Originally Posted by Curious Sailor
With all of the different types of keels available, I'm curious as to which are the most popular.... What type of keel do you prefer and why?
Generally I don't think it matters much. Most boats are designed with some intent and the keel is part of the overall intent.
If you are looking for truly bullet-proof boat that could take you into arctic waters then a full keel. The rudder will be very protected from ice strikes by the keel which is part of the intent.
If you want to go fast then a very deep keel with a T-bulb. This minimizes keel weight, optimizes keel efficiency upwind and minimizes wetted surface area.
If you want to go where the water
gets thin a lot then you want a centerboard
, swing-keel or lifting keel or a boat that is specifically designed from minimum draft
All of these sacrifice some other desirable characteristic(s) to achieve the specific intent. Full keels generally sacrifice some pointing ability but also generally gain better tracking so steering
is easier.. T-bulb boats have a comparatively narrow "groove" which takes significantly more skill and experience and effort to keep the boat sailing in. T-bulbs are more prone to collecting seaweed where is is prevalent and are more structurally complex. Centerboard
and shoal draft boats generally need more ballast to maintain stability and shoal draft boat generally sacrifice some upwind performance. Centerboard, swing-keel and lifting keel boats add mechanical complexity to the boat which requires some consideration when sailing plus some additional maintenance
For myself I prefer moderate keels, the Cal
boats (25, 27, 28, 29, 34, 36, 40, 48) are good exemplars of what I like. My current boat (a Cal
20) has a bulb which probably collects more weeds than other wise but by compensation the boat is very stiff. The original intent of the boat was to be an affordable entry level boat for folks and the keel design was part of that.