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Old 28-10-2020, 17:24   #1
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full keel vs fin keel

my only sailboat experience has been with fin keels

they were prone to weatherhelm and would heel easily

i thought the full keel would resist the twisting to windward motion associated with weatherhelm and the heavier displacement, and more wetted hull area would improve stability

i felt like i was constantly fighting with the tiller and sail trim

i feel like a full keel would be less needy

i will gladly trade speed for comfort and ease

are my assumptions correct?
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Old 28-10-2020, 17:41   #2
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

Weather helm is a function of the boat design and sail trim. Tenderness (heeling easily) is a function of hull shape. Your experiences weren't because of a fin keel.

A good boat with a fin keel sailed well will be easy and comfortable. A poorly designed full keeled boat sailed badly will handle like a pig. The keel doesn't change this.
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Old 28-10-2020, 18:10   #3
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Re: full keel vs fin keel


Assume the hull form, rig design & sail plan produce somewhere near
correct placement of the center of effort & center of lateral resistance at design phase.
The factors that create weather helm will manifest for any type of keel including multi keel forms.

In-efficient sail trim, bagged out sails or over powering the rig would be more likely factors.

Heel angle creates a longer waterline on the lee side and a shorter on the windward. (windward hull aeration on a cat)
Lee side can sail faster than the slower windward side causing boat to round up.

Dirty bottom will make it worse.

Rig tuning and hull trim both have an effect on helm.

A sailor would likely find it easier to hit the sweet spot on a fin keel/ spade rudder due to the more immediate feedback of the design.

The sweet spot will move with wind, sea state and point of sail changes.
Running rigging is designed to adjust the sail plan /rig to meet these changes.

The long keel will mask achieving fine focus of the sweetest spot.
Long keel will also mask the performance hit taken when the sweet spot becomes unfocused.
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Old 28-10-2020, 18:11   #4
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

Agree 100% with Tillsbury. There are general advantages/disadvantages of the two designs, but weatherhelm and tenderness are not them.

What boat were you sailing that was tender and had helm?
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Old 28-10-2020, 19:23   #5
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

Generally yes heavier full keel boats will have a more sea kindly motion but not for the reasons listed. We made the same move from fin to full and do not regret it one bit. For those that will tell you they’re slow and piggish have probably never been on one. You’ll also need to clarify ‘full’ keel as many people group anything outside a fin with spade as ‘full’. A forefront cut away (modified) or modified fin with skeg are sometimes all grouped generally into the full and assumed long keel category.
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Old 29-10-2020, 02:13   #6
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

I have only owned two boats. Catalina 28 (fin keel) and Cape Dory 28 (full keel or "modified"). So two boats the same size, drastic different keels. Pretty good comparison. ,

Full keel Cape Dory WAY WAY easier to sail. but slower and does not go upwind as well. Both will weatherhelm and heel with unbalanced sails, Catalina seemed to be more prone to it. There's pros and cons to both, you just have to pick which is for you. I just find full keel or "modified" keel way easier and relaxing to sail that fin keel. I could hardly single hand the Catalina and was constantly fighting with it. Lots of frustration and cussing. It's a boat that required crew or and auto pilot and lines need to run to the cockpit. If winds pick up and you dont have auto pilot or help...good luck. Cape Dory 28 polar opposite. Stupid easy to sail even single handed, even with no electronics and no lines running to the cockpit. Everything just happens slower and its more enjoyable. Catalina was always trying to spin. In hindsight, I hated it.

I find full keel way easier and more relaxing to sail and would chose full keel over fin keel if Im given the choice.
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Old 29-10-2020, 03:13   #7
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

A well-designed full keel will generally track better in a following sea, and will require less helming in most conditions. The responsiveness of a fin keel/spade rudder design kind of negates this. Not that they can't steer well, but tiny motions make big changes. Very good for nimble round the buoy work, but they require more attention being paid to steering in a big sea.
Either design done badly--and both have been flubbed many, many times--will lead to frustration.
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Old 29-10-2020, 03:17   #8
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

it was a hunter 25.5

the bottom was dirty and was eat up with pox

i sold it a couple of years ago

i absolutely think most of my problems were my fault

but still kinda feel like full and or modified keel would be easier to sail

i do alot of single handing too

thanks rockinar, anyone else with experience with both?

any recommendations on a manufacturer or model?

i was thinking somewhere in the mid 30s
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Old 29-10-2020, 08:55   #9
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

I found that a full keel boat was slower and more difficult when going about.
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Old 29-10-2020, 09:43   #10
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

Everybody is right. Fin keels are generally faster and more maneuverable - like a sports car. Full keels are slower, don't go to weather so well, turn slower, but track better - more like an old Cadillac.

I like my full keel (the bottom of which is 3/4" steel) because this area is full of rocks just waiting to spring up and stop you dead in your tracks. If you get hung up on a reef with a fin keel, there is no hope you can keep the boat upright while the tide goes out, then returns. Many boats have been lost by lying down on their sides at low tide (we have 16' tides around here) then flooding with water as the tide rises. At least with a full keel you have a chance of staying upright by running halyards out to trees or anchors.
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Old 29-10-2020, 10:17   #11
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

Maybe a cutaway forefoot would be the most ideal hull.
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Old 29-10-2020, 10:33   #12
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

Yup. Full keel is great for going in straight. It tends to be easier on the helm when underway since it's not as responsive to small changes. But this also makes tight maneuvering harder.

I sail a full keel boat. When I sail friends' fin keel boats I find it rather exhausting. I lose attention for a few seconds and I'm off course! On my boat, once balanced, the boat doesn't wonder much at all.

But of course, marinas scare the shyte out of me. Docking is my nightmare ... which is probably why we anchor out most of the time .
Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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Old 29-10-2020, 10:35   #13
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

Recommendations ? Mid 30's is that feet or dollars ? On the Latitude 38 site there is a Tahiti Ketch (Dreadnaught) for sale , it's around 30' . I have never sailed one of those , people have sailed them around the world though .
The Cape Dory 28 (?) always gets good reviews . Sam Holmes of YouTube fame is sailing around on one as we speak , lots of nice videos .
Hans Christians and Baba's are nice I'm told .
Atom voyages
has a nice list , from 20' to 32' .
Good luck .
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Old 29-10-2020, 10:45   #14
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Re: full keel vs fin keel

One point that no-one seems to have commented on is that full keel boats seem to be harder to control when going astern.

But then I have only had a week handling a full keel boat (Cobra 850) and the comments I got from the charter company was "they go well backwards, but only where THEY want to..."

It was also my first week in command of a yacht so perhaps I would find it easier now that I know a bit more and have more helming experience..
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Old 29-10-2020, 11:00   #15
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full keel vs fin keel



Fin keels can stay upright too!
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