Swing keel nightmare

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March
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Location: Iowa, MacGregor 26X, Evinrude E-TEC 50 HP

Swing keel nightmare

Post by March » Sun Jun 28, 2020 7:20 pm

Two weeks ago, we took the Mac 26X to another lake in the area-- four days of sailing and motoring around, camping on the water, the works. There were some minor glitches, of course (the mice had eaten through the dinghy over the winter, the auto-pilot worked only intermittently, etc). but, by and large, it was a lot of fun. We put the boat back on the trailer and returned blithely home. A week later, "our" lake got really high so we launched again locally.

And the swing keel wouldn’t come down, try as I might.

I motored backwards and forwards, banged the boot, jumped into the water and used my toes while dangling from the fenders, said my prayers… nothing. Eventually, we pulled up to the grassy shore and I got underneath the boat (no goggles): a three-foot-long waterlogged branch (just the right – or wrong—size, about two-three inches in diameter) had wedged itself so snugly all the way inside the boot that it was impossible to pry it away. The swing keel's leading edge was also notched heavily as the boat rode on the keel and the trailer’s cross -bar, 50 miles on the way back. The keel still protruded about two inches from the boot so there was no way I could grab it or move the branch. We pulled the boar out in the marina parking lot—not enough room for a crow bar to work underneath. We removed the nut from the swing keel’s pin and tried to hammer it down from the bilge. It would not budge. I had easily removed the centerboard in the past, both in the water and on land, but this time the branch was wedged so tightly that the keel would not move forwards a couple of millimeters needed to remove it.

What do do? Pull the mast down on one side until the keel comes out of the water? Jack up the boat with car jacks in the back yard? Cut off the top of the boot from the bilge, to extract the branch from the inside?

Luckily, another marina in the area had two boat cranes. They were reluctant to lift a mac which looks pretty impressive, even with the mast down, as compared with the typical power boat, but they did it with all due precautions—first a foot, then three more, until we finally could get underneath the boat with a heavy hammer and longer crowbars. It took us about one hour and a half to break the sucker into three-inch pieces and extract it from the top of the boot—and finally the keel came down.

We patched the gouge with fiberglass and resin (took a quart of resin and a half, it was so damaged) but now it’s freshly polished and painted and the swing keel looks pretty good. Ready to mount it tomorrow.

Lessons learned: don’t rush it getting out of the water. Typically, the keel comes all the way up into the boot with a satisfying thump—I remember now NOT having heard it. Also, make sure your swing keel rope is clearly marked. (Mine wasn’t, but it is now.) Had I noticed that the keel didn’t go all the way in, even by one or two inches, I would have motored backwards until it did. Also, look under the trailer, even though the boat SEEMS to be sitting on it securely, it may be sitting on the keel which buried itself into the wooden cross bunks—until it shatters.

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Dougiestyle
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Re: Swing keel nightmare

Post by Dougiestyle » Sun Jun 28, 2020 7:34 pm

Wow pretty crazy, glad alls well!
Good advice on rope and thud.
Dougie
1998 26X, Nissan 50D, "Water Buffalo"

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Chinook
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Re: Swing keel nightmare

Post by Chinook » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:17 pm

Wow. Something very similar happened to me. Your story is the first one I've heard of along those lines, other than my experience. I had launched on Ootsa Lake in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in the Coast Range of central British Columbia. We motored 35 miles up the reservoir to the hand car portage, where we had the boat transported by rail flatcar to Eutsuk Lake, a stunning place with incredible fishing. Once on Eutsuk I decided to sail, and when I went to release the centerboard, it wouldn't drop. I pulled up to a sand beach and secured the boat with lines ashore, put my weight belt and face mask on, and went under to see if I could assess the problem. The board was down just slightly, but firmly stuck. I found a small piece of rodent chewed moose antler, lying on the beach. The tine was sharply pointed, so I went back under the boat, poked it into the hole which is in the lower forward corner of the centerboard, and was able to pry it free. For the rest of the trip the board swung freely, but I took care to not pull it up too hard. After we got home, I had to take the boat in to BWY for some service work. While Todd had the boat I asked him to take a look at the centerboard and replace the retracting line, if it seemed frayed. With the boat up on Todd's hoist, he discovered a piece of driftwood which had become tightly jammed up inside the centerboard trunk. He had to craft a specialized tool to get ahold of it and remove it. I'm amazed to learn that I'm not the only one to have experienced this problem. Unfortunately, I can't think of any precautions to take to avoid it happening again. Just plain bad luck. Every time the centerboard seems to take just a bit longer than normal to drop, my mind flashes back to that incident. I do always carry my weight belt, shorty wetsuit, and face mask in case I have to go under and pry it free.

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Russ
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Re: Swing keel nightmare

Post by Russ » Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:56 am

Chinook wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:17 pm
We motored 35 miles up the reservoir to the hand car portage, where we had the boat transported by rail flatcar to Eutsuk Lake, a stunning place with incredible fishing.
I had to google this. It looks amazing and that rail car is so interesting.

Image
--Russ

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Chinook
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Re: Swing keel nightmare

Post by Chinook » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:20 am

Yes, it is truly an amazing place. You motor up to the dock on Ootsa Lake, tie up, and the BC Parks ranger drives over in a gator type vehicle. He attaches a cable to the flatbed trailer, which is mounted on rail wheels and sitting on the track, and he backs down so the trailer goes under the water, along side the dock and beneath your boat. You move your boat forward, till it rests on the trailer, secure the straps, and then the ranger pulls you out of the water. We were able to leave the mast up. He then tows you up a gentle rise and, just past the crest, he unhooks the cable. You stand on a little platform on the side of the trailer, grasping a hand brake. Once the gator is clear of the track you ease off on the brake and you make a controlled descent, gliding through the forest, toward the dock on Eutsuk Lake, where you unstrap and tie up to the dock. It's a really cool experience seeing a fully rigged sailboat rolling along on that track. At the time (2008), it cost us $75 Canadian for the round trip haul in and back out again. We could have avoided that cost by using a hand cranked winch to haul the boat to the top of the rise. However, after considering that it takes roughly 3 hours to crank a boat to the top, it was a pretty easy decision to spend the $75. And oh, the fishing. I set up with a downrigger and trolled under sail. Caught one rainbow that weighed 10 pounds, and the filets were as bright red as a sockeye salmon. Fat literally dripped from the grill while barbequing. By the way, the MacGregor is just about the largest boat they can handle with that handcar railway. During the 10 days we were on Eutsuk Lake, we saw only a handful of other boats and, for virtually the first time, we were clearly the largest boat on the water. We felt like we were on the Queen Mary. Quite a contrast from usual experience, when we're the smallest boat out there.

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Herschel
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Re: Swing keel nightmare

Post by Herschel » Tue Jun 30, 2020 8:22 pm

My stuck centerboard story did not require moose antlers to fix, but it did take several attempts before a Styrofoam fishing bobber was found stuck inside the trunk. Got that out and no problems since. I did have some luck, initially, using a line tied from side to side under the cockpit and then moving it forward keeping it tight until it caught on the slightly extended center board. But the problem was not ultimately fixed until we found that stupid bobber. :x

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