Raising the Keel in the Water (Keel Cable System and Repair)

Catalina 22 Keel System and manually raising

Raising the Keel in the Water (Keel Cable System and Repair)

<–Story of out keel cable breaking

Recently we had a keel cable snap while in the marine with the keel down. We didn't have any damage to our boat, but the repair is a bit tricky. The cause of the break and what you can do to prevent the issue will be covered in the next post.

The Catalina 22 had a 5 foot 500ish pound keel that swings down from a pivot point just behind the mast. There is a winch in the companionway with a cable running down through a tube and it attaches to the back of the keel. This raises and lowers the keel and is an integral part of the keel system.

The current depths at Great Salt Lake marina meant my keels was stuck in a few inches of mud, and the mouth of the harbor is too shallow to exit without raising the keel. So the keel cable needed to be fixed in order to do any sailing.


I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE DUE TO ANY DAMAGE TO YOUR BOAT OR PERSONS USING ANY OF THESE METHODS. THESE ARE SIMPLY MY THOUGHT PROCESS WHEN COMPLETING THIS TASK! DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK


The setup of the Catalina 22 keel system is diagrammed in the picture below.

These are approximations from memory, but all of the parts of the system are there. The purpose of the turning ball is to keep the cable from rubbing against the forward part of the tube. The turning ball failing or the cable being installed incorrectly can—and has—caused boats to sink.

There are ways that I thought about how to raise the keel and I am sure there are others, probably even better. These ways don't require a diver in the water, but will require you to get the boat to a trailer for repair.


Method 1

The logic behind it is that we want to raise the keel from a position over the keel, this prevents the rope from sliding off the back of the keel during raising and the keel then swing down and cause damage. The issues with this method are that the stanchions may not support the weight of the keel. The angle of the rope needs more force to raise the keel than other methods.


Method 2

This method to raise the keel uses a single rope. The rope must be pushed down on the keel to pull from a lower point to help with leverage. If the rope is too far up, it will be harder or impossible to pull, even with the winches. The disadvantages of this is that as the keel comes up, the angle of the rope could cause it to slip off of the back of the keel.


Method 3

In this method two ropes are used. First a rope is brought back from the front of the boat. Then a second rope is brought back. The ropes then need to be twisted several times to intertwine them under the water. One rope is then loosely tied to the cleats at the bow of the boat. Using a boat hook, adjust the depth of the ropes against the keel to a spot about two feet from the bottom, or about three feet from the bottom of the boat. Readjust all lines and tighten the line on the bow cleats. The purpose of the front line is to keep the aft line from rolling back off of the keel as it is raised. Watch the front line to make sure they don't get slack at all, and tighten them is needed. The disadvantage of this is that if the aft line breaks the keel will fall.


Method 4

This method of raising the keel is similar to method 2. Four ratchet straps are used, two front and two back hooked in a loop around the boat. Two are used so that one can be there while the other is being adjusted for length as the keel comes up. The ratchet straps are placed over the rear window a few inches apart. Every few inches that the keel is raised the straps will need to be adjusted. If the rope breaks, the straps will hopefully take the weight. This take more work that method 2 but has an increased safety factor.


Each method has its disadvantages. Safety needs to be considered, as a breaking line can really injure someone. A keel falling can cause a break in the hull near the pivot pin. I cannot guarantee any method will work, so use any of these methods at your own risk.  

Read about my process and attempts here –>