swing keels: pros and cons

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by souljour2000, Nov 19, 2009.

  1. souljour2000
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: SW Florida

    souljour2000 Senior Member

    I have a 20-foot Hunter with a 400-lb iron keel and a 1700 lb displacement that I sail in southwest Florida's Sarasota bay and the Gulf where there's alot of sandy shoals. I have sailed her a bit now and with my 18-inch keel-up draft I tend to stay out of the channels alot and skim the shallows when I can to keep my rhumb lines and avoid powerboat wakes in the channels.. I have found that I don't really bother to lower the swing keel very much...even working upwind sometimes. When I am in strong winds...I tend to feel that my boat has more drag with the keel down and so I tend to leave it up and reduce sail a bit or monitor the helm more closely.
    What I am wondering I guess is am I correct in my hunch about the drag being greater when the keel is down and one has added pennant drag ?...It varies from boat to boat of course but does anyone else have an opinion on their swing keel and when they find it most useful? Fighting off a lee shore is probably the only time I use it it all.
    In connection to all of this is that I am considering encapsulating it in fiberglass in the up position and adding a bit of a skeg behind it in the process to add some more weight down low and give some more tracking ability. This will affect the balance of the rig but I'm willing to bet I can tweak any tendencies that will arise or be able to live with the ones I can't. One reason I have for this idea is that the keel bolts were not drilled well at the factory and so I will have to do some major repairs next time they get loose or opt for the keel encapsulation in the up position. Getting that iron keel out of the salt and "out of my hair" might be the way to go...I appreciate greatly any thoughts on this rambling dissertation .....
     
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I find it hard to believe you don't see any difference sailing upwind with or without the board down. Don't you notice the leeway angle increasing? What do you mean the keel bolts were not drilled well at the factory?
     
  3. souljour2000
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    souljour2000 Senior Member

    having the board down all the way does help..but I think the added drag slows me even though the tracking is better and slippage lessened upwind....but being slower due to the drag exposes me longer to the wind's forces on each leg of the upwind tack so it seems almost a tradeoff...as for the factory problem with the bolts...they were drilled too close on one side to the reinforcement areas surrounding the daggerboard housing...the washers on one bolt have never been properly seated..being at a slight angle against the re-inforced area of fiberglass mat/resin....that bolt has loosened easily and often over the years due to the poor mounting and widened out the bolt-hole...I'm afraid to carve that area out as much as is needed to allow for a really good washer/backing plate installation......as it is of course. a high stress area.

    The love of fine craftmanship was not necessarily involved in the making of these "inexpensive" boats
     
  4. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    The only way to test the windward ability accurately is with a GPS. Leeway can be deceptive. Try to get a plot while going to weather with board up and then down.
    In particular, shifting from board down to board up on each tack you'll see the angular difference. There's no way the boat could get much bite without the board down.
    Of course the drag is greater with board down, and it is wise (though work) to crank it up when sailing off the wind. Drag (of the board and pendant) is more of an issue in light wind, but in a brisk wind there is zero difference at hull speed, except at least you can go to weather with the board down.
    How you set the swing keel is a matter of where you sail, meaning wind strength varies from area to area. In general, you worry less about the board being down if it's blowing hard most of ther time where you sail.
    To seat the washers, you might remove the nuts, level the seats up with epoxy by creating a dam with some plaster, letting that set up, and pour the epoxy in. Then break away the plaster once the epoxy cures. You should have enough thread depth, I would think.
     
  5. souljour2000
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    souljour2000 Senior Member

    Thanks for your comments Alan...I haven't actually sailed the Hunter that much since I bought it in summer of '08. I've done four or five trips including a long run down the beaches from Sarasota to the Boca Grande area and the winds were 9-12 knots then...don't think I lowered the board at all on that run...Did have it down all the way while reaching in 15-16 with 18-19 knot gusts. on the bay and probably once in the gulf near the pass in same cond....just need to get used to her I guess..and how much to crank down for how much keel drop...it's still hard for me to tell how far down (or up) she is honestly.
     
  6. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Get in a race with other similarly configured boats and you'll quickly realize how poorly you're doing against them with the board up.

    The easiest way to tell what your keel is doing is to count how many cranks it takes. How many does it take to lower it all the way. This is upwind, crank it up 25% to 50% to reach and crank it all the way up when you're broad off or dead before. You can fine tune it if you like. For example by boat takes 20 revolutions of the crank to lower all the way, but in this position I don't do as well as two full cranks up, except in light air. 4 to 8 cranks up is my reaching mode and I don't retract it fully (which I can with my boat), leaving the last 5 cranks hanging down for better directional tracking down wind.
     
  7. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    You should be very careful with your opinion and some of the opinions you are receiving here.

    Most ballasted swing keel boats like you Hunter are designed to sail with the keel in the down position. Without the keel all the way down they will not be self rescuing. In fact many boats of this type have come from the factories with instructions and disclaimers telling owners to ensure the keel is down and locked before sailing. One such example is the Catalina 22 that has a locking handle (bolt) that is engaged when the keel is down.

    The fact that you seem to think performance is OK with the keel up tells me you have little to no experience, so you should be very careful about putting yourself and others into harm's way.
     
  8. ancient kayaker
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    ancient kayaker aka Terry Haines

    That was my thought too. With the keel up the boat may seem to respond more readily to a breeze with more whitewater off the bow when all it is doing is heeling more and creating more turbulence. The added speed may be more apparent than real. The added risk is real enough though.
     
  9. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    I'd think the conditions where a capsize is possible are rare considering the boat is sailing near shore, likely always within sight of land. If the boat has a locking mechanism, all the better. Any ballasting swing keel should be lockable for the reasons discussed.
    However, most sailors would agree that speed is what matters unless the weather turns dirty and one is commited (possibly by choice) to sailing at the limits of what his boat can take. So in most situations with sailors who want to go fast, the swing keel won't be locked but will be adjusted to some degree, and sometimes up all the way, if that happens to be the best way to sail offwind.
    There are plenty of things one ought to know about sailing that are up to the sailor to learn, such as how to spill wind or head up in puffs, or how to deal with kids, or what emergency equipment to bring along.
    Or whether the keel ought to be locked under certain conditions.
    I don't think anyone (PAR and myself are the two who had given the opinions that Paul B seems to be attempting to discredit) is encouraging anyone to never lock the board. Obviously, before one goes out, one accepts the responsibility for a safe journey and is accordingly prepared, or else they're in for a rude awakening.
    The safest thing to do is stay at home in bed.
    Why criticize the encouragement of setting the board at different positions and learning how to tweak the boat? Do you (Paul B) think this guy Souljour2000 is an idiot? Why not tell him he should always wear a PFD too.
     
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  10. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Some folks just like to find fault, possibly to justify their personal disagreement on any given subject. It apparently isn't enough for these types to offer a differing opinion, without lasing it with their distain for cordial discussion. I say this particularly in light of the fact we don't know what year this Hunter is and if it even has a lock.

    Soujour2000 does your lifting device look similar to this?

    [​IMG]

    Or is it a crank handle?
     
  11. souljour2000
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    souljour2000 Senior Member

    I appreciate all the discussion..it has been helpful. I suspect Paul B is correct about legal disclaimers involving the keel being full down and locked. I purchased the boat..a 1983 Hunter 20 more than a year ago and it came with no manual having several previous owners.
    As for my type of keel ..it is a crankhandler. It appears there was another design originally with the winch further amidships and mounted in the housing at the base of the diagonal aluminum compression post on the inner side of the main berth.
    I probably have only about 5-6 trips under my belt with her and haven't sailed her since July. This becames more and more apparent. Have yet to get myself in the hard habit of counting cranks as PAR is correct to suggest but have mostly opted for all the way up or all the way down so far. There is little doubt that this boat is easily knocked down were a unexpectedly strong gust to come up and in summer certainly one should be aware of microburst downdrafts in respect to where I operate the vessel in Florida when one has the keel "up". These can arise from far away and it may not yet be raining or even cloudy yet for a downdraft like this to occur.
    I actually am currently fiber-glassing in a new and permanent coachroof and have discarded the pop-top roof for a number of reasons..but safety in a knockdown is at the top of the list...followed then by the ability to actually walk on top of that part of the cabin which is also desirable. Flotation I have not yet addressed though there is ample room in many areas for me to add close-cell foam though some of it's going to have to wait while there's other mods going on in the cabin with reinforcing of bulkheads...adding storage alcoves...etc...and other things that a poorly finished daysailer offering of the 80's Hunter corporation that is 25 years old might require. I am currently still recovering mentally from the "sawz-all portion" of the "coachroof mod"...I'll try to post some pics...
    As she is right now...with little to no built-in bouyancy my boat would likely sink very quickly in a knockdown and I think it is a topic that is a major safety issue with many factory boats such as mine...there was a knockdown of a mac 26 in the Providence River recently though the new owner had sail up with no water ballast and no secondary ballast in his particular model.
    Ancient kayaker offered a helpful observation with his remarks about apparent speed with the keel up "due to roll and bow wake. I have yet to get a gps with speed gauge and for electronics have a depthfinder and a mounted vhf radio---- it may indeed be an illusion of extra speed with the keel up afterall. ..I will say that my original post and the comments that followed were revealing to me in regard to my knowledge of the boats performance though what strikes me most is the idea that similar to what can happen to aircraft pilots it has become apparent to me what 5 months of rust does to one who is not sailing...This is another topic that deserves a thread if it already hasn't earned one in this forum....in the meantime..I am now in the market for that sailing dinghy because it's clear I need to "get current" again as soon as possible. 'Nuff said!

    -
     
  12. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Alan: How can being near shore provent a capsize? Seems like a silly claim that there are no strong or gusty winds near shore.
     
  13. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I'm familiar with the '83 Hunter swing keel design, leave the pin out (don't lock it down), unless you're absolutely sure you're going to be in deep water. In the unlocked position it'll bounce over bottom strikes with little damage. If it's locked down, you break things pretty quickly.

    Unless the Golly Green Giant comes along, with the world's largest pancake flipper, looking to give you a hard time, then your keel will stay in the lowered position (you basically need to be upside down for it to retract by itself), regardless of heel angle or if unlocked.

    I've sailed your area many times, even ran a charter out of St. Pete for a while, it's a great place to sail. Leave the keel down all the time. You'll gain a huge stability advantage (the boat will not heel as much), she'll feel more comfortable, will stand up to her sails and maneuvering will be crisper.

    Does your boat have a hunk of foam under the cockpit? You may also find another piece under the V berth (the foam will be under the liner). It's not uncommon to find the rear piece of foam soaked with water and fuel.

    This should be what you boat looks like.

    [​IMG]

    The era your boat is from is fraught with difficulties. Check the chain plates for softness, particularly the back stay on the transom. Tossing the pop top and making a new, much lighter one is a good thing. If it's had an outboard or outboard bracket attached, check the transom for a shot core. There's a whole list of stuff to look for on the early 80's era Hunters. All the manufactures were cutting costs everywhere and things got short sheeted. It's all stuff that can be fixed.
     
  14. souljour2000
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    souljour2000 Senior Member

    PAR....thanks for the info...that's me boat...I've got complete soaked wood rot in the cabin floor...but so far thats all I've found...the rear wall of the cabin where the companionway is..er..it's interesting in that it has no core...it's hollow...no plywood...no foam ...I can tell because I have yet to really permanently cover the sizable hole the previous owner made there for a depth/fishfinder or something.
     

  15. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    Uh, no. I have seen another, similar swing keeler knock down and have the keel release and slam into the hull, which then changed the AVS enough to turtle the boat.

    By the way, that boat was also designed to sail with the keel down, but the MFG saved the cost of a bolt and backing plate to act as a friction lock. Bad idea, that.
     
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