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  #1  
Old 08-22-2007
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Question Opinions on Keel Design

I have been looking at ~20 year old boats in the 34-38 foot range to cruise the East Coast (Boston to Ft Myers), and possibly Bermuda and back. I anticipate that I will run the ICW with the admiral aboard, and run outside as she gains more experience, and gets more comfortable.

One particular model that has captured my interest, a 36 footer, is available with either a fixed 6.5 foot draft fin keel, a 4.75 foot draft winged keel, or a centerboard version with a 4.2 foot draft when up, and a 8.2 foot draft when down. The centerboard trunk is completely below the cabin's sole.

I have not had any experience with a larger, centerboard equipped boat. My only experience with a centerboard was as a kid in a Sprite and Sunfish. I would like to get the SailNet communityís view on the advantages and drawbacks of the three options.

My take is that: the Fin keel would be the best overall performer, best stability, and most reliable (nothing to maintain, break, or get stuck if we were to run aground). However, running the ICW with 6+ foot draft is askiní for trouble.

The Winged keel would slide to leeward on a reach, yet, still offer the stability, and reliability of the Fin keel. The Winged keel should also be able to negotiate the ICW with itís < 5 foot draft. (Until recently, this was my favorite, but the prices of the boats with winged keels is about $30K more than the Fin keel )

The Centerboard should have comparable performance to the Fin. In addition, I would have the option to raise the centerboard, when running, to give perhaps another knot . When raised, the centerboard version should easily be able to negotiate the ICW. However, there is the issue of Centerboard maintenance . The pivot pin, the centerboard pennant, the winch for the centerboard, and the centerboard trunk all would be additional maintenance items, requiring at least annual inspection at haulout, cleaning (trunk, winch, pivot pin) and periodic replacement (pivot pin, and pennant).

Do any of you have thoughts or experience that can either support or refute, my thoughts above?

Thanks in advance!

Ed
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Old 08-22-2007
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I have 6.5' fin and almost no experience with wing keels. It does mean I can go in a few places, but the performance seems to offset that. Going aground in a wing is a hard to kedge off... as you can't heel the boat. But then again I haven't been aground in probably 18 years. And more recently with chart plotters in the cockpit, the likelihood is even less (assuming they are reasonably accurate).

And BTW a wing keel will go a bit deeper or hold the draft as you heel and a deep fin the draft is actually less... no?

I did anchor in Maine and wake up stuck and had to wait for the tide to float us. Dumb and not knowing the time of the tides.

All's well that ends well.

jef
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Old 08-22-2007
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Agree with SanderO. I've had wing, bulb and fin on two different boats. Have fin now and would only have fin for sailing and safety. I don't think I'd make the decision for keel based on motoring the ICW. Let's face it with a 6+ draft you can't go places a 4' draft can go. Just accept it. If you do run aground in ICW it's probably just mud - get towed off and go.
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Old 08-22-2007
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Thanks Jef, and Steve,

I have had the experience of running aground (in sand) with a winged keel. I actually found that heeling helped (slightly) by breaking the suction between the keel and the bottom.

Fortunately, we went aground on a sandbar on the side of a channel (I was not at the helm at the time), and we were motoring when we went aground. I got us out by having everyone aboard shift as much weight (bodies and anchors hanging from the boom) on the channel side of the boat, by backing hard, and cutting the wheel away from the sandbar. We essentially twisted off the sandbar.

This should not be a problem with a centerboard....

Ed
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Old 08-22-2007
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No experience with centerboards but on dinghys. Quite a bit on the other two.

I will just summarize on MY OPINION (educated opinion): Fins are flat out better performers and will point higher. I might argue they seem to be a bit less tender. If you ground it, they are easier to get off simply by heeling/listing the boat over.

Wings are a better choice for anyone considering islands, keys, and S florida (espeically Ft Myers since that was on your list). I have run aground with 5'4 draft there more times than I can count... once 5 times in 2 hours with my parents on board!!!! It is harder to get it off. If you hard ground it, it is REALLY hard to get off and you might as well fix a drink and wait for the tide. However, given equal caution and piloting, you will run aground much less and a few inches can be the difference between getting into secluded (and often safer storm anchorages) or weathering a blow at sea.

If you think of your water depth in feet, get a fin. If you think of your water depth in inches, get a wing.

- CD
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Old 08-22-2007
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I have a centerboard with a full keel. You hit just about all the points. The only thing I would add is, upwind peformance is not quite as good as a fixed fin keel. On the positive side you can adjust the centerboard to better balance the boat and reduce/eliminate weatherhelm. I can set up the boat to go for hours hard to wind without touching the wheel and not using my autopilot. You can probably get to this point with a fixed keel, but I bet the wind band in which you can get to this point is more limited because you have less adjustments you can make to balance the boat.

The maintenance issue is definitely a consideration, but in the 5.5 years I've had my boat which was built in 1980, the only issue I had was, one year I didn't have enough antifouling paint in the box and the barnicles grew to the point where the board was stuck in the up position. The PO of my didn't any issues with the board either. I can't remember how long he owned the boat but it was definitely more than a few years.

For me the centerboard was an easy decision, because of all the shoaling and low water in the area where I sail. The ease of mind knowing I have a couple extra feet of clearance makes for less stressful sailing.
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Old 08-22-2007
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If shallow draft is needed, I am a big fan of keel-centerboarders and really don't think much of wing keels in terms of performance and difficulty in getting them off when they run aground.

This has been a frequent topic on this forum. Out of curiousity, I have asked a bunch a tow boat skippers about their impression on this issue. Their rankings came back like this. Most of the towboat operators said that they ask the skipper to tell them what kind of keel they had. They said, far and away, most of the keels they hauled off were wing keels, which may reflect that these towboats are on the Chesapeake and wing keels are more popular here (probabably 50% or more of the boats here). Except for one (who said with engines he can pull anything out of anywhere), the rest of the towboat operators agreed that wing keels usually are harder to free than fin keels. They each said there are techniques that work better for freeing wing keels but then do not seem to agree on the technique. They also indicated that rudder damage was more likely with wing keels resulting in having to tow more in after they are freed.

I also asked about fin and full keels. They all also agreed that long and full length keels are harder to unstick than simple fins. Since keel/centerboard boats tend to have longer keels than fin keels, that would suggest that they may be harder to unstick as well. Most reputable manufacturers have moved away from wing keels, moving to bulb and Scheel keels instead.

As I said, I am a big fan of Keel/centerboard boats. Thier overall preformance is generally better than either a long keel or a wing keel, but not as good as a deep fin, especially with a bulb at the end. My experience with them is that they really are not significantly more maintenance than a fixed keel, even on a fairly large boat. That said they do require some attention.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 08-22-2007
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Thanks Guys,

Calypso; I am guessing that you have a Pearson 35, which has a full keel, and a centerboard. This is a great design, but is unlike the boat design that I am looking into. Have the pennant ever been replaced on your boat? How about the pivot pin?

The particular boat that I am interested in only offers a fin, wing, or fin/centerboard style keel. I suppose that the maintenance/reliability has me afraid of this design, but the more that I learn (I especially like Calypso's balancing act!) the more that the centerboard looks like a viable option.

Thanks for all the replies so far!

Ed
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Old 08-22-2007
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Centerboard

We owned an older 32 foot boat with a centerboard for five years. After a layup period we did have a problem lowering the board. When the boat was hauled, we had the marina drop the board, replace the pin, grind/epoxy/antifoul the board and reinstall. Even at marina labor prices, the whole job was only $1,000 and if you only have to do it every 20 years - it's not a big deal. New owner of the boat has not had any problems. It was cool to know you had so little hanging down in the shallow spots!
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Old 08-22-2007
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I don't know for sure, but I don't think the pennant nor the pivot pin have ever been replaced. The inventory of spare parts that the PO had on board did include a new cable, but I haven't seen the need to replace the existing one. Yes, Calypso is a Pearson P-35.

I'm not sure what you mean by fin/centerboard design. Is this a swing keel? Is all the balast in the centerboard?
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