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Old 10-05-2008, 09:12   #1
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Full-Keel Maneuverablity

A friend and I have narrowed our boat list to a handful of boats. One of our finalists is a full-keel boat. I'd rather not get into a discussion of why we've chosen this model-suffice it to say that we have.

Having never sailed a full-keel boat, does anyone have any advice they can offer on how we can expect it to handle? (sea trial is coming up) I understand that they don't turn as quickly and that they don't reverse as easily. We are concerned primarily because the boat will be headed to the Med. Will we look like buffoons in those pretty European marinas?

As usual, any advice is appreciated.

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Old 10-05-2008, 10:27   #2
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Originally Posted by tardog View Post
does anyone have any advice they can offer on how we can expect it to handle... Will we look like buffoons in those pretty European marinas?
There aren’t too many full keel boats around in recreational boats, so I imagine you’re referring to the more modern (since WWII) version that has a more or less keel with a cutaway forefoot – or perhaps a slightly cutaway aft, something like the so-called Brewer-bight… The other major descriptor might be whether there is an attached or detached rudder…

The prevailing full keel with attached rudder will be noticeably more sluggish on the helm at very low speeds, compared to a fin-keeler, but folks have been docking these for decades so clearly it is not prohibitively so… If your “full-keel” option has the detached rudder, the mere fact the rudder is farther aft will provide a tad more leverage, and conceivably rudder response… Overall, wiser minds may have a better opinion, but I think that although they do handle differently (full versus fin) I’m not sure that qualitatively there is much of big deal…

Never have spent much time on a fin-keeler, but have sailed the more full keel with both attached and detached rudders… they back just fine, although can behave a bit like a single-screw power-boat, so it pays to plan one’s moves and know which way the boat tends to back and how much… but for docking purposes, I’d not be a whole lot concerned one way or the other… other factors, like how you expect her to handle underway, ability to handle light/heavy air, etc., etc… probably should weigh proportionately far more…

My $.02 -- take it for what it’s worth…

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Old 10-05-2008, 10:40   #3
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I suspect that tardog is primarily concerned with the boat's (and his) ability to Med Moor. I just read a fairly good article at about Med Mooring that might help tardog a bit. I've never Med Moored with my boat (full w/cutaway fore) but know the process and am very aware of how my boat handles in reverse. The two most important aspects are boat speed (to maintain steerage in reverse) and playing out your anchor chain/rode. Full keeled (and variants) have been doing this for over a hundred years - I would suggest you practice in a remote place before creating entertainment for the onlookers at the dock.
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Old 10-05-2008, 12:18   #4
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Mine is a full keel (no cutaway) with an attached rudder. After some practice, I've found that I can make it do whatever I need to do, Med mooring included. There are some "tricks of the trade" that you will pick up on.

Of course, you'd need to have some practice with a fin keeler to figure out how to drive it, too.
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Old 10-05-2008, 15:12   #5
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I say to newbies to go to a remote bay with no one around and practice using the mooring float as a reference. Practice and practice to learn how your boat acts and reacts. Each and everyone is different. And it is not just because of the keel. Other influences like engine power/prop size. Angle of prop shaft. Rudder design and size. Steering. Wind. The list goes on and on.
If anything a larger keel will be a little more forgiving. Small keels and flat bottoms give little sideways support in cross winds. A full keel just gives you that fraction more time.
No boat backs down well when you are trying to turn at the same time. A large keel is no exception and in fact a little worse. But that can be used to a big advantage. When you want to turn in a tight spot, keep the helm turned in the direction you want to go if you were moving forward. Leave it there. Now shift from fwd and rev with the gears to control speed. When you apply rev, the boat will not turn easily. When you select fwd, the boat will turn much easier. So select fwd and get the boat turning, select rev and check the fwd motion. The boat will slowly turn on it's own centre and within it's own length. Depending on prop walk, it will do this one way better than the other. So practice to see which is better. That prop walk can be an advantage once you get to know how to use it. Using a dock line to spring yourself off or on to a dock using the prop walk can be a real asset. Wrong side, and it can be a complete curse, so you have to do things differently.
Another thing to learn is the distance it takes to stop the boat. You need forward motion to control direction, so you need to enter a birth with reasonable speed, but you need to know when to apply reverse and how much engine RPM and so on.
The reason a boat does not back and turn well, is that the turning effort is created by water moving over the rudder, which is a wing. So you have to have sufficient water speed in reverse to have it apply enough force to turn the boat. If you do get enough speed, the forces on the rudder are huge and you can cause damage. The wing is in reverse, so it is not efficient and the effort against the rudder is huge and applied in a way the rudder is not designed to take. When in forward, the rudder now has the water from the prop washing over it. It is the prop wash that acts on the rudder that turns the boat when the boat is not moving forward to generate it's on effort. So hence the boat will turn in forward gear and not in reverse. So practice where no one is watching and learn all the traits of your boat.

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Old 10-05-2008, 18:14   #6
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A full keel boat is generally an older design that can sail well and be safe. They are a little heavier and slower than other designs because of their weight and wetted surface. As an older design they may also be a little narrower beam than other designs with less hull stability so by comparison they may seem tender. They don't turn as quick as other designs but as a result have good directional stability and hold course very well. They don't back very well but have that in common with lots of other boats in all different designs.

You may not have to worry about european marinas as much as you think because med mooring is very common. Thats where you drop your anchor and back up to a wall or into a whole mess of boats that are already there, where you put out fenders and tie up between two existing boats and your anchor. Backing with the anchor chain paying out generally makes your backing straighter.

Hope that helps.

Joe S

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