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 Below The Waterline (AKA Turning Ball Replacement)

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
RPLieser Posted - 10/17/2020 : 13:29:35
After the Forum server data loss earlier in October, our Commodore, Russ Johnson asked me to re-post my turning ball article as an original article:

Catalina 250WB – Below the Waterline

My 1997 C250WB has been a great boat. Approximately 18 of its 23 years have been in fresh water, three years trailer sailing to harbors from San Diego to Morro Bay, California, and the last two have been in a brackish, shallow water slip in Morro Bay’s back bay. With proper upkeep, #312 remains in excellent condition, and until Spring of 2019, had all of its original keel lifting hardware.

Backing out of my slip at a fairly low tide, the partially raised keel snagged the bottom and quickly popped the 22-year-old stainless steel keel lifting pennant. I continued to sail whilst I researched current technical solutions.

My go-to was Catalina Direct (CD), wherein I purchased their item #E2031 Keel Lifting Pennant Retrofit Assembly, constructed to Catalina Yachts specifications. With assistance of a local diver, the new, Vectran cable was installed, but not without several issues, which I’ll get into below.

Subsequently, I had a diver replace the cable and attachments twice more with various suggested solutions until I finally decided to take on all of the lifting keel underpinnings. This was an obvious requirement as the strength required to lift the keel was much greater than the original - now winching, and one could feel a bit of grating which was worrisome.

I’d had the boat out of the water two years prior for barrier epoxy and antifouling paint. At that time, I’d performed a cursory inspection, but obviously had missed the subtle beginnings of hardware failure.

Having replaced the turning ball on my previous C22 while on the trailer, which required only a little imagination, I began the search for the C250 solution. I found a local crane operator with a variety of slings and he offered to lift it in his construction yard, but missing was the platform to stabilize the vessel. Eventually, I trailered the boat to a port about an hour South of me and set the boat on proper stands for a period of 12 days, replacing all of the hardware and freshening up the antifoul paint, among a host of other small projects. I call this my bi-annual “Charlie Status”, a term I adopted from my time as skipper of U.S. Coast Guard Motor Life Boats. “Charlie” referring to the boat being inoperative and unavailable for service.

I pre-ordered all of the keel lifting hardware from three vendors, Catalina Direct, and West Marine, and Amazon:
• Keel Lifting Pennant Block Assembly, CD #E2137
• Centerboard Turning Ball Conversion Kit, CD #E2146
• Keel Lifting Pennant, West Marine of South Carolina. I had two Vectran pennants made up to fit the attachment hardware previously purchased from CD, and one stainless steel cable with my original clevis hardware fabricated, thus saving shipping costs as well as providing me with two pennant options, and spares
• Keel Cable Hose, CD #E1840
• Keel Lifting Pennant Turning Block, CD #E2083
• Keel Lifting Pennant Attachment Fitting (less the Vectran), CD #E2049
• Delrin ½” diameter, 6’ long, for fabricating replacement bushings, Amazon

Reviewing the images, you'll note the keel block assembly was in bad shape, the block was missing portions of the wheel sides, and one of the screws was loose due to a non-level hull mounting surface, which in turn caused the elongation the bolt hole on the block. I installed the new one, a very well manufactured component, with Locktite on the bolts and 3M5200 on the base to provide a level mount.

The turning ball had become chipped and was deteriorating. I cut the s/s turning ball pin on the port side with a single-sided hacksaw frame, being VERY careful not to damage the fiberglass tube. I will say this is hard work and used both ends of three hacksaw blades as only the tip gets used - buy the best you can find... it's worth it! After cutting one side, I was able to gently pry the assembly out of the tube as the starboard side pin hole was a little sloppy, and the remaining piece fell out.

I've a few comments on the CD replacement turning ball conversion kit:
• I realize it is built to Catalina Yachts specs, but it could have been 1/16" wider, or added a s/s sleeve for the tube... a bit of a loose fit within the fiberglass tube.
• It could have been about 1/2" longer. It must be installed with the south end protruding out of the tube to align the pennant, but that leaves one drilling the upper pin hole at a tough angle - with direct interference from the rear of the bottom step housing. Note in the image that I used a bit of 3M5200 to fill in around the pin.
• I like the idea of the added upper ball to ease the pull, but the pennant doesn't pull true due to the offset location of the single, upper block. Note my added Harken mini-block image to help align the pennant... time will tell if this is helpful.

As mentioned above, I initially went with the full CD #E2031 replacement kit with the pennant, hardware and new single block, built to Catalina Yachts specs, but I had three serious problems:
• The Vectran is attached to the new stainless hardware with a bowline and rubber boot... and while it looks nice upon delivery, the bowline came undone... slippery stuff.
• The 1/4" x 20 thread s/s bolt goes through a s/s bushing - 1/2" OD. Note in my image of four different bushings. The nearly totally eaten away CD s/s bushing was in the salt water 3 months, the next CD s/s bushing was in the water only 1 month, the third bushing is a brand new CD unit, and the fourth I made from Delrin... and this is a cool story.

I had decided the bushings from CD were inferior metal, probably something like #304 or worse, not #316 s/s, as the remainder of the s/s components in the kit were like new after months in the water, and also, the supplied bushing fails the magnet test. Not able to source a #316 bushing, I contacted Catalina Yachts and asked to speak with a C250 engineer. I ended up having a nice discussion with Gerry Douglass. He agreed that the bushing is likely manufactured for CD, but with an inferior metal. My thought to Gerry was to use a non-metallic replacement like nylon or something similar. He concurred, but directed me to Delrin, a very tough, strong, nylon-like material. I sourced a 6' stick of 1/2" diameter from Amazon, drilled a 1/4" hole in the center and cut it to 5/16” width, using just my drill press as a lathe and Viola! I now have a Delrin bushing.
• Additionally, the attachment point of the new Keel Lifting Attachment Fitting to the keel is now by design, a 1/4" clevis pin, where the original clevis pin was 5/16", and the keel hole is 3/8”. I believe this to be a sloppy fit and I'm concerned that the wear/load surface is minimized with this "upgrade"- which seems evident in the images. So, having over five feet of Delrin in hand, I fabricated another bushing with a 3/8" outside diameter and a 1/4" inside diameter to provide a better long-term fit.

I chatted with West Marine riggers in South Carolina, and long-story-short, I've got a couple of pennants with beautiful ½” eye splices, detailed whipping at both ends, and the bitter end dipped in some sort of epoxy or glue. I’ve mated the new pennant with the CD Keel Lifting Attachment Fitting and my Delrin bushing, and added Locktite to the ¼” bolt. I went with a 14' length of bulk Vectran, which leaves about 13' after the splice, and a nice amount to work with to secure it to the 6:1 block behind the steps. The Vectran itself seems a better grade than the CD version, and so far, the halyard hitch is holding well. Note my use of Rubbaweld on the clevis to ease chaffing.

All this said, I'll have to see how all of this works out in my boat. I am in brackish salt water, keel up when docked, in a shallow marina in Morro Bay, CA.

C250WB 312 Knot My Fault II

Old & New Keel Pennant blocks

Installed the new CDE2137 Lifting Block Assembly

Catalina Yachts: Replacement Sheave Assembly

Turning ball pivot pin was sloppy in the pipe on the stbd side and pretty well used up

Single Frame Hacksaw

Removed turning ball after cutting one side with hack saw not a trivial task

Replacement Turning Ball CD# 2146) test fitting with a ball at each end

New Turning Ball installed. Note the 3M5200 to fill in around the pin. Had to drill the tube at an angle which made the hole a bit elongated, hence the 3M5200.

Bottom View of Turning Ball test fit

New Turning Ball with New Pennant Inserted

We`ll see how this works out but I`ve always noted the Pennant never lines up in the fiberglass tube, so I put a small Harken block in to guide it to center... time will tell if it helps

Catalina Yachts: Centerboard Lifting Tackle

Secured the Pennant to the 6:1 lifting block with a Halyard hitch and several half hitches (unseen)

Beautifully spliced pennant by West Marine

Lifting Assembly 4 Bushings from L to R: CD bushing 3 months in the water, CD 1 month, CD new, my Derlin bushing

Modeled the Lifting Pennant with Lifting assembly, spacer and Vectran

Keel attachment point with new Delrin bushing

Catalina Yachts: Attachment Fitting LIfting Line to Centerboard

Tidy West Marine pennant with eyesplice attached to keel

Patrick Lieser
Knot My Fault II
C250WB #312
Morro Bay, CA
11   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
doublereefed Posted - 04/09/2021 : 13:10:54
Patrick, I am finally going to fix the turning ball. I had to read every page in the archives to work up the motivation! Your writeup and photos are SO VERY HELPFUL. Thank you! A question though... is it possible that the rod/bar across the lower turning ball is a keeper of sorts? If the line was reeved under that bar would it keep the line on the ball better? I don't have the parts in hand yet, so it may become obvious once I see them.

zeil Posted - 03/25/2021 : 11:40:06

Thank you Patrick for submitting your excellent article to the Mainsheet magazine.

It makes for great reference material as published in Vol 39, No 1 Spring 2021 pages 40-43

wm36 Posted - 01/10/2021 : 17:09:44
I am interested also. PM sent.
RPLieser Posted - 01/10/2021 : 09:46:02
Message me with your preferred email address.
doublereefed Posted - 01/09/2021 : 22:13:31
Any way to get access to all of those photos?
doublereefed Posted - 01/09/2021 : 22:11:05
Perfect article for my task at hand. Thank you.
RPLieser Posted - 12/21/2020 : 21:14:06
Wayne & Lynn,
Yours is a good question. While not my primary occupation, I am very technically orientated and enjoy the challenge.

Having said that, I found the job more challenging physically, as well as for my level of patience. I'm 6'4" and working in small spaces is often a fair piece of the challenge.

You'll want the boat set fairly high with the keel mostly down, on a very sturdy platform.

I would say that if you take it slow, studying/understanding all of the connecting points before beginning you will be OK... and you can always post questions as you proceed and myself and others that have taken on all or part of this repair, should be able to help a bit.

The benefit to you as the boat owner is that once completed, you will be able to fully visualize all components functioning as you raise/lower the keel.

Best of luck...
Commodore Posted - 12/21/2020 : 20:33:38

Thank you for sending me your article.
It has been submitted to Mainsheet quarterly magazine.
It will be printed and mailed in Feb.

Thanks, Russ
zeil Posted - 12/21/2020 : 18:02:56

Patric & Russ

Would it be a good idea to have this valuable article published in the Tech section as well?

wm36 Posted - 12/21/2020 : 17:26:36
I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate this article. I think this needs to be one of my winter projects this year.

My mechanical skills are only average at best. Assuming I can find a repair yard that rents a sling for do-it-yourselfers (haven't found one yet in the area), is it reasonable to think I could probably do this myself? My boat is on the trailer for the winter so it's not something that would be done in the water.
Commodore Posted - 10/18/2020 : 11:50:01
Thanks Patrick,

When you first posted this project, I thought it would be a good Mainsheet article.
It's a good thing you kept a copy.

Thanks for re-posting.

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