The Swing Keel

The Concept

Bill Lapworth made a point of design boats that in his mind were well mannered for the comfort of the people sailing them as well as decent performers when it came to sailing. He believed that some compromises were necessary to achieve both goals. In the Cal 21 his aim was to create a boat that both performed well and was inexpensive to own. What can be cheaper than keeping your boat in your own drive way. This of coarse meant the boat also had to be easily trailered by the average family car of the late 60's early 70's. The result, a swing keel (for trailering ) with ballast (for sailing ability/stability).

The 21 has a rather large sail plan for it's size and weight. Ballast at the end of the keel was needed to keep the boat on it's feet. The keel hole and slot were needed to get the keel to disappear for easy trailering and keeping the boat low on the trailer and making it easier to launch in shallow water. It was felt that shallow launch draft made it possible to launch from just about any ramp or even some beaches. When the keel was down and locked into position the 21 had the feeling of a fixed keel boat.

Now all that was needed was a way to fill the hole and slot to keep the cockpit dry and the bottom of the hull fair. So the cockpit sole cover and keel plug designed to complete the transformation. This is were the biggest compromise comes to bear. The keel is heavy so a winch system was but into use. Simple design, merely a boat trailer winch with a brace across the cockpit seats and a cable to hook onto the keel. A wood cover for the cockpit sole held down by shock cords to the keel plug. The keel plug was designed to wedge into the trailing edge of the locked keel, with the stern end bolted to the cockpit hole with a hinged board and a wing nut.

Over the years many Cal 21 owners tired of the plug and seemed to have stopped using them.or simply lost them. Most of the 21's found today are without there original keel plugs. Most have also lost there forked poles for attaching the winch cable, and many owners permanently attached the cable to the keel. and only use the sole cover.

The worst aspect of the ballasted swing keel is it ability to fall out of control and severely damage the keel slot, pivot and locking pin hole.

The core of the keel is steel and is prone to rusting. With the age of all Cal 21's now, all owners should check this at least once to determine it's condition. Unfortunately this involves dropping the keel from it's slot. Not too difficult if planned out and care is taken to handle it's weight.

To truly experience the full ability's of the Cal 21 the plug, locking pin and removing the cable when sailing is a must.

The Keel Plug

Here are pictures of Rod and Gordon's original Cal 21 keel plug, with a modification of their own.

Now the original keel plug only works if you can still remove the keel cable after lowering the keel.

If you have permanently attached the cable, you are really slowing the boat down by the drag of the cable.

Not to mention how much more weed you will snag if you sail in weedy waters as we did with Ruta Bagas.

Gordon and Rod replaced the forward shock cord with a threaded rod that goes through the sole plate and secures with a wing nut.

Here is the drawing Gordon did of the dimensions of the plug.


An Alternative Plug

Here is a drawing of Eric Jon's own version of a keel plug. It's designed to be easier to install especially for those who trailer there boat and launch every time they go sailing. in Eric's words;

"After building the original plug I was disappointed to find two things, that the KP did not go all the way to the keel and it
didn't extend all the way up into the well.

The shorter plug with a longer leading edge extending all the way up into the well seemed like a better idea to me.


Anatomy of the Keel Pivot

Here are a couple of pictures of Clay Runshe's repair of the keel pivot bushing on "Tropical"

In the first picture we see the replacement pivot fitting and the old rusted one. (Good reason to check the bushing when buying any used Cal 21)

Below: Clay has cut away some of the keel to weld the new pivot to the steel strut that runs the length of the keel.

Thanks for the pics Clay!

The Inside Story

Here is a drawing the the construction of the keel.

Thanks to Eric for the drawing.