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Old 30-12-2014, 15:10   #1
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Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Looking for feedback regarding cruising boats with swing keels specifically and am curious if anyone has experience cruising, coastal or bluewater with swing keels.

Pro's

- Shallow draught.
- Raised downwind for less wetted surface.

Con's

- Reduced pointing ability.
- Extra maintenance.
- Less stable.

How much extra maintenance and hassle are they?
Do they tend to move and wobble when engaged?
Any experience with grounding and or damage?
Can the keel be lifted if run aground?
Any jamming when lifting/lowering?
What are the best features and design criteria to look for?
What are the pro's and con's between swing and lift keels?

Thanks everyone.
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Old 30-12-2014, 15:21   #2
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Yes the keel can be lifted if you run aground. Great for sailing shallow waters!
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Old 30-12-2014, 15:41   #3
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

There are two types of Swing keels, the ones that are ballasted and the ones that are not. Among the first there are the ones that carry all the ballast and some that only carry part of it.

In your disadvantages and vantages misses that the ones that don't carry all the ballast will make the boat several hundreds or thousands of pounds heavier and that the new ones with all the ballast on it have not a difference in pointing ability regarding a deep draft.

In what concerns less stability and in what regards modern boats that is normally not true. The boats are more heavier due to the need to carry more ballast to compensate, some on the hull bottom some on the box that contains the centerboard (like the new Oceanis 35).

The ones that are ballasted need an hydraulic mechanism to lift them and have more maintenance.
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Old 30-12-2014, 15:41   #4
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

I have experience only with trailer sailor and off the beach centre boarders. I have had two that the galvanised steel centreboard has required removing and sandblasting / rust removal then refitting. Difficult but doable when the plate is only 30 - 40 kg. I imagine an in the water cruiser is going to have better regular anti foul and treatment of the plate so may only be the concealed part up at the pivot point. I have also had the lifting cable fail, in this case a careful grounding brought the keel up to allow a reconnection of the cable.

As for getting a keel stuck, I did once surf a skiff off a swell onto a sandbank where the board dug straight in, the pressure of the sails buried the bows and we had to drop the sails and pull the board up vertically to get free. Unlikely that you would be surfing your cruising boat near shoals (I was very young at the time ok).

Yachting Monthly May 2013 profiles a used Ovni 345 alloy French c/boarder that has been as far south as Patagonia. I occasional see one of these around Qld waters. A good article that describes some of their virtues and shortcomings.

The option of both shoal and deep draft is very appealing in Queensland waters.

Cheers
Roger
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Old 30-12-2014, 15:43   #5
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Some will have a "knock" which you either get used to or let drive you mad. Similarly, you will often hear a water "slap" inside the case as you sail along
Yes the keel can be lifted if you run aground. On my previous swing keelers I probably took more chances, knowing that if I bump the bottom I can simply raise the board a bit and sail on.
Depending on the boats design, the swing keel will allow the boat to be beached for a bum rub or other job that may often require a hoist.
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Old 30-12-2014, 15:51   #6
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

I trailered a McGregor 25 to Belize. Then sailed it to Guatemala and up the Reo Dulce to The head of Lake Elizbeth. Then back to Belize. we stayed 6 weeks and had a ball. We ran aground a few times and just lifted the keel to get off. I wouldn't want to go very far offshore with it. Mac
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Old 30-12-2014, 17:35   #7
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polux View Post
There are two types of Swing keels, the ones that are ballasted and the ones that are not. Among the first there are the ones that carry all the ballast and some that only carry part of it.

In your disadvantages and vantages misses that the ones that don't carry all the ballast will make the boat several hundreds or thousands of pounds heavier and that the new ones with all the ballast on it have not a difference in pointing ability regarding a deep draft.

In what concerns less stability and in what regards modern boats that is normally not true. The boats are more heavier due to the need to carry more ballast to compensate, some on the hull bottom some on the box that contains the centerboard (like the new Oceanis 35).

The ones that are ballasted need an hydraulic mechanism to lift them and have more maintenance.
There is only one type of swing keel boat, the rest are center board boats. A swing keel is a ballasted keel that can rotated aft and up to reduce draft or load on a trailer. Rotating the keel up drastically changes the righting moment of the boat and the weight of the keel can require some pretty elaborate lifting hardware. They typically aren't designed to be sailed with the keel in anything but a full down position because of the drastic change in righting moment as the keel is retracted. It is much like a fixed keel boat with the keel locked down under sail and rotated up for loading on a trailer. If the keel is not locked in place, the keel can retract in a knockdown with drastic results.

That is not the same as a keel center board boat. These have a lightly ballasted center board so it will sink/deploy for increased lateral resistance, but does not have much if any ballast effect. Keel/Center board boats have either internal ballast or a shallow keel with fixed ballast. Centerboard boats have sailed to all corners of the globe in all conditions. The French built alloy boats like Garcia are the current major producer of center board boats for world voyaging. Keel/center board boats were quite common under the CCA rating rule as it gave a slight advantage to them. Keel/Center Board designs have been common for centuries to meet the need for shallow draft in thin water moorings/harbors yet retain the ability to sail blue water.
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Old 30-12-2014, 17:50   #8
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
There is only one type of swing keel boat, the rest are center board boats. A swing keel is a ballasted keel that can rotated aft and up to reduce draft or load on a trailer. Rotating the keel up drastically changes the righting moment of the boat and the weight of the keel can require some pretty elaborate lifting hardware. They typically aren't designed to be sailed with the keel in anything but a full down position because of the drastic change in righting moment as the keel is retracted. It is much like a fixed keel boat with the keel locked down under sail and rotated up for loading on a trailer. If the keel is not locked in place, the keel can retract in a knockdown with drastic results.

That is not the same as a keel center board boat. These have a lightly ballasted center board so it will sink/deploy for increased lateral resistance, but does not have much if any ballast effect. Keel/Center board boats have either internal ballast or a shallow keel with fixed ballast. Centerboard boats have sailed to all corners of the globe in all conditions. The French built alloy boats like Garcia are the current major producer of center board boats for world voyaging. Keel/center board boats were quite common under the CCA rating rule as it gave a slight advantage to them. Keel/Center Board designs have been common for centuries to meet the need for shallow draft in thin water moorings/harbors yet retain the ability to sail blue water.
I don't know about what you call a swing keel but a swing keel for me is....a keel that swings up and down. There are centerboarders where the keel goes up and down, there are centerboarders that have a swing keel. Maybe that is the keel word that is confusing you? We can change it for foil if you want, that is about the same thing, ballasted or not.

Yes I agree with you, a non ballasted foil (or Keel) is not the same as a ballasted one and I never said that French cruisers with non ballasted swing foils are not great boats, just said that compared with a ballasted Swing keel with all ballast on the keel, on identical hulls, the one with the ballasted Swing keel will be faster (lighter) and will point better.

Anyway it seems that you are just making a fuss about the meaning of words, not about types of boats since it is clear that you understood from the beginning what I was saying. I don't know what kind of information the OP wants but since he is talking about cruising boats coastal or bluewater with swing keels, it seems to me that he is using the therm swing keel in a generic way and that's what I tried to provide: Generic information with generic information about keels that swing.
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Old 30-12-2014, 21:44   #9
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Thanks for the replies everyone.

The designs I have been looking at have a center board/keel made of lead and encapsulated in fiberglass I believe.

Sounds like they are a bit tender into the wind and don't point too well which seems to be the main draw back. Whilst no one really likes cruising hard on the wind sometimes pointing ability is what you need to get where you are going.

Lots of advantages though.

Still wondering if they are a lot of extra maintenance/hassle.

Ozskipper I am curious to know what centerboard/swing keel boats you have owned in the past.

Polux thanks for your input I know you seem to cop some flack on this site due to your "progressive thinking" and I suspect English is not your native tongue.
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Old 31-12-2014, 05:20   #10
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I once brought a Gloucester 16 back from the dead, she had a weighted swing keel of about 150 lbs. among her other repair issues, the keel was flaking rust, the cable was broken, there was a leak at the swing bolt, and she had a leaking crack in the hull where the keel hit the forward edge of the well (a very common reason people sell old center boarders).
I lifted the boat with a chain hoist and built a 2 X 4 frame under her. I also made a wood frame around the keel, with boards sticking out like a carrier for the Pharoh's throne. Once I tapped out the bolt we wrestled it to a work bench. After many hours with a grinder, some underwater metal primer and some bottom paint, and some epoxy/glass work on the well, we re-mounted her with a new bolt and new cable. A good glop of "Goop" on the nut and bolt head of the swing bolt kept her dry.
After a new suit of sails and paint inside and out, she was probably the most fun boat I ever had. We named her "Dearie". Easy to trailer, very forgiving, pointed well, and could easily carry 4 for a sunset sail. And yes, lifting the keel after running aground or in skinny water was a great benefit. I sailed her for about 5 seasons without any keel worries. If not for big boat-itis, I'd be sailing her still.
I only had trouble with the keel banging once, when a buddy and I decided to anchor out near Annapolis one night and sleep in the cuddy cabin. With the keel down she banged and banged; it was less with the keel up, but then she rolled badly. The next time we slept aboard, we pulled the keel up and beached her, and slept like babies.
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Old 31-12-2014, 09:28   #11
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

happy new year
sabre built a lot of swing keel boats, mostly in the late 80's and 90's
i saw a 1989 42 footer on the hard in the summer, it was about 6 feet long and it looked heavey
Ross
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Old 31-12-2014, 09:36   #12
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

I have a 1987 Sabre 36 K/C.

I have replaced the penant due to the wire fraying,
The pin on the winch drum slid out slightly preventing my ability to crank up the board. All that was needed was to tap it back into place.

As far as pointing goes. I raced a friends Sabre 34 K/C. I beat out a C&C 33. They were amazed that they were not able to point as high as we could. We were not first over the Start line, but Took a first over the line and won 1st place by seconds.
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Old 31-12-2014, 09:50   #13
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polux View Post
I don't know about what you call a swing keel but a swing keel for me is....a keel that swings up and down. There are centerboarders where the keel goes up and down, there are centerboarders that have a swing keel. Maybe that is the keel word that is confusing you? We can change it for foil if you want, that is about the same thing, ballasted or not.

Yes I agree with you, a non ballasted foil (or Keel) is not the same as a ballasted one and I never said that French cruisers with non ballasted swing foils are not great boats, just said that compared with a ballasted Swing keel with all ballast on the keel, on identical hulls, the one with the ballasted Swing keel will be faster (lighter) and will point better.

Anyway it seems that you are just making a fuss about the meaning of words, not about types of boats since it is clear that you understood from the beginning what I was saying. I don't know what kind of information the OP wants but since he is talking about cruising boats coastal or bluewater with swing keels, it seems to me that he is using the therm swing keel in a generic way and that's what I tried to provide: Generic information with generic information about keels that swing.
To me a centerboard and a keel are not interchangeable terms. A centerboard is not a swing keel, at least not in the older wooden boats.
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Old 31-12-2014, 09:54   #14
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

Hard Rock, did your boat used to be in the yard in Port Townsend? There was a beautiful boat there with that name I used to admire every time I drove by. Larry
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Old 31-12-2014, 10:08   #15
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Re: Swing keel maintenance, reliability and performance.

hi womansailor
I was wondering if the board was noisy , either from sideways or up and down movement when underway if so is speed an issue, upwind downwind
Thanks
Ross
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