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Old 21-08-2011, 10:24   #1
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Swing Keel vs Fixed

Looking for my first sailboat. I'm doing basic recon now & will start physically looking in 2-3 weeks.

What are the pros & cons of a swing keel vs a fixed keel?

The boat will be dry docked at a local lake & sailed 95% of the time in said lake (Lake Pleasant, Phx, AZ).

The swing keel sounds pretty cool. I'm concerned with leaking & maintenance specific to a swing keel.

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Old 21-08-2011, 10:57   #2
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Re: Swing vs Fixed

The centerboard, or swing keel has a small base keel stub, with a dagger than rotates downward.
When the water is deep, you stick the centerboard down. When shoal, you sail centerboard up.
The main drawback is maintenance with the centerboard. As with any moving part, problems arise. The centerboard has to be maintained, as well as operated.
They're often a little noisy.

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Old 21-08-2011, 12:21   #3
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Re: Swing vs Fixed

My Jaguar has a swing keel, hinged above the slight keel and raised by a wire winch.
The wire and winch requires routine maintenance at each lift out as when it fails the keel swings down and strikes the 'soft' fibre glass. That will probably sink the boat.
However it leaves a keel (when up) some some nine inches below the hull. When down it works well for a race/day sail boat.
Maintenance should match well with hull anti-fouling but does require that the keel can be lowered and supported while on the hard. That's not a trailer situation unless you have nice service pit in your garage.
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Old 21-08-2011, 14:03   #4
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Re: Swing Keel vs Fixed

Have to presume you're considering a small keelboat of 20–24 feet in length.

If your boat is to be craned in and out (lifted by straps to the water and then back to its cradle), a fixed keel will offer a bit better performance. If you must launch the boat from a ramp with a trailer, the swing-keel is the lone practical hull configuration of the two. Check with the yard to find out how boats are launched/recovered, then you'll know.
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Old 21-08-2011, 15:54   #5
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Re: Swing Keel vs Fixed

The problem with swing keels, vs center board boats, is all the ballast is in that big swinging plate with a swing keel. In a knockdown, the board can swing back up and the boat will no longer have positive stability. The could leave you with the mast pointing down and the part of your boat that should never see the sun blinded by the light. Multiple deaths from a swing keeler that turned turtle in San Diego Bay last year.

Center board boats have smallish keel and a largely unweighted board. The board does not act as ballast. When it's down, it adds additional resistance to sideways motion for better windward performance.

Keel boats come in all sorts of configuations and keel depths. Racing boats will have a deeper, shorter keel. More cruising oriented boats will tend to have shallower, longer keels. The deeper the keel, the more resistance to healing and better able to stand up to more sail area in stronger winds. A blessing for the racer, not so much so for the cruiser.

What really will determine what you need is the launch ramps in your area. If they get deep quickly, full keel boats are easy to launch with an extendable tongue or even a rope to get the boat and trailer into deeper water. If the launch ramps are shallow, you'll be forced to go with a shallow draft fixed keel, centerboarder, or swing keel. That is if there are no lifts in your area. Most of the Yacht clubs on the Alameda Estuary have simple permanent cranes for launching keel boats up to around 30' length and 6' plus draft. The boats are built with a lift ring so it's just a matter of hooking to the crane, hoisting the boat out, and swingine it onto it's trailer. BTW, by crane, I'm talking about a simple inverted L shaped beam with a chain hoist, not some Bucyrus Erie behemoth.
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Old 22-08-2011, 18:49   #6
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Re: Swing Keel vs Fixed

A swing keel and a centerboard are two very different animals. A centerboard is an airfoil (or more accurately a "water foil") that doesn't weigh much. A swing keel has weight and adds ballast below the boat.
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Old 22-08-2011, 19:07   #7
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Re: Swing Keel vs Fixed

A swing keel or ballasted centerboard will be very nice for lake sailng. I have seen photos of large yachts overturned that simply floated upside down too.

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