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Old 03-05-2009, 19:42   #1
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Fin Keel vs. Full Keel

I have been looking for a boat to cruise the east coast, islands and gulf. I have cruised years back and every boat I owned was a full keeled boat plus an excellent sea boat. My question is how does a fin keel compare to a full keel? I believe the fin keel boat would take more of a pounding.
I can't afford a large boat so I have been looking for a 24 to 27 footer. I really like the old Bristols and Columbias. The Bristol a bit more. I am single and will sail the vessel single handed. ( I don't do well in crowds anyway) (PTSD) but with the economy the way it is and knowing that after this summer my freelance photojournalism and news photography work will most likely dry up, I will need to purchase this summer or most likely move under a bridge for my next home.
I can find plenty of deals on fin boats but not so much on full keel boats. Hell, if I could hit the lottery with enough money I buy a 150ft. Barquentine and hire a crew but that's not going to happen. Well back to question what advantage/disadvantage is there in fin keel
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Old 03-05-2009, 19:57   #2
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I personally prefer a modified fin keel with a skeg hung rudder, a compromise between a full length keel and a deep fin keel. Not sure if there is an official definition of modified fin but to me this means a keel that is longer than it is deep so draft is more reasonable and you get better directional stability than a narrow, deep fin. The skeg hung rudder aft also gives good control and facilitates manuevering in tight quarters.

In general you could expect a little better windward performance than a full length keel but not as close winded as a high lift, deep fin.
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Old 03-05-2009, 20:11   #3
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Most of the boats I've owned have been fin keel. The one I'm sailing now is a full keel boat, and she handles just as well as the fin keels. She is much more stable on a course but otherwise turns pretty tightly for her length. I get about a 45-50 foot turning circle if I go hard over under power. Of course with a fin keel and an outboard you can spin them in their own length but this is an inboard diesel. The only time I'll get a bit anxious is if I have to come about and the speed is low. She's a bit slower to come about but backing the jib pulls her round neatly. The other thing I notice is the higher force needed on the rudder but thats because its a huge unbalanced slab instead of a hydrodynamicly balanced spade.

One thing for sure, she will take the ground with minimal damage because of the full keel where a fin may start the keelbolts if you are moving fast enough.

BTW if you are interested shes up for sale. Heres the thread. http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...ale-25023.html

I just finished standing the mast yesterday and will be getting the sails on over the coming week. If your schedule allows some freedom to travel and you are inclined to have a look, email me. I'm off thurdays-saturdays and plan on getting a good bit of sailing in. The price now is down to about $10,200 USD.


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Old 04-05-2009, 08:52   #4
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This is a personal opinion, but at its simplest the fin keel is slightly better when moving, and the full keel is slightly better when sitting still.

The bigger problem is that keels aren't black and white, fin or full. A cutaway forefoot full keel might be deeper than wide, and turn on a dime, while a shallow draft fin with spade rudder and a centerboard could cover almost half the length or more of the hull. I'd think more about why you want one or the other, and find a boat that fits that no matter what people call the keel arrangement.

Some people think it's very important to have a boat which will stay upright when you go aground, will track well on an ocean passage, and that a full-keel is their best choice. Others want the more efficient, low ballast, more efficient shape for lift, and responsive turning, and that this is best found in a fin keel. Extremely shoal draft of a centerboard (or daggerboard) is most important for others.

My guess is you're going to be more limited by budget, so don't set your heart on any one hull feature. Look at a good general boat, and then what is important for how you plan on using it.
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Old 04-05-2009, 09:13   #5
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one thing is for sure: a full keel will never fall off your boat like a fin keel can. and a skeg hung rudder will not get ripped off or disabled.
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Old 04-05-2009, 09:18   #6
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No question. A full keel is best. If you'd asked about a full-keel v. a swing-keel, then we could discuss the pros & cons of shallow draft, but, for a given draft, full keel is best. They sail better, they go to windward better, they track better, they do better when run aground... I know I'm going to take a massive amount of flak on this, but I've sailed a variety of boats & that's what I've experienced. If you were going racing, it might be different, but, if you're looking for a cruiser, full-keel w/ a keel hung rudder is the way to go.

You might look at a Pearson Triton. Good, often inexpensive boats.
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Old 04-05-2009, 10:05   #7
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one thing is for sure: a full keel will never fall off your boat like a fin keel can. and a skeg hung rudder will not get ripped off or disabled.

There's a whole range of possibilities. The Cal 40 has an integral keel, it isn't going to fall off. Some of the younger generation would laugh at calling this a fin keel. The rudder shaft is 3.5" in diameter, thick walled tube. The only story I have heard of a post failure involved a chafed wire and electrolysis. I believe I saw a section in one of the recent Pardey books where they show pictures of a variety of attached rudders that you should avoid due to failure probability or maintenance problems.

There are sturdy fin keel spade rudder boats in existance. Statistically finding the exact right amount of damage in an accident to kill a sturdy fin keeler when a full keeler would survive seems unlikely.

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Old 04-05-2009, 10:13   #8
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The subject was previously discussed and debated at great length at Fin Keel? Long Keel? Jeff?
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Old 04-05-2009, 10:18   #9
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I personally prefer a modified fin keel with a skeg hung rudder, a compromise between a full length keel and a deep fin keel. Not sure if there is an official definition of modified fin but to me this means a keel that is longer than it is deep so draft is more reasonable and you get better directional stability than a narrow, deep fin. The skeg hung rudder aft also gives good control and facilitates manuevering in tight quarters.

In general you could expect a little better windward performance than a full length keel but not as close winded as a high lift, deep fin.
I agree with you, the modified fin keel with skeg hung rudder represents a great compromise for the Op's purpose. Only problem is, I am not aware of any boats in the OP's target size range that are so designed. Not a single one, although there are plenty with fins that are not very deep and almost as long as deep, so they would have the advantage of added directional stability, but I can't think af any with skeg hung rudders unless there is also a full keel.
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Old 04-05-2009, 11:16   #10
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Rayallyn, have you read The Coast of Summer: sailing New England Waters from Shelter Island to Cape Cod by Anthony Bailey. Its about a lengthy summer cruise aboard a T27. Check it out if you haven't already.
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Old 04-05-2009, 14:37   #11
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"I can find plenty of deals on fin boats but not so much on full keel boats. "
I suspect that's because most of the small craft produced in the last 40 years have been fin keel. Possibly because that's what the market wants, possibly that's because the makers think it is a better way to build boats.
I think the fin keel gives better performance in the sense of more lift from the keel, so there's better upwind pointing ability. And more stability, more weight lower down. And more nimble turning. Stability and seakeeping take some tradeoff for the faster boat speed and other properties.
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Old 04-05-2009, 15:35   #12
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The flat forefoot, narrow-chord fin keel, and balanced spade rudder of modern production boats looks awful to me -- flimsy, unstable, dangerous. That being said, the best-sailing boat I have ever had the privilege of being at the helm of was a Beneteau 431 which I chartered once, with exactly that awful-looking configuration. It was beautifully balanced, positively flew upwind, didn't pound even in very rough conditions -- in short, it was gorgeous. In comparison, the modified full keel boat back home (a Pearson 365) was a real tub.

The huge disadvantage, the probably fatal disadvantage of full keel boats is wetted surface, which increases drag, slows the boat down, thus increasing leeway (same sideways moment at a lower speed equals more leeway). Getting rid of that wetted surface lets you fly on less sail area -- allowing you to track truer and covering a multitude of other sins.

When it came time to choose a new boat, I chose one with a bulb keel, a deep canoe body, and a skeg-hung rudder. It just looks right. But this is an irrational feeling, which may not turn out to be right objectively. I am probably being superstitious. Experience shows that that delicate spade rudder probably works better, as horrifyingly vulnerable as it looks.
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Old 04-05-2009, 15:45   #13
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For coastal cruising as you allude to, "Fin would be fine". Bigger question might be if you like to tuck into the small shallow gunkholes etc, then draft is the bigger issue... and then you might want to think about if you want the security of a full keel to rest on if grounded. Also, for single handed, a full keel most often tracks a lot better and takes less attention at the helm, rending a much more pleasant experience. I see you are in the Northeast, how about a Cape Dory or something like that. Then again, as you say, the fin keels are out there "a dime a dozen"
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Old 04-05-2009, 19:09   #14
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A lot of great replies

I guess there are good points to both but being old school and not having sailed in 15 years I find myself drawn to old classic styles. I am really in love with the old 28 foot Triton's. I my younger days I sailed a Dragon Class sloop from Stonington CT to Martique 1974 with a British Seagull for an auxiliary but now at 59 I would like a bit more comfort and better storage for my cameras and equipment. Also back then I was pretty messed up suffering from PTSD and the negative attitude against Vietnam Vets.

I am finding now that prices have started to go up as summer approaches on boats. The same boat I could get for say $4000.00 a month ago is now 1500.00 to 2000.00 more. I am thinking maybe wait until fall to buy. Also because I haven't sailed in so long I just signed up to take a Keel Boat and Coastal Cruising ASA certification course with the American Sailing Academy in New London CT. Then I can join the Lakes Region Power Squadron as several members have sailboats and get a feel of the different keel types. Also I need to get some Agent Orange Disability rechecked through the VA and this will take a few months. But, with some of the problems that are starting to develop I really want to get out cruising while I still can. Kinda seems like you find yourself between a rock and a hard place without and blasting powder.

Anyway, thanks for all the input.
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Old 04-05-2009, 19:25   #15
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Have you looked at outisland. 27 by morgan? I try to sail downwind if I can at all help it. That's where full keel shines and fin can be real workout trying to hold course.
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