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nogin 04-21-2010 08:48 AM

to Swing or Not to Swing ... keel that is
So I am in the hunt for my first sailboat. Looking in the 22 - 27' range. I am looking at Seafarer, O Day, Morgan, Kells, Catelina, Lugar and even found a cool Grampian (so ugly she's pretty!:laugher ). What are the pros and cons to the swing keel? I know obviously that having the swing keel will allow me to enter more shallow waters. I will be in the LI Sound and Easter Seaboard so shallow waters are very few and far between.



remetau 04-21-2010 08:54 AM

Our first keel boat was a 24’ Morgan with a swing keel. Unless I am going to be sailing in shallow waters, I don’t think I would ever want another one. For me, it is just another thing to maintain and another hole in the boat for water to enter. We had a bad experience where the cable that controlled the center board got a meat hook on it and jammed the stuffing in the box. Luckily we were at a dock that had haul-out capability, because as I was inspecting the box, it ripped in half. Since then, one stuffing box on a boat is enough for me, and I’d like to do without it.

Edit: Oops. I forgot that I two stuffing boxes on my current boat; one for the shaft and another for the rudder post.

kwaltersmi 04-21-2010 08:57 AM

My first boat was a swing keel (Helms 25) and I have mixed feelings. I loved the shallow draft and trailerability that the swing keel allowed. However, I didn't like the extra holes in the hull for the cable and pivot bolt. I also didn't care for the extra maintainence of the winch, cable, pivot bolt, centerboard/swing keel, etc.

Depending on the hull design, some swing-keelers won't point to windward nearly as well as a fin keeler. My boat was also (obviously) quite tender without the board down. However, when broad reaching or running you can bring the swing keel up and eliminate some wetted surface (drag) to gain a bit of speed.

Many swing keel boats also have kick-up rudders, which is something to be aware of.

I'm glad I experienced a swing keel design and had the chance to beach the boat, enjoy some gunkholes, etc. However, I probably won't ever own a swing keel boat again. I just prefer the stability of having a fixed keel.

nogin 04-21-2010 12:10 PM

If we were to compare a MacGregor V22 (swing) to a Seafarer 24 (fixed) and I have never sailed before, would there be a great difference in the stability of the way she sails on the H20? Hypothetically LI Sound from Mt. Sinai Harbor to Black rock, CT.

kwaltersmi 04-21-2010 01:27 PM

The Mac V22 and Seafarer 24 will sail very differently. The Seafarer has a long keel double the displacement of the Mac. I'm guessing the Mac will feel tender compared to the Seafarer, though I've never sailed either.

nogin 04-21-2010 01:30 PM

Thanks for the input. I was thinking along the same lines just due to the ballast size and overall keel.

CalebD 04-21-2010 02:45 PM

Our Tartan 27' has a cutaway full keel with a center board. Despite the added gear to maintain I really enjoy being able to change our draft from 6' to 3'6" by raising the center board. While most of LI Sound is not shallow there are plenty of spots around the edges that get quite thin. It also gets rocky along the CT coast.
Our center board has already found the bottom of the Hudson and as such is a backup depth sounder.

remetau 04-21-2010 02:51 PM


Originally Posted by CalebD (Post 595718)
Our center board has already found the bottom of the Hudson and as such is a backup depth sounder.

A good bottom locator huh?

BarryL 04-21-2010 03:03 PM


IMHO, for the Long Island Sound, the ONLY benefit of a swing keel is the ability to trailer the boat. If you don't plan on trailering the boat, then don't get a swing keel. Some boats, like Catalina, don't recommend the swing keep for salt water. The pivot mechanism requires maintenance, the pendant makes it hum, it bangs around, and is just a PITA if you don't need it.

If I were going to sail on the south shore, it would be a different story.

My first boat was a Catalina 22. Great beginner boat. I trailer sailed it for the first year (which was a drag) and put her on a mooring the second year. The swing keel made trailering OK.


MarioG 04-21-2010 03:31 PM

I have both a swing and fix keel the C-22 is great for lakes and if you ground just crank up the keel and sail on. great starter boat The C-26 is at the coast for cruising.

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