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Old 05-07-2003
JohnDrake JohnDrake is offline
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why keel bolts?

As one poster wrote, there is no one right answer. I did want to add the other point of view since this thread seems to go against encapsulated ballast and seems to indicate that cruising sailors would tend to avoid them. In my reading, research and experience, quite the oposite is true.

There is no doubt that if you buy a poorly built boat, bang it up on rocks or coral bad things will happen to the keel. There are encapsulated ballast boats built where the glass layout is done poorly, the ballast is low grade iron or even cement and it is not properly encased in the keel. However, there are many very well known well designed and well built boats, that use lead as the ballast, where this is not the case at all.

One quick note about bolt on keel boats. No matter what the built quality, keel bolts will stretch over time and need to be adjusted. Obviously, this cannot go on forever and at some point they will fail. In addition. Any water in the bilge will, over time, will facilitate any rusting.

But to the point about grounding: bolt on keel boats have been known to have the keel break through the underbody of the boat and cause catastrophic sinkings. This is documented in the case of a Beneteau and I personally was at the scene of a near sinking when this very thing occured in a Catalina 27 that hit the soft mud bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Had it not been less than 1 mile from a harbor, this boat would be on the bottom (it was apparently picked up by a swell and planted squarely on the bottom, causing a break at the keel stub).

Many cruising sailors seek encapsulated ballast boats specifically because they feel they are safer in a grounding, less risk and less maintenance. By and large these boats are either full keel or modified full keel and thus have a more shallow draft. That in and of itself lowers the probability of hitting something. Most well built encapsulated ballast boats, when grounded, need no work (because of the heavy glass layup). If they do need work...it is generally only some epoxy, which is available worldwide. If an encapsulated ballast boat goes hard aground and does punch a hole in the keel, she will still be able to sail, as there is a fully closed off canoe body above the keel. Later she can be lifted, dried completely and epoxy slathered in there. Not much of a problem.

As noted above, there are many poorly designed and poorly built encapsulated keel boats. There are also many very good ones: Hinckley, Cabo Rico, Gozzard, Alden, Bristol, Little Harbor, Wauquiez Hood 38 (my boat), Hans Christian to name a few.

The question is really not encapsulated ballast or bolt on keel. If you want a performance boat or a race boat, you will buy a bolt on keel boat. If you want to cruise, or want a shallow draft boat an encapsulated ballast boat will be a consideration...and at that point the question will be built quality and condition.

Just another point of view.

My best to all

John
S/V Invictus
Hood 38


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