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post #1 of 17 Old 03-26-2008 Thread Starter
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Questions about altering keel, motor size . . .?

Hi. I've been lurking here a while, and on other sites, trying to pick up information. I'm a total novice, and would like some educated opinions on my maybe-crazy idea. I know that others have done this, but detailed information is sketchy.

I'm pushing 58 and will retire hopefully in 6-8 years. I live in upstate NY in the Finger Lakes area and would like to spend time, when I retire, cruising the NYS Barge Canal system. I cannot spend a lot of money on my project boat, but here is what I've come up with. I was going to buy a used pontoon boat and convert it into a simple, very spartan houseboat. A guy at another website suggested buying an old sailboat because it would already have berths, sink, stove, head, etc., remove the mast and just motor it. The speed limit on the canal is only 10 mph in most places anyway, and I'm not trying to get anywhere fast, just relax and have fun. So far, the sailboat option seems the way to go. I'm thinking somewhere in the 22-26 foot range, enough for at least a couple to travel on. Most of the time there would likely be a motel and/or restaurant available at night as an option, so it's not like we'd be stuck on the boat for days on end.

Now for the technical questions, mostly concerning the keel. I've read up on the various kinds of keels, centerboards, etc., but am not sure what is the best thing to do. I of course want a shallow draft, but what keel should I lean towards, assuming I would have to radically alter it in one way or another? If I get a shoal draft boat, should I just leave the keel alone, remove the mast and be on my merry way?

Also, I've read a little about "hull speed," but am not sure how one would determine the correct sized motor and correct prop to get. I want to get maximum speed at the best fuel ecomomy.

The boat will never see wave action beyond what the Finger Lakes might offer, maybe 2 feet or so, and it would have to be trailerable.

Any advice, tips, tricks, things to watch out for will be greatly appreciated!
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post #2 of 17 Old 03-26-2008
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Intresting way of thinking - demasting a sailboat and plug up the deck. I would try to get a fishing boat at 20 +' they tend to have berths in the bow and a small galley. I did not like being in the bow of these boats; however if you have no intention of sailing, I would like the ability to motor faster than 7kn. You wont always be on the waterways and take up drinking so you throttle hand is always occupied. By the way, I have read something about McGregor 26s which have a hell of a motor in them. Perhapse someone else can jump in on them.

Good Luck
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post #3 of 17 Old 03-26-2008
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Braun,

I think that's a great idea. However, strictly speaking, this is not a sailing question, so you might get better info on another forum where folks have done this. That said:

What is the controlling depth of the NYS barge system? This is one of the most important data points before we can help you. My vague recollection is that typical mid-size sailboats can transit it, so I would expect a controlling depth perhaps upwards of 5 feet. If this is the case -even if it were as little as 3-4 feet -- you would have LOTS of options in your size range and there really should not be any need to modify a keel.

If you chose a design that incorporated an unballasted centerboard, you COULD easily get rid of the centerboard and do away with the complications/maintenance/liability. Beyond that, I would not want to get involved too much in "radically altering" the keel design. Find a design that will work more or less as is -- there are plenty out there. Longer full keels are probably the most likely candidates.

As for propulsion, I would urge you to find a design with a diesel inboard engine. Even a small diesel engine will push a sailboat to hull speed. Given that you'd be relying on the engine 100% of the time, you might want to budget for a newer/slightly larger engine that would be fully reliable, rated for continuous duty, and maybe better able to handle contrary currents and headwinds. Still, you will always be limited to displacement hull speed (approximately 4/3 x square root of LWL) no matter how much power you give it. So don't expect planing power boat speeds. Proper prop size is determined by the size/weight boat and the engine/transmission combination. The engine manufacturer will help you with that choice.

Good luck to you, sounds like great fun!


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post #4 of 17 Old 03-26-2008
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Look at a used MacGregor series...the mast can be just left off - and some models can take a 50 - 90 hp engine or easily get 10 knots on a 9-15 hp motor.... since you will not be sailing it... a VERY cheap option to do what you want....just store the mast - and when it comes time to resale - its a sailboat...

You can pick one up new for around 25K and used around 7K and up to 18K depending on yr....

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post #5 of 17 Old 03-27-2008
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An excellent boat for you would be the S2 7.9 S2 7.9 Class web page

The 7.9 is 26 feet, draws less than 2 feet with the dagger boaqrd up, is very well made and sails like a dream, and looks good even now, over 20 years after her introduction. The boat is designed to be trailerable, so I expect dropping/raising the mast can be easily handled. Yet it's tough enought to coastal sail anywhere. If I needed a trailerable boat, I would consider nothing else.

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post #6 of 17 Old 03-27-2008
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post #7 of 17 Old 03-27-2008
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There is one issue with "motoring" a un-rigged sailboat that will be problematic.

A well designed sailboat has an easy motion that is the combination of the righting moment of the ballast countered by the mass and inertia of the rig. When you remove the rig the boat has a very snappy motion that can be quite uncomfortable. Anyone who has motored their boat any distance with the mast down in a seaway will have experienced this.

So from that perspective removing some ballast might make some sense for the OPs purposes. Perhaps a better plan, though, would be to find a shoal draft boat that was inherently tender and underballasted to begin with (a keel/CB with the board removed would make sense too)

Another poster's suggestion of a fishboat design also has merit, I think. The larger engine that would come with that would make for better cruising - though many sailboats will probably have more accomodation. However recycled fishboats can be very seaworthy vessels at reasonable prices.

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post #8 of 17 Old 03-27-2008
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IMHO, he'd be better off getting a small pocket trawler. There's one down at my marina that uses a 50 HP honda four-stroke outboard, and they go all over the place in it. It's about 24-25' LOA.

One reason I'd recommend against using a sailboat and removing the rig, is many sailboats are far narrower and have smaller accommodations than a comparable size trawler, which will carry its beam further forward and aft generally.

The point about how uncomfortable the motion can be once the rig is removed is also quite valid.

Also, any sailboat that was a centerboard version is going to have the centerboard trunk taking up a big chunk of the interior.

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post #9 of 17 Old 03-27-2008
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Granted the removal of the mast would make the boat's motion quicker, I doubt it'd ever be that bad. More likely, it'd be more stable with the improved lower center of gravity, and no snappier than any other regular powerboat. I've seen several non-masted sailboats post-Katrina. They seem to be motoring fine. Since you'd be motoring, a centerboarder would be great. Keep the board up, maybe even seal it shut for better long-term water-proofing. 10-15hp outboard would be great. It's external, so every bit of internal space can be used for storage. My boat has an internal diesel, and I'm quite happy with that arrangement, but looking at the space it occupies, that's like a closet, and the only negative to the whole setup.
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post #10 of 17 Old 03-27-2008
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I see references to wider trawlers. Remember, it must be trailerable, so that pretty much limits beam to 8-10 feet without special permits.
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