Since we've added three pages of best sail configuration, let's switch to Keels and Rudders:
Here's my thoughts: The best keels for serious venturing offshore are full keels (like the Westsails, and early Cape Dorys and Bristols - yes they are slower and don't point well, but they are strong and help you keep a course in a seaway and less apt to sustain damage in a grounding. Next best is the cutaway forefoot keel, with a skeg-hung rudder - they point better and still have a strong keel and well protected rudder. For the racer set, the fin keel and spade rudder configuration is faster and points best of all underbodies - however, both the keel and rudder are more subject to damage in groundings or collisions with underwater junk/reefs, etc. They are not as stable in heavy weather, because often you have to run before the storm and they do not run downwind as well as full and cutaway forefoot underbodies and in a beam sea they get pushed around more.


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Cool John :)

Modified-full, 5'8-6' ISH draw, lead, mast stepped to keel. Skeg-hung rudder, fiber on a hull , 3 prop screw on a 40' - 50ish S/V but love the woodie classics like a Fife :D (I know... back to reality)...
Thanks Mary, and thanks for adding the keel-stepped mast - an absolute necessity for bluewater adventures.
My neighbor has an Allied Seawind II ...beautiful ketch rig ...full keel and shes hung very low to the water. I've been out on her a few times and have to say ....shes balanced in just about all conditions, but when the weather roughens up suddenly ....having that full keel may not point the best in the world ...but she sure takes the waves so much better than my sloop ever could! I believe if I were intending some serious cruising out there I would put a full keel configuration high up on my list!
KILLICK, our 1970 Cal 34, has a fin keel spade rudder setup. However, two important thoughts: First the 5' fin keel is fully encapsulated...not a bolt on. ( even the best navigators occaisionally run aground). Secondly, the spade rudder draws about 4'....about 1' less than the keel. Therefore if you do run aground, the rudder is free. Try looking thru a boat yard in winter and notice how many rudders that are allmost the same depth as their keels. Not a good idea in my mind. Also for some reason this old CAL design does NOT suck-up crab and lobster pot lines, as do most fin/spade rigs.
For bluewater cruising a full keel or cut away fore are great and stable.

As for the Need of a keel stepped Mast, Not needed. Deck stepped with a good compression Post is great and even better. Less leaks in heavy weather and just as strong. If you roll her over you lose the mast maybe but with a keel stepped mast if a real heavy mast you can lose the cabin roof as well in a knockdown. Many if the blue water boats are deck stepped. Fuji, Westsail, and many others from the best blue water cruiser designers.
Giggle, Yes Gary I know of that school too... I use to LOVE a full keel and hulls such as the late 60s-Early 70s.. now a modified I've learned maneuvers pretty darn well. My Bristol thoughts must mature too into that of deck stepped. Shh a few stress cracks in the coach with it decked ... beats a rotting wooden compression post right :D )

Good article as follows.

But I still think the most important part of da bote as I did as a little girl is the hull, then work your way up :)
The boats I am eyeing for the next lady all are deckstepped so hey, Evolution and learning should never cease, Great points here, thanks ~/) *
Good article, thanks. The article stresses the points I considered when buying Paloma many years ago, because I bought her to sail in the Regata de Amigos (Galveston to Vera Cruz, 650 miles each way), Galveston to Isla Mujeras, criss-cross the Gulf and in all manner of offshore sailing - abuse her. Her thick hull, deck attached to the hull with nuts and bolts every three inches, encapsulated lead keel with cutaway forefoot, skeg hung rudder, keel stepped mast and heavy rigging was just what I was looking for and she's endured two Force 10 storms, and been left on her own to ride out nearly every named storm (Alica, Claudette, Katrina and many others) to hit the Texas Gulf Coast in the last 29 years - I have never second-guessed my decision that the little Brisol 29.9 was the boat for me..
Thanks a hell of a lot for this John. Iam considering for a newbies life in cruising. i want to stay close while I dry out behind the ears. This confirms the convincible that Im on the right track in thoughts. Cutaway it'll be!

Of course you'll have to come in closer in order for me to buy ye a round!

Cheers, happy new year,


I like our Cape Dory 36 (Ariel) - a modified full keel with a cutaway forefoot. She does everything pretty well except backing under power, then she does whatever she decides to do for that day.

The attached rudder is rugged. The long keel tracks well. The hull is very seakindly. She points reasonably well, maneuvers pretty well (doesn't turn on a dime like a fin keel).

A lot of this is a function of the hull shape and not just the keel.
I'll differ from the crowd. There are several elements of the hull more important than keel configuration, including prismatic coefficient and hull sections fore and aft.

Many of current production and semi-production boats considered serious bluewater boats are not full-keel designs, including Hallberg-Rassy, Najad, Malo, and Moody. If you consider the designs of Steve Dashew and Frers you won't see much in the way of full keels. I crossed the North Sea and the Atlantic on my HR40. For most of the trip the v-berth, historically considered untenable at sea, was quite satisfactory. With some sail trim and auto-pilot tuning the boat sailed well with minimal power consumption by the a/p.

I'm a pretty conservative engineer and I understand why folks embrace older proven designs. Modified fins with bulbs and semi-balanced partial skeg rudders are not new any more and have proven themselves on oceans in all kinds of weather.

I've enjoyed the full keel boats I've sailed but I'm very happy to have a more agile boat. I have much better maneuverability in tight quarters and do not believe I've lost anything offshore. Been there, done that, used the t-shirt to mop the windscreen clear.

My educated opinion, YMMV.

sail fast and eat well, dave
S/V Auspicious
22000lb, 40' cutter-rigged sloop.
Am I opening another large can or worms here, probably . . .

What about centerboards?

There is an world of people who love center boards and just as many people who hate them. They definitely give you more draw when down, but if you sail in the tropics or subtropics (like the Gulf Coast) where your boat doesn't come out of the water more often than every two or three years, maintenance of the board, pennant, pulleys, etc becomes a real problem. Barnacles can reek havoc with centerboard.


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