Modifications to my 1973 Ensenada 20


The most effective change I made was to re-shape the keel. The boats vary, as they were made by many different manufacturers, but my keel was cast with a very pointy leading edge, which made it prone to stalling & wouldn't let the boat point. I did this nearly 20 years ago, & I didn't take any pictures at the time, but another owner did pretty much the same as I did - its on a great webpage at From the photos, the front of his keel looks rounder than mine was, but getting the keel out is the hard part. Once my keel was out, I just took my regular old 7 1/4" circular saw (for lumber), put in an abrasive metal cutting wheel, and made a straight cut, slicing about 3/4" off of the leading edge. The iron is soft & cuts quickly. Next, I used an angle grinder to give it a nice parabolic shape. I just worked by eye & shaped it like the front of an airplane wing. After de-rusting & a good couple of coats of epoxy paint, the keel went back in. Its like a totally different boat!

Other mods

I find a vang crucial - without it, when you sheet in to stop the top of the main from luffing, the lower part is hopelessly oversheeted. This causes weather helm, which slows the boat & puts her on her ear, not to mention rounding up out of control in a fresh breeze. Plus, if you've rigged a backstay (recommended) the vang keeps the boom from hitting the backstay on a jibe. An eyestrap at each rail & a snaphook on the vang lets me quickly set up the vang as a preventer on long downwind legs.

I modified that gimmicky "pop-top"" years ago to a slide hatch - this left room for a conventional vang.

I've put the mainsheet on a cross-cockpit traveler. The boat came with a Crosby (triangular) rig for the mainsheet. Its OK except for a fresh breeze. The original rig can make it hard to dump the main in a gust, which leads to round-ups. The traveler lets me sheet to windward in light air (don't pull the boom above centerline, just use a loose sheet to let it have some twist.) In a breeze, I can de-power by letting the traveler downhill. The mainsheet is always right at my fingertips when I'm at the helm, its easy to steer and keep the helm balanced with the mainsheet at the same time.

I also built a removable box around my keel winch to keep off the salt spray. The winch is a brake model made for lifting. I used one designed for a Catalina 22 for years before rust got the better of it. I got a much cheaper alternative at Harborfreight .com - Only $35 about 2 years ago & it works great. This is a MUST for safety - the conventional trailer winch is dangerous and can spin out of control if you let go of the handle while lowering. It doesn't show in the photo, but I got rid of the through-bolt that the keel wire rides over - lots of friction & a terrible design. Instead, I cut away the front of the tube that carries the cable & the top of the keel trunk where it meets the tube. I then epoxied in a stainless rod, this gave a foundation to lay over about 12 layers of fiberglass, forming a larger pathway so the cable could go forward without hitting anything. I then bolted an upright block (pulley) to the bulkhead under the keel winch to turn the cable.

I made a plate from 3/16" aluminum & put it under my mast step to shackle turning blocks to so I could run some lines back to the cockpit. From left, the lines are the jib halyard, spinnaker pole lift, and cunningham. (The original roller reefing system does not work. I fixed the gooseneck in place, and use a regular jiffy (slab) reefing system with 2 points.) The cunningham adjusts the tension in the mainsail luff.

At the boom end you can see the 2 cheek blocks, on a track, for the jiffy reef system. You can also see the outhaul, which runs inside the boom to a 6-to-1 purchase. You can run an external purchase for the outhaul as well, anything is better than the factory system, which is just a line from the clew of the sail to the end of the boom and can't be adjusted while underway.

A Forespar tiller lock box on each side of the cockpit, aling with a tiller extension gives an extra hand for short-handed sailing.

Its a little hard to see here, but the boat is set up for self steering under a sheet-to-tiller rig. A line is tied to a rolling hitch to one leg of the mainsheet tackle, run to a block on the windward rail (I use the spinnaker sheet block, previously installed) and over to the tiller. A bungee cord on the other side of the tiller balances the setup.

On the port side of the cockpit, I made a compartment, open to the cockpit, to house the fuel tank for the outboard motor. I covered it with black Sunbrella canvas. The compartment is made from plywood coated with West System epoxy.

I have a 12-to-1 cascading rig to tension the backstay. Don't bother, just use a turnbuckle. The mast is too stiff too make an adjustable backstay useful.


Charybdis, at her mooring (Northport, NY)