fixed keel or retractable keel? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 21 Old 10-18-2011 Thread Starter
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fixed keel or retractable keel?

Good afternoon - and thanks for the warm welcome to your forum.

I have a background in power boats and am currently transitioning from a 27 foot powered Cabin Cruiser to a sailing vessel. Our long term (8-10 years) plans are to live aboard. But for the short term goals, we are shopping for our first "larger" sail boat. Our crusing plans for this short term timeframe include spending a week or two at a time 'on board' in the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver Island, San Juan Islands) a month long trip from Florida across to the Caribbean and back, weekends on board on Flathead Lake (Montana).

So, our requirements are:
- trailerable
- a good 'learning' boat.
- able to live on board at least "sorta comfortably" for a week or two,
- able to handle coastal waters and some offshore - but not necessarily "passage making".

In looking at boats, we've ran across a number that seem suitable (San Juan 25, Catalina 24, MacGregor 25, etc.).

It seems like a fundamental choice that we confront is that of keel design. I really like the convenience of a retractable keel, but seems like the fixed keel looks a lot stronger/heavier/better for potential heavy weather. Obviously the retractable keel would be easier to launch and trailer, but am I giving up something for that convenience.

I sure would appreciate some insight, or suggestions, or considerations.


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post #2 of 21 Old 10-18-2011
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A trailerable 25 footer will meet most of your requirements. Certainly suitable for a week or two in some comfort in protected waters. A shoal keel, or keel/centerboard or swing keel would make launching and retrieval from most ramps easier. But no way I would take a boat like that offshore. Not even across to the Bahamas from Florida. Once you have some experience, if such adventures are still on the horizon, then sell and buy something suitable.
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post #3 of 21 Old 10-19-2011
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Buy the boat you want for here...charter out of Florida.
Watch that the beam doesn't exceed 8' or you may be considered a wideload by the state.
Pick up a copy of "The Complete Trailer Sailer"...all the pros and cons of your questions are addressed.

A boat as large as you are talking may be a PITA to deal with at the ramp...I have a Cal21 with a "swing keel" it's great at the boat launch with it's simple mast stepping and rigging...but you won't be spending more than a weekend out...and not in the lap of luxury.
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post #4 of 21 Old 10-19-2011
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Actually you get 8.5' these days for width before the SP will get you.

A swing keel would be best for ease of trailering, launching etc.

Not sure what the SJ 25 is, but there was one a bit bigger than a 24 that had a swing keel that was a slug sailing. Reality is, any 20-25' trailerable boat will work in the SJ's etc here in the NW.


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I drives me dinghy!
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post #5 of 21 Old 10-19-2011
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There are lots of Macgregors up in that area. I suspect a Macgregor 26m or 26x would be right up your alley.

There nothing you can trailer that is even close in abilities or price.

People take these to the Bahamas all the time.

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post #6 of 21 Old 10-19-2011
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i have a py 26 that suits me fine ,it has a shoul draft keel,2200 lbs iron keel but still quiet shallow draft,its a little heavy to trailor but still possible,its a bit wide [9.5.ft] but i've never been bothered by the dot or highway patrol,they are good study boats and theres still a few of them around
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post #7 of 21 Old 10-19-2011
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me too

Hey !! I am a liveaboard in Kalispell Montana. Spent this past summer in the Big Arm marina, (Sail Inn). I used to anchor out in Somers bay, but decided to try the marina life, which was great. Send me a PM and I 'll send you back my phone number, and maybe I can help you out on the Flathead Lake sailing scene. My time has all been on this lake, and I too would like to get down to to
the Gulf and and Keys. But, if you have to be land locked....this is the place !.

Hard and fast
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post #8 of 21 Old 10-19-2011
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A month to sail from Florida to the Caribbean and back? If by "Caribbean" you actually mean the Bahamas, then that's doable. If you mean down to the USVI, or further south, then you need a bit of a wake-up call. Put "thorny path" into google and read about why it is that they call that the "thorny path."
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post #9 of 21 Old 10-19-2011 Thread Starter
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thanks for the feedback and suggestions everyone. yep, I meant Bahamas - sorry for the "mistake".

This sailnet forum is wonderful. I managed to spend a big chunk of the afternoon yesterday browsing other threads. I have been very active in a a Motor Vessel forum (over on the 'dark side') for the last few years and found the help, insights, and friendships found to be wonderful. Looks like much of the same here too.

Again, thank you for your thoughts.

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post #10 of 21 Old 10-19-2011
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If you come to sailing from a power boat background, you may not understand that trailering a sail boat and trailering a power boat are very different.

When you arrive at the marina with a powerboat you basically splash the boat, start the engine, motor away and you're done. With a sailboat you have to put the rig up, sails on, and get the thing off the trailer. It's much more time consuming and difficult than a power boat. And, as the boat gets bigger, it get MUCH more difficult because the mast gets longer and heavier, the rigging gets heavier, and the draft gets deeper.

Also, while it can be done, not too many people are going to be happy spending two weeks on board a small, trailerable, sailboat. Boats that size (usually 25' or less) don't typically have standing headroom or a decent galley or head.

Personally, If I were going to spend a week or longer aboard a boat, I would want something at least 27' long and getting to 30' would make it a lot more comfortable.

A little personal history: I started sailing in 2003 with a trailerable Catalina 22. My family was (and still is) my wife and three kids. Back then the kids were 9, 6, and 2. The Catalina was great for day sails for a few hours. However, even after we got good at it, it still took an hour to get the boat in the water and another hour to get the boat out of the water. And the last thing I really felt like doing after spending a day on the water was spending an hour taking everything apart and loading the boat on the trailer. Of course the kids were tired and cranky and trailer sailing was really a drag.

The next year we put the boat on a mooring and that was much easier and a lot more fun. Now it was about 15 minutes from arrival at the mooring to being under sail. Of course I got hooked on sailing and wanted to spend weekends aboard. The Catalina was too small for that, so I bought a Newport 28.

The Newport was a proper 'big boat' with inboard diesel, hot and cold running water, real marine head with shower, decent galley with stove and oven (turns out they didn't work, but a camp stove sufficed), and comfortable berths for all five of us.

The weekends we spent aboard were great, but the Newport didn't have enough storage room for gear and supplies, especially when we were in 'sleep mode' and could not use the quarter berth or V berth for storage. So i went shopping again and bought an O'day 35, which has been great.

So, in summary, if you really plan on spending weeks or longer aboard, think long and hard about the size of boat you want. And if you plan on only spending a few nights aboard, think, really think, about if trailering is for you.

Good luck,

Barry Lenoble
Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY

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