How to Repair Your Swing Keel Cable

How-To - Code Flags

Harris Hickman was kind enough to share his experiences in repairing/replacing the swing keel cable on his 1977 C-26 "Carpe Diem". While the writeup and photos demonstrate the process for a C-26, owners of the other Chrysler cruising boats (C-20 & C-22) can use this process as well.

Swing Keel Cable Repair Process

The following procedure and helpful comments are presented as a fellow sailor sharing experiences and lessons learned. The focus here is not trying to re-invent the process but to fix the problem and Get Back To Sailing!!

  1. If you are in shallow water and you need to brace up the keel to get moving before you haul out, then this first step might help you out. Drop a line (I used a 1/2", 35' length) forward of the bow and bring it aft till it catches the downward extended swing keel just above the bottom foot of the keel. The keel will be extended about 5' below the bottom of the keel housing, bottom dead center of the boat. Wrap the line around the port and starboard sheet winches. Using the winch handle, alternate between winches and bring up the keel enough to make headway out of the slip or dock. Be careful, as the line may slip off the end and the keel will drop again! I had to force the keel up at least 2' to get out of a 4' draft channel. See the picture "Starting Line Position".

  2. Haul the boat out at a marina by whatever method you normally use (fork lift, trailer with jacks, or a strap lift, like the one that did mine). See the picture "Lifting". Note the lines on the side still holding the keel. You will want to relieve as much strain on that free-swinging keel PIN as possible. If it were to give way, the keel would make a nice open water anchorage!!!

  3. The boat needs to be as high as possible in order to work on the stainless steel keel cable. Have the boat placed on jack stands, or you could just do the job faster now that you have instructions and leave the boat in the swing for an hour or so. See the picture "On Jacks".

  4. I was able to unscrew the shackle pin that attaches the cable to the keel and remove it without a problem. The old shackle was in good shape and is now my spare. The failure of my cable can be seen in the picture, "Old Shackle". The cable broke at the swage connection. I replaced the shackle (D type, 3" long by 3/4" opening) and had a new cable and swage crimps done at E & B Marine. I didn't need a bolt cutter or a swaging tool. My new cable is 9 1/2' (half foot longer than the one I removed just in case I screwed up) of 3/16 stainless steel, also from E & B Marine. I cleaned up my old shackle and had a spare keel cable made up for the future. I don't really see this as a yearly event!

  5. This picture, "Inside keel trunk" clearly shows the head of the keel (top of the picture), and the cable hole and inside of the keel truck area. In some e-mail messages I saw on the Chrysler Newsgroup, someone suggested cutting the top off of the keel trunk housing from under the table area for inspection purposes. If you did this, then the picture here would have you looking into the cabin area. I didn't have to go that far, but I can see how the process would work.

  6. The picture "New Cable" shows the new keel cable and shackle connection. Oh, if that shine could only last! Notice how long the stainless steel cable connection is. This will later prove to be too long and contact the bottom of the hole opening, not allowing the keel to be brought up high enough.

  7. The picture "Keel Cable Valve" shows the thru connection for the cable as it comes up under the table rear board. I replaced the stainless steel clamps, hose (1' of 3/4" clear tubing), and the top end splash stopper. This whole area looks real rugged but it does not leak; as it's normally covered by the end (aft) table board, and normally has nice carpet all around. Here, I followed the old axiom, "if it ain't broke don't fix it." Replacing the carpet will be my next project.

  8. The picture "Winch" shows the keel cable winch, as you might have guessed. I replaced the two screws and captive nuts on the side used to hold the end of the stainless steel cable. It was easy to do. Plan on lubing the complete cable and winch with boat trailer lube before putting the table back together. This seems like a good idea and I don't know why not. Working with the winch was the dirty part. This is the point I decided to justify the new carpet. Notice the white splash stopper at the top of the 3/4" clear garden hose. I found a perfect rubber stopper for this at Ace Hardware store in the bathroom section. I made the center hole just a little bigger and the cable came right through the center. I don't really think water gets that high above the valve, but it does provide some splash protection.

  9. Inspect the stainless steel keel pin as much as possible. The picture "Stainless Steel Pin Location" shows the steel housing in the forward section of the keel trunk that has all the stress of the keel. Plates are divided and held on by three bolts each side. I didn't want to mess around here unless I had to. With the proper jack support to hold 1830 lbs, I might be forced to work on it...if I had to!

  10. With the cable repaired, keel inspected, some scraping and clean-up of the hull, lubing of the cable, and a two-coat free-board wax job, "Carpe Diem" is Ready To Go.

Summary and Lessons Learned


Stainless Steel 3/16" Cable, 9'
Shackle, D-Type
E & B Marine Labor
Nuts & Screws, Winch
Haul Out
$5.00/ft x 26' = $130.00
Pressure Wash Job
$1.25/ft x 26' = $32.50
Two Days Lay-Up
$20.00/day x 2 = $40.00


No project would be complete without covering safety. The keel weighs ~1830 lbs. Don't do stupid things here. Watch your eyes when pulling the loose cable around the winch. Working on your boat extended up off the keel on jack stands requires watchful consideration.

Final Note

This is one way to replace a broken keel cable. I'm sure there are other methods that work just as well.

Now it's time to do what this boat was designed to do ... SAIL!

Many thanks to Harris Hickman for taking the time to write this "how to" tutorial and take these photos! Harris sails "Carpe Diem" on the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida. If you would like to ask him any questions about this process, send an e-mail message to

This page last updated on Saturday, October 16, 1999.