Coastal Boating, Sailing, Cruising, Yachting, Racing, Coastal, Sailboat, Yacht, Fleet, Club, Regatta, Commodore, One design, Social, Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, Buzzards Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Island, Seamanship, NE waters, NOAA, NWS


Choosing a Boat

Racing or cruising
Sail configuration
Hull configuration
New or used

The Perfect boat
Part 1
Part 2

The Ketch Rig
Why Cruisers like it
Versatile Rig
Ketch Trim

Hull and keel configuration

A dear friend of ours who was a sailmaker often said that a sailing boat’s performance is as much a factor of what is under the waterline as what is above.  Simplifying the aerodynamics down to our level, it’s like having a “wing” above the water that, when filled with wind, exerts pressure on the “wing” below the water to create lift which results in forward motion.   So what keel configuration you choose for a monohull will ultimately affect your performance as much as your sail plan.  We have experience with many types of keels.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages and we’ve enjoyed each type for the purpose we chose.    A One-design, or "Class" racing boat gets its status from its hull, which is built exactly like every other hull in the same Class.  Then, there’s the multihull.  Once again there are some key questions to ask yourself.   

Where are you likely to sail?  Will you be gunk holing, that is, will you be making your way into secluded unmarked coves where you may be the only anchored boat?  If so, you need a shallow draft vessel. A catamaran or shoal draft sloop would be suitable.  Shoal draft fin keel with centerboard offers maximal control of leeway when underway over long distances or heavy weather, while the retractable centerboard allows you to tuck into shallow anchorages or escape easily out of a grounding.  Wing keels provide reasonable access in a shallow draft. Bulb keels provide effective righting moment in a shallower draft.   Multihulls can get you in closer to shore than just about any other vessel. 

Will you be sailing in areas like the Chesapeake Bay where the bottom is soft and shallow and groundings are common?  If so, then you might consider a shoal draft or centerboard keel, and avoid a wing keel.  Wing keels tend to create suction against the soft mud bottom, and when grounded you can't heel it over to extricate yourself.  On the West Coast of Florida, a wing keel may be ideal in those hard shallow passages.

If you don’t mind being very diligent about reading the charts and minding your depth, a fin keel may pay off in high performance. The fin keel is infinitely maneuverable, allowing you to spin a vessel on a dime in tough maneuvering situations.  It also provides the highest resistance to leeway. It's the ideal complement to a highly refined sloop rig, providing the ultimate upwind performance for racing yachts.

Will you spend much of your time in marinas rather than at anchor?  Then perhaps a multihull would not be practical given the limited width of most slips.  On the other hand, a multihull can provide the ultimate private living quarters for larger crews, and upright sailing for those who don't want to heel too much and risk spilling their cocktails.

Full keel


Full keel with centerboard

Fin keel


Bulb keel

Catamaran - no keel

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