Small-Boat Refit: Practical Sailor’s Catalina 22 Gets a Keel Overhaul

An overview of the cost and labor involved.

The Swing Keel’s Pivot Pin


One of the most common problem areas on older boats is where water and metal meet. Bury that metal in poorly sealed fiberglass, or combine various types of metals, and the chance for trouble usually increases. Warnings signs include weeping rust stains or bulging fiberglass where the metal components are hidden.

While swing keels prove extremely versatile, their metal components can present a pervasive structural trouble spot on old boats. Some common swing keel problems include:

1. Fouled trunk prevents keel from dropping or raising.

2. The lifting cable fails.

3. The lifting cable jumps a sheave and jams.

4. Keel wobble is caused by excessive wear at the centerboard pin.

As illustrated in the photos above and on the adjacent page, the Catalina 22’s swing keel pivots on a 1-inch diameter pin that sits in two bronze castings. Each casting bolts into two stainless-steel weldments that are glassed into the hull. The installation eliminates any through-hull penetrations that might sink the boat, but the weldments are susceptible to crevice corrosion. Typically, the bolts seize in the weldments and shear off when someone tries to remove them. This is what happened with Jelly, a 1974 Catalina that Practical Sailor is restoring.

The photos (facing page) of repair work on Jelly’s swing keel, illustrate the sort of time, skill, and expense required for this type of project. Practical Sailor did consider eliminating any glassed-in metal, but ultimately decided to stick with the original design and then carry out routine inspection and preventative maintenance.

Assistance came from the Catalina 22 National Sailing Owners Association (, aftermarket parts supplier Catalina Direct ( and fellow Catalina 22 owners like Chip Ford ( boatbuilder Robert Helmich and his crew handled the fiberglass work.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here