Keels revisited - bilge, drop or long

by Stuart Warden
(Cape Town, South Africa)

I am rebuilding my open 19' day sailer, putting on a cabin and doing the insides, 2 bunks, gas stove etc.

The hull was originally a life boat from a tanker.

I am not sure if keels have been discussed on this forum, some other forums have had discussions on the pro's and con's of bilge,drop or long keels etc.- I guess all a matter of the wetted surface area ...and off course weight.

I am in Cape Town, South Africa and we do not have large tide swings (like the UK, for example) - our boats never touch bottoms unless on a hard or on trailers.

So the motivation for using twin bilge keels is not a consideration to deal with tides.

However, I find them fascinating and this could work on my 19'.

I used to have a long keel before but always felt it caused too much drag.

I want to turn this boat into a trailable boat so a deep keel is not really an option.

I estimate the keel ballast to be in the region of 400-500Kg, so does one split this up into two keels, or make a drop keel to the same weight - in both cases it would be easier trailable.

What are the views from readers to this problem?

Picture shows the first attempt to make a cement&steel keel about 12 years ago.

Eventually got it right, but I think too much surface area.

Thanks Stuart

Comments for Keels revisited - bilge, drop or long

Click here to add your own comments

Sep 08, 2011
What Keel?
by: Mike

Hi Stuart,

My own feelings are that bilge keels are the perfect solution for a trailer sailer.

On the trailer, the center of gravity can be kept as low as it is possible to go.

And the boat will be resting on points that were designed to take her weight rather than directly on the hull.

When sailing, I think there is a lot to be said for them.

If the bilge keels/plates are angled then as the boat heels, the windward keel will have less effect on leeway but the lee keel/plate will come more vertical thus becoming more effective.

And if you are concerned with directional stability, the keels/plates can be as long as you like.

Lifting keels, to my mind, come with too many possible problems, not least is that bloody great hole in the bottom of the boat.

Then there are the complications that come with the lifting mechanisms.

The ballast on the other hand, I would prefer to keep on the centreline.

This could be done with either internal ballast or with a stub keel on the centreline.

That way the bilge-keels could be just two simple plates, one either side.

Many years ago I had a ‘Silhouette’ which had flat metal plates either side as the bilge keels and a cast iron stub keel in the center as the main ballast.

I still think it was a perfect solution, both for sailing and for getting her on and off the trailer.





Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Your Questions and Answers.

Want to add more photos?

If you are having problems uploading Photos or would like to add more click on this link for the Upload Form.

You can upload as many as you like and there is no need to resize them.

You might like these

  • Boats and Bits, Free Advertising.

    The Boats and Bits Exchange is a FREE advertising space for anyone wishing to sell, buy or exchange Wooden Boats, Boat Bits or other items of Chandlery.

  • Project Boats by Proud Wooden Boat Lovers.

    A showcase for Wooden Project Boats that enthusiasts are working on building and restoring.

  • Readers Tips for Your Wood Boat.

    Readers Tips advice on how to maintain and improve your Wooden Boat and save time and money

  • Wooden Boat Women

    Wooden Boat Women, come on girls, you can do it just as well as the guys, show off your skills, your boats and encourage other environmentally friendly female boat builders.

Recent Articles

  1. Scorpio

    Sep 21, 19 12:01 PM

    Holman & Pie Northwind 1964 Strip planked hull on oak beams with mahogany superstructure & laid decking She's currently located in Ibiza in San Antonio.

  2. SMALL BOATS, BIG DREAMS

    Sep 17, 19 03:32 AM

    Reedville hosts the best little boat show in September. Photos by Eric Eichenmuller


    Reedville hosts the best little boat show in September.

    Read more by Ann Eichenmuller at Chesapeake Bay Magazine

    Read More

  3. We absolutely need this brand-new 1930s wooden speedboat from Fitzke Boatworks

    Sep 17, 19 03:32 AM

    This mahogany and oak wonder looks like it came straight out of the 1930s, but it was built in 2019. Fitzke Boatworks


    The boat is called Bugbite, is based on plans from a 1930s boating magazine and is staggeringly pretty.

    Read more by Kyle Hyatt at Cnet.com

    Read More