good heavy hammer. Upon grinding off the fiberglass cover off the keel pin I found ferrous collars on either side of a stainless steel pin. The pin is 1 inch in diameter and 4 inches long. The collars are 1/2 inch wide. Both collars were pretty rusty but seemed to be holding.

My big concern was the set screws both were rusted and fused to the collars. Defiantly a weak spot if the rust has eaten the set screw and the drilled hole for the set screw. Using a drill and some oil I drilled out the set screw on one side. Using plenty of oil and a heavy hammer and drift I beat on the keel pin till it started to move.

The jack holding the keel up seemed to be holding and after much sweating, beating and a few choice words to help things along, the keel pin finally came out. Resulting in a big bang and shudder as the keel fell free and landed on edge on the trailer. Now another problem. The boat was just low enough on the trailer that the keel was sitting on edge between the keel well and the trailer. It hadn't fallen flat on the trailer. Taking a jack I raised the stern of the boat up until I raised the boat enough for the keel to slip free of the keel well and fall flat on the trailer.

So far so good but what now?

How do I get the keel off the trailer in such a way I can drag it into the front yard from the backyard? I had some old clothesline wire that I threaded through the hole for the keel pin and back to my pickup. Using a 4X4 for a lever I would move the truck and the keel until I worked it off the trailer. Little bit at a time. From there it was easy to drag it around to my driveway and up into my carport. Where I planned to work on the keel.



The Keel on the SC 22 or Eclipse seems to be the same basic design. Kind of trapezoid shaped, 2 inches thick and eight feet long. The leading edge is rounded and the trailing side has been beveled on an angle. The foot of the keel is angled with the long side on the backside of the keel. I guess this is to help the keel ride up and over any obstacles it might hit.


Handling a 500 LB piece of steel with limited equipment is a challenge. First how to move it around? For that I went low tech. PVC pipe 1 1/2 inches in diameter cut to 1-foot lengths makes good rollers for moving around on a flat surface. Next I took some 2X3's and built a cradle to hold the keel on edge as needed.

The final items were a wire winch or come-along and 3 six foot and 1 four-foot lengths of galvanized chain. Two 1/2-inch bolts, nuts & washers long enough to run through the keel holes and leave room to attach the chain as a bridle. Now why galvanized chain? Keeping a boat properly equipped with ground tackle is a priority. I figured a few lengths of chain and some shackles would make a good addition to my anchor locker.

Cleaning The Keel was a bit of a dilemma; my first resource was the internet. A few questions posted to a boating newsgroup provided some answers and ideas

Sandblasting is the recommended method of cleaning a keel. Fast & simple just deliver and pick up. The only real drawback is you have to be ready to move once the keel is blasted. Pick it up acid treat and get at least one coat of sealer on as fast as you can before it starts rusting back up. The local estimates I got for sandblasting were around $100 to $150 depending.

Grinding the keel with a grinder. Takes time and rather messy. The advantage is you can work at your own time and pace. If you don't have a grinder then the cost will end up about the same as sandblasting. The 4" grinder I bought cost $65.00 and the 4" grinding wheels aren't bad but you end up using a bunch of them. I chose the grinding method this time. My justification was that I would still have the grinder after it is done.

Men and tools you know


Grinding Away

What can I say! There is a 500-pound chunk of steel that needs to be shiny bright. I set the keel up flat on the rollers put on the dust mask and safety goggles. Grabbing my grinder I started grinding. Biting through what was left of the previous epoxy job and cleaning up the rust. Oh the joy! After running out of 4" grinding discs I realized I was tired. I started at the top and was about 1/4 done. This isn't to bad I thought looks like it would go pretty fast (so I thought).

Realizing I was going to do this for a while I needed something to protect the exposed metal. Once again simplicity is the best. Common motor oil. After each grinding session I would coat everything down with motor oil. Using a solvent to wash the keel before grinding again.

The next grinding session was a bit different. I had worked down to the edges of the keel; they were a different story all together. My boat had seen some hard use and spent some time in the saltwater environment. When I started grinding on the leading edges of the keel the rust stopped being surface and became a thick scale of up to 1/4 inch or so. So now came the hard work.

Whenever I had the time I was out in the carport grinding away. Seemed to take forever. The scale was around all the leading edges. After what seemed an eternity I was finally done. My moment of glory, yes finally a clean keel.


Preparing the keel

Once I felt the grinding part was over came the acid treatment. I heard of an acid that supposedly changed rust to an inert material. I felt just in case I missed something this wouldn't be a bad idea. So off to West Marine I went! Rust Lock Metal Primer (phosphoric acid). Wear gloves and don't huff the fumes. Put on leave for 24 hours dust and seal. Neat, only one thing. Don't treat your keel on concrete, the stuff reacts with concrete. I have some nice acid stains on my carport concrete pad. When I flipped the keel over to do the other side I set it on some plywood. No problem.

One side note, any time you start a boating project you are supposed to sacrifice a virgin to King Neptune (I hope you know that). Now the Coast Guard looks down on anyone throwing a virgin over board, not to mention the parents. So I try to avoid doing that whenever possible. According to my understanding of maritime traditions, if you can't use a virgin then you must sacrifice something of value. You know what I mean, the more expensive the item dropped over board the better. Cameras Camcorders Cell Phones. Tools are always a biggie. Unfortunately for me my sailing experience with the boat had been for the most part very good and I had grown lax in making the proper sacrifices. I think this angered Neptune the most because just about the time I was ready to put the first coat of sealer on the keel. King Neptune paid a personal visit to the Gulf Coast.

They call them hurricanes (Georges), but don't believe it for a minute. It's Neptune in person; if you don't believe me then try standing on a pier during a hurricane. Yea I did that once as well! After the rain blowing at 80 mph passed everything in the carport was wet. Due to job situation I didn't have time to even look at the keel for at least two weeks. Untreated steel doesn't last long in the humid Florida environment.

An untreated wet keel, well did I ever mention that the grinding discs weren't that expensive.


Sealing the Keel

Decisions Decisions Decisions. Do I use Epoxy, Fiberglass Resin or "Other" I read up on the West System Epoxy sounded pretty neat until I started pricing the job out. Ouch. Plus I didn't know how much I needed. Fiberglass Resin, not as big an Ouch and you can buy in smaller quantities. "Other", as part of my research for this I asked around on a boating newsgroup. Got all kinds of recommendations, one concern for me was applying bottom paint later. I ended up using fiberglass resin, simple to work with. Mixed up my first batch and using a cheap paintbrush spread it around letting plenty drip off the edges. I let the resin kick off enough to harden and flipped the keel. Clean up the drips (glad to have the grinder) and did the same on the other side.

Due to a job situation and other concerns the keel sat for almost six months before I had time to work on it again. Most men's fancy turns to romance when spring is in the air. Not a boater oh no we have to get the boat ready. April of 98 I thought, I will have it ready by May 1. Here it is May and I am hoping for June 1. First coat covered the keel. I want to protect the leading edges so I decided to glass in 2" wide tape. The process is simple Set the keel on edge in the cradle grind / sand the edge to what I want. Take the tape soak in resin and apply to the edge, smooth as best I can. Let harden I repeat on the other side. Lay the keel flat and sand down all the runs. Pour a finishing coat of resin on the sides. Maybe it is over kill but I'm not satisfied with one layer of fiberglass tape on the leading edges. Two is in order. So I sand the leading edges of the keel to smooth out the fiberglass tape already applied then start the taping process again. Here it is mid May and the keel is almost (once again) ready. All I need to do is lay it flat, apply the finishing coat to the sides. Then stand on edge and dress the edges.

Applying the resin to the sides is a fun game. I tape off the edges with nonstick masking tape. The masking tape acts as a dam and keeps the resin from running off the sides. Once the resin has kicked but still tacky I pull the tape off. Hand sand the leading edges to remove any sharp corners flip the keel and do again. After that I set the keel on edge in the cradle hand sand to dress the edges and apply with a paintbrush one last coat of resin to the edged. Sounds simple enough.


Keel Pin Blues Keel Pin Blues

The South Coast web page has been a big help. Mainly because there is a long list of fellow SC sailors to trade war stories with. Some times this is good sometimes not. I asked around fellow SC 22 sailors about the keel situation. I think every one ganged up and decided to let me finish my job then they could know what not to do. Thanks guys. The general consensus was let us know after you're done and we will pray for you.

I have noticed one distinct difference in sailing a ballasted boat with a cabin as opposed to an unballasted day sailor. Range, you have a tendency to sail farther and longer. All of a sudden you are actually thinking of weekend or longer trips. This attitude poses additional planning considerations. Bad weather, difficult seas, equipment considerations. I mean when I sailed a Buccaneer or Flying Scot the biggest concern would be if the weather changed today, not tomorrow or the next. I say this because when I found those ferrous collars on my keel pin I was not too happy about it. Although in retrospect the boat was built in the 80's almost 20 years ago and from what I can gather. The first time the keel has been removed. The collars had not failed yet and were still sound to a point. But I was concerned about getting in a rough situation and the keel falling out.

When I started checking around I found SS collars did not exist and I was uncomfortable with the thought of putting ferrous collars back on. So I took my old keel pin to a machine shop and had them make me a longer keel pin threaded on both ends $40. Then I purchased SS nuts and washers $8.00. Just a bit more than I wanted to spend, but one less thing to worry about later on down the waterway.


Putting it back toge

Putting it back together Well I am finally done the keel is finished and ready to go back in the boat. The big question of course is "can I do it". My original thinking was to keep the keel in the cradle and slide it up on the trailer. I removed all of the center roller bunks, lined the bottom of the trailer with 1/4" plywood and blocked up the plywood in between trailer cross members. There by making a runway for the keel to slide on. I also built a ramp 6' from the back of the trailer. This ramp allowed me to use a winch to raise on end of the keel up on the ramp.

I placed a roller under the end and used a winch to raise the other end of the keel/cradle. As I raised the keel it rolled forward on the ramp. Once on the ramp I started moving the keel forward under the boat. The cradle I built was not much wider than the keel itself and was a bit unstable. As I was rolling it forward it kept trying to go to one side or another and was not rolling straight. Eventually the whole mess fell over.

Actually this turned out to be an advantage. I then decided to roll the keel under the boat flat. Once I got the keel straightened out it was simple to roll it. Under the boat I reattached the keel pendant. I was of the delusion I could use the pendant winch to raise the keel from flat to on edge. I had already placed 4X4's on the bunks. So I climbed into the boat cabin and started raising the winch. Climbing back down I found the keel did not have enough room. I anticipated this problem as it happened when I was removing the keel. I jacked up the back of the boat a little at a time until high enough and worked the keel into the keel well, then lowered the back of the boat down. Placing a scissors jack under the top of the keel I jacked the top up into the keel well and discovered my folly. The keel was pivoting on itself and the top wouldn't go up enough. Raising the keel pendant all the way up solved the problem and jacking the top of the keel into the keel well proved simple. As I was climbing back into the boat to check the position of the keel bolt holes.

A disturbing thought crossed my mind. What if the keel trunk hole and keel bolt hole don't match up? For reasons I will never understand Murphy was kind and the two holes matched up pretty well. A few adjustments on the jack, a screwdriver as a pry bar the keel bolt was on its way through.

So that's it folks my first keel job! I can't help but wonder what's next.



The information on this page is not intended as a "definitive" guide to sailing .
Rather it is a collection of things that work for me also ideas I have learned from other sources.
The information is specific to my 22' swing keel South Coast Seacraft Eclipse.
The sailing area is local bays and ICW
Use at your own risk
Any good sailing resource book should provide a comprehensive review of sailing theory.

Do you know how you got here?

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