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Old 24-11-2014, 17:46   #31
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

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Originally Posted by OceanSeaSpray View Post
Forget about senseless considerations about keel shape. It is the hull shape and proportions that decide how a boat goes through the water.
What really matters is sailing ability. As far as offshore sailing goes, the reality is that the average wind speed over the oceans is less than 15 knots. If your boat can't sail well in light winds, you will either be stuck rolling around in the swell or motoring - now doesn't this sound familiar?

One characteristics of long-keelers is very high wetted surface and it makes them stick to the water much more. On the other hand you can only carry so much sail area over so much deck length before starting to grow bowsprits and other cumbersome arrangements.
The ratio between sail area and wetted surface is very important for ocean cruising. A boat sailing gently is much more comfortable than one rolling around or motoring.
I owned a 30' Dufour Arpege for many years and crossed every ocean with it. It was outstanding in light winds and regularly beat much larger yachts on ocean passages, because it hardly ever stopped. It is not how fast you can go that matters, it is how slow you don't go.
My Arpege was comfortable most of the time, and when it wasn't other boats the same size wouldn't have been either if they had been sailing the same. If you don't like it, you can slow down or let fall off a little; slow heavy boats can't speed up or point higher when conditions are good.
Comfort goes up with size and motion is not everything. Small boats that are too heavy are awfully wet and the sea likes climbing aboard in bad weather.

The Arpege was an old racing boat with an early fin and bulb keel and fairly rounded sections. You can pick them up very cheap today. They sail great and can sail into unbelievable weather.

Today I sail a high-performance 43' alloy sloop and it is more comfortable again. It sails flatter, hardly pitches in the sea and I get much more mileage for the same effort or less. If I match the performance of a long-keeler or any other heavy cruiser, it is more comfortable because I am hardly straining anything while they are heeling hard and hanging on.
If I drive it upwind full speed in a rough sea, it can get a bit noisy occasionally, but it is dry. Sometimes I slow down just by pointing a bit higher again. I can do things they can't even dream of, as well as turning on a dime whenever needed.

The boat is one part of the story, how you sail it is the other - provided you can get it to go. Too many so-called cruising boats of all types today are shocking sailers regardless of keel configuration. Too heavy, too much drag, too much windage. If you really want to sail the distance, then get a boat that can sail for a start and don't mess it up.
Excellent post. Could not have said it better myself.
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Old 24-11-2014, 18:19   #32
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

Good post Oceanseaspray. Can you give some examples of these nice boats? I too would like to get a "Happy Medium" style boat good for all kinds of cruising.
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Old 25-11-2014, 06:53   #33
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

I've had an Alberg 35 for about six months and yes, backing is a strange and mysterious process. Right hand prop so the stern works to port. I've learned to use a floating spring, a shot of reverse, little burst of forward, more reverse, neutral...by that time she's turning and moving backward. As the bow clears the slip, tighten the spring, pull in a little, one more burst of reverse if necessary to straighten her out then a big burst of forward to push her straight, retrieve the spring and I'm off. I can do this single handed and it works most days. Shrug then there are the ones it doesn't and... well, we all have those. But honestly, it's a moment, and there are a lot MORE moments when she's sailing beautifully, the full keel tracking. Great boats.
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Old 25-11-2014, 14:18   #34
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

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Originally Posted by Magnawake View Post
Good post Oceanseaspray. Can you give some examples of these nice boats? I too would like to get a "Happy Medium" style boat good for all kinds of cruising.
Thanks. There are lots of views and opinions about boats, but I would keep away from anything that doesn't offer an actual working sail area (not nominal triangles etc) that is at least 2.5 times the wetted surface. It is easier to achieve with somewhat rounded hull shapes than flatter ones. My old Arpege had SA/WS = 3.

Ideally, I would say a modern hull shape with SA/WS >= 2.5 and reasonably flat-bottomed at midships, because they sail at lesser angles and remain much more balanced at the helm when heeling. No pinched aft sections due to course stability considerations and rule out any hull that trims down by the bow when heeling. Keeping a good beam aft and not trimming down by the nose with heel is a design challenge that is far from always met! It causes the resistance to shift fore-and-aft as the boat heels or rolls with serious balance and tracking problems. Tracking has nothing to do with keel length, but maneuverability does!

Length/Displacement (which gets a lot more attention) on the other hand has more to do with top speed and sheer performance. It doesn't matter that much for cruising, it is more a fun factor. A good hull shape and high enough SA/WS ratio are much more essential. Boats that are simply too deep and too heavy can't achieve good SA/WS values anyway.

I ended up designing the sloop Nordkyn to get what I wanted, but that one has both high SA/WS and L/D values. If you search around, you will find a few photos.

Sail on as many boats as possible and try different types before choosing one. Look for the telltale signs, like having to correct at the helm for roll downwind. I have taken long-keeled sailors out and it made for long silent faces. For some people, owning a certain boat is the end game. For others, sailing is the end game. When the boat won't sail any more, you have lost, and that is the same for everyone. If you are going ocean cruising, sailing should be the end game or you won't be cruising much. Too hard, too uncomfortable and too frustrating.
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Old 29-11-2014, 15:18   #35
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

I back my 35' full keel boat into dock 90% of the time. It means I don't have to walk as far down the dock to the ice machine, have better control when docking and it looks cool. I find the boat handles not too bad at dock because it has more lateral resistance and won't be set by the wind as much.



Do not not buy a full keel boat because they're hard to dock, because they are not hard to dock.



This summer I watched a guy with a brand new production boat, same size as mine, but one more wheel and a fin keel. Coming into the yacht club in a bit of a current. Hit one boat, then hit a second boat, banged up his daughters legs while she was trying to fend off boat number two, then careened into the concrete wall. All this was in forward, he'd bounced off the concrete wall at least twice before it occurred to him to put the boat in neutral.



I then calmly backed into dock beside him on my full keel boat while mrs Familyvan bounced the baby on her knee.
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Old 30-11-2014, 08:58   #36
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

On my dock right now, there are only two sailboats backed in, me and a bigger Island Packet, the two full keel boats are backed in, none of the fin keelers are
I need to take a picture.
My wife and I back ours in when there isn't a strong crosswind, when there is we do go in bow first.
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Old 30-11-2014, 09:36   #37
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

Learn to use prop walk. It can be a challenge. But I wouldn't base my decision on which boat to get based on its ability to go in the wrong direction.
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Old 30-11-2014, 10:40   #38
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

I think the myth about full keel boats comes from the fact that many new sailboat owners and old sailboat owners with bad habits want to drive their benhuntalinas like Toyota Tercels. They want to drive into their parking spot, apply the parking break and walk away.
Full keel boats necessitate that you drive your boat like a boat.
The process for my boat coming into my regular dock is.
-Come through the marina in forward at idle or a little more.
-when my bow is Abeam my finger dock to port, put the wheel hard over to starboard, engine in neutral.
-when my boat is parallel to my dock, rudder midships, engine in reverse.
- this is the part where you treat your boat like a boat and not your 3 series.
-if your too far to port, wheel hard over to starboard, burst of forward throttle until your stern kicks, but don't make headway.
If you're too far to starboard- do the opposite.
- to properly turn any boat in reverse you do it with bursts of forward throttle and appropriate wheel.
-a note on "prop walk" or transverse thrust. All boats are equipped with stern thrusters. They're called propellers. A short burst astern to thrust one way and a short burst forward to thrust the other way.
-if you need to turn short round, back and fill, using a combination of transverse thrust and appropriate rudder movements.
-prop walk is not your enemy, it's your friend. Thats how captain Ron pulled off his docking at the margarita bar on the Wanderer. He knew how his boat handled and he used those characteristics to his advantage. Watch the clip and you'll see a perfect example of why prop walk is a good thing

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Old 30-11-2014, 10:51   #39
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

One other thing, I personally don't use a spring or any other lines, because that necessitates me standing up, which I don't like to do. And my Perkins is stronger than me any way.
I position the boat, neutral, then leave the wheel to go tie up. Again, because she's a heavy displacement full keel boat, she never blows away faster than I can tie her up.

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Old 30-11-2014, 11:05   #40
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

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I think the myth about full keel boats comes from the fact that many new sailboat owners and old sailboat owners with bad habits want to drive their benhuntalinas like Toyota Tercels. They want to drive into their parking spot, apply the parking break and walk away.
Full keel boats necessitate that you drive your boat like a boat.
The process for my boat coming into my regular dock is.
-Come through the marina in forward at idle or a little more.
-when my bow is Abeam my finger dock to port, put the wheel hard over to starboard, engine in neutral.
-when my boat is parallel to my dock, rudder midships, engine in reverse.
- this is the part where you treat your boat like a boat and not your 3 series.
-if your too far to port, wheel hard over to starboard, burst of forward throttle until your stern kicks, but don't make headway.
If you're too far to starboard- do the opposite.
- to properly turn any boat in reverse you do it with bursts of forward throttle and appropriate wheel.
-a note on "prop walk" or transverse thrust. All boats are equipped with stern thrusters. They're called propellers. A short burst astern to thrust one way and a short burst forward to thrust the other way.
-if you need to turn short round, back and fill, using a combination of transverse thrust and appropriate rudder movements.
-prop walk is not your enemy, it's your friend. Thats how captain Ron pulled off his docking at the margarita bar on the Wanderer. He knew how his boat handled and he used those characteristics to his advantage. Watch the clip and you'll see a perfect example of why prop walk is a good thing

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Thanks for the detail. I do about the same thing. My slip is to starboard, there's a Catalina 36 in the one before with a dinghy on davits. I like to park bow in; more private.
  • I motor down to the slip barely going forward.
  • When I am abeam the slip before mine, I put the helm over (turn starboard). The way carries the boat another few yards down as it turns.
  • Burst of reverse will kick the stern to port, completing the turn.
  • Burst of forward to kill the reverse and move into the slip
The only problem I've had is losing steerage going too slowly into the slip. That's easily corrected. It took me probably four or five attempts to feel confident about this. One thing on our boat no one EVER jumps off to tie off. Once the boat is in, we calmly tie it off.
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Old 30-11-2014, 11:11   #41
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

Lots of people here feel the need to defend full keel boats and their maneuverability while backing. I will not go there. I have owned both fin keel and full keel boats and must admit that for low speed backing maneuvers the full keel boats are a bitch. If you have one, you will of course learn all about warping, prop walk etc etc, but still a bitch.

With my fin keeled boat I could come to a stop and then back up turning in either direction with complete control and put boat exactly where I wanted it so easily it would make me laugh. Not even close as easy to do in a full keeled boat.

Don't get me wrong, I feel confident with my current skeg rudder boat (which is also a bitch when backing) and know the tricks to get her in and out of tight spots, but would never claim that this is not something worth considering if you are buying a boat and want to normally operate it in and out of a tight marina.

If marina has good size fairways and you have an upwind slip, really not going to have maneuvering issues with any boat however.
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Old 30-11-2014, 11:59   #42
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

On the steering in reverse thing. It's generally a bad practise on any boat.
-if you're backing in ice, debris filled flood waters, heavy seas or rapids, you want to provide as small a profile of your rudder as you can to prevent damage to your rudder. Granted, some of us spend more time backing up icey debris filled rapids then others, but the principle never changes.
-if you are backing hard and you have partial rudder on, the flow of water over the rudder can pin it one way or the other. If it's a large enough mechanism it can cause serious injury to the operator. Less so on hydraulic systems.
-if you're mechanism isn't large enough to cause injury, think about your poor steering gear.
-am I sometimes lazy and "steer" in reverse? Of course, but I know when I shouldn't.


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Old 30-11-2014, 19:17   #43
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

There is basically only one situation where you have to steer while backing, and that is backing into a slip. Usually debris, etc is not much of an issue, nor is pinning the rudder, when only making a knot or two of sternway. If your tiller gets away from you, a short blip ahead will get you sorted out.

Backing out of a slip generally only requires a good shove, and no power at all, for boats under 10 tons or so. Nearly all sailboats can steer somewhat while making sternway with the prop not turning. Side force only exists while the prop is actually turning.
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Old 30-11-2014, 21:57   #44
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Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

I prefer backing into the slip with my full keel. Problem is it is a shoal draft, so I can't really do it in any kind of breeze. Where I'm at you share a slip with another boat (no divider) and you have about 6 ft separation when both boats are moored. What makes it more difficult is that I'm all the way inside on the quay, so I don't have much room to pivot once I'm out of the slip. If I have to back out of the slip there is a lot of backing and filling involved. Going out bow first is much easier especially if it's blowing.

To the original poster..full keels have many benefits, and I wouldn't let the fear of not being able to handle the boat dissuade you. Practice practice. Pick a day and just do docking drills. If you don't want a crowd then find an empty dock somewhere. You'll get a feel for it once you're behind the wheel.

Good luck


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Old 01-12-2014, 01:12   #45
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Re: Maneuverability of a Full Keel Sailboat when backing

You know, what's good about this thread is how everybody's saying it's doable, requires practice, and is a skill one can acquire. Good on ya, guys.
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