Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: New Orleans
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Re: Winged keel
Like everything about a boat, a wing keel is a trade-off. You draw less water, but the conventional wisdom is that you don't point as high, and may heel a bit more in the same wind. I have a Catalina 320 with a wing keel, and I can attest that she doesn't point like the racers do. But I've never sailed the fin keel version of the C320, so I don't know if I've lost that much from the wing keel. One thing that is pretty unambiguous is that most wing keels are heavier than the equivalent fin keel, to keep the righting moment similar with a shorter keel. So sailing the wing keel is like bringing a couple extra friends aboard for every sail.
The real issue is how thin is the water where you sail, and what kind of sailing do you plan to do. I do my racing on a friend's boat that draws 7'6", and will out-point mine by a healthy margin. On the other hand, some days we can barely get my friend's boat out of the marina. I knew I wasn't likely to race my boat, and would be doing a lot of my sailing single-handed, with no crew to swing out on the boom to heel the boat and reduce draft. So the wing keel wasn't much of a sacrifice. And the all the water you sail in doesn't have to be shallow before you get a benefit -- just the shallowest spot you might have to cross.
On the other hand, if you plan to race, or if you sail mostly in deep water, and don't venture in the shallows, the shallower draft of the wing keel isn't much of a benefit, and the loss of pointing ability may bother you more. In that case, you'd probably be happier with a fin keel.
Basically, you choose which way you want to compromise, and then hope it works out. Either way, if what you're complaining about your is your sailboat, you're already doing pretty well.