Buying a Boat: Long Keel or Fin Keel

The question whether a long keel or a fin keel are the better option for a blue water cruiser is heavily debated in the sailing community. And interestingly, there seems to be a correlation between the nationality of the owner and the preferred choice. While in many German and French forums, a (moderate) fin keel is the common choice, most Americans seem to prefer a full keel. Which is interesting, as the cliché of the American is to always go for the newer and faster option. But maybe bluewater sailors are an exception?

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of design:

Short Keel

+ generally lighter boat

+ faster in light airs

+ way better maneuverability in harbours

– less comfortable movements in rough seas

– greater danger of loosing the rudder (or even the keel)

– less space in the bilge

Long Keel

+ more comfortable movements in heavy weather

+ better self steering abilities

+ better protection of keel and rudder in case of a collision

– slower in light air

– harder docking and problems going straight in reverse

So obviously, both designs have their pro’s and con’s. I chose a long keel for several reasons:

  • I have a background as tall ship sailor. So I am used to slow boats that are hard to maneuver.
  • I value comfort and gentler movements in rough conditions. Here is a video (in German) of a test of boats from three generations. Guess which one wins?
  • I don’t think it matters to arrive two days earlier or later on an ocean crossing. So speed is not the most important factor (and good light-air sails can make a big difference as well…)

1 Comment

  1. […] Now there is the choice between long keel and fin keel. […]

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