In my opinion, the pin is better off stuck inside the keel hole either accidentally or intentionally. Mine was that way when I bought Summer Dance and I’ve left it that way, even through a complete refinishing project. It appeared as though the previous owner epoxied it in, which I’ve heard of other owners doing.
Rotate Not, Rust Not
Think about it. It doesn’t make sense that the keel needs to rotate on the pin and the pin to also rotate within the hanger brackets. Only one connection needs to rotate. Which would you rather have wear out, your keel or the hanger brackets?
The iron keel is harder than brass but when it rusts (turns to iron oxide), it softens. The brass pin will grind off the rust continuously, resulting in significant loss of keel metal. Pins have been known to wear completely through the edge of the keel until the keel fell off the pin, snapped the cable, and went to the bottom.
To make matters worse, galvanic corrosion accelerates the destruction of the iron where it contacts brass in the presence of an electrolyte — water, especially salt water. If you look up brass and iron in a chart of metallic electrical potentials, you’ll see that iron is more active (anodic) than the less active brass (cathodic). The anode is the material that corrodes. The less active metal attracts electrons from the more active. That means that in a galvanic corrosion battle between brass and iron, iron will always lose, literally. However, iron oxide (rust) is a poor conductor, so once a rust barrier forms between the brass and iron, galvanic corrosion dramatically slows or stops, leaving the pin stuck solidly in the keel.
It’s a similar battle between stainless steel (fasteners) and aluminum (mast, boom, cast fittings, etc.) except that it’s more fierce because the two metals are farther apart electrically than brass and iron. The aluminum always loses in the form of aluminum oxide, the white powder you see if you manage to get the fastener out of the aluminum. That’s why you should always, always use a corrosion inhibitor on stainless steel fasteners in aluminum.
If the pin is loose in the keel, replacing the pin eventually means repairing the elongated and edge-worn hole in the keel. That’s typically a job for a machine shop and an expensive one. Some owners just have the hole refilled with steel, leave the pin loose, and start over again only to do it again someday (or the next owner). Some owners have a stainless steel bushing welded in place. I’m not sure there is much benefit to that but I haven’t had experience with it either.
If the pin is left loose after the repair, the hole through the iron will begin rusting almost immediately (less so with a stainless steel sleeve), even out of water. That means the keel is not sealed watertight and the barrier coat around the hole will begin to fail rapidly and rust will begin to take over the whole keel. Your careful and expensive refinish job will be short-lived.
With the pin affixed in the hole, the hole doesn’t wear at all and doesn’t become a problem. During refinishing, you can apply the epoxy seal, barrier coat, and bottom paint layers over the keel/pin joint to waterproof them and keep your keel 100% sealed, as I did.
That assumes you do the same at the winch cable eye bolt and you don’t drill a hole into the side of the keel to attach a sacrificial anode (another hole for water to intrude and for which there are alternatives).
Lead Brass Out
If your pin is epoxied in place, you’ll be hard-pressed to remove it even with a big sledge hammer and a punch. I’ve seen pin ends mushroomed badly from owners trying to drive them out. If you can’t get it out but are determined, you can try to drill the pin out or make the trip to the machine shop for them to press the pin out.
I’ve also seen pins heat-seized into place. That’s where the machine shop super heats the keel around the hole to get it to expand, then they insert a pin machined to very close tolerances and let the keel contract onto the pin as it cools. Good luck getting that one out!
If you lower your keel and discover the pin is stuck in the hole, I recommend you leave the pin as-is and move on. Taking the pin out gains you nothing and could wind up costing you a lot. Leaving it in costs you nothing and gains you a tighter working, more maintainable keel. Speaking of maintenance, make sure you don’t have bigger problems to deal with like these Five swing keel maintenance blunders and how to prevent them.
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