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Old 08-11-2007, 11:04   #1
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Long keel or Fin

We are currently looking for a suitable 30-40 foot sailboat for livaboard /bluewater cruising.
Right here's the million dollar question, do we look at a good steady seaworthy but slower long keel or a fin keel which will hopefully sail faster and get us away from any approaching bad weather.
I appreacate we will at some time get caught in bad weather and as such needs to be taken into account .
We have no plans to do any racing in the near future.
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Old 08-11-2007, 11:10   #2
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Aloha Lookwide,
Your speed will be a function of your waterline it doesn't matter fin or long keel. Acceleration will be better in a light fin keeler. Your ability to point to weather will be aided by a deep fin keel. Long keels are for comfort and for keeping you on course when sailing downwind.
More later.
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Old 08-11-2007, 11:22   #3
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As a former long keel owner, may I vouch for the seakeeping ability . . 3.5 days in a force 9-10 with 2 knockdowns. Now in a fin keeler with spade rudder, but steel, and no immediate ocean crossing plans. Personally, for long term I'd choose long keeler like a Tradewind or Hans Christian, or a compromise like a Crealock. If you choose fin and spade, choose a strong one - you can't always outrun the weather - remember Fastnet '79 . . . good luck!
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Old 08-11-2007, 11:43   #4
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Speed is not the reason to go for a long keel over fin keel boat. Long keel boats aren't necessarily slow. Because of wetted surface they are slower in light air, however. We're talking the difference of going 40nm or 50nm in a day in force 2 winds. Neither days run will be much consolation if a hurricane is bearing down on you. Fortunately, winds from a hurricane stretch hundreds of miles from the eye so you should have plenty of wind for any boat if you know which direction to sail.

Directional stability is not the exclusive province of full keel boats. The long lateral run makes them inherently more directionally stable but a fin keel boat with good balanced lines can also be a solid handling boat.

The big advantage of a long keel boat is the strength of the whole system. With the rudder connected directly to the keel, it's immensely stronger than a spade rudder even if it's hung off a skeg. Not something to sneeze at given the stresses of long passages and the almost certain possibility of grounding. With everything below the water line 'of a piece', nothing short of destruction of the hull will cause the loss of the keel. Something I'm not so sure of with fin keel boats and I'm totally scared by the 'modern' very short keeled boats.

Long keel boats also will usually shrug off crab/lobster pot buoy lines, maybe that inadvertant dangling sheet, and anything else lurking to grab hold of your keel, prop shaft, or rudder.

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Old 08-11-2007, 12:02   #5
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By now there have been many seaman like voyages with both types of keel in almost any weather imaginable, but I tend toward the longish keel philosophy because I eventually seem to gravitate toward thin water… My Irwin (a 42) wasn’t a fin keel or a full, but there was enough keel it could sit on it without falling over on its nose – actually used to do that on purpose from time to time… Current boat is more of the full keel, but haven’t got her in the mud yet, so we’ll see… I tend to lean toward a keel long enough to support the boat in the mud…
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:10   #6
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Aloha Again Lookwide,
As Roverhi said you'll not be outrunning a storm no matter which keel you have and I think a long keel is more suited for heavy weather work. Rudder strength is a major consideration.
Some might argue that if you want to outrun a storm then sometimes a Cat or Tri might be able to get you to port more quickly if it isn't weighted down with too much cruising gear.
Good luck on your decision.
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JohnL
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:11   #7
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I go 100% for the full keel for the exact reason stated, protection of the rudder. Sailboats aren't too useful without a functioning rudder and as I plan, ha ha , on running aground more than once, for me it's a no brainer... It helps that most, if not all, full keel sailboats tend to be the be better looking!..
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:18   #8
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One more factor to take into consideration:
Long keels also mean more wetted surface area per amount of volume...meaning slower given all the other factors are equal. This applies to any speed.
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:31   #9
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For the last 22 years I've owned a variety of sailboats ranging in size from 10 to 30 feet - most of them decent boats. My current boat is the first full keel - and I am sold! I'm sure the actual design, ballast, rigging, etc has a lot to do with it, but this handles seas unlike any of my other boats. A little squirrelly downwind - but that's about all I can say bad about it. This is our 'filler' boat as we search for our live-aboard/cruiser - but it has convinced me of the validity of a full keeled cruising sailboat.
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Old 09-11-2007, 04:19   #10
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The only reason I now have a fin keel boat is that I didn't want to spend any more money and I didn't want to take on an older boat again and be always spending more to keep it in good order.

I think the speed advantage is far more to do with the displacement than the type of keel and the downside is lack of comfort and lightness of fittings.

The latest mass produced boats are incredible value for money, but that is the main reason for buying them.
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Old 09-11-2007, 10:46   #11
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Speed is *sort of* a factor

The long keel *tends* (but not always) toward more wetted surface. This does not affect the speed of a displacement sailing boat; the waterline length will determine this no matter what the displacement or wetted surface may be. However, both of those will determine how much force is required to reach that speed, so (as SkiprJohn said) they affect the accelleration which in turn affects the net speed (or VMG - velocity made good.) To give an easier example, both a semi-tractor and a crotch rocket might be limited to driving 55 mph, but the crotch rocket will get to that speed faster so if there are lots of stops and starts it will finish the course first.

The choice between full-keel and fin-keel is not real: there are fin keels which excel at the cruiser's desires (easy tracking, sea-kindliness, strength, etc.) and full keels which are terrible at the same. But there are some general trends in favour of one or the other depending on what you really want to do with the boat. One thing I've never heard said of a fin keel is the benefit of additional stowage in the bilge.

Both fin and full keels can be deep or shoal, with deep usually meaning the boat is more stiff (can handle more sail area for a given wind, so often faster/more weatherly) while shoal meaning you can find more anchorages and have less rode off the bow (less work, and often safer anchorages.) The shape of the keel can affect its effectiveness, with bulbs/plates making it more effective both at sailing to windward and at anchoring the boat when you run aground.

Compromises, such as the "Brewer Bite" and some of Crealock's designs, combine some of the strengths and weaknesses of each. In general they're probably better than either for someone looking for better speed/maneuverability while retaining stability/seakindliness/strength - that is the essence of a compromise.
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Old 09-11-2007, 11:16   #12
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Amgine brings up a good point on the fin vs long keel. My old long keel boat had a lot of space under the cabin sole and even a couple of tanks. It was deep and if there was water there it just kind of sloshed around a little bit. That design also provided lots of headroom below.
My fin keeler although much larger has a flat bilge and the bottom is about 10" below the cabin sole. If there is water there it moves from side to side climbing into side lockers if there is drainage to the bilge (which there has to be). Also my 42 foot boat has 6'1" headroom below because of low freeboard, cabin top height and shallowness of the bilge.
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Old 09-11-2007, 12:30   #13
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On item not mentioned is the ability to careen a full keel boat. I would feel better in a full keel boat than any of the modern boats. And all the world is not the US although things are changing.

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Old 09-11-2007, 13:15   #14
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careen, oh!!! you mean run aground. I will never run aground again. From now on, I'm just careening the boat.

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Old 09-11-2007, 13:33   #15
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I started sailing keel boats with a Cal 27 (fin keel). It was a great boat.
Maneuvering in the marina and docking were extremely simple. It drove very much like a car in the still waters of the marinas of San Diego.
It sailed beautifully.
Single handing was sometimes a trial because as soon as you released the tiller to go to the mast or the foredeck she fell off or headed up. Lashing the tiller didn't buy you much time to leave the cockpit.
Motion at sea was sometimes a bit uncomfortable.

I moved to Connecticut and started sailing again in a Bristol 30 (cut away full keel) on the Long Island Sound. We now sail a Cheoy Lee Ludders 36 (cut away full keel) on the sound.
Maneuvering in close quarters is not nearly so nimble with the full keel vessels as in the fin keel. It takes a bit more planning. Its more like driving a Suburban than a car. Backing up with the full keel is an adventure. We gave up our slip in the nicest marina we ever saw because they required us to back into our slip, and when the current was running strong getting in the slip backwards with the full keel was a nightmare. (We are on a mooring now and love it.)
Motion at sea is far less unpleasant with the full keel vessels and I don't feel seasick nearly as often as I did with the fin keel.
We stayed with the cut away full keel when we moved to a larger vessel, so I guess we prefer it overall. But I don't think keel form would be the yardstick by which we measure any future vessel. If we found a Valiant 40 in great shape for a super price the fin keel and skeg hung rudder wouldn't deter us at all.

John
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