Originally Posted by Reefmagnet
Fin keels are more efficient and hence faster (all other factors equal) then full or 3/4 keels due to smaller wetted area. However, the big advantage of long keels is that the boat tracks truer. From your experience with long keelers, you will find the fin keeler "twitchy", with many unable to self steer for any appreciable amount of time without input to the wheel/tiller. The other major disadvantage is that the shape of the fin and rudder makes them more prone to snagging lines or other debris.
In our opinion the claims about long keels tracking truer and that fin keels are twitchy, or are unable to self steer, while often quoted, are basically myths.
The difference is that the fin keel/spade rudder boat will respond better to rudder input. All boats, fin keel or long, will be knocked off course by waves bigger than the boat but a fin keel/spade rudder boat will return to course quickly and easily. A long keel boat may have more problems doing that, and may require more helm
input, and may slew around more. With a keel-hung rudder the required helm
input may be hard to provide because those boats rarely have balanced rudders.
In our opinion the fin keel is better because boats with fin keels generally sail better and respond better to helm inputs. They are faster because the keel works better to resist lateral motion. As far as being unable to self steer, this is not generally true and is more a factor of how a balanced sail plan you have and availability of clear air around the wind vane
(how much structure you have added to the afterdeck.)
In our case (we have an 8ft draft fin keel and a spade rudder) the monitor self steering
works perfectly, we use it over 99% of the time while making passages, in big winds or small, upwind or down. Our electric autopilot
is rarely taken off standby unless we are motoring.
Ability to manuver in port, and manuver in reverse, are two more huge advantages. There are few things more terrifying than being caught in a tight marina on a windy day and being unable to turn the boat or drive out to open water
As to the issues about snagging lines or nets, I conceed that point, and it has happened to us, once in 38,000 miles. As to the ability to withstand groundings, I'd say that staying off the bricks is a good idea regardless of what keel you have. Grounding on a reef will require a haulout and repair on any boat. Getting off is sometimes easier on a fin keel boat.
Bottom line for us: We like sailing and we like to sail. Having a boat which feels good sailing, and sails
well, is the most important thing for us. We can't imagine having a boat which feels sluggish and can't perform and spending years not enjoying it just so we can hit reefs or sail over fishing
nets with impunity. And we like that we can get into or out of virtually any berth generally without yelling for help from everyone within earshot ashore.