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Thread: To Keel or Not to Keel

  1. #1
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    Default To Keel or Not to Keel

    Greetings Everyone,

    I have spent years lurking in the bilge of this forum trying to figure out ultimately what my "dream boat" is and how to build it. Many years ago I wanted to sail the ocean blue, but having no money to do that I decided that my Uncle Sam could help me do this. While my Uncle Sam was more than accommodating, he decided that it would be best for me to sail the oceans 20,000 leagues under the seas. He must of knew me better than I knew myself. When we did come up I loved looking at all the sailboats and told myself I would have one of those one day. 20+ years latter I am making good on that promise. My Uncle Sam decided that after giving me 2 new metal knees it was time for me to go home. On my good days you can't tell that I have prosthetic knees, but on my bad days it becomes a circus act to walk around and I'm sure getting older will not get any better (hasn't so far).

    I have looked all over this forum and have decided that my "dream boat" to build is a Cape Cod Catboat. Wanting something 16'-18' with a cuddy and a lapstrake hull, but being located in the middle of Missouri I will have to be a trailer-sailor at best.

    My big question is this: With my knees the way they are, will maneuvering around the cockpit with the centerboard be difficult? How about getting into and out of the cuddy around the centerboard? Or am I just thinking it too much?? I picked the catboat because of just one sail and could do just about everything from the cockpit and do not need to climb all-around the boat bow. I feel a fixed keel is the way I should go, but since I never "truly" sailed I'm looking for any advise.

    Thanks,
    Someday Hillbilly Sailor

  2. #2
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Quote Originally Posted by m-spangler View Post
    Greetings Everyone,
    .
    .
    .
    I have looked all over this forum and have decided that my "dream boat" to build is a Cape Cod Catboat. Wanting something 16'-18' with a cuddy and a lapstrake hull, but being located in the middle of Missouri I will have to be a trailer-sailor at best.
    .
    .
    .
    I'm not a catboat sailor, Cape Cod or otherwise, but I think in the 16'-18' range that you're describing you can have a fairly substantial boat that doesn't require the high speed gymnastics associated with boats of that length with far less displacement. There are a number of very experienced catboat sailors that should be along any time to give more specifics. Maybe you can find some TIDBIT videos posted by Joe (SoCal), previously Joe(CSOH).

  3. #3
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    My family is from Tarkio MO, so I know a bit about boating in the area.

    First I'd say NO FIXED KEEL. That sort of thing is for sailors in deep waters who only sail from dock to dock -- no beaching or stopping for a look or pee. Either a swing keel / centerboard or a wide catboat without much of a keel at all.

    Second I'd say you need to make friends with some folks with boats. Try hitching a ride and see how you like climbing around in boats, sitting in the cockpit and cabin, etc. That will tell you a lot about what sort of boat you want. If you dont' know how to sail, take lessons before you start building! Again you'll learn a LOT more by doing than by reading or watching videos.

    For a lapstrake catboat-like design you might consider Chebacco -- assuming you don't need a large cabin or standing room.

    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    A ballast keel alone is not what makes a boat stable. My deep water 34 footer has a 5 ton ballast keel and she is about the tippiest and livelyest t motion boat afloat.
    It is the hardness of the bilge that gives a boat initial stability, and by that , I believe your choice of a catboat is a good one.
    bruce
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 01-15-2019 at 08:57 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Welcome aboard! Good luck with your search, keep us posted.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Thank you Gentlemen for your feedback!
    I have several on my radar, the Joel White Marsh Cat doesn't have a cabin but looks amazing with a lapstrake hull.
    I LOVE the Wittholz's 15' and 17' catboats, but going to a lapstrake hull would mean a complete re-design.
    The Bolger Chebacco is also in close 2nd in the running and is top pick for plan ready. (not crazy about the aft sail, but I might like it)

    The older 2 have graduated college recently and the younger one is about to go into college, so my pipe dream of building my own sailboat someday is coming into a reality.
    I do have plans before building of getting sailing lessons, hopefully this summer.
    Also want to go around and ask to get into peoples boats to see what works for me and what doesn't. (hopefully that doesn't come off as weird as it seams)

  7. #7
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Super that you are making time for a dream!

    If you are really going to be doing most of your sailing from the trailer, I would prioritize ease of loading and time setting up the rig. It makes all the difference between actually using your boat a lot and having it sit in the yard. I suspect you'll find centerboard boats will most often win in this regard, with the bonus of being easier to beach at the lake as has been mentioned.

    Moving around on a boat underway can be a bit more monkey-like than walking. Whether you have regular knees or steel ones I think we all find ourselves using our hands and our upper bodies a lot more..we're all monkeys out there..if you're a bit spry I think you will find the close spacing of boats in this size to be an advantage for you, lots of handholds and braces..The centerboard trunk might even be as much an aid as an impediment?? There's no way for me to tell, it would be super if you could get out on a bunch of boats to get the feel of what works for your body before committing..even if it's winter and they're parked on a yard it would give you some idea.

    It seems with the lapstrake cats that you are looking for something with a sweet, traditional look. Avoiding a jib is probably a good idea. There are probably a few other options to consider as well though it's good to avoid the rabbit hole :-) I've known some folks with mobility challenges that love junk rig for example. Or in the western tradition perhaps some kind of lug? Might be worth looking at some cat/ketch rigs as well, smaller spars to set up off the trailer? Find out if you can lead all the lines aft easily for raising, lowering, and reefing. I've never sailed a trad. cat and I don't know if you can set them up easily for some kind of jiffy reefing. I don't think you'd want to be balancing your way along that long boom tying in reef points, or maybe it wouldn't be that bad? Lazyjacks might be a good thing too.

    You'll probably need to go forward to set and retrieve an anchor, although there are some imaginative ways to avoid that as well...

    I apologize for mentioning it as it seems rather overdone these days, but there's always Scamp as well, although she's quite a bit smaller and not so Trad.

    anyway good luck, have fun!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    As a trailer sailor, the relatively shallow draft of a centre-board/dagger-board/leeboard is a real plus. You might also consider a twin keel boat, a little deeper but still usable. The Cat Boat is a pretty good stable platform. I have a little experience with one of the Whitholtz 17 footers. I really liked it. I agree with the comment regarding ease of launching and rigging. This means you will be much more inclined to spontaneously go sailing. This would certainly be one of my strongest criteria in selecting an boat / design.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Quote Originally Posted by m-spangler View Post
    Greetings Everyone,

    I have spent years lurking in the bilge of this forum trying to figure out ultimately what my "dream boat" is and how to build it. Many years ago I wanted to sail the ocean blue, but having no money to do that I decided that my Uncle Sam could help me do this. While my Uncle Sam was more than accommodating, he decided that it would be best for me to sail the oceans 20,000 leagues under the seas. He must of knew me better than I knew myself. When we did come up I loved looking at all the sailboats and told myself I would have one of those one day. 20+ years latter I am making good on that promise. My Uncle Sam decided that after giving me 2 new metal knees it was time for me to go home. On my good days you can't tell that I have prosthetic knees, but on my bad days it becomes a circus act to walk around and I'm sure getting older will not get any better (hasn't so far).

    I have looked all over this forum and have decided that my "dream boat" to build is a Cape Cod Catboat. Wanting something 16'-18' with a cuddy and a lapstrake hull, but being located in the middle of Missouri I will have to be a trailer-sailor at best.

    My big question is this: With my knees the way they are, will maneuvering around the cockpit with the centerboard be difficult? How about getting into and out of the cuddy around the centerboard? Or am I just thinking it too much?? I picked the catboat because of just one sail and could do just about everything from the cockpit and do not need to climb all-around the boat bow. I feel a fixed keel is the way I should go, but since I never "truly" sailed I'm looking for any advise.

    Thanks,
    Someday Hillbilly Sailor
    I think that you'd find in an 8 ft beam ( trailerable) boat that getting around the 'case and in and out of the cabin shouldn't be a problem. Some boats will be better than others though so choose carefully. A keel boat though, may present you with launching and retrieving problems due to deeper draft, getting off and on the trailer will be a wet exercise that will require at least two people.

    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    What you want to do is make an excursion over to the Texas coast this April for the Port Aransas Wooden Boat Festival. Try some things out, make some friends, have a good time.

    http://www.portaransaswoodenboatfestival.org/
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

    15' Welsford Navigator Inconceivable
    16' W. Simmons Mattinicus double ender ​Matty

  11. #11
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    I am not much of a sailer though I have sailed a bit..... nor am I much of a boatbuilder though I have made some rather advanced repairs.

    When reading through your original post and the replies a thought struck me. Why are everybody talking about either one or the other?

    There are quite a few designs with a full lenght fixed keel sometimes with some ballast in it and a rudder no deeper than the keel fixed to the sternpost or transom. Plus a rather small centerboard to help tacking upwind. There are some elderly German designs on this concept. Intended for comfortable sailing arond the sandy and muddy German coast.

    To me with my limited knowledge that sounds like a good concept for you. The long keel with maybe a little weight in it will make the boat go straight ahead and behave in a very calm and predictable way in the waves so you can move around safely even with your patched up knees. Yet it will be shallow enough to allow you to land wherever there is two feet of water. The centerboard case will be rather small and will not get in the way too badly yet the centerboard will make the boat shallower and easier to tack than a full long keeled boat.

    Just an idea.
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

  12. #12
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Oops.....I missed that the original poster is that far inland on small lakes.

    Then forget what I wrote.
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

  13. #13
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    What Thorne said: "I'd say you need to make friends with some folks with boats"

    A lot of nice boats have been mentioned, but it really comes down to " to each to his own." Since you're new to sailing you could make a better decision on what suits you by going out and sailing. Beg, borrow, rent, all options. Much better to find out what you like before you spend the time building something that you wish was different.
    Steve B
    Sjogin IIIa
    PAYTON 13' Pea Pod

    RIVUS 16' Melonseed


    "If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most." E. B. White

  14. #14
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Stockton Lake Sailing Club and Carlyle Sailing Association have great sail clubs.


    http://www.stocktonsc.org/Home_Page.php
    http://www.csa-sailing.org/Welcome_to_CSA.html
    Last edited by John Howland; 01-16-2019 at 11:37 AM.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Thank you all for your input into this!
    Many of the boat ramps in Missouri are too flat I feel for a fixed keel, mostly made for john boats and bass boats.
    My father talked about my grandfather's sailboat and having a pully system to get it into the water in the '40.
    My biggest concren is the transtion into and out of a cabin over the centerboard.
    I figured with a keel the lip from floor to cabin I could make only be a few inches tall.
    I can hike with the best of them up and down the Ozark mountains, give me a flight of stairs and watch me cry!
    I was looking at the small cabins not for camping, but just to have a head for my better half.
    Probably be best for me with a day sailor and then I should have no worries.

    With a day sailor that means that the South Bay Catboat is back in the running again!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Yes, the boat ramps here are not made for a full keel boats. A friend backed his boat off a ramp that had a 3' drop off at the end, man it did all kinds of damage to the truck. trailer, and boat. My wooden International Star is a problem and if I were to hit something with that 900 lb. of keel it would rip thous 5 - 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" ribs right out.
    I want to build something under 29' and am facing the same conundrums.
    What lakes are you going to use? We took children and our 18' Prindle catamaran with a sunfish slid under it to Norfork lake for years. The spring feed lakes and rivers with the trout fishing, canoeing, and the Ozark Mountain trails are so beautiful down your way.
    John
    Last edited by John Howland; 01-16-2019 at 06:00 PM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    I grew up sailing on Lake Stockton and Carlyle and powerboating on the Ozarks. St. James is centrally located, so you'll have lots of trailering options. The Marsh Cat is probably a great platform, a smaller, centerboard design with a nice wide beam for stability, yet light and shallow enough for easy trailering. I agree with the single main sail concept for ease of handling from the cockpit for relatively beginner sailors. I would recommend lazy jacks also. Yes, go out on others' boats, take some sailing lessons. You need a pretty substantial dream to get you through the labor and expense of building a 15' centerboard sailboat. There are also lots of tricks for builders with limited mobility. I can't tell you how many build blogs I've read where people practically finish the entire interior of the boat before putting the deck on. This allows you to reach over the gunwale instead of having to crawl in. Also, there are lots of examples of building cradles that are creative, like 360 octagons around the strongback so you can roll the boat in any orientation for ease of access. Good luck and keep us posted on your dream/build. A catboat is on my short list. If not next boat, probably one in the future.

    Oh, another thing is that a lot of the boats you're interested in have plans for strip building or cold-molding. There would be another step, that I consider pretty interesting and compelling as to how to convert those plans to lapstrake construction. This is something that I've only dipped my toe into, but would make for a very informative thread if pursued and documented.

    Third thought is that a nice, sturdy tabernacle might be in order to help step the mast. There are several designs that I've seen that involve metal cheek plates, troughs for the mast to rotate down into, pivot pins, etc. I think that's something I will definitely investigate when the time comes.
    Last edited by CaptainSkully; 01-21-2019 at 11:31 AM.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    If you have mobility problems you may encounter problems with retrieving the anchor, and with reducing sail.

    Being able to reef easily is critical to single-handing. As is anchoring. So, as you build keep this in mind.

    Almost any boat is trailerable. What you want is a boat that is easily launchable. So, no keel or very little under the lowest part of the hull. This allows it to sit very low on the trailer. But a keel from that point aft, deadwood, does not affect launch, and is useful to reduce leeway in combination with a centreboard.
    The sail plan has to be designed with this in mind of course.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    John Howland, any lake I can get it on would be fine with me. I have family near Stockton Lake and Mark Twain Lake. Unsure of Table Rock Lake, but I have spent a lot of time at the Lake of the Ozarks and that is a no-go in my book.

    CaptainSkully, good to hear that you are from Missouri as well. Right now the Joel White Marsh Cat is my top pick, I have seen it done with lapstrake and I like that it comes with patterns (surely I can't screw the up) lol!
    My second pick is Atkin's 21' South Bay Catboat - Cupid. I love all those curves on that boat, but feel it would be too much as a first time build, strip planking is how I would do this boat.
    My third and final pick is Mr. Wittholz 15' Catboat, but I would want to do a re-design for lapstrake. I would want to get one built as practice before trying to attempt that, but Delftship software seams to be chanting me to try.
    I have the same thoughts of finishing the interior before putting the deck on and using a tabernacle to step the mast. I have seen mixed reviews in using lazy jacks but willing to give it a try.

    About 5 years ago I started thinking about what kind of sailboat did I want and I knew from the get-go that I wanted to build it. Trust me when I say I have looked through them all 3-times over and have settled on the catboat. To think that now I got my list down to 3 is pretty amazing (probably have almost bought every study plan that Wooden Boat and Glen-L makes and a few from others as well) even got to thinking mid stream that I wanted a 30'-40' before my senses screamed at me "Where are you going to put it". Whatever way I go I'm getting excited about it and that is helping with the less than 30 temperatures outside right now!

  20. #20
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    Sounds like you're on the right path.

    A small cabin may be a tight crawl to get in and out of, and an accessible one could be big and ugly.

    If the cabin is only for privacy at the head, maybe a soft top would work best? Like a soft dodger that folds forward and conforms nicely to the forward combing. Up for privacy or rain.
    This would keep the cockpit at maximum openness, give you access to the bow for anchoring etc... with your feet firmly planted on a solid sole below the waterline. If you have trouble climbing tight steps, dropping an anchor from a little deck forward of a little cabin will be troublesome. As well as being a tricky trip forward, your weight on the bow will make it tippy.

    Or build the cabin so the 'hatch' allows you to be within arms reach of the bollard.

    Lee Boards?

    Inside ballast or an external shoe - keel too deep for trailer.
    Inside ballast - 2 batteries for your electric motor, which are charged by 2 small discrete solar panels on the aft deck, the car alternator while travelling or plugged in (via the convenient plug fitting you installed just inside the cockpit) at home when not in use. Smooth silent response when maneuvering at the jetty or just in need of a squirt up wind to make it home before the rain hits.
    Philip K. Dick 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    I'm 65 years old and also have artificial knees. I can still do a lot of things, including downhil skiing, but everything is in moderation.
    I find that I have trouble moving around in my 13'6" by 4'6" sailboat. I've also been looking at designs that will allow me a lot more cockpit room. Catboats are at the top of that list. Joel White's Marsh Cat looks good.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: To Keel or Not to Keel

    I'm with you 100% on the Marsh Cat. A guy who used to post here a lot had a catboat about that size with a dodger on it. Almost like it had a cabin. And about the centerboard case -- in a catboat you want it to brace your feet -- the seat opposite is too far away.

    This is Tidbit. Info here.

    -Dave

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