Our Keel Cable Snapped! (Keel Cable System and Repair)

Our Keel Cable Snapped! (Keel Cable System and Repair)

We got two baby sitters lined up for our two-year old to cover us until after dark and headed down to the boat. Work and weather had kept us off the boat for a few weeks, so were a little worried about spiders having invaded our boat (link to spider post). Though they were certainly nested under the dock, the boat was fairly clear. The birds had been busy, so there were less spiders, but more deck washing.

After about an hour of cleaning and some minor repairs, we started setting up the sails. I popped below and started to lift the keel using the winch as we will run aground in the mouth of the harbor without it. I almost immediately notice a problem. There was not tension on the cable like there should have been. I knew that this was not a good sign. Sure enough, the end of the cable appeared.

Somehow, while sitting in the marina, with the keel down, the cable had broken free. The cut is a clean cut with no frayed cables. There is only minor surface rust, which is expected due to the manufacturing process of the stainless cable. It didn't seem to be any shorter than normal, either. This cable had also just been installed several months earlier.

I immediately had a few concerns. Did I loose my keel as well?  How do I get the boat on the trailer when I can't raise the keel? Do we call it a season and take fall to do general repairs? How do I fix this?


Did I loose my Keel?

My thinking here was if the keel dropped, it could have enough impact to snap the cable. I wasn't sure this would create the type of break that I was seeing though. I have not dropped my keel due to it being a fairly extensive process on the first 120 Catalina 22s, which don't have keel hangers. Luckily, I had my bore camera in my boat from replacing the traveler bar. I held my phone and watched as my wife slide the semi-ridged camera down through the murky water.

I think I audibly sighed when I saw it, a fuzzy red spike right where I wanted it to be. I know one thing, I'll never not have a bore scope camera onboard ever. It saved a lot of panic and uncertainty, and I can see it helping again someday.

How do I get the boat on the trailer when I can't raise the keel?

Occasionally, on the Facebook Catalina 22 Owners Group this topic comes up. I knew it would come up with some basic instructions if I searched, but I made a new post to show the picture and find out if anyone has any idea how it could have snapped like it did.

One poster said he had been able to slide a line down through the keel tube and tight a big loop around the keel to use the keel winch to pull it up. I would have considered it, but there were several things that made this not easily possible. I can't just go diving in the marina due to stray voltages that may exist. If that were not an issue, then the next problem is that the boat is in the Great Salt Lake. The water is so salty that it causes extreme buoyancy, I can't swim down and touch even where I can stand. Swimming under just wasn't going to work for me due to these factors. I probably would have tried this way first to see if I could get it up.  

The next option I knew about but wanted more specifics. It is possible to take a strong line from winches and put it in front of the boat in the water. Then pull it tight against the keel. Then slowly winch it up. Someone suggested that I should add a line around the boat once it's part way up to make sure when it gets higher the line to the winches doesn't slide back and allow the keel to crash down, possible breaking fiberglass in the process.

We called the Harbor Master Dave and asked his opinion on what would work best. He gave us the number to a local diver, Chad, to have him dive on it to do a repair. Chad offered a reasonable price, but said that using the rope method was fairly easy and he would help us do it that way. This seemed to solidify that using ropes attached to the winches was the best approach.

Do we call it a season and take fall to do general repairs?

Knowing the boat was coming out of the water, it raised the question of hauling the boat home to fix things before spring. We originally planned to sail into November at earliest. The Great Salt Lake doesn't freeze and can offer some awesome sailing year around. During spring we planned to remove all deck hardware, repair, and repaint the topside.

I decided that if we are able to get it on the trailer and repaired in a day, that we would put the boat back in and continue with the plan. If we had to drop the mast for some reason, we would end the season.

How do I fix this?

I had just replaced this cable the in the spring, and it was fairly easy to do. The problem was I wanted to know how it failed and what can I do about it to keep it from happening again. This would be much easier to understand once we had done the repair.


I felt like we had a fairly good plan. I ordered the replacement cable through Catalina Direct. Three weeks later I called to ask them where my part was and I was informed that Covid-19 had caused a backlog and that they would get me the part as soon as possible. A week later it finally showed up.

Methods of raising keel with boat in the water —>

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.