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  1. #1
    john_morris_uk is online now Registered User
    Location : Home near Exeter, work in Hampshire, boat in Plymouth
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    Default What's the fascination with long keels?

    I am trying to work out why so many people put 'long keel' as a really desirable aspect of a blue water boat? I am going to suggest that it doesn't make much sense any more when you compare it with lots of more modern fin keeled designs - and it might be argued that fin keels actually make a lot more sense.

    I am not claiming some great insight, but I have owned long keeled boats, and I have sailed across oceans in fin and long keeled boats so I suppose I have some experience and first hand knowledge. The key aspect as far as I can see is the overall shape of the hull - NOT whether the thing has a long keel or not.

    Long keeled boats are often slower and I suggest in the whole sailing experience their ability to track and sail themselves is as much a hindrance as a help. I have this deep feeling that in the days before reliable autopilots and self steering, a long keel and the ability to stay on course was what sold the thing to the long distance sailor, but self steering (mechanical or electric) is very much more reliable nowadays and perhaps the the small occasional gain in directional stability is completely outweighed by the disadvantages of less then sparkling performance and the difficulties of maeuvering under power. Some people will say that the auto-pilot will be working harder, but I am not advocating a radical fin keeled racing machine - rather a more staid fin keeled boat that behaves itself in a seaway, in the same way that a long keeled boat sometimes can.

    Futhermore, people setting off on blue water sailing seem to forget that the vast majority of their time will be at anchor and they will only spend a relatively short period of time in the overall scheme of things actually sailing across the oceans. Of course being safe and sensible when sailing the ocean is a good thing, but if the design of the boat takes much of the pleasure out of sailing around the area when you get somewhere, then what's the point? I have known people who through planning and care have sailed round the world and have never been in much above a force 6. The long keeled boat might heave to very comfortably, but I will suggest that a decent fin keeled boat can be just as comfortable if its well sorted and balanced. It also shortens passage time, and as the tedious part of the long distance passage is the days and days at sea, so anything that reduces that by a day or two gets my vote.

    I have this suspicion that some of the people who advocate long keels are more armchair sailors than actual sailors. The wisdom is regurgitated because its what Slocum said when he sailed Spray etc etc. But times have moved on and so long as your fin keeled boat is not too radical and flighty downwind, then why not enjoy the extra volume inside, the predictable handling under power and sail, and the increased performance that come from a modern fin keeled boat?

    Sadly some people's opinion of fin keeled boats is based on the fat bottomed horrors that are produced for occasional light wind sailing, and whose performnce under sail is an (predictably) unpredictable nightmare of broaches and rounding up in the smallest of gusts.

    So there's my two pennyworth - and you can shoot me down at will. I'll take comments more seriously from those who have owned/sailed boats with both sorts of keel though!
    [B][I]Wishing things away is not effective.[/I][/B]

  2. #2
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    Default

    I think you are right that we mix up the slamming and rudder trips of a modern shaped boat with the effect of a fin keel. I wonder how many traditional shaped hulls there are with a fin keel? I'd have to go back to Contessas as an example of sea kindliness with a fin.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Default

    I don't see anything to argue with there.

    Long keels will take the ground better than some fin keel designs, and an unprotected and unsupported spade rudder can be a worry, but all boats are a compromise.

  4. #4
    Twister_Ken's Avatar
    Twister_Ken is offline Registered User
    Location : 'ang on a mo, I'll just take some bearings
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    Default

    I'll add one thing (well maybe two or three). Long keel designs generally mean deep bilges - a little bit of bilge water doesn't wash around, upsetting the inhabitants. It also provides a useful cellar for storage.

    With a long keeler, as general rule, your feet are further below the surface of the water. On my Twister, I reckoned when I was downstairs I was effectively about waist deep. On the Arcona, I doubt that I'm knee deep. Strangely, deeper feels more comfortable - maybe something to do with a smaller arc that one's head moves through when the boat moves.

    And then, it's very difficult to knock the keel off of a longie. And they're quite good at shrugging off potlines that are threatening the prop or rudder. And you've got full depth support for the rudder too, so that's less likely to come a cropper.
    Next time, it'll all be different.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    Default Long fin?

    I sometimes think a "long fin" keel is a good compromise, as in the Rustler 42 (not that I could afford one, but plenty of other boats have longish fins). With a short fin, although you've got less drag and they are easier to manoeuvre (especially in reverse, which admittedly is no problem mid-ocean!), I worry about keel tripping if hitting a sandbank, or indeed the effect of colliding with a submerged shipping container. You've only got a few bolts holding the keel on, and if it falls off you're in trouble (plus even if it doesn't, you could weaken the boat's structure). Plus the unsupported spade rudder is anathema to me - I'd never have a boat with one, as they are so vulnerable.

  6. #6
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    Jan 2004
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    Default

    Well I've only been offshore on my own long keel boat so can't really compare what offshore is like in a fin. But it certainly is easy to balance the sails, tracks great and heaves to nicely. You counter your own argument about maybe being a little slower by saying that overall hardly any time is spent on passage anyway.

    But on top of that is strength. Though mine is steel so solid as a rock anyway. Then in addition is having the rubustness of a transom hung rudder with the prop in an aperture a little safer from stray ropes and nets.

    Don't think I'd sleep well at all offshore on a boat with an exposed spade rudder.

    And again on top of all a factor might be that the older designs which are built much heavier than they are these days were just made that way.

  7. #7
    rotrax is online now Registered User
    Location : South Oxfordshire and Bangor NI
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    The earlier posts sum it up nicely. For peace of mind a long keel boat has inbuilt features that make it less likely for certain potentialy serious problems to happen. Our long keel heavy cutter is slow and not close winded. But when lightweight fin keelers are reefing she picks up and goes and has a very nice motion without any slamming. We are happy with our chosen compromise.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by john_morris_uk View Post
    I am trying to work out why so many people put 'long keel' as a really desirable aspect of a blue water boat? I am going to suggest that it doesn't make much sense any more when you compare it with lots of more modern fin keeled designs - and it might be argued that fin keels actually make a lot more sense.

    I am not claiming some great insight, but I have owned long keeled boats, and I have sailed across oceans in fin and long keeled boats so I suppose I have some experience and first hand knowledge. The key aspect as far as I can see is the overall shape of the hull - NOT whether the thing has a long keel or not.

    Long keeled boats are often slower and I suggest in the whole sailing experience their ability to track and sail themselves is as much a hindrance as a help. I have this deep feeling that in the days before reliable autopilots and self steering, a long keel and the ability to stay on course was what sold the thing to the long distance sailor, but self steering (mechanical or electric) is very much more reliable nowadays and perhaps the the small occasional gain in directional stability is completely outweighed by the disadvantages of less then sparkling performance and the difficulties of maeuvering under power. Some people will say that the auto-pilot will be working harder, but I am not advocating a radical fin keeled racing machine - rather a more staid fin keeled boat that behaves itself in a seaway, in the same way that a long keeled boat sometimes can.

    Futhermore, people setting off on blue water sailing seem to forget that the vast majority of their time will be at anchor and they will only spend a relatively short period of time in the overall scheme of things actually sailing across the oceans. Of course being safe and sensible when sailing the ocean is a good thing, but if the design of the boat takes much of the pleasure out of sailing around the area when you get somewhere, then what's the point? I have known people who through planning and care have sailed round the world and have never been in much above a force 6. The long keeled boat might heave to very comfortably, but I will suggest that a decent fin keeled boat can be just as comfortable if its well sorted and balanced. It also shortens passage time, and as the tedious part of the long distance passage is the days and days at sea, so anything that reduces that by a day or two gets my vote.

    I have this suspicion that some of the people who advocate long keels are more armchair sailors than actual sailors. The wisdom is regurgitated because its what Slocum said when he sailed Spray etc etc. But times have moved on and so long as your fin keeled boat is not too radical and flighty downwind, then why not enjoy the extra volume inside, the predictable handling under power and sail, and the increased performance that come from a modern fin keeled boat?

    Sadly some people's opinion of fin keeled boats is based on the fat bottomed horrors that are produced for occasional light wind sailing, and whose performnce under sail is an (predictably) unpredictable nightmare of broaches and rounding up in the smallest of gusts.

    So there's my two pennyworth - and you can shoot me down at will. I'll take comments more seriously from those who have owned/sailed boats with both sorts of keel though!
    I agree entirely. Have owned both a very trad long-keeler and a modern AWB, also some long-distance sailing on all sorts of boats. Fin and skeg is at least as suitable for long-distance as long keels. Equally however a very few long-keelers - Chuck Paine designs especially - combine more modern hull shapes with semi-long keels.

  9. #9
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    Aug 2004
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    Default

    I hope no-one minds my offering an opinion. I might be thought to be a bit of an armchair sailor given that my current boat has, err, two large diesels and zero sails. But for what it's worth I would suggest that the key attribute in terms of sea-kindliness is the ability to heave to.

    I think that if one classified the long keelers and the fin keelers which can be hove-to on the one hand and the fin keelers which can't on the other, then one might be mking a useful distinction.

    I think this might be what the OP was suggesting anyway so it's probably time for me to slink back to my dieselly lair.

  10. #10
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    Mar 2010
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    Default

    I do not think that a long keel is a guarantee of directional stability; the only long keeler I have owned suffered quite badly from weather helm and was not at all pleasant to steer. I don't think this is unique: Maurice Griffiths talks of using tiller lines to provide purchase to ease the strain of steering (though this might have as much to do with using a tiller to turn a rudder the size and shape of a barn door).

    Long keelers don't need to reef as early as flatter-bottomed fin keelers but this comes at the expense of light-airs speed. Also, although a long-keeler will carry on upwind for longer without broaching, this does not mean that they heel any less, in fact the slack-bilged narrow designs of the fifties and early sixties sail at much greater angles of heel than more modern fin keelers with more form stability. I shudder at the memory of beating down channel for three days at an angle of 40 degrees. Uncomfortable and exhausting.

    As to unsupported spade rudders, such advances have been made in engineering over the last twenty years that I think they would now be safe for the purposes for which the yacht is intended provided she is from a reputable designer and builder.

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